By Femi Fani-Kayode
The greatest threat to Nigeria’s national unity is the refusal to shift power to the south next year. Nothing could be more dangerous to our national cohesion than another eight years of Fulani rule after President Muhammadu Buhari.
The northern governors of the APC themselves made this point and saw this danger and consequently insisted on a power shift to the south. To my utter surprise and consternation, they did not just say no to another Fulani but they went further by saying no to any northerner including those that were not Fulani.
To them, it was a matter of honour because this was the commitment that they had made in 2015 when President Buhari came to power. They said that they would not break their word or renege on that agreement under any circumstances. That gesture alone is the single greatest act of self-denial and sacrifice that any ethnic or regional group has made in our entire history and we should commend them for it.
A northerner could have easily emerged as the APC presidential candidate at our convention if the northern governors had not thrown their collective weight behind a southerner by the name of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and opted for him.
If they had chosen to support a northerner, the consequence would have been that we would have ended up having to make a choice between two northern candidates from the two major political parties of APC and PDP in next year’s presidential election.
That way, power would have ended up remaining in the north whichever of the two candidates ended up winning. The northerners of the APC could have had it in the bag and gone home smiling yet they put the interests of the party, the nation and the south first and said NO!
They insisted that power must shift regardless. They displayed maturity and a very high degree of responsible behaviour even though some of us did not fully appreciate their point at the time. Yet today, few would dispute the fact that they have been vindicated.
Simply put, their decision was selfless, historic, honourable and heroic.
Anyone that does not acknowledge or fully appreciate the implications of what they did does not know or understand politics and cannot comprehend the genuine dangers that another eight years of a northern rule would have presented for the unity of our nation.
Yet they were not alone.
A few months before the APC northern governors took their stand, the southern governors had met in Asaba across party lines and they all agreed that power must shift to the south in 2023. This was a bold and audacious move which formed part of the basis and an additional reason and incentive for the northern APC governors to make their concession and take their noble stand a few months later.
Apart from the earlier stated reasons, they also did so out of deference and respect to the wishes of their southern counterparts in the party who, led by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state, continued to insist that the agreement to shift power to the south must not be breached under any circumstances.
Unlike two or three of the southern governors in the PDP who sadly broke ranks and dishonoured their word by supporting a northern candidate at their party convention, the APC northern and southern governors never wavered. They stood to the last man, they stood firm and they delivered.
That is how Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerged as the flagbearer of our party. The entire nation should reciprocate and reward their gesture by ensuring that he goes on to win the presidential election next year.
We must stand with him, pray for him, fight for him, mobilise for him and ensure that he wins convincingly, once victorious, we must be prepared to defend his mandate with all we have got. There will be no repeat of June 12 under any circumstances and contrary to the disinformation being peddled around by our detractors, there is no such plan or conspiracy in the offing by those in power today.
We must also be ready to make difficult and uncomfortable sacrifices and live with the hard choices that the candidate has made, knowing that he made them in good faith, in order to win.
The real patriots and party loyalists are those who may have strong reservations about a Muslim/Muslim ticket but who are prepared to overlook that in the interest of a power shift to the south knowing that this will finally put to rest the notion that southerners are slaves and second class citizens and the erroneous idea that the APC is a party for northerners only.
This is where yours truly stands, together with many others that share my Christian faith. Unlike that of others, our reaction to a Muslim/Muslim ticket is not emotional or hysterical but rather practical, calm, calculating and level-headed.
It is clear to me and I can confirm this after a series of meetings with both the candidate and his vice that it is a position that he has taken as a consequence of political expediency and not out of any misguided or shameless attempt to spite, injure, insult or denigrate the 110 million Christians in our country.
Tinubu’s intention is not to undermine Christians, shame the church or destroy our faith and neither would he even dare to contemplate or attempt to venture such a reckless undertaking and course knowing that it would fail woefully with calamitous consequences both for him and for Nigeria.
Such a move would be counter-productive and a dangerous and grave exercise in futility and if that had been his intention I would not stand with him but rather oppose him with every fibre of my being. Those that know me well can attest to the value I place on my faith and will confirm this. Nothing is more important to me than my religious beliefs and I would not in any way compromise those beliefs or my faith for anything.
To the sceptics and doubters that believe that a Muslim/Muslim ticket is part of a wider plot and plan to Islamise our nation, I say, under Tinubu’s watch, this can never happen and neither can it ever be conceived or attempted.
I urge them to consider the following: Since the governorship election in Osun state a few weeks ago, every single one of the 17 governors in southern Nigeria is a Christian whilst there are three Christian governors in the north.
This means that out of the 36 governors in Nigeria, 20 are Christians and 16 are Muslims. Can anyone still be talking about Islamisation under such circumstances? I say, fear not!
Again consider the following: A Christian/Christian ticket won the governorship election in Osun state a few weeks back and defeated a Muslim/Christian ticket yet no one alleged that there was a plot to Christianise the state and neither did the heavens fall or the Muslims of Osun cry foul even though they constitute 50% of the population of the state.
Again I ask, can anyone still be talking about Islamisation under such circumstances? Again I say, fear not!
Not only can Nigeria not be Islamised, but under a Tinubu APC presidency, I have no doubt that major concessions will be made in terms of key positions for Christians not just in the executive but also across the three arms of government in order to make up the balance and assuage the feelings of the many Christians that are concerned, aggrieved, and even offended by the prospect and fielding of a Muslim/Muslim ticket.
There are other key positions that can and will be given to Christians in the three arms of government which are even more powerful and relevant than that of a vice president which, with all due respect to those that occupy that position today, is essentially nothing but a spare tyre.
Tinubu and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, will ensure that the necessary concessions are made to Christians and that everyone, regardless of their faith, has a fair and full portion in their administration. Of this, I have no doubt.
Permit me to end this contribution with a few words about the opposition PDP.
How can anyone take seriously a party that refuses to honour its own constitution by rotating power to the south and that insists on putting us on the edge of a dangerous precipice by attempting to enthrone another northerner for yet another eight years?
Can anyone trust a party that has in its ranks two or three governors from the south-south zone who are prepared to betray their own, sabotage the resolve and aspiration of virtually every southern Nigerian and throw fairness out of the window by joining hands with a bunch of irresponsible and self-serving northern governors and leaders in their party to deny the south the presidency next year?
Even the majority of their own party members and leaders from the south and Middle Belt, led by Nyesom Wike, have kicked against this shameful outrage and rightly so.
If the PDP can break their own party rules by breaching the rules on zoning, cheat their own party members, scam their own party leaders and deny Wike and the South their presidential ticket what won’t they do to Nigeria if they were to ever win power?
Worst still their presidential candidate, the chairman of their board of trustees and their national chairman, who despite frantic calls to do so has refused to resign and has said he will stay in office for the next four years, are all from the north! And so are all the spokesmen for their presidential campaign council.
Is this not madness? Is it not wickedness? Is this not a formula for disaster and a statement of intent for the perpetual enslavement of the south? Is this not an insult to the sensibilities and slap on the faces of every southerner and northerner that believes in fairness and decency?
Does this not present a very potent danger and threat to our hopes and aspirations for national unity and stability given all we have witnessed over the last seven years? Is this the way to bring us together as one nation and build bridges of peace, unity, love and confidence?
I think not.
All this and the PDP still insist on calling themselves a national party and a party that seeks to protect the national interest. This is a specious and pernicious lie. The truth is that they are a party with a hidden agenda that presents a grave danger to our nation.
They are a party of strife and division and as Chief Bode George, a former deputy national chairman of the party and a member of the PDP board of trustees, eloquently pronounced on Channels Television the other day, they are a party that “have been taken over by the devil”.
It appears to me that, if given power, they would be more interested in protecting a sectional interest for the next eight years rather than the national one.
May God deliver us from their devils, their notorious shenanigans and their divisive agenda.
The good news is that for the first time in our history the majority of northerners and southerners across party lines have come together and insisted on a power shift. Whether they support Bola Tinubu or the rising star Peter Obi, there is a clear national consensus on this issue and it is very promising.
It brings us joy and gives us hope for a better, more peaceful and more united future. This is a golden opportunity for a genuine and sincere national rebirth and we must not overlook it or take it for granted. It is indeed a massive breakthrough.
Unity and peace can only be rooted and established where there is fairness and equity.
In my view that fairness and equity can be best served by the election of the APC’s Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the 2023 presidential election.
Yet, whoever you opt to vote for from the south is a matter of choice.
The point is that, whoever your candidate may be, we must ensure that power comes to the south in order to stop this dangerous cycle of regional and ethnic tension, enhance and entrench national unity and give Nigeria a chance to survive and experience the peace that we seek.
Sadly the PDP and the NNPP, with their insistence on Atiku Abubakar and Rabiu Kwankwaso as their presidential candidates respectively and their desire to prolong and perpetuate northern rule, offers a very dangerous narrative and volatile cocktail that may ultimately end up leading us down the road to Kigali.
God bless Nigeria.