Nigeria: 2019 Elections - Neither Religion Nor Ethnicity

13 February 2019

A few days from today, Nigerians who are eligible to vote and have their PVCs will be heading for the polling stations to elect a new President and new for the next four years. Judging from the ongoing campaigns and the various forecasts, we can conclude that there are two strong candidates for the Presidential ticket. It is on this Presidential race and the candidates that this article is going to focus.

The two candidates are Abubakar Atiku of the PDP and Muhammadu Buhari, the incumbent President of the APC. Unless something miraculous happens, it looks like either of these two is going to emerge as the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Nigerians are a very religious people, based on this well-known fact, the question for Nigerians as they head for the polls is to seriously ask not why these two candidates but what is God trying to say to Nigerians in this very important election in the history of the nation called Nigeria? In responding to this question, it would be helpful to extract a few facts from this case study.

Firstly, these two candidates are both from the same tribal group called Fulani: Abubakar Atiku from Adamawa in the old Bornu Empire while Muhammadu Buhari is from Daura, one of the Seven Hausa States under the legendary Reformist, Uthman Dan-Fodio. For clarity, it is important to state here that there is no tribe called "Hausa-Fulani" in this country. The Fulani are not Hausa, their language is very different from the Hausa language. The concept, "Hausa-Fulani" came from the time of Muhammadu Bello, son of Uthman Dan-Fodio, a Fulani prince who desired to get the Fulani integrated -not assimilated into city life with their new neighbours, the Hausa.

The Fulani are 3.9% of the entire population of Nigeria, so, fact number one:both candidates are not from any of the big tribes in Nigeria. Therefore, should the Fulani decide to vote on tribal grounds, their votes will be divided. On the other hand, should the other major tribes- Hausa-25%, Youruba-21% and Ibo-18% decide not to go to the polls because neither of the two candidates hails from their ethnic nationality, neither of these two candidates will fulfil the constitutional provision for winning the Presidential election.

Secondly, both Abubakar Atiku and Muhammadu Buhari profess the religion of Islam meaning they are both Muslims. In Nigeria, both religions have an almost equal number of adherents (as generally claimed) though the Northern States all together have more Muslims than Christians.

Fact number two: since both candidates are from the same religious community and Nigerians are going to vote on the basis of religious profession or adherence, it means that only Muslims will go to the polls and since both candidates are from the same religious community, the votes will be divided and, again, neither would attain the constitutional requirement for being declared the winner of the Presidential election. Nigeria will therefore not have a new President for the next four years! However, it is a constitutional requirement that all eligible adults with their PVCs must vote as a national duty irrespective of religious or tribal affiliation.

From the scenario above, basing one's decision principally on either the ethnic or religious identity of the candidate will certainly lead to an inconclusive Presidential election results and creat a national crisis. This situation will not and cannot lead Nigerians to any form of development, it is irrational, divisive, retrogressive and will only continue to deprive the country of the best candidate for the job and even development across the nation. What therefore is this case of our presidential candidates drawing the attention of Nigerians to? It is the position of this writer that Nigerians are being told in very clear terms that with the emergence of either Abubakar Atiku or Muhammadu Buhari-both from the Fulani tribe and same religious profession-Islam as the next President of Nigeria, Nigerians must now face the reality of the world we live in. That neither religion nor ethnic or tribal affiliation should continue to be the basis on which we vote in leaders to serve us as a multi-religious and ethnic nation.

Both of the two major religions we profess in Nigeria have very clear teachings on the fact that we are all of the same human race.

God created us as one and deliberately made us into nations\kingdoms and tribes( Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Nupe etc) for a purpose- the Arabic term for that is "'arafu" meaning "to know", "to understand" one another".

Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, the first and only Premier of the Northern Region we ever had was once invited to partner with Sir Nnamdi Azikiwe. Having listened to each other they both discovered that there were differences between the two Regions. While Azikiwe suggested that the differences be forgotten and that they should cooperate together, Ahmadu Bello responded, " let us understand each other!" This is one of the lessons for all Nigerians from this Presidential election.

As Nigerians therefore head for the polling stations to elect their next President on the 16th of February, let us shun religious and ethnic or tribal sentiments. Your vote should not be informed by either religion or ethnic nationality, either of these reasons has never and will never give our country the leader who would bring cohesion, confidence in the system and even development to the country. Nigerians do not need a Muslim or Christian President, Nigerians need a President who would take his religious teachings honestly and seriously and lead with the fear of God. A President who would always remember that when his term in office is over, he will face God and render an account of his stewardship.

May the Presidential election be peaceful, fair, credible and may all eligible Nigerian voters go to the poles remembering that each will give an account of how he or she exercised the right to participate in the governance process of our dear nation.

Archbishop Josiah wrote from Kaduna Centre for the Study of Christian-Muslim Relations.

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