We are few weeks to the 2023 General Elections. Should the elections take place, there are fears due to the general insecurity, it might end up in jihad. Some partisan Muslim clerics consider the election a call to jihad and want it to be seen as jihad by every Muslim. But in a jihad, there must be at least two battalions on two opposite sides. Since these Muslim clerics are about to wage a jihad as APC foot soldiers, which party are their Christian equivalence rooting for? We should not forget that there are Christian clerics who have also made it mandatory for their church members to vote only Christian contestants. Tit for Tat? In fact, in some churches, you must present your Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) before you are admitted into the House of the Lord!
Therefore, how many Muslims are ready for this jihad? Or to ask a more appropriate question: when did All Progressives Congress (APC) become a religion which obliges its adherents to wage jihad on its behalf? Could that be because of its Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket? This reason will be too simplistic. For, as far as I know, APC has not made a Muslim-Muslim ticket its article of faith. It could be Christian-Christian or Idolater-Idolater ticket in year 2027 if the party continues to exist. It could also be an amalgam of two different religions—to strike religious balance. So, why the jihad rhetoric? What do these clerics want to achieve? Though ‘jihad’ is a polysemous word, it means only one thing to the non-Muslims and the Muslims outside the scholarly circle.
Okay! As said above, politics in Nigeria is tailored and polarized along religious line. It is hypocritical to isolate, for accusation, the adherents of only one of the two most populous religions (Islam or Christianity) for infantile, destructive, and irrational religious politics. We can debate who started it and point fingers at who are more into it; but none is free from it.
Last week in Kano, a cleric asserted that voting Muslim-Muslim ticket is a jihad. Does it mean that voting for any other parties with Muslim-Christian ticket—or any other combinations—is antagonising Islam? It is argued that voting a Muslim president with a Christian vice president is the same thing as voting a Christian. Those clerics arguing along this line must have, momentarily, suffered a memory lost. If not, they should recall that they vigorously campaigned for President Buhari with his Christian running mate in 2015 and 2019. Then, voting for a Muslim president with a Christian running mate is not voting for a Christian. But now, it is!
Though I have heard some lame arguments put forward by some Yoruba Muslim clerics in the South West that it will be a shame on Islam if Tinubu loses in 2023, this is the first time I listened to such shallow argument in the Muslim North. It is lacking in logic. It is unscholarly, arbitrary, and too pedestrian. Thus, the arguments are too ridiculous to ignore.
This is not about APC or Tinubu, after all, every Nigerian has the right to support any party of their choice. It is about cautioning the clerics against fooling and hoodwinking people into voting for a candidate or party in the name of religion. Six months ago, in my article titled “The Sins of Tinubu and the Curse of a Muslim Cleric,” I took a swipe at a cleric who cursed anyone who votes for Tinubu (though I am not Tinubu’s fan). I wrote: “When a cleric bows to his political instinct, he should play his politics with some decorum. That distinguishes him from thugs. Cursing whoever votes for Tinubu is thuggish, not clerical.” Simpliying religious rhetoric to rationalize Muslim-Muslim ticket and declaring a vote for APC a call to jihad is un-clerical and un-mallamic. This is playing tricks, in the name of religion, on the unsuspecting masses.
Yes, I am a strong advocate of cleric (ulema) participation in politics—especially Nigerian politics; and it will be an uphill task for anyone to convince me to switch position. But then, they should be honest and reasonable in their politics. The point is: politics, after religion, is the most important thing in the life of humans.
Thus, it should not be left absolutely in the hands of thieving and dishonest elements who are more defined by criminality and larceny. Righteous people from among the clerics and the laities should also participate. They will constitute checks and balances to the excesses of those who see politics as an end in itself. The present fusion—or near fusion—of the three arms of government in Nigeria tells a lot about the characters of those in government. The presence of groups of clerics with God consciousness will hopefully restore some sanity and accountability.
Now that voting for Tinubu has become a jihad, is Tinubu ready for the Jihad? In fairness to Tinubu, he is not a jihadist. And there is not a single shred of evidence to support such allegation against him. He was said to be passionate about Muslim-Muslim ticket right from the early 1990s. A cleric at the Kano rally claims Tinubu was instrumental to the emergence of Abiola/Kingibe ticket in 1993. He (Tinubu) also paired Nuhu Ribadu with a Yoruba Muslim running mate in 2011. This only amounts to claiming for Tinubu what he does not claim for himself. He is not passionate about Muslim-Muslim ticket as alleged. He is rather a political strategist who sees religion as a non-issue in politics. I am not defending his choice; I am only saying the noise about Muslim-Muslim ticket is uncalled for.
But now that some Muslim clerics are making Muslim-Muslim ticket a call for jihad, would the Christians who cry wolf be vindicated for crying wolf? That is if the call for jihad represents the position of Nigerian clerics and that of APC. Obviously, the clerics spoke for themselves. No one sent them. For the record, same-faith ticket has never been a success in the history of Nigerian Democracy. Late Awolowo attempted it, it failed. Late MKO Abiola attempted it, it appeared to succeed but was upturned. Are we about to re-read the history of same-faith ticket from the old pages of Nigerian democratic history or we are about to read from a new page? Time will tell.
In the meantime, Muslim clerics in the APC should help advise Tinubu to stop his cringe-inducing recitation of the Qur’an at their campaign events. I believe reciting the Qur’an is not the party’s article of faith. Being the first Muslim in the Muslim-Muslim ticket is enough evidence that he is a Muslim. He does not need to struggle to prove his Muslimness. In case he is ready for the jihad, APC clerics should please help teach him how to recite the Qur’an—at least, with some semblance of perfection.
All said, may Allah choose the best for us.