2023: Muslim/Muslim ticket is ill-timed and insensitive, Soyinka warns


By Oluwafemi Popoola

Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has warned against the Muslim/Muslim ticket adopted by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), saying, it should have been avoided given Nigeria’s peculiar situation.

He said the same faith ticket won’t be a problem in a “normal society” and that Nigeria has not attained such a “norm.”

Soyinka made this statement while featuring on a programme on Channels TV “News Night” on Monday, August 22, 2022.

The celebrated Nobel Laureate, though, clarified that he is not worried if Nigeria’s next President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House of Representatives are all from the same religion and village.

Soyinka said: “I don’t give a damn if the President, the Vice President, the Speaker, and others, all come from the same village, they have the same religion, they belong to the same tribe,” when asked about his thoughts on the controversy that has trailed the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC.

He added: “If, however, it is transparently, absolutely, unarguable that it is a kind of genius breed that has been donated to the nation and the world, as long as the capability of the individuals who are into governance is proven, and it is quite clear that there is no alternative, that is my position.”

“Now, we are talking about a normal society, which institutions are normal… Is Nigeria normal?” he asked.

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Commenting further, he warned that the Muslim-Muslim ticket is insensitive to the plurality of Nigeria’s religious and political cultures, advising that politicians must not tamper with that sacred belief to avoid unnecessary convoluted religious debates and discussions.

His words: “Take a country like Lebanon which has this arrangement among themselves, a President comes from here, another comes from here and that has been working ever since because they learn from their Civil War and this is the best arrangement they can come up with. I have been instrumental in sending some of our young people to go and study situations over there.

“In an arrangement with my foundation with the university of Sida in Lebanon that is an example and in this country even the military seems to recognize the need to express the plurality not merely of the ethnic group but of faith in their own government.

“Take for instance IBB, he had first, Okoye replacing with his running mate quote and unquote Aikhomu, a very good friend of mine. We used to talk quite a lot and so a kind of sensitivity has been there even under some military dictatorship not all and we had an almost unspoken arrangement in recognition of the peculiarity of this particular society and so it won’t surprise you or me that a number of people find that kind of choice very questionable and unwise.

“Especially at this time I can understand that perfectly and at the same time, I recognize the right of the purpose of the incumbent to choose who he wants to run with, if he gets ultimately into power, that right is there.

“However that right is not also absolute because we are talking about a very relative society which Nigeria is right now and we are in a very difficult situation and the question I ask is why create a controversy? Are there options which would have prevented such a controversy as they say in a certain society, “if ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

“If that kind of arrangement has proven not to be maleficent for society why temper with it? Why not be sensitive to a very peculiar circumstances of Nigeria? But for me, it is not my problem, but I just think it is unfortunate that the argument has been elevated.

“We are in a mix of the crisis of faith, of ethnic distrust, religious distrust, class distrust and anything which can be done or any action that can be avoided so that kind of distrust is not exacerbated.

“I think politicians should seize the opportunity of not exacerbating the debate, that is all I want to say on this update,” the Nobel Laureate said.

Soyinka who is not an adherent of either Christianity or Islam, concluding, said: “I know my belief inside of me but I also know what I recognize as very peculiar circumstances of Nigeria’s society at this time and I want to leave it like that.”

Recall that APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a Muslim had, on July 10, 2022, chosen a fellow Muslim, Mr Shettima as his running mate.

As a result, this has generated a lot of controversies and engagements in the public space and the media with many claiming the Muslim-Muslim ticket adopted by the ruling party was divisive, insensitive and an abuse of the religious-balanced system which the country has adopted since the 4th Republic began on May 29, 1999.

While a coalition of Northern Christian leaders, Bishop of Calabar, Anglican Communion, Rt. Rev Nneoji Egbe and Middle-Belt Youths, and even the Christian wing of the APC have all picked holes in the ticket, warning that it is a threat to the country’s unity and well-being, some APC governors, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila alongside some big shots of the party have hailed Tinubu’s choice, boasting that with Shettima, the party’s road to electoral victory has been paved.