Nigeria’s Muslim-Muslim ticket: What Islam teaches about elections

Hafiz Ojo Shamsudeen Oloruntoba, Missionary, Oyo State, Nigeria

Nigeria is a country located in Western Africa. It has six geopolitical zones, 36 states and a total of 774 local governments. Nigeria gained its independence in 1960 after about a century of British rule and since has had several presidents, sometimes referred to as the head of state or a governor-general.

It has been a mixed leadership in Nigeria since its independence, as is evident from the four republics recorded in the country’s history, Republic here refers to the different eras of national leadership in the country, starting with the first ceremonial president, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and the first and only prime minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa – their governance lasted for six years before they were overthrown by General Aguyi Ironzi. Several military and civilian governor generals/heads of state followed. Finally, the fourth republic began in the year 1999, when General Abdul Salami Abubakar handed power over to a democratically elected president in the person of Gen Olusegun Obasanjo. Ever since then, there have been a total of four democratically elected presidents and their vice presidents.

Nigeria is a country with over 250 ethnic groups and its people speak over 500 different languages. Of the ethnic groups, there are four that are more prominent in terms of their population and political prowess or influence; the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo and Ijaw. 

Those belonging to these ethnicities speak numerous languages and span across the six geopolitical zones. The Hausa-Fulani can be mostly found in the Northern part of the country, the Yorubas are in the Southwestern states, the Igbos are in the Southeastern states and the Ijaws populate the southern states.

In terms of religion, there are two main religions in Nigeria; Islam and Christianity, with the indigenous traditionalists forming the third religious minority. According to a statistical analysis of the year 2018,  53.5% are Muslims, 45.9% are Christians and 0.6% are traditionalists in Nigeria. The leaders of the country have always belonged to the two main religions of Nigeria; Islam and Christianity.

Since the beginning of the fourth republic in the year 1999, the president of the country and his vice have always belonged to different religions, for example, whenever the president is a Muslim, his vice would be a Christian. At the inception of the republic, the then president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was a Christian whilst his vice was a Muslim, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Presently, the incumbent president of the country is a Muslim, General Muhammadu Buhari, whilst his vice is a Christian, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. 

It should, however, be noted that the above system of the president and his vice belonging to a different religion is not an obligation as far as the constitution of Nigeria is concerned. It has only been considered a norm since that is how it has coincidentally been from the inception of the republic some 23 years ago.

Going down history, there have been leaders of the country in the past who belonged to the same religion, for example, during the brief reign of General Aguyi Ironsi, his vice (the second in command), Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe was also a Christian. Likewise, when General Yakubu Jack Gowon was the military Head of State, the second in command, Vice Admiral, Joseph Edet Akinwale was also a Christian.

As a religious organisation, it is important to state that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat relies solely on the Quran and the practice of Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, for its rulings. 

As regards leadership, the fundamental teaching of the Holy Quran is to entrust leadership to the one who is best deserving of it (Surah an-Nisa, Ch.4: V.59) in other words, to elect such a candidate, who is most suitable to lead the people. Likewise, the noble Prophetsa warned that one of the signs of the end times was when a candidate who was not suitable would be elected to a position of leadership. Given the above injunction of the Quran, priority should be given to such a candidate who is considered to be the best to lead the country to unprecedented success, irrespective of their tribe or religion. 

It should also be borne in mind that every electorate is free to vote for the candidate of their choice. Therefore, if the candidate presented by the ruling party is considered by an individual not to be capable enough to lead the country, or someone feels that the power has not been politically balanced due to the candidates presented, other candidates of a person’s choice could be given the vote.

Different political parties consider numerous factors before picking their candidates who are to represent their parties at the polls at the time of election. As has been mentioned earlier, the religious affiliation of respective candidates is considered before they are presented at the polls, and it has always been a Muslim and a Christian, with no exception this time as well, as the general elections are scheduled to be held next year, the main opposition party (The People’s Democratic Party) picked former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a Muslim, as its flag bearer, whilst his running mate is the current governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, a Christian. 

Moreover, a presidential hopeful, the former governor of Anambra State, of the Labour party picked a Muslim, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed. However, against these two parties and the norms, the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress announced its presidential candidate to be Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a Muslim, who also picked a Muslim as his Vice in the person of Kashim Shettima. The selection of the ruling party has generated serious outrage from several quarters of the country.

Conclusively, at this crucial time in Nigeria’s political history, the most important factor in electing a president should not be religion, ethnic affiliation, tribal motivation, or partisanship – in short, nepotism should not be the order of the day, as has been in the past, which has sadly brought the country no good at all. 

Competence for leading the country can be determined through several means, for example past positions held by the candidates and their respective performances, useful dialogues consisting of pertinent questions and their genuine answers from the candidates, work plans of the candidates and the way to achieve them and persistent problems facing Nigeria and how they plan to solve them, etcetera.

Lastly, prayers should not be left behind before, during and after the electioneering period, that God Almighty may enable us to select the best candidate suitable for leading the country to its glory days, grant him a successful tenure, and enable the citizens to be law-abiding and cooperate with the government. 

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