30 Bishops Of Controversy!

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Much of the discussions and cartoons on many Nigerian social media platforms in the last couple of days have been about some purported bishops and clergymen said to have stormed the unveiling in Abuja of Kashim Shettima, the running mate to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives’ Congress (APC) in the 2023 Nigerian general elections.

You would think that with the many problems Nigerians are desperately wrestling with, the main discussions today would be about the exploding national debt on the neck of Nigeria; the five-month-old Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike keeping hundreds of thousands of our young and vulnerable citizens out of school and in the devil’s workshop; the unprecedented collapse of the national security system turning every Nigerian into an imminent candidate for kidnapping, banditry, untimely and violent death.

In a week that a former Accountant General of the Federation was ordered to be remanded in prison custody for the alleged stealing of the uncountable amount of more than N109 billion naira, you would think that Nigerians will be talking about the corruption that has run amok; under a government that pledged that if elected, it would deal with corruption; the galloping inflation that has wrecked the livelihood of many Nigerian families, the rapidly dwindling value of the national currency, the dizzying unemployment that has rendered many Nigerian citizens hopeless and maybe, the total collapse of morality and values in the country.

In a week that two of Nigeria’s major airlines, Aero-Contractors and Dana Air, packed up business and lost their wings and the price of diesel is destroying businesses left and right, the discussions have been about who recruited the “unknown” bishops, where they came from, what churches and dioceses they represent, how they were dressed, how they all arrived at the same time and dispersed in the same direction and more and more and more. Why?

What happened at the Musa Yar’ Adua Centre in Abuja during the week was in every sense, a political comedy of errors. It was a self-inflicted injury. In football parlance, it was an own goal. The APC team was playing with two right footed central defenders and to compensate, they had to pay too much attention to the left side of defence, leaving a gaping hole on the right side and the result was a devastating goal!

I very well remember 1993 when the SDP fielded a presidential ticket of Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, both Moslems and won the support of most Nigerians. This writer supported that ticket 100% and campaigned for the ticket. There are those who today refer to that event to justify the Tinubu/Shettima ticket. They make a very big mistake. Bola Tinubu is not Moshood Abiola and 2023 is not 1993. Moshood Abiola was a towering figure who had built strong bridges across the length and breath of Nigeria and enjoyed the love of Nigerians. By 2023, 30 years would have passed since that historic event. In 1993, there were no unknown herdsmen, no RUGA, no Boko Haram and no government where almost all the dramatis personae belong to one religion. In 1993, there was reasonable trust that a Nigerian government would be fair to all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or religion. That trust is gone!

The uproar that has visited the announcement of Kashim Shettima as the Asiwaju’s running mate ought to be a warning of that lack of trust. The die-hard supporters of the Jagaban Borgu are promoting the narrative that the uproar is fueled by ethnic and religious bigots and that the APC presidential candidate has no need to correct course. I am neither an ethnic nor religious bigot. My late best friend was a Moslem from Kano State. His name was Mustapha Amego. I have friends from nearly every tribe in Nigeria. Even though I am a Christian, several times I have been to mosques and joined my Moslem brothers to worship.

I have heard it said that the Moslem/Moslem ticket of Tinubu and Shettima would easily win the 2023 elections because of the APC structures. Those who take such a position miss the point. The objective for people like me, is not winning elections but governing for national progress so Nigeria will get out of the present rot. How will the ticket successfully govern a nation with such major fault lines and deep suspicions?

The event at the Musa Yar’ Adua Centre in Abuja during the week is very revealing. It clearly shows that despite all the braggadocio, there is recognition that something is not quite right with the Tinubu ticket as it is composed. The Musa Yar’ Adua Centre in Abuja is not a big venue. The event during the week was not a Bishops Conference. To invite 30 bishops to a political event, create space for them at such a small venue and celebrate their presence, shows that the criticism is biting and that there is a significant attempt in the Asiwaju camp to neutralise the critics.

The problem is that the show backfired badly. And has become a big joke across the nation. Both the writer of the script and the producer of the show got it all wrong. One credible bishop would have done what the terribly dressed and badly choreographed motley of jesters could not do. May be the script writer thought we needed a bishop for each of the years between 1993 and 2023! In politics, perception is everything. Has any lesson been learnt?

See you next week.

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