Matthew Kukah, Catholic bishop of Sokoto, says the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket adopted by the All Progressives Congress (APC) is a setback to the country’s progress on national integration.
Kukah spoke on Thursday in an interview on Channels Television.
Bola Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate, picked Kashim Shettima, the former governor of Borno, who is also a Muslim, as his running mate for the 2023 presidential election.
The development has elicited criticism from key stakeholders, particularly the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
Speaking on the development, the Catholic bishop said the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of 1993 election has been “over-exagerrated” to assume that Nigerians don’t care about religion.
Kukah, however, said the debate on the religion of candidates should be the least argument ahead of the 2023 elections, in view of how the present administration manages the country’s diversity.
“As a Christian, I feel proud of the role we played in managing diversity and politics in Nigeria,” he said.
“In 1983, when general Buhari came in as head of state, he took Idiagbon. Sadly, Nigerians were very excited. Maybe that is where we should have returned to as a scene of crime.
“It broke tradition, completely. The whole issue was that two Muslims from the north of the same religion, will govern Nigeria but Nigerians gave them that concession.
“I think we over-exaggerated our interpretation of what happened in 1993 because we always have this dubious assumption that it is evident that Nigerians don’t care about religion.
“But moving forward, the question I have asked my friends who are Muslims, especially those who are from northern Nigeria, is a simple question: ‘Would Muslims in Nigeria or northern Nigeria be ready to make the same concession that Christians made in 1984 and 1993?’
“And they have now been asked to make the same concession.
“You have to then understand this against the backdrop of what has happened in the last seven years.
“When you look at the squandered opportunity; when you look at the way power has been distributed; when you look at the way this government has allocated opportunities to broad spectrum of Nigeria against the wide backdrop of the crisis that we are in now, ordinarily the least we should be talking about is whether our next president should be a Christian or Muslim.
“But as a Christian, I can tell you very frankly that the decision of the APC, naturally, I felt astonished.
“I think that as a Christian, this is totally reprehensible. It is not acceptable to me, but that is the decision of the APC as a party. Perhaps, when the campaign starts, we will hear what people have to say.
“But it has just laid the foundation that has taken us back after the kind of progress we thought we have made in terms of national integration.”