How APC’s Muslim/Muslim ticket halted rise of North-East APC Christian leaders

The All Progressives Congress, APC, Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket has remained a shocker to the Northern Christians within the party.

Often, when Northern Christians are talked about, attention is always on the middle belt states and Southern Kaduna, however, the Northeast has one of the largest concentrations of Christians in the country— Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno and Yobe have a large concentration of Christian.

In 2015, ex-SGF Babachir Lawal backed Muhammadu Buhari and was rewarded with the SGF, against advice by many that the position should be given to someone from the South-East to reassure the Igbos that the government will be inclusive despite the outcome of the election.

When Babachir Lawal was forced to resign over the grass-cutting scandal, the president appointed another individual from the bloc, Boss Mustapha, a Christian from Adamawa State.

At the legislative arm, Yakubu Dogara was able to outwit Femi Gbajabimaila and the APC structure to emerge as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Gbajabiamila had picked a Kanuri man from Borno, Mohammed Monguno as his running mate, while Dogara picked a Yoruba man from Osun State.

While Gbajabiamila’s ticket was a Muslim/Muslim ticket, Dogara was able to get a Christian/Muslim ticket that won the election. Before the 2019 elections, he was forced to leave the ruling party.

Safe to say that 2015 was a good year for the Northeast Christian APC leaders, with the number 4 seat and the SGF in the bag.

Babachir Lawal, the first to join the Tinubu’s train

As far back as 2019, Mr Lawal had been talking about Tinubu succeeding Buhari in 2023. In an interview in Yola, he said, “Tinubu is my friend of many years. Buhari is my big boss. Bola without prejudice that he is my friend will make a good president.”

He followed it up with another interview in 2020, where he basically said Tinubu single-handedly sponsored Buhari’s election in 2015,

“Tinubu, who had his tentacles spread across the corporate world, was the only man who knew where and how to raise the funds needed. He was the one that reached out to all the ‘big men’ who were at the time scared of the then President Goodluck Jonathan. These were all rich men that depended on the government’s patronage. But somehow, Tinubu was able to persuade some of them to support Buhari. We had so many experiences, Timipre Sylva (now Minister of State for Petroleum Resources) and I thought we could do it, but found out we couldn’t until Tinubu came in and we won the election,” he said.

When Tinubu finally declared, Babachir was all over the place. He, alongside James Faleke, picked the nomination form on behalf of Tinubu back in May. He also headed a strategic team for the Tinubu Campaign Organization.

Return of Dogara, Elisha Abbo joins APC

In a surprise move, Dogara later returned to the ruling party in 2020, fueling speculation that he could be tapped to balance the possible ticket of Tinubu. Subsequently, Elisha Abbo, a Christian senator representing Adamawa West also joined the ruling party.

During the campaign for APC ticket, Dogara and Babachir Lawal played prominent roles and were in his entourage several times to campaign areas.

By the time Bola Tinubu emerged as the candidate of the APC, the Northeast Christian leaders had Boss Mustapha, Babachir Lawal, Dogara, Elisha Abbo and former Senator Binta Mashi Garba—all Christian APC leaders from the Northeast.

In the course of the debate for likely VP candidate, Mashi, a former Senator from Adamawa had disagreed with Sen Orji Uzor Kalu that only a Muslim could ensure the victory of Tinubu. She even put herself forth.

Babachir Lawal and other Christian leaders from the Northeast had expected Tinubu, from the south, to pick a Christian from Northeast.

Muslim/Muslim ticket puts Northeast Christian in a tight angle

For Christian candidates in the Northeast, the Muslim/Muslim ticket has put them in a political tight spot. Atiku Abubakar is popular in the Northeast.

Vrati Nzonzo, APC candidate for Damsa/Lamurde federal Constituency, argued that giving the ticket to Boss Mustapha or Yakubu Dogara would have made perfect sense, because Yobe and Borno State are already APC stronghold, noting that they would have voted APC with or without Shettima. He said the Muslim/Muslim ticket has put APC candidates in Christian dominated areas at risk.

“The argument that Tinubu wants to win the Northeast and that is the reason for picking Shettima, I think that is fallacy— anybody from the Northeast, as long as all of us will work for him, he will emerge victorious. We all know that Yobe and Borno are predominantly APC States— one-party States. Even if Tinubu’s running mate were to be a Christian, if Shettima and Zulum work for APC, we will win Borno 100%. Mai Mala Buni and Bukar Abba, they will deliver. The States the Christians are coming from— even in Adamawa, will give us a better reason to split Atiku’s vote with Boss Mustapha. Same thing with Bauchi if they had given Dogara, who is highly respected in Bauchi.

“It will definitely affect our votes. Everyone is hearing the position of every one of us. You cannot come and persecute me for something I am better about. We are talking with our people. If credibility will be brought to the table, some of us will survive,” he said.

He said further, “My party failed to recognise my faith. A lot of people will be thrown under the bus. Let’s assume that he can win the election, is it fair? I am talking about Adamawa, even in Borno, there are Christians there, and even Shettima may be affected if religion is brought to it. Same thing with Yobe, Taraba, Kogi, Bauchi.

“Let everybody know that I am not complaining because I am a Christain. There is also the question of survival.”

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