When Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in pursuit of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket, visited and addressed delegates in Abeokuta in Yoruba, Mr. Babachir Lawal, a former Secretary of the Government of the Federation, became a of those who made a statement full of vitriol and highly flammable against Tinubu. The former governor of Lagos state and now APC presidential candidate had passed through memory, recalling his various widely recognized contributions to the party and reiterating why the ticket should come to the Southwest and why he deserves it.
While showing off his closeness to Tinubu at every opportunity, Lawal tried to break down the latter’s presidential bid by depicting him in his Abeokuta utterances as President Muhammadu Buhari and the entire North. It is difficult to understand on what pedestal Lawal could claim to speak on behalf of the entire North. His goal was to alienate Tinubu from Buhari and other leaders of the north so that they could work against Tinubu’s aspirations in the primaries.
Fortunately, this move by Lawal and a few others failed spectacularly. Buhari proved to be more circumspect, sensible and statesman, and thus refrained from imposing any candidate on the party, allowing all candidates to compete in an open, transparent and credible primaries. Northern governors and other key leaders of the region played a vital role in Tinubu’s winning of the ticket, much to the chagrin of Lawal and his fellow travelers.
It is therefore not surprising that Lawal has again made an incendiary statement about the choice of Mallam Kashim Shettima as Tinubu’s running mate. In his latest mission against Tinubu and Shettima, Lawal hypocritically claims that he would do nothing to stop his “very close friend”‘s path to the presidency and that since 2011, he has had an all-encompassing passion for Tinubu to succeed President Buhari.
But his actions speak much louder than his words in support of Tinubu’s endeavour. It is so clear that what Lawal is trying to do is alienate Tinubu from Christians in the north in particular and across the country so that APC can lose in the 2023 general election. He said, “Christians across the country will rebel against the APC to seriously jeopardize the chances of his election. It will also jeopardize the election of all Christians in Christian-dominated areas. This could lead to APC becoming a minority party in both the National Assembly and the States of Representatives.”
This is certainly Lawal at his most ridiculous best and nothing but wishful thinking. But just as his statements failed to stop Tinubu earlier in the presidential primaries, it is even more unfounded and his reckless outburst about Tinubu’s choice of running mate will prove incorrect regarding next year’s election.
Lawal states: “No one who wants to become president of Nigeria should ever use the tool of religious extremism and exclusivism as a tool to win elections. This is very dangerous and this is very sad… With his choice, Nigerian Christians clearly see an imminent Islamic Republic of Nigeria in its infancy and are rightly deeply concerned”. First of all, Tinubu has emphasized the role of religion in choosing his running mate and has given Nigerians the opportunity to vote for candidates in the next election based on ability and demonstrated capacity rather than religious affiliation.
The success of the ticket in the elections will thus amount to the first major victory over the role of religious sentiments and emotions in politics. It is difficult to understand how Lawal believes with any imagination that the victory of the Tinubu/Shettima ticket will amount to the signal that the country is turning into an Islamic Republic. This is reckless. Such wild speculations are only alarming, designed to sow fear in the minds of the Christian electorate. This kind of vile propaganda is dead on arrival, especially since Lawal doesn’t tell us what alchemy the government will use to turn Tinubu Nigeria into an Islamic republic. Will it be by a coup d’état against his own government, by a decision of the National Assembly or by instigating a national revolution to usher in an Islamic republic? Such claims are childish and naive.
Lawal states that on several occasions he discussed the pros and cons of both ticket swaps with Tinubu and some of his close associates and assistants. His words: “I had left him solely responsible for his final decision, arguing that in the end he will bear the consequences of the outcome of a bad choice. There could be some collateral damage.” This assumes that in giving his advice, Lawal did not think that Tinubu would simply swallow his suggestions, hook, line and sinker. Lawal must of course be aware that in such a situation there would be a deluge of advice from different quarters.
And as Lawal said, the ultimate responsibility for the choice rests with the candidate. That he did not immediately submit a substantive name for the running mate slot to INEC but took the time to consult with President Buhari, governors from the north and south, as well as other stakeholders indicate that it was not a choice Tinubu took lightly. made. In all his statements, Lawal does not take into account that the better half of Tinubu, for the past three decades, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, has been a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). He ignores the numerous accounts of various individuals about Tinubu’s liberalism, his honesty of spirit over the years in protecting and advancing the interests of both Christians and Muslims. A prime example is his return of mission schools previously taken over by the state government in the Second Republic to their original owners, with Christians being the main beneficiaries. Of course, there are several other examples that can be cited, except for space.
He tries to explain Tinubu’s choice of running mate by referring to the alleged fact that “his close friends as governor have since left him to run their own systems, leaving Tinubu stranded.” This is indeed very comical and laughable. The truth is that Lawal is not sufficiently aware of the workings of Tinubu’s inner circle to speak masterfully on this matter as he strives to do. Yes, some of Tinubu’s associates and assistants have chosen to forge their own path, as is normal and routine in politics. But there are many more of his assistants with him, while there are newcomers to his inner circle who are no less brilliant than the few who have left.
And of Kashim Shettima’s choice as the APC vice presidential candidate, Lawal contemptuously writes, “He is an overambitious man with a Machiavellian bent and plenty of money to gain candidate status among Tinubu’s lap dogs”. Shettima, he says, has received “fake support from the Christian community to help launder his not-so-good image”. attack on Shettima. For example, in what way is Shettima too ambitious? Isn’t he eminently qualified to run, even for president? Isn’t he more qualified and temperamentally fit for the position than a volatile and unstable guy who expresses his emotions not subordinate to logic and reason?Eminent Christian leaders such as Archbishop Ignacious Kaigama, Bishop Oliver Dashe, Archbishop of the Maiduguri Diocese of the Catholic Church and Borno State President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bishop Nagga Williams Mohammed, have at various times given glorious public testimony to Shettima’s honesty towards all religious faiths, including governance, open-mindedness and liberal disposition during his tenure as Governor of Borno State between 2011 and 2019.
Yet this is the leader who is trying to denigrate and slander Babachir Lawal by attempting to compromise his integrity. This smear campaign is dead on arrival. But what exactly is Lawal’s grouse and what secret agenda does he pursue? It is not impossible that he himself hoped to be chosen as Tinubu’s running mate. And now that it hasn’t, he wants to tear the house down on everyone. But this is a doomed journey. First of all, what is Lawal’s electoral value? How many elections has he contested and won? He who tries to slander another’s image may have forgotten the multimillion naira lawn mowing scandal that cost him his job in the federal cabinet; the case is under consideration by the EFCC.
Peters is a public affairs analyst based in Lagos