Nigerians are deeply divided by religion on all major issues in the country, almost by nature, history, and psychological relationships.
In 2019, Gallup, Inc. conducted a poll on some critical issues in Nigeria, like religion. R. J Reinhart, the assessor, found that in 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is a Muslim from northern Nigeria, overwhelmingly earned almost all the points from Muslims. Muslims were almost three times as likely to approve of Buhari (73%) as were Christians (26%).
Globally, and arguably, the world’s most persecuted minority is a Christian. In today’s Nigeria, especially in the last seven years, the trend has been that Christians, especially those living in the central Middle Belt and northern regions of the country, are being persecuted more than any other religion.
Many Christians across the country feel that Muslims are directly ruling the country through a wide range of political power.
Rightly or wrongly, there is a perceived fear of Islam as the dominant religion and influence, thereby many see an imbalance in leadership, especially in recent times.
In the run for the 2023 presidential election, the main opposition party in Nigeria has picked former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its candidate for the 2023 presidential election, while the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has picked the former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as its presidential candidate.
In a country where Christian-Muslim strife is chronically and turbulently seen as marked with Christian-Muslim strife, a Muslim/Muslim ticket could mean one side feeling affected by marginalization, oppression, and negative government influence, uneven distribution of wealth and resources, nepotism, and socio-religious bias.
In a society where the specter of religion and ethnicity haunts the people and environment, Tinubu, a southern Muslim, and Atiku, a northern Muslim, are almost hopelessly in a dilemma.
A Muslim-Muslim ticket will certainly mobilize the roughly 45-65 million Christian population against Atiku or Tinubu. A Muslim-Muslim ticket will particularly be devastating for Igbo people, estimated to be around 30 million, who already feel ignored, betrayed, and treated with contempt in terms of presidential candidacy in both major parties. The same hurtful and fearful feelings of alienation and dissatisfaction among Christians in the North, the Middle Belt, and indigenous peoples.
Christians in Nigeria are still thinking and feeling the gruesome killing of Deborah Samuel in Sokoto state by way of being stoned, flogged, and burnt to death in the name of Muslim religion. And the mass shooting and killing of worshippers at the St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State further worsen relationships. Atiku did not help himself among Christian Nigerians when he deleted a tweet that condemned the heinous killing of Deborah by her schoolmates after some Muslim people threatened that he would lose votes for making such a tweet.
As a psychologist, I have no doubt that Atiku and Tinubu, respectively, are straining under pressure from all sides.
To reduce suspicion and worry in the general population, an interfaith style presidency should occupy the national political space. Anything less than that will make some parts of the population feel emboldened and others less, to the extent that they will feel that, in the face of innocent people of Christian background being killed in the North, those who are carrying out the attacks are not being arrested and prosecuted because they are not represented in political power, and they may have that feeling of religious persecution.
I therefore ask that a popular Southern Christian person like Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike should be the running mate for the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar. Equally, the Plateau governor, Simeon Lalong, a popular Southern Christian person, should be the running mate for the presidential candidate, former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All-Progressives Congress (APC).
Both governors are comfortably competent to manage the political affairs, institutional and governance issues of Nigeria.
I should emphasize here that given the unusual way in which Tinubu won as it relates to the Governors of Northern Nigeria agreeing to cede power to the South, and the way the likes of Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, Aminu Masari of Katsina, Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa, and Abubakar Bello of Niger, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi and others galvanized their support and gave solidarity behind Tinubu’s win.
El-Rufai is needed in the next presidency as he is known to be a man who reflects a life in public service, corporate, and international service. As such, his extraordinary ability to sustain a high level of influence in society, and his transformational and forthright leadership styles are needed. He could help champion policies in the areas of investment, employment, and education for the nation.
The Nigerian people are very discouraged by the current climate. As such, a pointed statement along the lines of the recommendation here is needed. Anything short of that will be a path to weakening democracy in the country.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, who was born in Uromi, Edo State in Nigeria, is an American based Police/Prison Scientist and Forensic/Clinical/Legal Psychologist. A government consultant on matters of forensic-clinical adult/child psychological services in the USA; Chief Educator and Clinician at the Transatlantic Enrichment and Refresher Institute, an Online Lifelong Center for Personal, Professional, and Career Development. He is a former Interim Associate Dean/Assistant Professor at Broward College, Florida. The Founder of the Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi Foundation, Center for Psychological Health and Behavioral Change in African Settings. In 2011, he introduced State-of-the-Art Forensic Psychology into Nigeria through N.U.C and Nasarawa State University, where he served in the Department of Psychology as an Associate Professor. Currently, a Virtual Behavioral Leadership Professor at ISCOM University, Republic of Benin. Founder of the proposed Transatlantic Egbeazien Open University (TEU) of Values and Ethics, a digital project of Truth, Ethics, and Openness. Over forty academic publications and creations, at least 200 public opinion pieces on African issues, and various books have been written by him. He specializes in psycho-prescriptive writings regarding African institutional and governance issues.
Prof. Oshodi wrote in via [email protected]