All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, yesterday assured the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that he will not run his administration on the basis of religion, if elected.
Tinubu, who met with the CAN leadership in Abuja, recalled his administration did not discriminate against anyone, either based on tribe, religion or gender when he was Lagos State governor.
He said as president, he would not depart from his previous position.
He was accompanied to the session by his wife and Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) pastor, Senator Oluremi Tinubu; running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima; House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila; Governors Hope Uzodinnma (Imo), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq (Kwara); Deputy Senate Leader Senator Boroffice Ajayi; Senate Chief Whip Senator Orji Uzor Kalu; Minister of Special Duties, Senator George Akume and other chieftains.
The leadership of CAN under new President Daniel Ukoh presented a charter of demands to the APC candidate.
They include state police or a decentralised policing system; devolution of power to states; equal rights for all religions and their adherents; right to self-determination by all ethnic groups; right to control natural resources by communities that bear them; anti-open grazing, and equitable electoral system that guarantees the right to vote and be voted for by all.
Tinubu said: “My belief in the need for secular government and faith-based organisations to work in unison is not something adopted recently to benefit my campaign.
“As governor of Lagos, I partnered with the Christians to improve lives and foster education. For instance, I returned mission schools to their owners, most of who are Christians.
“I instituted yearly Christian Denomination Service at the governor’s residence as we approached the new year. This tradition continues in Lagos.
“More importantly, we fostered an atmosphere of religious tolerance and inter-faith collaboration. My cabinet was diverse and talented.
“In the exercise of government, I did not give a thought to whether a team member was Christian or Muslim, Yoruba, Igbo or Arewa.
“I have never lent myself to baseless prejudice and discrimination. To do so would be a recipe for failure in the governance of a diverse society and I am not a man that is familiar with failing.
“I never chased people out of Lagos nor made them feel unwanted. Under my administration, Lagos welcomed all comers and continues to do so today.
“After me, Lagos has had one Muslim and two Christian governors. I may not be perfect. What human being is? But I am not a petty man secretly wedded to secret biases and prejudices.
“As such, I see all Nigerians as equals and as brothers and sisters in our national family. This means no one is inherently inferior or superior to anyone else, regardless of faith, place of origin, social status and gender.
“Anyone who does not hold this fair and equitable view, should not run for president in a country such as ours.”
Tinubu acknowledged that some reacted harshly to his choice of running without knowing the man or giving him a fair chance.
“The rumour that this is some plot to suppress the Christian community is untrue and unfortunate.
“I can no more suppress the Christians of this nation than I can suppress the Christians in my own household, my very family. You all know my wife is Christian and a pastor.
“My children are Christians. I can no more disown them and their choice of faith than I can disown myself. As a husband and father to a Christian wife and children, hearing such allegations is hurtful.”
On his choice of Shettima, Tinubu said he made the best available choice at his disposal without recourse to religious sentiments.
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He stressed: “I did not choose Senator Shettima so that we could form a same-faith ticket. The ticket was constructed as a same-progressive and people-based ideology ticket.
“I offer a confession. I selected Senator Shettima thinking more about who would best help me govern. Picking a Christian running mate would have been politically easier.
“But the easy way is rarely the right one. The selection of a running mate is at once a very momentous, yet very intimate decision.
“Resting such a key decision on religious affiliation as the primary weight did not sit well with me. I am not saying there were not good and adequate potential running mates of the Christian faith.
“What I am saying is that the times we inhabit do not lend themselves to the good or adequate. We have urgent problems that lend themselves not to a Christian or Muslim solution. We need the best solution.
“Every time I thought about it, and I did think a lot; I came to the same conclusion: Kashim Shettima.
“His faith was immaterial. He is a brilliant man with superior intellectual capacity. He is studious and detailed oriented. Enjoying excellent organisational skills, Shettima fully understands the vital difference between governance and politics.
“This exceptionally gifted human being has the humility of spirit, the courage of his convictions and a strongly progressive worldview in harmony with my perspectives on government and its relationship to the governed.
“I trust the calibre of the man. I know the great lengths he went to in fighting Boko Haram in his state. He did his best to protect the Christian community and rebuilt damaged churches.
“This man understands the value of our national diversity in all of its ramifications, including religious. He possesses the courage to stand up to those who would wreck that diversity and freedom.”
Tinubu said the Christian body has a great role as the moral compass of society, which he cherishes and will always support.
He added: “You, as an organisation and as individual leaders of CAN, are entrusted as the watch person of the welfare of this society from a Christian perspective. Which means functioning in an atmosphere of charity, understanding, patience and wisdom.” I understand the tremendous importance of your work and have nothing but the deepest respect for your selfless contributions to our national cause.”
Tinubu also spoke on his manifesto, urging the Christian leaders to support his bid.
“We must move the nation forward more quickly so that hatred and pettiness haven’t a chance to imbed themselves and become the main colours of the fabric of our society.
“My team, Senator Shettima and I have crafted our Action Plan for Nigeria titled Renewed Hope.
“This agenda is based on the progressive notion that our economy must be recalibrated to ensure better jobs and wages for people. That all are entitled to basic health care and education.
“We will combat hunger and poverty by growing more food and better rewarding farmers for their toil.
“We shall revive our industrial capacity to provide work for our growing urban population and to produce more of the things that we need.
“Where the private sector thrives, we will not attempt to fix what is not broken. Where it falters, the government shall lend a hand to keep people employed and the economy vibrant.
“Where there is a gap, we must fill it so that we more fully employ our idle workforce and productive capacity.
“We must better tend to the poor, vulnerable and elderly by strengthening the social safety net.
“We shall end the fuel subsidy because it has become an unproductive policy favouring an elite that needs no favours while giving the people precious little. Funds that were previously used for the subsidy will be invested in public transportation and other infrastructure, education, and health.
“Let us advance to the economic point where no parent is forced to send their children to bed hungry and no one is fearful that tomorrow will bring more lack and poverty.
“Fiscal power and authority shall be recalibrated to give the states more latitude to better fulfil their mandate of grassroots development and empowerment of people and local communities, This includes assessing each state’s best option regarding a more active role in crime prevention and law enforcement.
“On security, we will not relent until terrorists, kidnappers and criminals quit their malign ways or are completely defeated. We shall augment our security forces and use advanced technology to track and defeat these evil groups,” he added.
In their contributions, Vice Presidential Candidate Shettima, House Speaker Gbajabiamila, Governor Ganduje and Senate Chief Whip Kalu attested to Asíwájú Tinubu’s character and integrity.
They said he usually places merit and competence above any other factor in choosing who to work with and he is always moved to act in the best interest of the country.
Archbishop Okoh said the organisation wanted a prosperous and peaceful Nigeria founded on justice and freedom for all.
He said: “As an association of Christian citizens who believe in this country and continue to pray for its unity, peace, and prosperity, we have spent time reviewing the problems that hinder peace and progress in the country and are hereby making suggestions on how best to improve them.
“We have consulted with Nigerians of diverse religious, ethnic and social identities on the problems of the country and the solutions to them have been articulated in the strategic document we call, the Charter for Future Nigeria.
“The Charter for Future Nigeria begins with a diagnosis of Nigeria’s problem and locates it primarily in an incoherent constitutional and institutional framework that defines governance and social and economic interactions in Nigeria.
“This incoherence is the main reason that the country today is almost submerged in the chaos of insecurity, instability, and economic stagnation. The document considers this incoherence in political, social, and economic dimensions.”
Okoh added: “Our interest is that all candidates clearly understand the concerns of Nigerian Christians and propose policies and programmes to address those concerns. We believe that with this kind of respectful and sincere conversation we will find lasting solutions to these crises.”
Governor Umahi assured the leadership of CAN that Asiwaju will embrace all religions, adding that he is not a biased leader.
Ganduje also spoke in support of Tinubu, whom he described as a lover of all.
Ganduje assured that Tinubu will do well as president if given a chance. He said CAN should shun rumours and support the cause of Tinubu as the 2023 elections approach.
Senator Kalu said Nigerians will not regret voting for Tinubu and his running mate.
Gbajabiamila said the religious crisis has been one of the country’s major fault lines.
He said: “Could it be that this is divine from God to use this to confirm the wise; that our thoughts are not his thoughts and our ways are not his ways; that he now wants to use the Muslim/Muslim ticket to erase those fault lines based on the performance of that Muslim/Muslim ticket that this might now become a thing of the past?
“That is the way God works and thinks. We should not question his thoughts.”