Senator Bola Tinubu, Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has dismissed the allegation that he has no regard for Christians.
Tinubu’s choice of Senator Kashim Shettima, a fellow Muslim, as running mate for the 2023 presidential election, has generated a controversy.
At an interactive session with the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Tinubu dismissed those who described him as a religious bigot, saying the choice of Shettima had nothing to do with religion.
He said he had nothing against Christianity, a faith which his wife and children practise.
“Why Senator Kashim Shettima? Why a same faith ticket? Well, 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 organization skills, Shettima fully understands the vital difference between governance and politics.
“This exceptionally gifted human being has humility of spirit, courage of his convictions and a strongly progressive world view in harmony with my own perspectives on government and its relationship to the governed,” Tinubu said.
The former Lagos State Governor also said that he trust the calibre of Shettima, as he knew the great lengths he (Shettima) went in fighting Boko Haram in his state (Borno), where he did his best to protect the Christian community and rebuilt damaged churches.
He said, “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, who said he see all Nigerians as brothers and sisters in the national family, said that this means no one is inherently inferior or superior to anyone else, regardless of faith, place of origin, social status and gender.
While listing his historical support for the church, Tinubu said his belief in the need for secular government and faith-based organizations to work unison is not something adopted recently to benefit his campaign.
“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.”
“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 Christian wife and children, hearing such allegations is hurtful. However, that individual discomfort will not deter me from the job at hand.”
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