Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP presidential candidate, cast the first stone when he revealed that he has quarreled with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for 15 years on whether a Muslim-Muslim ticket was proper in Nigeria.
Tinubu has been under intense fire, especially from the Christian community, over his choice of a Muslim and former Governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima, as his running mate. He ran, again, into troubled waters when at the unveiling of Shettima midweek, fake bishops were paraded as his Christian supporters.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has roundly berated him and the APC for this, as other Nigerians mock on.
The issue of a Muslim- Muslim ticket, Atiku claims, led to his political separation from Tinubu in 2007; but in a statement, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for next February presidential election now claims Atiku actually offered him the ticket a decade and a half ago. He did not say if he accepted or rejected the offer, though he made more revelations.
On the APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket of the All Progressives Congress, Atiku said on television on Friday:
“My fundamental disagreement with Asiwaju since 2007 was on the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket. That was my fundamental disagreement and departure from Asiwaju.
“Together with Asiwaju, we formed ACN and I was given a ticket in Lagos and he insisted to be my running mate and I said no, I am not going to have a Muslim-Muslim ticket and because of that he switched his support to the late Umaru Yar`Adua and that was the departing point and of course.
“It is also a fact that when Buhari emerged in Lagos in 2015 that I also opposed a Muslim-Muslim ticket. I opposed it and my opposition actually reinforced the decision of President Buhari to pick a Christian running mate. So, I have all along opposed that. I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe it is right for a country like Nigeria that is multi-ethnic, multi religious that there should be balancing of interests, whether religious or otherwise….
“Certainly prospects are much higher. If you know the composition of the Northeast, you have Borno and Yobe these are essentially two Kanuri states, then you have the other states which are essentially Hausa-Fulani. So, even if people are going to vote on that basis I think I have a more favourable (prospect) from the Northeast.”
In a statement on Saturday, titled, “Atiku demeans himself, office he seeks by pandering to base prejudice at a moment Nigeria needs true leadership”, in response to Atiku, Tinubu says all Nigerians should feel great pity and sadness for Atiku .
It reads further: “In his desperate attempt to win the election by stoking religious bias, Atiku has reduced himself to uttering baseless lies on national television.
“We are saddened to see such a man become unhinged from the truth. So obsessed is he with his quest for office, Atiku is willing to render any form of untruth if he thinks it might gain him a single vote. Atiku may want to be president. However, all he has shown is that he is pathological.”
“Whatever moral compass he had has been lost. During a 22 July television interview, Atiku assaulted historic truth by lying that he did not name Tinubu as his running mate in 2007 on the Action Congress ticket because Atiku did not want a Muslim as his running mate.”
Tinubu states, “It was the actual founders of the AC who offered the party’s flag to Atiku because of the need to fight the authoritarian designs then President Obasanjo and the PDP had on Nigeria’s democracy.
“At that moment, Atiku had been unceremoniously pushed aside if not out of the PDP by Obasanjo. We needed to rally all forces to confront the one-party state Obasanjo had in mind. Atiku was simply a beneficiary of this collective duty to fight the attack on multi-party democracy the PDP had launched.
“I feel sorry for dear old Atiku. Love of his own ambition has eclipsed his relationship with the truth and an honest account of the past. We formed the AC without his knowledge. When President Obasanjo virtually exiled him from the PDP, we lent him our support by giving him the AC platform for the 2007 election.
“Let me say openly that Atiku offered me the vice presidential ticket in 2007. Let me also say that my religion has not changed. When he offered the position to me, I was a Muslim and I believe he was aware of my religious faith at the time.
“Atiku’s calculations and deceit had nothing to do with religion or his sensitivity to it. His conduct has everything to do with what we discovered about his paucity of character and love of intrigue.
“True to form, Atiku, fifteen years later, promised HE Governor Nyesom Wike the same thing this electoral season and similarly reneged. Governor Wike is a Christian.
“When it comes to intrigue, we can say that Atiku is without bias. He will attempt to lie and deceive both Christian and Muslim with equal vigour.
“Atiku has no business raising the issue of a Muslim-Muslim ticket except as a hypocrite. Perhaps he believes people have forgotten his antics during the 1993 election. After he woefully lost his bid to be the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, what did he do? He canvassed and lobbied harder than anyone to become the running mate to late Chief MKO Abiola. When it benefitted him personally, Atiku did not see anything wrong with Muslim-Muslim ticket. He saw everything right in such a ticket as long as he was on it.
“Now, Atiku criticises my selection as running mate based on religion. He does so because he cannot criticize it on other grounds. If Atiku were to have one of his rare moments of honesty, he would admit that the person I selected as my running mate is more qualified for the position than the man who joined him. And this conclusion has nothing to do with religious faith. It has everything to do with competence, experience, ability, and vision.
“My running mate and I are here to build a more just and prosperous society for all Nigerians, be they Christian, Muslim or adherents of other faiths. It seems that Atiku is here trying to build an edifice of lies and call that the house into which Nigerians should walk and reside. He will fail in this sad attempt to trick an entire nation.
“Let me restate my position on religion and politics. When I decided that Senator Shettima was the best selection as my running mate, I listened to and weighed in serious balance the advice received from a broad and representative array of wonderful Nigerians who deeply care about this nation and the path it must go.
“Some people counselled that I should select a Christian to garner support of the Christian community. Some said I should select a Muslim for a similar reason. I clearly could not do both. Both positions had merit and right on their side. But neither position expressed what was most right and needed for the moment in which we find ourselves and the nation.
“All my life, the decisions regarding the team supporting me have always been guided by the principles of competence, innovation, compassion, integrity, fairness, and adherence to excellence. I was not going to depart from these principles at this important juncture. In fact, it was more important than ever before that I adhere to these principles.
“As Governor of Lagos State, these principles helped me assemble one of the most capable governing cabinets any state or this nation has seen. I trust in these principles to allow them to, once more, guide me to construct another exemplary team that can do Nigeria proud.
“In this crucial moment, where so much is at stake, we must prioritize leadership, competence, and the ability to work as a team over other considerations.
“This is the standard I will use to select the rest of my campaign team and if you elect me as your president when I staff my government. I will select the best people for the right jobs so that we can construct a better Nigeria now and for generations yet to come.”