• Tinubu: I am seeking to be president of Nigeria not on religious grounds
• Defends choice of Shettima as running mate
• Nigerians should be allowed to choose who rules them, says Kumuyi
• Like Osun, we will defeat Tinubu in Lagos, PDP boasts
Presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday, met with the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Abuja, in a bid to douse the tension and barrage of criticism over his decision to run alongside Senator Kashim Shettima, a Muslim like himself.
The ruling party’s choice of a Muslim-Muslim ticket has been met with stark criticisms from CAN and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria since Shettima was announced as a vice-presidential candidate four months ago.
With time running out and the body of Christians sticking to its gun of disapproval to the same-faith ticket, Tinubu led members of his party to the National Christian Centre, an inter-denominational church building formerly known as National Ecumenical Centre, for an interaction with the CAN leadership.
Previous attempts at rapprochement had failed to break the ice between the Church leaders and Tinubu as CAN had severally disowned some clerics for associating with Tinubu’s presidential aspiration.
Yesterday’s meeting was, however, the second leg of CAN’s interactive session with presidential candidates, which began on Tuesday with the presidential candidate of Action Alliance (AA), Hamza Al-Mustapha.
Tinubu arrived for the meeting accompanied by his wife, Oluremi; running mate, Shettima; governors of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi; Imo, Hope Uzodimma and Kano, Abdullahi Ganduje.
Others are the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, federal lawmakers and some chieftains of the party.
At the meeting, Tinubu told the CAN leadership that his decision to vie for the nation’s top job is in line with the country’s Constitution, as he allayed fears over his same-faith ticket.
“I seek to become Nigeria’s president not on religious grounds, but on the Constitution. Thanks to the body for the invitation to candidates to speak of their plans for the nation,” he said.
“I believe in the need for a secular government and for us to work in the interest of the country, just as I did in Lagos State by returning the missionary schools to the rightful owners.
“I never chased people out of Lagos. My choice of Shettima is borne out of the urgent need to address the challenges facing the country, as Shettima possesses strong leadership abilities, which he exhibited when he was governor of Borno State. I wanted a progressive government; that was why I selected Shettima.”
Tinubu, who vehemently defended his choice of Shettima as his running mate, said: “Choosing a Christian running mate would have been easy but that is not the case. We have urgent challenges that do not depend on religious leanings, but on the best of hands that can address it.”
On his part, the CAN President, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, said the platform is an opportunity “to come together to review our understanding of the Nigeria crisis of development and governance and collectively find a lasting solution.
“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,” he added.
“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 leadership of CAN under the new president, Ukoh, presented a charter of demands and issues to the APC presidential candidate.
They demanded among others 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, no to open grazing, and equitable electoral system that guarantees the right to vote and be voted for by all.
While Nigeria is facing a lot of challenges, the cleric reiterated that CAN’s interest is for all presidential candidates to “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.”
Tinubu, who dismissed insinuations that his choice of a Muslim running mate was part of the agenda to Islamise Nigeria, said that he has no such agenda.
“How can I Islamise Nigeria if I cannot Islamise my own house? My wife is a pastor and they all go to church and leave me alone. When they start their worship in the house, they disturb my sleep, but I tolerate them, she keeps her Bible in one side of the bed and I keep my Quran on one side and they have never quarreled. So, how can I Islamise Nigeria?
“My 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.”
MEANWHILE, General Overseer of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, Dr. Williams Kumuyi, has again reiterated the need for Nigerians to be allowed to choose who to preside over the affairs of the country in 2023.
Kumuyi, who did not comment on APC’s Muslim/Muslim ticket, said the people should be given the chance to elect who would rule them democratically.
The cleric, who was in Taraba State for the Global Church Workers Conference, also prayed to God to assist Nigerians to make the best choice for the country.
He said: “I don’t want to get into recommending or disqualifying anyone. All Nigerians need to do is to pray that God would give us the best leader and the best president.”
Citing several portions of the Bible, he said: “We want to leave everything in the hands of God and allow citizens to choose the people that would rule.”
THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday boasted that its candidate in Lagos State, Olajide Adederain, would win the March 2023 governorship election.
PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, who spoke when he received the report of the PDP reconciliation committee for Osun and Lagos chapters of the party, said the party’s winning streak, which began in Osun in July, would be completed in Lagos next year.
Ayu noted that PDP defeated Tinubu in Osun, his home state, and would also defeat him in Lagos, his state of residence.
He said: “We defeated the Lion of Bourdillon in Osun and we want to finish the good job in his residence in Bourdillon. We can see that happening because we saw him shouting God bless PDP on Tuesday.”
He, however, called for unity among members, stating that this has been demonstrated in a number of states since the National Working Committee (NWC) members came on board.