The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, has explained the reason for his decision to pick a Muslim as his running mate in the forthcoming general elections.
Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State and chieftain of the ruling party, had announced a former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, as the APC vice-presidential candidate.
His choice of Shettima who is a Muslim as running mate has, however, sparked widespread criticism, especially from the Christian community in the country.
The APC standard-bearer, in his reaction, believes the challenges facing Nigeria require placing competence in governance above religious sentiments.
“Religion, ethnicity, and region cannot always and fully determine our path,” he was quoted as saying in a statement on Sunday by Bayo Onanuga, a spokesman for the Tinubu Campaign Organisation.
“To forge ahead as a nation towards development and prosperity, we must break free of old binds. We must recalibrate our political calculations to where competence and fairness matter, more than reducible demographics.”
According to the statement, Tinubu expressed his absolute respect and regard for both the Christian and Muslim faiths in the country.
He stated that by his selection, he was not oblivious of the religious and ethnic sensitivities of the nation but made the choice in the overriding interest of the country.
“I am mindful of the energetic discourse concerning the possible religion of my running mate,” the APC flagbearer said. “Just and noble people have talked to me about this; some have counselled that I should select a Christian to please the Christian community, others said I should pick a Muslim to appeal to the Muslim community. Clearly, I cannot do both.
“Both sides of the debate have impressive reason and passionate arguments supporting their position. Both arguments are right in their own way. But neither is right in the way that Nigeria needs at the moment.”
Tinubu added, “As President, I hope to govern this country towards uncommon progress. This will require innovation. It will require steps never taken. It will also require decisions that are politically difficult and rare.
“May I say this to all of you, especially those disappointed in my selection based on religious considerations. I will not and cannot ignore the religious concerns and ethnic sensitivities of our people. Taking them into due consideration is an important part of good and able governance.”