Against the backdrop of the controversial Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming Nigeria’s presidential election this month February 25, 2023, a former speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara has reinstated the position of the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) against the APC’s same faith presidential ticket in the presidential poll and declared that Christians are equal stakeholders in Nigeria.
Rt. Hon. Dogara made this declaration in his keynote address at the recent prayers, awards and book dedication/launching organized by the Arewa Christians & Indigenous Pastors Association (ACIPA) last month January 29, 2023 at ECWA Headquarters in Jos, Plateau state.
In his address on the past, the present and the future role of Northern Christians in the development of Nigeria, the former speaker argued that without the heroic roles played by some Northern Christian brethren in moments of national peril in Nigeria, the country may not have been in existence as she is now. He said there was hardly any Northern Christian family that does not bear the scars of the war to keep Nigeria one.
Clearly referring to a former Nigeria’s military head of state and a Christian of northern extraction, General Yakubu Gowon (Retired), Dogara adds, “It is equally gratifying that our father who superintended over Nigeria in those darkest moments still leads national efforts in prayers for repentance, national healing and unity.”
Hon. Dogara commended the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) leadership for its stand against the APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket in the presidential poll, which he fared is capable of polarizing the nation’s politics along religious line: “Thanks to the leadership of CAN for long taking a stand against the Muslim -Muslim ticket of the APC mainly because it is capable of polarizing our politics along religious line. They wanted a balanced ticket so that all of us, Muslims and Christians in Nigeria will unite behind it to build a nation that works for all of us. But in addition to this, we now have many other reasons not to back the APC ticket,” ex-speaker warned.
Speaking further Dogara explained the role of Christians in the 2023 elections, saying, “The crucial role we can play as Christians is to examine the characters of the candidates running for offices especially the highest office in the country and disavow those of them that we know are not a reflection of our moral ethos,” the former federal house speaker advised.
Below is the full text of the keynote address delivered by Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara at the ACIPA day of prayers, awards and book dedication/launching at ECWA Headquarters, Jos, Plateau state on the 29th January, 2023.
I understand the theme for today’s event is, “The past, present and future role of Northern Christians in the development of Nigeria”. You will all agree with me that this is a very broad topic with abounding literature that has effectively covered the field. I dare say in summary and without fear of any contradictions, that without the heroic roles played by some of our brothers and sisters in moments of National peril in Nigeria, Nigeria may not have been in existence the way we know it today. There is hardly any Northern Christian family that does not bear the scars of the war to keep Nigeria one. It is equally gratifying that our father who superintended over Nigeria in those darkest moments still leads national efforts in prayers for repentance, national healing and unity.
Clearly, therefore, the fact cannot be overstated that we are equal stakeholders in the Nigeria project that is why we must strive as never before to ensure this country live to its true potentials so that the sacrifices of our heroes past do not waste. It is on account of this that I intend to dwell on the forthcoming general elections in regards to what we must do now, during and after the elections to advance the work for which so many of our relations paid the supreme price.
Undoubtedly, Nigeria’s only problem is that of leadership. For in the absence of leadership, we cannot fix the economy, infrastructural decay, security and chart the path to national prosperity. It is said that, “everything rises and falls on leadership.” No society throughout history has ever risen above the level of its leadership.
Unfortunately, we don’t care about substance anymore, it is all tribalism. Is he in our team and are we going to get what we want? These are the questions that keep agitating our minds when electing leaders. With this inverted value system, if you have ever wondered how the bottom looks like in terms of leadership recruitment in Nigeria, this is it! But for Nigeria to rise we must refuse to compromise on the competence and character of anyone who wants to be president of this country. I am yet to meet a farmer who sows chaff and expects a bountiful harvest.
I must not be understood to be advocating for perfection as I know enough to know that throughout history the job of building any civilization has always fallen on the shoulders of imperfect men and women. For none of us, not even Angels are perfect. As Christians we know that Lucifer was once an Archangel before he fell from grace. But we have the duty to interrogate the character of those seeking office, most especially the highest office just to ensure that the worst of us do not rule over the best of us.
In the coming elections who we elect as President has nothing to do with the candidate. It will be all about who we are. Like it or hate it, the narratives that dominate global media space about Nigeria is about “Nigerian Prince.” An average Nigerian is seen as a con artist with foreign leaders throwing diplomacy into the winds and calling Nigeria fantastically corrupt. Ann Coulter, a Republican political commentator in the US had this to say about Nigeria, “Nigeria, for example, leads the world in criminal enterprises.
Every level of Nigerian society is criminal, with the smart ones running Internet scams, the mid-range ones running car theft rings, and the stupid ones engaging in piracy and kidnapping. At the University of Lagos, you can major in credit card fraud”. This is how the world sees us. But whose fault is it? If we as the Church cannot call out criminally minded people who seek to occupy leadership positions, who do we expect will do it?
The truth is controversial. Jesus was a controversial figure because he is the truth. Religious leaders and lawyers didn’t know how to handle him. They sought severally to lay hands on him for daring to speak the truth but God did not allow them until the fullness of time. For example when People say Bishop Kukah is controversial, that’s the testimony that he stands for the truth just like Jesus. Anyone of us who shrinks from the truth because he doesn’t want to be seen as controversial, is not a follower of Jesus.
The crucial role we can play as Christians is to examine the character of the candidates running for offices especially the highest office in the country and disavow those of them that we know are not a reflection of our moral ethos. Some may say it is bitter politics, but it is not, because, anyone putting himself in a position to lead others has wittingly or unwittingly placed his character to be called to question. This is because without character, you cannot influence people and without influence, you cannot lead people. Once we know the truth, failure to declare the truth we know, is not virtue, but cowardice. Thanks to the leadership of CAN for long taking a stand against the Muslim -Muslim ticket of the APC mainly because it is capable of polarizing our politics along religious line. They wanted a balanced ticket so that all of us, Muslims and Christians in Nigeria will unite behind it to build a nation that works for all of us. But in addition to this, we now have many other reasons not to back the APC ticket.
It was Sen. Dino that said we cannot have Pablo Escobar as our president and Osama Bin Laden as our VP. A lot of people said that was extreme. But the real question on our lips should have been, is Sen. Dino saying the truth or is he lying just to score cheep political points. As it is, Hajj Naja’atu Bala Muhammad, who was ludicrously sacked after resigning her position as campaign Director, has given vent to Sen. Dino’s postulations. Never bother that they have called her a serial liar and a purveyor of fake news because that is the label they have placed on anyone who dares to call them out. Even in law, when you attack someone’s character you have invariably placed your own character under attack.
With what we know and have come to believe now since the candidate has not made any attempt to refute all the allegations against him with any shred of evidence, should Sen. Dino, not have said that, we cannot have Pablo Escobar, Charles Ponzi and Wilhelm Voigt combined in one man as our president.
As a matter of fact this candidate is greater than all the three combined for the following reasons:
- Not everything about Escobar, Ponzi and Voigt was fake but in this case, the only thing that is true about the candidate is the staggering allegations of fraud and moral corruptions.
- Escobar, Ponzi and Voigt didn’t have shady paternity but this one arranged for his mother to be buried in secret against one of the cardinal commandments, in fact the very first with a promise,” honour thy father and mother, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth”.
- The three did not parade fake affidavits about school certificates they did not earn from schools they did not attend but this one scammed his way to the echelons of a multinational’s corporate ladder with fake certificates.
- Only Ponzi had the genius to turn a legitimate business venture into a lucrative crime while this particular candidate doesn’t know the difference between the two.
- While Escobar, Ponzi and Voigt were all jailed, this man is running for the highest office in our country.
As a Scandinavian adage instructs us, “you may dress the shepherd in silk but he will still smell of the goat”. The more his handlers attempt to dress him in silk, the more he smells of the he-goat. Since he won’t talk to you on his campaign tours, he won’t talk to you when he is in power. Which one is easier? To talk to you when he is seeking for your votes or explain himself when he is in power? When he does talk, he pledges he is waging a jihad to Muslim leaders as amply elucidated by a serving North West Governor but when he talks to Christians he says he will be fair and just to Christians because his partner is a Christian. The perfect act of a con artist. A con artist succeeds only because he makes you keep your focus on what you will gain while distracting you from focusing on what you stand to lose.
It’s all a scam and nothing less or else. They only dance in their campaign because they don’t have anything to say to you and when they pick the courage to talk, all we hear is that, “it is his turn to chop because he didn’t chop alone”. What an epic clown show! We don’t want people to come to Aso Rock with knives and cutleries. what Nigeria needs people with baking tools to take over Aso Rock so that they can bake the cake our hurting masses can feed on. Their being illogical is also part of the scam. Being illogical is a master strategy every cult leader adopts because of their belief that they are immune to the norms of established society. Hitler was deliberately illogical because he knew that logic can be met with logic but it is difficult to handle illogic. Is it not a crime for anyone who claims to love Nigeria not to call this man or and his handlers out? This is not politics of hate, it’s rather called gate keeping. It is securing the health of our republic and therefore every citizen’s task.
In leadership, no leader leads people to a place he/she has never been. This man can only reproduce what he is, not what he wants to be. The world knows who he is and we now know too. Putting him as president would be a loud statement to the world that that is who we are, or that we want to create another golden triangle in West Africa. Electing a president that has so much known baggage means the countries with records of his past crimes can use those records to leverage him. That makes him a foreign asset. Which sane people have ever elected a known foreign asset to lead them and still hope to compete with other nations.
As for the Labour candidate, I don’t have much to say about him because I don’t know him and that’s what scares the day light out of me. At the level I have operated in Nigerian politics, I am supposed to know a number of things about him but regrettably that is not so. I would therefore leave those marketing his candidature to tell us who he is, what he has done for us in the past and how he intends to build on it when he becomes president. I have heard so much about him and have listened to most of his talks about what he has accomplished so far but the fact that Anambra state where he held sway for 8 years is not a model in any material particular for other states is deeply disconcerting to me. As for the NNPP candidate, I don’t see any traction in his campaigns and my guess is that he may have smelled the coffee too soon.
The other candidate is that of the PDP. God forbid that we should imagine that he is perfect but we cannot deny that he is by far the most experienced and that what he has done for the Northern Church has no known parallels in Nigerian’s history. This was one of his major appeals to some of us who endorsed his candidature. In case we have forgotten, let me remind us of Governors Boni Haruna and Jolly Nyameh who governed Adamawa and Taraba states for 8 and 10years respectfully with the full backing of Atiku. Don’t also forget that Atiku was my only backer at that level when I ran and won the speakership race nearly 8 years ago. He said clearly then that since the President is a Muslim and the Senate President was going to be another Muslim, if we must not spit on the legacies of yardauna and other foundation fathers of our nation, the position of the speakership must go to a Christian. He came under serious pressure to change his position but he held firm to his conviction until we won the race.
If that is not enough, a brother of ours from Chibok commanded me to always mention the fact that Atiku is the only leader amongst the candidates who offered full scholarships to the rescued Chibok girls. He sent me the evidence and said since a friend in need is a friend in deed,he will not only vote for Atiku but ensure that the world hears about what Atiku did for his people and that the community gives him massive votes to do more for them. Believe me there are other compelling stories that time will not permit us to share. In addition Atiku has a strong partner in our brother, Governor Okowa who is not just a Christian but a man of abiding faith in Nigeria and our people. I am convinced that together they will provide the needed leadership to unite Nigerians of all creeds and lay a solid path to prosperity for all. I had challenged the Northern church to rate the candidates on the basis of their contributions to the church and vote for whoever has done more so that he can do more. Mark my words, anyone who has not done much will not change overnight and begin to do more merely because he has been elected president. It just doesn’t work that way.
We also looked at the possibility of Labour winning the elections so that we do not mislead the Church. The analysis we did which we subsequently adopted has been published so that no one is left in the dark regarding the tools deployed in the assessment. You don’t need to be a top notch politician to understand what we did. Just divide Nigeria into North and South and ask yourself, which of the two can Labour win outright? If that confuses you, take the 6 zones and honestly ask yourself who of the 6 geopolitical zones, can Labour win outright. If that is still too much work, just ask yourself whether any candidate can win the Presidency without garnering substantial votes from the North West zone based on the statistics of registered voters in Nigeria as released by INEC. Can Labour garner 30-40% of the votes in the North West zone and proceed to win massively in 3 other zones to coast to victory in the forthcoming elections? That’s the question and all of us even casual observers of politics know the answer to this question. We shouldn’t be deceived by what we see happening on the Plateau and few other states. We must take into cognizance what is happening in other states before settling on a position. Regardless of how you conduct your assessments, if you are true to yourself, you must come to the irresistible conclusion that all the odds in the coming election favour the Pan Nigerian Atiku/Okowa ticket.
On whether a Christian is permitted to waste his vote or anything at all, I believe our Lord Jesus Christ has answered that already. When he fed multitudes on two occasions he commanded the remnants to be gathered so that there is no waste. As Christians we must see our votes as talents that God has entrusted into our hands which we cannot waste without inviting the harshest rebuke of the master, “You wicked and lazy servant …” If we are convinced that the odds favour the Atiku/Okowa ticket, voting any other candidate is equivalent to double votes for Tinubu’s same faith ticket.
Judge for yourselves whether we will be operating in wisdom when we say, I know we will not win but I will nonetheless vote that way in order to make a statement. When you lose you lose that’s all. Between David and Goliath who made the statement just like between the Nazis and the Allied forces who made the statement? Answer for yourself.
In conclusion, what I have said is that, our leadership when it is freely and transparently elected is a clear statement about who we truly are. President Buhari is a clever man. By insisting that he will ensure elections are free, fair and transparent, it’s an open invitation to Nigerians to mirror themselves to him and the World about their true selves in the leadership they will freely put in place. The forthcoming election is not about any candidate, it is about us. Its about who we are and the values we want to project to the world. Herein lays the role of the church-to serve as our moral compass and to warn us about the choices that confront us. The questions on our lips must be where has the candidate you want to vote for ever been, because he can only lead us to where he has been and who is the candidate, because he can only reproduce what he is, not what he wants to be. We all have the duty to point to the truth no matter who is for or against. Let’s do it for Nigeria and for posterity.
Thank you all for listening.
May God bless Nigeria and may God bless us all.