In a previous chapter, Kashim Shettima was the ‘starboy’ of the politics of religion in Nigeria’s democracy and its intrigues; and in a proceeding chapter, he is looking to be the most vilified candidate or nominee, as a running mate to Presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC. His laurels, pedigree, experience, sterling performance and hardwork, make up a formidable and eloquent persona that you can hardly fault; as you weigh him, and size him up for the office he is being nominated for. In the APC’s calculations of countering a Muslim Fulani from the North, Kashim was almost a no-brainer approach. Gov. Zulum could have been another joker, but many circumstances, for the good of Al, pointed to Kashim and Kashim it was.
The religious card in Nigeria’s politics, did not favor Tinubu. It didn’t in 2015, and it didn’t in 2023 primary elections. But that is just the religious card. The card that specifies better economic management, from a tested and trusted manager of the fortunes of Lagos, one of the biggest economies of Africa; has always been firmly in Tinubu’s back pocket, which he carries without any noticeable fuss. The attention of the religionists was squarely on denigrating Tinubu and Tinubu alone, to please their gullible faithfuls and other political fools. Tinubu weathered the storm and the Presidential nomination was his. APC’s ticket left in the open, was always Tinubus’; and he took it just like one could take candy away from a baby. Come to think of it, why would anyone take candy away from a baby? Well for its own good I must suppose!
The Tinubu/ Kashim ticket was birthed and the child naming ceremony was that of resounding success, and all believed it was the messiah, that would compensate its parents for their troubles and in the nearest future; be the golden child as well as the befitting benefactor of the larger family. This seeming glory, born to rule, birthed to succeed, and menacing from every angle, was definitely going to face the most hypocritical of challenges to be thrown at it; as formidable as it may seem.
Since Kashim was meant to secure the massive Northern Muslim votes, what better way to cripple this strategy, than to cog this wheel with antagonism, between Kashim and the supposedly larger Muslim North? They set to work by imaging Kashim, in the light of an enemy of Islam, though Islam is his faith. His speech on the need for a togetherness as a nation, devoid of ethnic and religious divides, was woven to make him sound unsympathetic to Islam or Muslims. Nigeria is a secular state? They don’t understand that. They don’t have a dictionary and neither would they comprehend it, were it to be tied to their foreheads and chests!
Both Christian and Muslim faiths have so many divisions and sects all across the world, and especially in Nigeria, where religion is sometimes, somewhat of a business venture. In Islam, it is christened ‘the quest for wealth, using religion as a vehicle.’ Christian leaders have come out to castigate the Tinubu/ Kashim ticket as deficient in religious variables, understandably so; but unfortunately, to the point of denigrating their fellow Christians and Christian leaders. But what do you know? It is religious politics right?
It is now the turn of the Muslim faithfuls, to give their fellow Muslim a bloody nose; tasking Kashim on his religious beliefs. Today, they question his faith, his religious traditions, and his practices. They question whether he is a guardian of religion or a guardian of Nigeria. They forgot to do that when he was Governor of Borno State because he was safely out of their way, while he battled with Boko Haram. They have forgotten that he governed a state with Muslim and Christian faithfuls and never was there a time anyone, Muslim or Christian, pagan if you may — question his integrity in handling religion related affairs. Why now? Politics of religion is at play and the cards are out to checkmate him because he stands in their way. Whose way? The way of the religious zealots whose practice is the use of religion for their personal gain. Not for the gain of their region or religion. Just the region that lines their own robes and cupboards. Kashim however should not be deterred by these folks. He should concentrate on doing the needful, a conqueror that he is; in giving Jagaban the much needed votes. Not just the Muslim ones, but as many Christian ones as he can, because obviously, both religions believe him and have faith in the leadership ingenuity of Kashim.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi.