“Unless we love the truth, we cannot know it,” Blaise Paschal.
Some have mounted a firewall against the truth about Kashim Shettima. They may hear the fact, but they go deaf. When they see it, they go blind. Like Prophet Daniel, when they read it, they don’t understand. When they feel, they become like Apostle Paul’s prophesy about this age and men whose consciences have been pierced with a hot iron.
The SSS under an adversarial Jonathan government reported in 2012 that the militant Kabiru Sokoto came to Government House to kidnap Shettima’s children. He failed. Shettima was the governor of Borno then and he ferreted his children out of sight. If he was part of them, why did they want his kids? They attacked his convoy. Boko Haram leader Shekau named him among their wanted men. All of these made headlines.
In another instance, I unearthed a footage from a 2017 interview I had with him in Eko Hotel when I interrogated him on the Christians under his watch. No one knew this day would come when his tolerance will endure bigoted scrutiny. The footage is now viral. In it, he confirmed the testimonies of the Borno CAN chairman, Mohammed. Boko Haram torched churches to ashes. Shettima rebuilt. Sixteen of them rose out of the ruins. He had Christian perm secs and commissioners, an Igbo and Urhobo men as advisers. All of these were firsts in Borno history, virginal in the north. He sent the state pastors on pilgrimage, and devoted special funds for displaced Christians. His personal chef was a man named Peter, from Cross River, and he followed him to his home in Abuja. He trains his children. This could be testimonies of a Christian governor, but how many governors who profess Christ have this pious fortitude, or anything close to his empathy. He paid the Christians personal visits.
They want to give him a bad name in order to hang him. In their obsession with what they call Muslim-Muslim ticket, they are not peering his soul but his robe. Yet in their Bibles, Jesus says “Judge not according to appearance. Judge righteous judgment.”
The outcry over his candidacy is all about hypocrisy. See Edo State, for instance, a minority Muslim population thrives. Yet, it has Christian governor, deputy. No tears seen. There is no southern state without a Muslim minority, no matter how little. The noise by men like Babachir Lawal about a Christian minority in the north is self-serving. Some of the clerics have no justice in their churches. They fleece their followers, kiss the skies with their private jets, lap in mansions abroad and cocoon off-shore accounts as well as investments in blue-chip companies flush with tithes and offerings. Hence, Apostle Peter warned the flocks that they will make “merchandise of you.” They have become priests of politics instead of shepherds of erring souls.
If they cared about the country, why did they not make a heckle over PDP’s choice of a northern presidential candidate and party chairman? Is that also not a show of injustice? Is that not defiance of balance?
Those who dismiss the 1993 Abiola-Kingibe ticket have a negative mindset. They invoke the demons of our past rather than the angels. If it worked then, why should it not work now? When we recall that even in this country a Muslim prime minister and deputy were Muslims in the First Republic, a Yakubu Gowon, Admiral Wey and David Ejoor were Christians or that Buhari and Idiagbon were Fulani Muslims, they point to the fragile ethno-religious tension of today as if we never had it in those years. As if we never had Zango-Kataf, or we never had Maitatsine, or OIC.
We cannot live outside our past. Great nations borrow from their great ages and invoke them for a renaissance. The age of Renaissance was about that, a fervour to rake Europe out of a straitjacket of bigotry and warfare. The Renaissance gave us The Christian Reformation with Martin Luther, Calvin, et al. The founding fathers of the United States also burrowed the democracy of the Greek age. Men like Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams revived their visions and wrote newspaper articles under pseudonyms of the Greek philosophers. Today, their leaders whip up the air of their greats like Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt. It is the value of history. We do not take an oedipal view of history by killing our fathers. We filter their virtues. The Sophocles’ Greek tragedy adapted by Ola Rotimi for our circumstance only tells us that we can only run away from our past at our own peril. Soren Kierkegaard, the existential philosopher who was enamoured of Christian faith, noted that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.” As American writer William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Faulkner was following a tradition of time concepts that harks back to men like Plato, Saint Augustine and even the French philosophes. That’s how all things become new. Time is what or when you make it. Soyinka tapped into it in his essay, When Is A Nation.
We have to decide whether we want a country where the confession of the faith will not matter except the content of their character and quality of their vision. It is not strange to us, not revolutionary. We only need to dredge it up and enjoy. If we had a Gowon-Wey combo, we can have Christian-Christian. If we had Buhari-Idiagbon, we can have Muslim-Muslim. When that happens, it will not be described as such, but as a Nigerian-Nigerian ticket. That is how I began that narrative a few weeks ago. We gave birth to prejudice by skewing and skewering us with the foul term. It is sometimes called rhetoric of discourse, a term coined from Michel Foucault. Was it not in this country, in Jos, where Christians and Muslims celebrated Sallah and Christmas together as godsend? Not long ago, we had a debate over sukuk loan and Islamic banking, and Christian bigots opened spigots of prejudice. They spoke of Islamisation. Today, do their pastors not drive tithe-powered posh cars through highways designated Sukuk-funded roads? Did the road lead them to perdition? The top Israeli novelist, A. B. Yehoshua, in his work Mr. Mani, unveils a comedic scene where a Jewish woman on an emergency ends up in an Arab hospital in Jerusalem and an awkward scene of a Muslim treating a Jew ensues. They have the same human bodies and systems.
Part of this hysteria is to divert attention from the Atiku-Okowa crisis where even at their Osun rally we saw no Wike, Makinde, Ikpeazu or Ortom. Turning the heat on the Muslim-Muslim ticket will not wipe Wike away, or the scandal of Okowa as an unpopular imposition. As Shakespeare warned, truth sunk into the earth shall sprout again. Again, Apostle Paul said, we can do nothing against the truth but for the truth.
As I noted, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu made the choice of Shettima, and rather than interrogate the former Borno governor, they are feeding fat on poison. They should look at his cosmopolitanism, a man schooled in Borno, did his master’s degree in Ibadan, his Youth service in Calabar, worked in Kaduna and spent years as a bank manager in Lagos. The man who caused quite a stir when, as governor, he brought some of his exco members to a place around Onigbongbo, Maryland, Lagos where he ate his favorite mama put delicacies like amala.
When the north yielded to a southern president, the south threw up Tinubu. Why would anyone want to pick the north choice for them? Some have said it is a cold-eyed choice because of the numbers. That line forgets that if we want a majority to anoint a minority, we do it by persuasion, not fiat. The northern Christians ought to play the game of persuading the overwhelming northern Muslim majority to embrace a Christian candidate. That is the way of democracy. The majority can vote a minority. We saw that in the choice of Obama. The blacks did not have the numbers. Whites voted the black man the most powerful person in the world.
Today, if Kemi Badenoch makes it as the British premier, it will not come from minority black parliamentarians. Even now, as one of the top five, she made it by dint of whites. Front runner Rishi Sunak is not white either. The northern minorities must play the politics of accommodation, not entitled intimidation.
In the military era, the army brass accepted Gowon as head of state, even if his Angas tribe could not fill a room of officer corps. In Nigeria, some states have majority tribes, but they institute zoning formulas that embrace the smaller tribes. How did Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, a minority Itsekiri, emerge as Delta State Governor, or Godswill Akpabio of minority Anang clinch the top post in spite of the majority Ibibio. Northern Christians have models within and outside the country.
While the hubbub over Muslim-Muslim roils, few have asked what the streets of Kano, or Sokoto or Maiduguri want. The southern elite, ever sick of elitist self-love, want to bully the majority north on who should represent them.
They also forget that Tinubu himself may have chosen a Muslim running mate, but his life mate and wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, is a Christian and a pastor. Who can beat that! Was he not the one who instituted a Christian worship every year in the state, and the first to turn over schools to Christian missionaries and plied his executive council with loads of Christians, including the most prominent Christian in Nigerian government today! Chikena!
NB: Omatseye is a respected columnist with The Nation.