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Religious Identity, Muslim-Muslim Ticket, And the 2023 Elections



Stoic Philosophy, Resilience And Nation Building Project In Nigeria

By Tunji Olaopa
I grew up within a cultural context that grounded Ali Mazrui’s triple heritage thesis: that Africa has arrived at a stage where three fundamental cultural influences – Euro-Christian, Islamic and traditional African – are locked in mutual relations. This context permitted the mutually beneficial and respectful relationship my great grandfather who was a Christian and my great grandmother, a Muslim had. It was a mutually reinforcing reciprocity that saw both husband and wife assisting each other’s belief system, and combining the core moral insights of their religions to the moral upbringing of their children. For those familiar with my commentaries, it should be obvious that I significantly embody the ecumenical spirit that my grandparents and parents demonstrated in relating with one another and within their cultural contexts.

What I just related is an example from a small corner of the larger Nigerian society, which is replicated in some other village or town contexts all across. The Nigerian polity displays something different, as the current agitation and outcry over the religious affiliations of presidential and gubernatorial aspirants demonstrate. This agitation for religious representation is not a new one. It has been a formidable part of Nigeria’s political development, from Awolowo down to MKO Abiola’s June 12 political saga. In other words, Nigeria’s political class has always been entrapped within a mindset that facilely insists that religious affiliations matter in the determination of the success or failure of any political positions. This matter of religious identity of political aspirants is receiving renewed and more frightening dimension against the background of national fear, especially about an alleged Fulanization or jihadist agenda that might have been playing out in Nigeria in the past seven years or so. This fear is given some backing by ostensible permissiveness with which the Federal Government has been handling the rampaging criminalities of the Boko Haram insurgents, herdsmen-farmers carnage, as well as the sundry banditry and kidnapping that have made Nigeria a most insecure place to live.

As 2023 approaches, the political space is already on fire over the religious affiliations of the three presidential candidates and their nominated vice-presidential running mates. For the APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu has chosen Senator Kashim Shettima, a fellow Muslim. In the PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, a Muslim, chose Ifeanyi Okowa, a Christian from Delta State. Peter Obi, on his own, picked a northern Muslim as his running mate. This leaves Tinubu with the most troubling Muslim-Muslim ticket. For those who are concerned, especially the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and others, a Muslim-Muslim ticket is a slap on the face of Nigeria’s religious dynamics. This dynamic is represented across the entire six geo-political zones of Nigeria, from the south-east with an all-Christian tickets in all the states, to the north-west with an all-Muslim tickets, and all the other zones with a mixed configuration.

READ ALSO: Towards Reforming The Civil Service Reforms In Nigeria: A Research Agenda

The fundamental question is how religion became such a substantive issue that determines electoral success. This question is all the more so within the vaunted secularity of the Nigerian state. The secular creed not only separates between state and religion, but also denotes religious beliefs and faith as personal and private. The implication of this is that religious belief must not be taken as having any critical role to play in the public sphere where people’s credentials transcend their faith. My credentials as of, say, a neurosurgeon, should absolutely have nothing to do with my faith. Being a Muslim or Christian does not add to the competence I possess in dealing with the human brain. But of course, we know that Nigeria is not really a secular state. Like ethnicity, successive governments have discovered religion as a divisive mobilizing weapon. Once the Federal Government began to subsidize pilgrimages for both Christians and Muslims, religion had escaped the private space into the public for Nigerian politicians, fueled by those who take religion ever so seriously.

The significance placed on religion flies in the face of the most fundamental issue in party politics—electoral victory. Politicians enter into electoral competitiveness to win elections and gain political power. And in doing that, their most significant calculation has to do with what possible political iterations could get them the positions they covet. Religion is just another variable in the mix which does not always count. Thus, if Shettima, for instance, were to be a strong Christian who can deliver the north, Tinubu would still have made that choice. The main issue is the figure of Shettima and his capacity to deliver a large number of votes for Tinubu and the APC. The Muslim-Muslim ticket chosen by Tinubu, or the “balanced” ticket of the other two aspirants, are pure political expediency. Politicians want to win elections at all costs. And Tinubu is no less of a politician in this regard; he is in the race to win.

With 2023 looming, and with all the outcries, we really have an opportunity to get our electoral sensibility and the future of Nigeria right. And that means deep reflections on several issues, beginning from the constitutional provision for active secularity in the Nigerian constitution. Similar to so many of its provisions, the Constitution is contradictory on the issue of religion in public life. While Section 10 states categorically that “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion,” there are also several provisions, under the “Fundamental Directives,” that direct the government to facilitate the enjoyment of religious benefits. Thus, the Nigerian state is not adequately secular in maintaining a strict distance between religion and the state. Of course, secularism itself is under siege even in societies that have secular credentials. That is not to say Nigeria cannot determine her own secular construct in ways that respect her realities.

READ ALSO: Humanist Ceremonies And Celebrations Without Religion In Nigeria

The second issue is a serious national reorientation on the idea of religion as the care of the soul, rather than as a political positioning. And this requires the attention of the clerics from the major religions. It should be noted that CAN is not innocent in the accentuation of religion into a national issue in the Nigerian polity, and that is most unfortunate. Christians and Muslims alike will benefit if the country is under the leadership of those who are sufficiently competent to govern. The religious identity of these people does not in any way matter. We all need to care more about genuine credentials that guarantee governance potential, rather than heating up the polity over whether a politician is a Christian or a Muslim. It should bear noting that the African traditionalists amongst us have not joined the fray in demanding the representation of their religious identity. Maybe that has a lot to do with the inherent expansiveness of African traditional religions. Turning religion into political positioning abandons its significant essence as a private enterprise. Much more than this, it injects it into a situation where it does not serve any governance purpose. Is there a calculus to determine whether a Christian will govern better than a Muslim?

It is in this light that we should see the choices of the aspirants. Indeed, from some perspective, there is a sense in applauding the courage of Tinubu in damning the possible consequences of a Muslim-Muslim ticket in the pursuit of the political calculation that will get him victory in the coming elections. If he wins, perhaps Nigerians would be convinced that it was time to lay to rest the spurious place that we have given to religion and religious affiliation in our national life. Afterall, we have a precedent in the bold calculation of MKO Abiola and the choice of Alhaji Babagana Kingibe that gave us the June 12 victory like no other in Nigeria’s political development. It would seem that we did not learn the lesson then, that political leadership should be about who can improve our wellbeing, rather than their religious beliefs.

And this brings me to the third issue that calls for deep concern as we approach the 2023 elections. This is the rethinking of the role of ideology and issue-based campaigning in party politics. As the campaign season picks up, the focus unfortunately has remained on the religious identity of the aspirants and their running mates. There is also a lot of focus on mobilizing Nigerians to get their permanent voters’ cards. But then, what do the PVCs achieve if we are all clueless about what the aspirants are bringing to the table? What makes them electable if not their programs, founded on specific ideological and practical frameworks and dynamics? This ought to be the seasons for debates and discourses around specific issues on how to fix Nigeria, and programs that should make life qualitative for Nigerians. How will the aspirants deal decisively with insecurity in Nigeria? What about micro- and macro-economic policy concerns? The naira is in a freefall already! What about education, and especially the fate of higher education as the source of qualitative human capital development? What ideological orientation will enable the aspirants attend to public service reform?

READ  ALSO: Muslim-Muslim Ticket And Politics Beyond Religion In Nigeria

These are the real issues around which we need to put the aspirants’ toes over the fire. If we fail to grill them on significant issues and their blueprints for making life better for us, our prayers will then not be enough when they fail. Even God will think us shockingly silly.

.Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies
(NIPSS), Kuru, Jos.


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With Us, Not For US



Barrister Ijeoma Fynecountry

By Ijeoma Fynecountry

The 21st of March of every year is international day for the celebration of persons living with down syndrome. The advocacy and push for communal and political recognition of the basic fundamental rights for persons living with various types of disabilities, particularly intellectual disability, just as enjoyed by their peers who do not have any form of challenge – physical or intellectual has recorded a substantial success around the globe, especially in more developed climes. 

While the same cannot be said of the situation in Africa and Nigeria in particular, scanty breakthroughs have also been seen over the years, with the consistent and dogged efforts by some specialized organizations such as Down syndrome Foundation, Nigeria (DSFN).

The theme for this year’s celebration is “With us, Not for us”. This theme is apt particularly in the current era where the push for inclusion has taken a center stage in the campaign worldwide. While it is comforting to know that people, government and communities alike are now becoming more empathetic to the plight of persons living with disability, it is also necessary and most important that their rights as human beings deserving of not just empathy but actual concrete benefits accruable to other citizens without disability, is massively taken into consideration and actually provided for.

Therefore, it is not enough for the government to map out and create as in Lagos state and few other states, sections in the public schools to admit children or persons with intellectual disability, it is necessary to adequately equip these special schools with the needed “specialized” manpower, infrastructural and educational aids to attain the targeted educational goals for these persons. Likewise in the provision of better healthcare, economic, social needs of persons with disability etc.

Persons with intellectual disability do not just need to be specifically educated in accordance with his or her type of disability, but MUST also necessarily be able to aspire to or expect to be employed according to his or her learned ability. That way, a full right, befitting of a person, be him a person with disability or not, is assured. For what is the need of going through a learning process, acquiring a specialized knowledge about a craft or handiwork and eventually still not being given the opportunity of gaining employment as supposed, not due to lack of knowledge but for having a disability? No human being should be subjected to such. Our government should do better. The society at large should do better.

The theme for this year is enjoining all stakeholders – the government, communities, corporate organizations, religious bodies/organizations, individuals to open up their hearts, and recognize the very urgent and important need to help in the actualization of these basic human needs, rights of persons living with intellectual disability as we are all human. No human rights or needs should be prioritized over the other no matter the state of their health, mental and physical capacity. Stand with us by taking actual intentional steps towards uplifting and elevating the humanness of persons living with disability. It is not enough to say that you are for persons living with disability, your specific, intentional, targeted actions toward ensuring the practical applicability of these rights matters.

Fynecontryis a Lagos-based legal practitioner and the legal resource person for the Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria.


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The 2023  Elections And The Newness Of Nigeria



The Futility Of A Marital Chase
Dr. Hope Nwawolo

By Hope Nwawolo   

Despite the hues and cries that greeted the results of the 2023 elections, what if the court’s pendulum stays or swings otherwise in the expected litigations?

What will it teach our inquisitive young children?

What will it do to the hopes and dreams of the youths?

What will it do to the mind set of those in diaspora, waiting and hoping to return?

How will it affect our heroes still alive and yearning for the good old times?

One basic fact is that no matter where the pendulum swings, something new has started in the political sphere of Nigeria. And because it was unexpected, it has become almost impossible to strangulate it.  

In every competition, there is an expectation that the best man will win. That may not always be in politics, particularly, in Nigeria…where the winner may not be the best man or even the better man. And when it is said that politics is a game of numbers, sometimes, the actual numbers may not be visible to determine the end result. It becomes a case of the more you look the less you see; until interpreted by respected learned men with high integrity.

Politics, they say is a dirty game, where money speaks and promises made are broken without an iota of guilt. Where the gullible minds of the masses are deceived, with as little as a box of indomie. Where some vibrant but jobless youths are brainwashed to risk their lives to snatch ballot boxes for the politicians who do not know them beyond giving them stipends through some third parties. Where market women are forced to come out for rallies and campaigns because they cannot afford the fine that will be imposed on them if they failed to participate. They also do not want the harassment of the market leaders. 

In politics, fear is palpable in the air, before, during and after elections. The 2023 elections recently carried out, depicted these more than expected in both the politicians and electorate. What started like the usual political pattern took a drastic turn about nine months to the first elections and though it was said to be only a social media affair, it got everyone sitting upright and tightening his seat belt, particularly after the first elections.

Now, there is a generational shift, a new awakening, a new dawn and a new political birth, waiting to happen. To wherever the pendulum turns; where the court stands, it will make a turnaround in Nigeria. It may be turbulent at the beginning, it may be emotionally draining and psychologically traumatizing, but it will point to light at the end of the tunnel.

There is a new hope backed by a high spirit of determination. An unexplainable faith in many people for that newness of existence and purpose. An unprecedented emotional and psychological strength in the youths not to give up on their dreams. An unquenchable desire to keep praying. Soon a newness will break forth to calm all nerves and dry all tears.

A newness that will permeate conflicts and hatred,

A newness that will dissipate unnecessary anger,

A newness that will usher in unquestionable and transparent political systems in future elections,

A newness of freedom to choose a candidate without coercion or molestation

A newness of jubilation after the announcement of election results.

This is the new Nigeria that is awaiting delivery…

Nwawolo, PhD, writes from Lagos.




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Overcoming Policy Execution Trap As Nigeria’s Development Challenge



Prof. Tunji Olaopa

By Tunji Olaopa

If I am asked to give a succinct and apt summary of the entire challenge faced by the Nigerian state in terms of her policy architecture and development management, in spite of contestation in the development literature, I will not hesitate in stating clearly and unambiguously that it is the challenge of policy implementation; the whole dynamics of getting things done. By elimination, the implication is that the challenge cannot be located as that of the dearth of development ideas, insights, models and paradigms. Right from her independence, Nigeria has been inundated with several ideas, both local and global, about development policy and frameworks. And yet, policy outcomes keep getting bogged down in the murky waters of political shenanigans. This means that the new administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu has its challenge mapped out, in red, for it.

There is no shying away from this postcolonial predicament that has limited and kept limiting Nigeria’s capacity to honour the terms of her social contract with Nigerians. Hence, the Tinubu government will soon be inundated with the impatient agitations of Nigerians for a quick and tangible fix that will address their sufferings. And they are justified since they have not been given any real deal for the past sixty-three years of sovereign independence. And the new administration is obligated because that is the reason for seeking office in the first place.

Prof. Olaopa’s new book on public policy and development challenges

How then can we begin to understand this policy execution challenge? It is simple: how can an administration in Nigeria transition from governance vision and policy intention to policy outcomes that elevate and transform the quality of life of its citizens? Failure to understand and give critical and political attention to this question lies at the heart of the governance failures of successive Nigerian administrations. The new Tinubu administration cannot afford such a glaring mistake. And so, a fundamental case must be made out of the question of how policy intentions get circumscribed in the dynamics of policy execution that occasions policy failures in past administrations.

Modern states all across the world are distinguished by the traditional four functions they discharge as part of their administrative responsibilities—security i.e. securing the sovereign territory against lawlessness, policy formulation and implementation, governance regulation and service delivery.The capacity to perform each and all of these functions very well within an integrated framework in the governance context is what delivers the dividends of democratic governance to the citizens, and it enhances the state’s competitive and human development rating in global reckoning. With these functions, we have the metrics to differentiate between high-performing states like China, India, the United States,Botswana, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirate, Germany, Rwanda and the Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea), and low- or even under-performing countries like Nigeria that is still cluelessly stuck within a dysfunctional vicious cycle within her arrested development.

From the perspective of governance, there must be something these states are getting right in the connection between leadership, politics, and policy articulation. For instance, there is a trajectory of relationship that links elite bargains to development bargains. In other words, development is a
function of elite nationalism and the extent to which the political class of a state can commit elite suicide and gamble on development on behalf of the people they are leading. In Nigeria, low
manifestation of elite nationalism has made it really difficult for the political class to set aside their personal and egoistic class interests in ways that enable them to clearly and ideologically discern and navigate the deadly developmental landmines strewn all over our governance landscape by the
neoliberal implication of ideological apparatuses and frameworks to which Nigeria is beholden. And here, the factor of development gamble of the Asian Tigers’ elites comes into bold relief. From within the ideological ambit of the developmental state, the leadership of the Asian Tigers were able to define a policy space that consciously and critically weighed the benefits and shortfalls of external influences, especially the type that came from the World Bank, IMF and the other cohorts of the neoliberal policy dynamics. Their developmental circumspection paid off!

Since we cannot argue that Nigeria has been stumped by the lack of vision documents, development plans and blueprints, or even policy expertise, the locus of the new administration’s focus  must be directed at the possibility of mustering the political will to undermine the mystified Nigerian Factor, and face the global neoliberal consensus in order to begin the crafting of an enabling policy architecture to drive development. And to achieve this translates to creating the delicate balance between ‘doing the right things’ (a function of decision making quotient) and ‘doing it right’(project and change management effectiveness), and overcoming the various political, cultural, structural and systemic constraints that trapped past well-meaning policies and intentions of Nigerian leaders in the dynamics of implementation.

There is first the conspiracy of elitist interest that ensures there is a poor resource allocation that focuses on elite bargain than development calculations and taking care of the national interest. Other constraints follow: (a) the disconnect between policy design and implementation due to  weak  implementation planning, risk assessment and incompetent change management strategies; (b) unstable and poorly managed macroeconomic policies; (c) policy and project discontinuity; (d) public service low capability readiness; (e) political interference; and finally (f) deep-seated political and bureaucratic corruption. In essence, development has failed not because Nigeria lacks the blueprint or paradigms to make it happen, but due to the dynamics of the politics that the political elite plays with Nigeria’s development potential.

Let me outline what we can regard as the “politics of policy implementation” that Nigeria has played for many years, a politics the new administration must take into serious consideration if it
does not want to fall into the category of failed administration right before it commences. This politics throws Nigeria’s development and policy non-performance right into the frame of the 2005 World Bank review findings about policy and development projects in Africa. According to the finding, 29% of development projects ever get completed, 45% of on-going projects are rated as satisfactory, while 26% of such projects invariably get cancelled. Such a review can never backstop a solid development project of a developmental state.

The politics of policy implementation in
Nigeria is founded on the following assumptions and practices. One: there is that dangerous presumption, that the new administration must resist, that once policies and development plan are designed, they are automatically implemented by the public service. And such a presumption is against the background of a scant investment in implementation analysis and planning, as well as the failure to facilitate the capability review, determine public
administration system’s capability readiness, and strengthening of the MDAs as the powerhouse of government administrative functionality. The MDAs, that is, are not working according to any
specific theories or praxis of change that can guide the functional integration of blueprints or paradigms. This kind of policy inattention draws attention to the policy contradiction: launching a
national development plan and strategy that are not implementation- ready in terms of adequate capability review of the MDAs integral to ensuring implementation success. Two: this
presumption is compounded by the uncritical reliance of past governments on policy experts and consulting firms who are tasked with designing high-end policies that are then dumped on MDAs whose capability reviews and implementation readiness have been neglected in the first place. The
extroversion of the policy design is then compromised by poor functional integration. The truth is that most of these consulting firms lack the appropriate deep content and solution frameworks that are in tandem with the context of policy dysfunction they are supposed to work with. Three: governance policy or project are hardly subjected to feasibility test determined in terms of scope and expectation that are captured by their framework of time, cost and risk assessments before
they are pushed into implementation. This makes it very difficult to benchmark funding projections for these policies and projects against revenue estimations, as well as facilitating in-built flexibilities that enable the policies and projects to adjust to volatilities and contingencies.

All the issues raised above constitute binding constraint that will undermine any governance possibilities the new administration requires to make a success of democratic governance. Undermining the binding constraints demands returning to the fundamentals. The first and most significant is that the new administration needs to interrogate the framework of how government business is currently being conducted. Governance successes are necessarily a function of how government business engages the complexities of the policy design and execution processes within a results-oriented frame. And that entails undermining the structural gaps between policy objectives, development strategies and policy outcomes. This demands second, setting the public service on a performance curve with the institution of a performance management system. This means that the public service must, for example, unfailingly now deploy KPI-based metrics to replace the cumbersome annual performance evaluation report (APER). And at the backend, it becomes imperative to have a monitoring and evaluation system supported by databases that enable staff and program continuous assessment, human resource development rooted in iterativep performance gap identification, supervisors-staff dialogue and multisource feedback mechanismsf for overall national development policy tracking and reporting.

The governance mantra must be on getting the balance between doing the right things and doing it right. And this cannot be achieved through the wanton multiplication or even duplication of
governance plans, programs and blueprints. What is needed is sequencing the blueprints into a coherent and feasible implementation programme, with the right amount of political will behind it. This gives the success of democratic governance a 95% chance of succeeding. The new administration  needs that fighting chance!

. Olaopa, a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor of Public Administration .

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