2023: Muslim-Muslim ticket will be met with electoral consequences – Cardinal Onaiyekan
From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has said that the choice of a Muslim-Muslim ticket by the All Progressives Congress (APC) would be met with electoral consequences in 2023.
Onaiyekan who spoke with Sunday Sun in Abuja, also said that year 2023 is a year of judgment for the ruling APC regarding its failed promises to Nigerians.
Among other issues, the former president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said that Nigerians are looking for a new kind of government in 2023, saying that he does not believe it is impossible.
I read a report where you said you will never vote a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Why are you strongly against the Muslim-Muslim ticket?
Yes, I am not strongly against it. I made it very clear. Maybe it is good to have an opportunity to explain what I said. I said for me, the issue is not religious, that for me, the APC, in their wisdom, have come to the decision that the easiest way for them to win the election is to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket, which means that decision is not even a religious decision, it is a political decision. Since it is a political decision, they should be prepared to pay for the political consequences of that decision. For me then, a political decision that ends up in a Muslim-Muslim ticket tells volumes as regards what kind of government to expect from such a group of politicians who take this kind of political decision.
Your Eminence, why do you say it is not a religious decision?
I thought I have been clear enough that the APC, it has taken it as a political decision, they want to win the election and they believe the easiest way for them to win the election is to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket. They know that there are non-Moslems around. Even the man they have selected to push the whole thing is a Catholic man – to push for them. If it was a matter for promotion of Islam; that would have been a decision taken from the Mosque and it would have been a Moslem thing. They have not done so. It has a religious connotation, of course, but that is because our religious identity is part and parcel of the factors that any politician should take into consideration. And if you don’t take my religious identity into consideration in your political discussion, don’t blame me if I say I cannot vote for you.
Some are thinking that saying you are not voting a Muslim-Muslim ticket may be as a result of the perceived failure of the APC in their over seven years in government. Is it true?
No. There are many other reasons these seven years have been, for me, left behind a record of failure. Not only with regards to religion, but with regards to the economy, with regards to security, with regards to the fight against corruption and there are so many things that did not happen the way they were promised. Promises were made and they were not fulfilled. In any descent democracy, when a political party makes election promises and does not fulfil those promises, they are punished at the election.
So, 2023 is a year of punishment for the APC?
A year of judgment! It is a judgment. We have seen. And it is interesting that the APC doesn’t seem to have agreed that they failed because they said they want to build upon the wonderful work that they have done. They have to leave Nigerians. You cannot set exam and mark it yourself. They must leave Nigerians to tell them if they have really done well and the only way Nigerians can tell them is by voting. And I have my vote. I have only one vote and I will be careful on how I use it on that day.
You are a prominent figure in the National Peace Committee and you were even present during the recent signing of the Aeace Accord by the various political parties. Are you not worried about the violence, intimidation and intemperate language that have characterised the ongoing campaigns?
I am not worried. Indeed, the fact that every now and again, people refer to the accord that they signed, means that the signing of the accord was not a useless exercise, meaning that people are using that signing to call them to order, that don’t forget that you signed an accord. First thing! The second thing is, the campaign is a complex matter. Those who signed the accord were the candidates for the election, but those who are campaigning, are a whole crowd of people who didn’t sign any accord. They are the people who are on the field, who don’t seem to even believe that they should be signing any accord or who may still continue to believe that the best way to promote your candidate is to go violent. Those people, we can’t reach them through the peace committee. We only preach to them and hope that they will understand what we are saying. But the question I thought you were going to ask is; what is the use of this whole ceremony of the Peace Accord? I used to have a bit of doubt before whether it makes any sense. But now I am convinced that it makes sense, which is why I am ready to waste one day, two days at those meetings because it, at least, sets a standard that we should go by. The text of the accord is carefully worded and they all know it, which means we expect that every now and again, they will read it and inform their followers that this is how we intend to carry on our election campaigns. Even without the Peace Accord, Nigerians ought to know that there is nothing in that Peace Accord that is not already contained in the Electoral Law. So, we are only reinforcing it.
The 2019 presidential election was different from that of 2015 whereby former President Goodluck Jonathan accepted defeat. In the 2019 election, Atiku Abubakar defied all odds and headed for court. What mechanism has the peace committee put in place to resolve crisis that may arise from the 2023 election?
The content of the Peace Accord did not say that nobody should lose. It says if you lose, the law has provision for you to challenge the result of the election. And when people go to court, they go to court because they feel that the election has not been properly done and they have a right to do that. And you find that sometimes, indeed, the courts study the situation and overturn the result of INEC. That means that INEC is not a final judge. But it is the official judge of the election. When INEC passes its final judgment that this man won the election, he is considered the winner until the contrary is proved.
In cases whereby an election has been conducted and the court upturned the election and the people feel aggrieved, saying that this is not the person we elected, that this is the one elected by the Supreme Court, how do you feel about it?
When anybody says that Supreme Court elects, it is a misuse of words. The Supreme Court never elected anybody. The election is done by the people; INEC counts the votes and supervises the system of voting and comes out with a result that is published and considered valid. Then somebody else, invariably a contestant, feels what has happened is against his interest, that he is the one who should be the winner. And he has to prove his case beyond every doubt and if he goes and he succeeds in proving his case, the court will give him the victory. So, it is not as if the court has elected him. The court has only passed judgment according to the case that was brought before them. It is a pity when we have a situation in Imo State when there is a groundswell of opposition to Hope Uzodimma who is tagged as a Supreme Court governor. It is a mistake to put that position. The law makes provision for the courts to resolve disputes. All these people who are shouting against the Supreme Court governor, had the possibility during the case to go to court and make their case for whomever they thought was the winner. They didn’t go at that time. The courts sat, had its results and then it is. And according to the laws of Nigeria, the pronouncement of the Supreme Court is final; otherwise, we live in a jungle. By the way, I am not saying the majority of the people of Imo State voted for Hope Uzodimma. It is possible that the majority voted for somebody else. But the court, based on the evidence before it, says that Uzodimma and his team of lawyers were right.
We have Atiku Abubakar who has been vice president contesting for the 2023 presidential election; there is also Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who has been governor and Peter Obi, a former governor too who is leading a new political movement. How do you x-ray them and their political parties?
I am not going to x-ray them because they are not even a matter for x-ray. Yes! The only thing I would like to say is that if we face the reality, Nigeria is in a bad shape. And I agree with APC when they say we are not the ones who caused all the rots, we met a terrible shape, we tried our best and this is the most we can do. What I am expecting, however, is for APC to also admit we met rot and we have left the rot there. Therefore, is there a way out for Nigerians? Can we get out of this rot? Some people say the best way to get out of this rot is to call back the same people who caused it to do the needful. So, those are the people who support either PDP or APC. But there are many Nigerians who say we need a totally new approach and we are seeing that in somebody else.
Is it Peter Obi?
Apparently, Peter Obi is not the only new force, but he seems to be the most well known now. As you know, there are three or four other parties that are making quite a lot of waves. One would have expected that if those new forces have some serious things in common as regards how best to rescue the nation, maybe between now and February, they would have been able to put their acts together and put their forces together so as to give Nigeria a chance of a new kind of government. We are looking for a new kind of government.
Looking at the political atmosphere, do you think Nigerians can get it right in 2023 in terms of right leadership?
Nigeria has to get it right. We must get it right.
How do we get it right?
We are working on it. Everybody is working on it.
Unless there are people who are very happy with the status quo. If there are people who are happy with the status quo and there are people who have done very well under this rot, they wouldn’t want it to change, of course. So, you are talking of getting it right. For them, getting it right is to repeat the same thing. There are other people who said getting it right means to do things differently, to arrive at different conclusions. But I refuse to say it is impossible or to say this is the best that we can get. Those who are ruling tell us that we have done our best. Obviously, they should do their best. So, they cannot blame me then if I say this is your best; I am not blaming you for not trying your best, but your best is not good enough for me. They should allow me to take that decision. Yes!