Former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole who has been tipped to play a prominent role in the Bola Ahmed Tinubu-Kashim Shettima presidential campaign says religion should not have any role in politics. “I think the issues before us and which we have to spend time discussing is what will any of the presidential candidates do differently to expect a different outcome, not what will a Christian or Muslim do”, Oshiomhole tells a crew of Arise TV journalists on Wednesday.
Here are some excerpts from the interview.
Q: Well I am sure if I ask you what are the strategic plans that you discuss along with your presidential candidate and other members of the party, your standard response may be, I don’t want to discuss strategy on television. But really do you think that your party stands a strong chance given the outcry over the decision to fly a muslim-muslim ticket? The Christian Association of Nigeria, The Pentecostal Federation are also opposed to it. Are members of your party saying christians do not matter in this game?
Oshiomhole: I think that is blackmail. You can talk about a section or some individuals, because CAN with all respect is not a political party. You do not expect people who had expectations when they suddenly find that they are dashed to celebrate, in terms of personal interest.
Those who are speaking, who are leading the campaign through the APC family, If they were such believers in Christianity, they had the opportunity to vote and canvass for votes for one of the Christian candidates and there were quite a few.
But they were on record as having led the campaign on the side of Asiwaju, knowing very well that he is a muslim. I think the Nigerian challenges are beyond religion. if religion is the answer, per capita we have more churches that we have more mosques.
I think the issues before us and which we have to spend time discussing is what will any of the presidential candidates do differently to expect a different outcome, not what will a Christian or muslim do.
Right now you have a Christian and a Muslim, are people satisfied? I have heard Christians talking about being persecuted. Have we seen the evidence? I don’t think they bothered to show the evidence and yet we have not just a Christian vice president, we have a pastor, a senior advocate. So if religion is the issue, I guess Nigeria will be Eldorado.
I have seen a bishop, a responsible highly respected bishop pointing out the fact that CAN should mind its business and he said he knows that his comment will not go viral, because it’s not what people expect. But if he toed the line of what seems popular, then it would go very highly viral.
I believe correctly that Europe was developed by Christian leaders and the Arab nations like UAE were developed by muslims.
Nigeria has been constantly underdeveloped by both Muslims and Christians. So how can religion be an issue?
I want to speak to the character of the candidate, I want to speak to character of the vice presidential candidate. I want to speak about the programme. I wantto look at their background because none of them is new or a stranger to public service. I want to be able to evaluate what they did before to convince me as to what they will do differently if given the opportunity.
I think these are the issues and given the serious situation we are in, in terms of the economy , security you name it, I think this is what we should devote time.
To be honest, for me it’s dysfunctional and evidence exists that Nigeria was probably at its best when religion did not feature whether under military rule and civilian rule.
The most colourful, highly respected Nigerian leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo ran with Chief Philip Umeadi, both of them Christians . Both of them southerners and they nearly won.
Shagari won that election narrowly. In fact they had to resort to judicial mathematics to define what could be two- thirds of 24 states or whatever the number of states were at that time.
So when has religion become the issue? Whether you go to heaven when you are done from here or you go to hell, it’s your burden. That is my position. I do not think that CAN is speaking for Northern Christians.
Where did they hold the meeting? The ease with which they made pronouncement shows that there was no consultation. I am an association person, I am a voluntary association person. Before they arrived at that decision, where was the meeting held?
It is the same CAN, some of them. Remember when President Obasanjo had issues with them. There was a serious issue, a riot in Jos. Serious issue.
The then president rightly decided to travel to Jos to do on the spot assessment and he saw somebody under the cover of CAN, playing up religious issues when we’re supposed to be dealing with real issues of criminality.
I have not seen any evidence either whichever side of the debate people are that Muslims are safer right now relative to Christians or that Christians are safer relative to Muslims.
I have not seen evidence that you have more unemployed Christians compared to unemployed muslims? So what are the issues? Should we in terms of priority see religion as the issue?
Remember this is a country where things have gotten to a level that the former emir of Kano and former governor of CBN Sanusi, I respect him so much, said rich people, wealthy people should rather build more schools than build mosques.
He’s a very serious muslim, but he understands that in terms of long-term prosperity and peaceful coexistence and empowering people to be employed, that to be employable, that whereas he is a believer, there is no question, he knows that God will not expect that the people he has brought to this planet earth are left unequipped, unskilled, uneducated so that they are unable to use their two hands to feed one mouth and live in perpetual poverty and hardship.
Q: But just before I forget, you refer to a certain bishop who had an opinion different from that of the Christian Association of Nigeria. Could he be one of those bishops that came for the former unveiling of the running mate to Asiwaju.
Oshiomhole: I didn’t even know that there were bishops there it until I saw it in the newspapers. What I am talking about is that if you are anti- christian-christian,(muslim-muslim) then you are the real bishop, if you play up the fact that religion is personal and that Nigeria is a secular state, then you are one of the fake bishops. It’s about what suits you and what suits people. Truth is always uncomfortable to many. That is my experience.
Let me draw your attention to a video clip that is being circulated and this you can verify. A statement credited to, and I watched it, Pastor Adeboye, easily one of the most respected eldersand the head of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. He said no genuine member of his church can point out anywhere he, as the head of the church and as a father has directed church members to vote for any political party or any particular political candidate.
Is that also an invisible and unknown?. But if he has said I, Pastor Adeboye, I denounce Christian christian or muslim muslim ticket, I’ m sure everybody will spend a couple of days discussing it. But he said no, it’s not for nothing that he himself decided not to vote, because according to him, he doesn’t want to be seen to vote for one of his children against another. He sees himself as a father and that is the true behaviour of a believer in God.
Which country has survived religious war?. Even people who are on record as being prosecuted for misappropriating money that a Muslim president appropriated in favour of Christian children who were displaced, were literally converted to grass cutters. They have become the new voice of Christianity. So we must make a decision between Christians by mouth and devils in heart, who want to see Nigeria, you know, engulfed in a war that nobody can win.
And lastly who is a better christian in the Nigerian contest? Somebody like Asiwaju who has a Christian wife of about 40 years, happily married, no record of divorce with four or five children some of them muslims, some of them Christians. Is he not an example of what the nation should be?
The real question I thought would disturb anyone is, if we have a muslim muslim ticket, will that affect the freedom of worship? If yes, then there’s a serious issue
if we have a christian christian ticket, will that affect the freedom of muslims to worship? If yes, there is an issue.
But truth is both christians and muslim now worship freely, so why should it be a problem for anyone?.
Q: What approach will the Tinubu campaign take since he’s running on the platform of APC that has been in power for the past seven years, under his watch as national leader of the APC? All the blame and credit will be apportioned to him as well. So will the campaign be running on continuity or a departure from the last seven years?
Oshiomhole: I think in appropriating or apportioning blame or credit to people, you look at their role. It is a fact that Asiwaju by himself said yes he co-founded the APC. I was a co-founding governor of APC, along with Fashola and other governors. But he never participated in governance, never held any position in government. He didn’t carry out any contract on behalf of government.
So what can you credit him either way?. You can’t credit him either way. I mean this is just being fair. It’s not like the vice president who announced that he has been given the responsibility by the president to chair the economic team, not just the National Economic Council that is in the constitution, but a special team put together by government and he chairs it. So you can ask him to account for some economic policies. You can’t say someone who never in any way participated in government should be credited the outcome of government policies or be blamed either way.
Q: As a national leader, he had no input?
Oshiomhole: I don’t want this to be the conversation. I watched that statement which you used quite generously on television when he was in Abeokuta, a few days before the convention. but this i do not think we need to play.
Question: TheWill newspaper on 19 July 2022 reported that Pastor Adeboye backed CAN. There’s also a story here talking about ‘RCCG denies Adeboye and Tinubu meeting over muslim-muslim ticket because there was a talk about a meeting. There are other stories that copiously say that Pastor Adeboye aligns himself with the position of CAN and the PFN, which means they are against it. Number two question I will like to ask you and when you also check historically there’s always been a balance between christian and muslim.
The only time we didn’t have that balance was from the time of Gowon and the time of Buhari- Idiagbon. But that administration didn’t last long. Even after Buhari-Idiagbon, you’ve always had a balance between the muslim and the christians with the military government. Third, are you saying you don’t feel proud to campaign on the legacy of President Muhammadu Buhari?
Oshiomhole: With due respect, this is a very poor interpretation of what I said, because she asked me about the performance of this government in relation to Tinubu candidature. And I said Asiwaju is not in this government. It’s a statement of fact. I did not disassociate myself. How can I? Nor did I disassociate anyone.
I talked about gains and I talked about whether there are gains or no gains. Of course there are gains, but that is not the question before me. There are many gains, many many gains in the area of infrastructure.
Even talking about religious issue that you talked about. I lived in the North for a long long time and to my knowledge there is no Christian bishop who has been detained or prosecutedin matters that seem to have some relationship with the church.
El Zakzaky is being prosecuted. He’s a muslim and the president is a muslim and that is a man who used to block the road and when he blocked the road even Vice President Namadi Sambo would make a detour. This is no secret I am revealing to you.
I think we should just have a conversation about the future but more importantly, Malam Rufai, the truth is in every democracy, as recently in Britain, the conservative party took some decision. In the end Boris johnson offered to resign as prime minister. That does not mean the conservative party has disowned whatever he did while he was prime minister.
But it is a fact that democracy allows the system after every eight years, even if you are an angel, l repeat even if you are an angel president , angel governor, after eight years you are not eligible to recontest. Somebody else has to contest.
It is not for nothing and all over the world you will find where even the vice president, I remember Al Gore and Clinton .
Al Gore decided to do a completely different policy, a set of policies which he thinks was different from that of Clinton.
That you belong to the same party doesn’t mean you will not do things differently, and the electorate i believe understand that.
I also want to remind you that part of the role of the media like you did very smartly, though inaccurately is that you must help the country, you know , people may be too busy toremember what happened just a few years back .
And it is human.
The other party the PDP mismanaged the country to the extent that after their defeat, there were open debates and banner headlines in newspapers where well known PDP leaders suggested a change of name of the party to be able to become electable .
That was how things were bad for PDP.
Now who talks about that? But it is human. it is human.
I believe that on balance President Buhari will be credited with a number of achievements. But clearly, we can’t claim, he himself has not claimed, that he has solved all the problems.
Q:A quick rebuttal to that and I’m happy you talked about America and that’s why Tundu’s question was apt. Will you campaign based on continuity?
Oshiomhole: the newspaper you referred to I thought it would be a credible newspaper that most Nigerians read.
Q: The Will is a credible newspaper.
Oshiomhole: I don’t know it. I know ThisDay. I know Vanguard, Punch, newspapers I consider very very credible. There are a lot of fake news all over but I watched thisparticular video. I watched it and therefore in my view it is more credible than a reporter’s view of what allegedly took place in a meeting he did not attend. Like you told me that there was a statement denying that Pastor Adeboye had a meeting with Tinubu. Now if you people are always factual, why would it be necessary for the church to deny, to issue a statement, against something that was published , quote “in a reputable newspaper”..
Let me be very very clear, President Buhari inherited a terrible economic situation. Don’t forget that the 2015 elections were postponed on account of the level of insecurity in parts of the country.
Some progress has been made in many areas. But truth is new problems have developed. Some are external to us. Maybe some could have been pursued differently, there’s no question.
But going back to the issue of political parties, even as a candidate of the same party steps out, step forward to contest for an election, he comes out with his own manifesto. It’s not one manifesto of 2015 that you want to use in 2023, because you are in a very dynamic environment, in a very dynamic situation and so you have to formulate policies in the light of current situations. So you don’t have to be detained by the past.
So the fact that you are not going to say, yes security for example, I’m not going to fight it exactly the same way is valid. Because new forms of criminality have emerged.
In looking at the security situation for example, we observe that or we discover that the size of the Nigerian Army after the Civil War was about 250,000. Today, it’s about the same. Then the population of Nigeria was about 50 million. Today we’re about 200 million.
I watch your program regularly. I’ve seen one of the presidential candidates when you’re asking about security, he said he’s not going to disclose it. It’s a secret. So we have to vote for him on the basis of things that are in his mind which he has not shared with us.
But I can tell you that based on our informal conversation, we have to double the size of the armed forces not only in relation to the fact that our population has quadrupled, also giving current challenges around the world and around our neighbours and within our country
i also believe we need to review the security architecture. When people talk about it, they are never really really specific. For example, I don’t understand why we should have a separate outfit for civil defence, separate outfit for road safety. All of that overhead.
I have travelled fairly to many countries and I have not seen multiplicity of agencies. One policeman stops you if you exceed the speed speed limit, checks your driver’s licence, also takes your licence to his vehicle, check whether you are on the wanted list.
Every policeman should be sufficiently trained to deal with these issues. So I believe that given the level of young, able men and women, there are a lot of Nigerians who can be of help if properly employed. We will streamline our expenditure. We may spend a little more, but achieve better outcome. These are my views.
These are not the views of the candidate. The candidate will speak for himself after he has published his manifesto or sets of program that we can begin to expatiate on our understanding of how those things will be achieved. It’s hard for me to preempt him.
Q:What exactly does the APC presidential candidate want to do if he becomes president of Nigeria. Don’t you think we should know early enough? Secondly you recommended him as somebody who has no record of divorce. You said he has been married for 40 years. For us to clarify that, does he have a record of serial monogamy?
Oshiomhole: I won’t say more than what I’ve said. The important thing to take away from my statement is that here is a muslim who married a Christian. He is a Yoruba man, who married a Christian who is from Delta and did not force the wife to adopt his own religion. Many Nigerians including highly educated Nigerians, if a muslim marries a Christian girl, you want the wife to convert to Islam and vice versa.
This is common practice, but we have a candidate who allows his wife to practise her faith and she is a pastor
Two, talking about gender issues and this should be of interest to Tundun, many governors upon leaving office, take a seat at the senate.
Asiwaju encouraged his wife to go to the senate, not to warm bench. It turned out that the wife has been one of the most active senators.
So that tells you something about what he thinks of women.
As to the issue of different people saying different things on his behalf, sometimes it’s very difficult to control your followers. I am not able to speak extensively on what he is going to do, I can speak on my views, the views I have shared and i have canvassed, as it should be the case.
The fact that he hasn’t spoken doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a position. Sometime in communication, you choose your proper timing. That is not a weakness and there is no particular benefit in rushing out what you want to do
Those who have rushed out what they want to do, how much have they done especially expatiating on how they are going to do it.
I watched so many of them get away with a number of very intriguing questions that you put to them. They have not sufficiently in most cases addressed the how.
That’s why I talked of one of them who I think was Obi, You asked him how and he said it’s a secret.
Q(Interjection): The obi-dients will come after you!.
Oshiomhole: Let them send them . You people have the benefit of current smartphones. You know, I have also played my part in this country as a non-state actor. I interrogated and engaged power and fought with power on the side of the people, in even Lagos, Abeokuta, not by people who are not ready to bear risk. I got Nigeria to buy into my own thoughts asto what the policy options ought to be. So dis-obedient or Obi-dient, time will tell.
We now live in a world where you can have just 10 young men and women in one room, whether motivated or not motivated and they can churn out one million stories using different names. You need to track them to find that this whole thing is being done in one room. Time will tell.
Also, what has changed? My dear friend Obi was a former colleague, was a vice presidential candidate. How come people massively disobeyed the ticket?. What has changed now that you think that they will be obedient. You know slogans are nice but real issues are probably nicer.
Now I’m looking forward to the campaign stage, where we have to address the issue of how. Because too many of us in politics get away with too many things. Elsewhere when people say I’m going to do this, you don’t only speak to how you are going to do it, you will speak to how you are going to fund it, because something must give. This is the only country where people say I am going to make 10 tons of omelette to feed these hungry children and not going to tell you what they are doing with regards to poultry farming et cetera et cetera
And the headline would be 10 million children will be fed with 20 tons of omelette.
(Transcript from Tinubu Campaign Office)