OPINION: Simon Lalong’s Leap In The Dark

Gov. Simon Lalong

For Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong, the fact that the Pope has not dispatched a cardinal or two all the way from the Vatican to remonstrate with him over the his choice as the Director-General of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Organisation can only mean that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church of which he is member has no objection to the religious composition of the ticket which in his new role he would attempt to sell to Nigerians.

But if he has indeed been a lifelong Catholic as he claimed in his address to a State House correspondents after recently meeting President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Villa, he would know that for the Catholic church where he is a Knight, silence is as weighty as any word, and the church is universal because it does not discriminate.

An indefensible decision

Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the APC has gone from gaffe to gaffe. It is not just that the performance of those elected on its platform in 2015 and 2019 has been shocking. The party has become known for the nonchalant air it gives off as Nigerians have groaned under the scorching incompetence of those it promoted during the last elections, at all levels.

When in June, it chose Bola Ahmed Tinubu to become its candidate at the elections, a host of questions immediately stared it in the face: Was this the best it could offer? Was it not concerned about the age and health of the former Lagos Governor?

These questions have remained relevant to this day. However, they have recently become overshadowed by questions of religion, especially since Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a Muslim, chose another Muslim, Kashim Shettima, as his running mate.

A country of harsh religious sensibilities.

In the wake of the uproar which has followed the decision of the APC to fly a Muslim-Muslim ticket in next year`s elections, many Christians as well as a handful of Muslims, have kicked against the decision which they argue compromises the delicate religious balance of the country.

However, those in favour of the ticket have argued that it is time religious considerations are ditched in favour of competence when determining power equations in the country and deciding who occupies what position. That time may yet come, but until it does.

If Christians all over the country have been up in arms against the decision to fly the first same-faith ticket since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, it is because a lot has happened in the country to show that Nigeria is not yet ripe for a same-faith ticket, and will not be for a very long time.

The uproar against the religious complexion of the ticket which Lalong has now been tasked with selling to Nigerians has not been helped by the fact that since assumption of office in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari, the first member of the APC, has never really been able to shake of allegations of religious bigotry which have dogged him since he first came into limelight decades ago.

As Christian communities in Southern Kaduna and other parts of the North continue to be targeted for annihilation, a virulent brand of Islamist extremism is to blame. Many of the principal actors in the ruling APC have also not helped their cause with their emergency posturing that religion should not matter.

In the past, many of them had by their words and actions given themselves away as those who would put their religion before anything else.

So, for Lalong, the journey begins. Opinions about how he has performed so far as a two-term Governor of Plateau State remain divided, but for many, a promising start petered out a long time ago, and it will be with more than just a whimper of disappointment that he will leave office next year.

If he is the one chosen by the APC to do damage control after its flagrant violation of a core convention and tradition in Nigeria`s politics, then he will do well to source for inspiration elsewhere to perform the unenviable task.

To evoke his catholic faith and drag the Pope into what is shaping up to be a disastrous failure of political prudence would leave him with more nuts than he can crack.

For the good people of Plateau State, there will be very few tears when he leaves office next year.

Kene Obiezu,Twitter: @kenobiezu

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