The National Vice Chairman, North-west of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Salihu Mohd. Lukman has warned that for the country to move forward, 2023 Presidential campaigns must not reduce important debates to sentimental considerations of ethnicity and religion.
The former Director General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) said APC will not ride on cheap sentiments of religion and ethnicity in choosing its running mate for its presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
He argued that the adoption of ethnicity and religious considerations in decision-making in the past has not only stalled development, but it has also further divided the masses of the country.
Reacting to the current debate on a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the ruling party at the 2023 Presidential election, Lukman in a statement titled “Issues for APC 2023 Presidential Campaign” warned against these primordial considerations as the standard-bearer of the ruling party picks his running mate ahead of 17th June deadline by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Admitting the importance of ethnicity and religion, the APC leader maintained that political leaders should not be allowed to ride on cheap sentiments of religion and ethnicity to opportunistically win elections.
He argued that as “important as ethnic and religious identities are, addressing challenges facing the country, requires that political leaders are not allowed to ride on cheap sentiments of religion and ethnicity to opportunistically win elections.
“If Nigeria is to move forward, 2023 Presidential campaigns must not reduce important debates of moving Nigeria forward to sentimental considerations of ethnicity and religion. If the truth is to be told, both Islam and Christianity, as well as all our ethnic factors have been used in equal measure to hold Nigeria at a standstill.”
He alleged that many religious and ethnic leaders have used and are still using religion and ethnicity to pollute the minds of Nigerians against one another.
According to him, “If Nigerian politics is to overcome the adversities of these so-called religious and ethnic leaders, religious and ethnic backgrounds of leaders must be subordinated to experiential attributes of persons being considered for leadership.”
Lukman pointed out that whatever is the final choice of Asiwaju and APC leaders concerning who emerges as the running mate, the 2023 Presidential election will be keenly contested, irrespective of religious and ethnic identity of both Asiwaju Tinubu and whoever the running mate may be.
He counselled APC leaders to acknowledge the fact that the 2023 elections present another golden opportunity for the APC to re-invent itself.
Lukman argued that the primordial sentiments expressed before the emergence of the APC flag bearer have shown that for the country to move forward we have to jettison these considerations.
According to the former director-general of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), “Against very strong sentiments and dominant ethnic and religious politics, which weigh heavily against Asiwaju, both within the APC, but perhaps more promoted by a very sectarian and conservative strategy of winning cheap votes of Nigerians by the PDP and their sympathisers, which led to the emergence of Alh. Atiku Abubakar as the PDP Presidential candidate for the 2023 elections, Asiwaju Tinubu emerged as the Presidential candidate of the APC.”
As the opposition is using the challenges facing the country as campaign tools to further divide Nigerians, Lukman, advised that “APC’s 2023 presidential campaign must be about uniting citizens to move Nigeria forward. It must be about issues and proposals for nation-building.
“It must be about pushing Nigerians to take all the hard decisions based on respect, equity and fair representation. This is what the Presidential candidature of Asiwaju Tinubu should represent. APC should win the 2023 presidential election based on a convincing promise for national unity.
“A major objective of APC 2023 Presidential campaign should be to correct all the false narratives being propagated by opposition parties that APC government has failed. The campaign should instead focus more on showcasing the achievements of APC-led Federal Government, which is about rebuilding the country. For instance, achievements in the areas of social investment, infrastructure and agriculture can effectively provide APC’s contrasting scorecard. Since emerging as the governing party in 2015, APC Federal Government has implemented National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), which is far more than what any government in the past has done. Founded on four pillars of N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), Home Grown School Feeding and Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), millions of poor Nigerians are benefiting from these initiatives. For instance, GEEP has disbursed N36.9 billion in interest-free loans of between N50,000 to N350,000 to more than 2.3 million Nigerians. Under the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, 9.9 million primary 1 – 3 pupils in 54,952 public primary schools in 35 states are benefiting. Additional 107,000 cooks have been engaged. In the case of Conditional Cash Transfer, more than 3 million poor and vulnerable households have been registered on the National Social Register, out of which more than one million families are currently being paid N5,000 monthly.
“In the area of infrastructure, when President Buhari’s administration assumed office in 2015, the total budget for Federal Roads by the outgoing PDP government of former President Goodluck Jonathan was 18 billion Naira, which is only about 25% of the Lagos State roads budget for that year. The persistent skeletal funding translated to abandoned or slow-moving road projects across the country. APC administration increased allocation to the roads budget to more than 200 billion Naira per annum. In addition, more resources were devoted to construction of road and transport infrastructure than any other administration since 1999, and the results are roads, bridges, highways, rail lines and stations, and air and seaport upgrades. Currently, there are around 900 active road contracts covering the construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation of more than 13,000km of Federal roads and highways across the country, out of a total of 35,000km of Federal roads in existence.
“In the area of agriculture, APC led government of President Buhari established National Food Security Council (NFSC), Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan (AFJP), National Livestock Transformation Plan, Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) and Creation of an Enabling Environment. Specifically, ABP for instance, implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2015, provided more than 300 billion Naira to more than 3.1 million smallholder farmers of 21 different commodities (including Rice, Wheat, Maize, Cotton, Cassava, Poultry, Soy Beans, Groundnut, Fish), across Nigeria, successfully cultivating over 3.8 million hectares of farmland. PFI has produced and delivered to the Nigerian market over 30 million 50kg bags equivalent of fertilizer, at reduced prices; and resulted in the revival or construction of no fewer than 40 moribund fertilizer blending plants across the country. Nigeria today has 44 functioning blending plants, with more on the way as a result of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI).”