Why we shouldn’t be bogged down by religion, ethnicity – Oshiolmhole

Adams Oshiomhole

Adam Oshiomhole, a former Nigeria Labour Congress and one time Edo State Governor, says Nigeria shouldn’t be bogged down by religion, ethnicity because there are are more pressing challenges to be tackled.

What sort of leader do you think Nigeria needs at this critical moment?

We need a leader who can get the country together without being preoccupied with religion and ethnicity issues. We should strive to have a leadership that will engender a safe environment so that you can go to your church and worship while I can equally go to my mosque and worship. So you can visit your village and I can also visit mine, even though we are all Nigerians. That is the extent to which the issues of religion and ethnicity should be of concern: having the freedom to worship and the guarantee of safety to move around the country without fear or hindrance.

What gives you the impression you can succeed in the Senate?

I was the Edo State governor, which, to a certain extent, is like a miniature Nigeria. I come from a minority part of the state that had not produced an elected governor before me.

Because of my reputation, I got the backing of the majority ethnic group, I contested for re-election against a retired general from the majority ethnic group, yet the people supported me.

By the time I left office, a large majority of Edo people, regardless of their political affiliations, had a favourable assessment of my stewardship. Even till date, you can go to the streets of any city or village in Edo State and seek the people’s opinion about me.

How will you assess the chances of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the 2023 election, especially with the Muslim-Muslim ticket?

By the special grace of God, he would win the next election and become president of Nigeria.

…With a Muslim Muslim ticket?

Yes, Nigeria is not all about Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian. The issues confronting us are not how many churches or mosques a Muslim-Muslim ticket will build.

Unfortunately, that is not the issue we have on the ground, and people believe you can continue to do the same thing and expect different outcomes. We can’t be bogged down by issues of religion and ethnicity. Each time you do that, you compromise on something else.

The finest hour of Nigerians as a people was when these issues didn’t matter and the crisis we are in today, trying to do all kinds of balancing and only when it suits us. People are quick to remind us with joy how in Rwanda today, there is no tribalism stating what they have accomplished after the genocidal war and detailing the economic and social consequences, with the economy growing in double digits and doing better than Nigeria. How are they beginning to attract foreign investments and booming tourism?

Today, it will require a man of courage to return Nigeria to the state it was in. We are a secular state and balancing won’t help us. I watched recently as a certain Senator was relating the Muslim-Muslim ticket to inhumanity. If he is a true believer in God, let him search his conscience to see the acts of inhumanity he has committed against his fellow beings. This is a man who beat up a young girl in a sex toy shop and caused a scandal that was an embarrassment to his family and the national assembly. If it was in other jurisdictions, he could not remain in the senate after the scandal.

Again, I saw another guy, who can’t deliver a unit in Rivers State, speaking against the Muslim-Muslim ticket without offering insight into why he is against it.

Are you saying Nigerians shouldn’t voice their disapproval and nurse their fear that we might as a multi-religious nation end up with a Muslim president, deputy, Senate president, Secretary-General, and House of Representatives Speaker?

Now you are quoting someone I know. He can choose to manipulate and play with the rules. It’s up to him, but it is most dishonest to say or make commentary that suggests that the incoming president and other top officials of the present administration are Muslims. These are just some elites wrestling with the truth to confuse the Nigerian victims.

Have you ever heard someone tell their housekeeper, “I’d like to eat an omelette, but please don’t touch my eggs. You know the value of those eggs?” ‘Yes sir!’ “Did you understand me? You must ensure I have an omelette tomorrow morning. Also, two visitors are coming, so make an omelette for three, but don’t touch my eggs.” Is it possible?

I think Nigeria has to move away from dysfunctional politics to a politics of issues. The amount of airtime and newspaper pages we devote to these issues and some, of course, who are opposed to Asiwaju, find this a ready excuse to attack him.

There is another man who has introduced another dimension recently. That should be Datti Baba-Ahmed, the running mate of presidential candidate Peter Obi. He said that he agreed that Asiwaju was a formidable politician with a good record.

However, he is one of those who entered into a partnership that brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power. Is that a crime, if I may ask?

What I would have wished to ask him, though, was if he knows how the partnership he has entered as a running mate will play out at the end. Only God knows that, no man has the power to know the future. As the saying goes, “Man proposes; God disposes.”

On a serious note, how many of the governors of the class of 1999 are still politically relevant? It is not because they don’t want to; it is just that they have faded into political irrelevance with time.

Many critics believe any serious Nigerian shouldn’t be discussing Tinubu’s presidency. What’s your position on this?

First, we need to ask what makes Asiwaju still relevant. I can share one or two things I know. You know that in 1999, the South-West rejected Obasanjo by their votes and he lost even his unit. OBJ lost all the South-West states but still became president. This is why nobody should play God in this business of elections. Only God knows who’s going to win. Now, talking about religion in the South-West, there are Christians and Muslims.

By 2003, Obasanjo was being harassed that he had no political base because he didn’t win his state. He became president courtesy of the other parts of Nigeria.

*Continue reading the interview from the source: The Punch