Former Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) has lamented the decision of some Nigerians to brand him an Islamic fundamentalist, saying he has proven time over time that he isn’t one.
“In 2003, I chose Chuba Okadigbo as my running mate. He was a Roman Catholic. He was an Igbo. In 2007, I picked Edwin Ume-Ezeoke. He was a Roman Catholic. He was an Igbo. And in 2010, I chose even a pastor. Tunde Bakare. Honestly, what do Nigerians want me to do? If they don’t believe I’m not a fundamentalist, what else can I do?” the Presidential aspirant told TheCable in an interview.
Buhari, who is contesting the presidential nomination of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has hitherto kept an open mind on the choice of a running mate if he does get the APC ticket, but opinions in some quarters say choosing a Muslim as running mate may do his ambition more harm than good, especially due to the increasingly political nature of religion in recent years.
“I have not absolutely closed my mind to picking a Christian or Muslim as running mate if I get the ticket. Because I firmly believe that Nigerians, having gone through what they have gone through, realise it is not a matter of religion, but a matter of Nigeria.
“And the main religions, Christianity and Islam, they know and they believe in the almighty God. The question of stealing and short-changing people in the name of religion should stop,” he said.
He described the issue of religion as blackmail by political confusionists, noting that some of the top members of the APC like Bola Tinubu, APC national leader; Oyo governor, Abiola Ajimobi; Lagos governor, Babatunde Fashola; Ogun governor, Ibikunle Amosun; and former APC interim chairman, Bisi Akande, all have Christian wives.
“For goodness sake, the children of these political leaders were bred and brought up by Christian mothers. You think those people, wherever they participate, they will bring a religious issue? What kind of people are we? Nigerians will always bring something to cause confusion while we are trying to stabilise the system,” he said.
Talks are reportedly on within the APC to present Buhari as a consensus candidate for the 2015 Presidential election, with Fashola seen as one of the perfect running mates for him, which may mean a Muslim/Muslim ticket.
Buhari is however not worried by that possibility as he said it wouldn’t reduce APC’s chances of winning in 2015, citing the 1993 election where Moshood Abiola, a southern Muslim, who picked Babagana Kingibe, a northern Muslim, as running mate.
He said religion didn’t matter then as they won the election that is still considered by many as the most credible in Nigeria’s history, noting that it wouldn’t also matter now.