I don’t care if next President, VP are of same religion – Soyinka

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Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, says he does not care if Nigeria’s next president, vice-president, and speaker of the House of Representatives are all from the same village and religion.

Soyinka spoke on Channels Television’s NewsNight, a pre-recorded interview, aired on Monday.

“I don’t give a damn if the president, the vice-President, the speaker, etc all come from the same village, they have the same religion, they belong to the same tribe,” Soyinka said when asked about his thoughts on the controversy that has trailed the Muslim-Muslim All Progressives Congress presidential ticket.

The dramatist quickly added, “If, however, it is transparently, absolutely, unarguable that is a kind of genius breed that has been donated to the nation and to the world. As long as the capability of the individuals who are into governance is proven, and it is quite clear that there is no alternative, that is my position.”

The 88-year-old playwright, however, noted that the same faith ticket won’t be a problem in a “normal society” and that Nigeria hasn’t attained such a “norm”.

“Now, we are talking about a society which is normal, which institutions are normal…Is Nigeria normal?” he asked.

According to him, the campaigners for a same-faith ticket should be “very sensitive to the very peculiar circumstances of Nigeria” and explore alternatives that have been working for the country.

Soyinka’s comments came months after APC presidential candidate and former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, had announced ex-governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, as his running mate. Tinubu and Shettima are Muslims, a development that has continued to attract stark criticisms from the Christian Association of Nigeria; the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria; Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah; amongst others.

Top Christian APC members from the northern region have also rejected the mix of Tinubu and Shettima. The top chieftains include former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal; former Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; former Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung; Senator Ishaku Abbo (Adamawa North).

Speaking on the Channels Television’s programme, Soyinka said there are unspoken arrangements that reflect the diversity and peculiarity of Nigeria and the ruling party should have been sensitive enough to recognise such peculiarity and avoid needless controversy.

He said, “We’ve had unspoken arrangements in recognition of the peculiarity of this particular society. And so, it shouldn’t surprise you or me that a number of people find that kind of choice very questionable and unwise, especially at this time.

“I can understand that perfectly and at the same time, I recognise the right of the proposed incumbent to choose who he wants to run with if he gets ultimately into power. That is right is there? However, that right is not absolute because we are talking about a relative society which Nigeria is right now.”

“And so, we are in a very difficult situation and the question I ask now is: why create a controversy? Are there options that should have prevented such a controversy? Why not be very sensitive to the very peculiar circumstances of Nigeria?” he queried.

Soyinka said Nigeria is facing a crisis of faith, ethnic distrust and class distrust and politicians should seize the opportunity not to exacerbate the situation but to learn from countries like Lebanon that learnt from their civil war and unanimously agreed on zones to produce government officials.

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