A coalition of Christians under the aegis of North Central Youths and Women Forum, in their number on Tuesday, took to the streets in Abuja to protest against the Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, as the Director-General of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council.
The protesters, who are members of the APC from the six North-Central States and the Federal Capital Territory, also marched to the Presidential Villa to submit a letter to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), over the Muslim-Muslim ticket adopted by the APC despite the national outcry.
According to Punch, they carried placards with inscriptions such as ‘Lalong is a Judas, Lalong is a betrayal, Lalong is on his own,’ ‘We say No to DGship, give us our VP slot’, ‘On North Central Christian vice-presidential candidate we stand,” and ‘Dear Asiwaju…keep your DG, give us a Christian VP, all Christians in the APC say no to DGship.’
The leader of the group, Dauda Yakubu, said the main reason for the protest is not just the Muslim-Muslim ticket. He further explained that the various indices at play so far within the APC did not suggest that the Christians from northern Nigeria were considered in the party’s affairs.
While describing the appointment of Lalong as an insult to the North-Central region, the stakeholders said they would only accept the position of Vice President.
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He noted that the party had neglected advice from concerned stakeholders by nominating a northern Muslim as the party’s vice-presidential candidate.
According to him, stakeholders in the APC, especially northern Christians, felt humiliated by the actions of the party’s leadership in recent times, which, he said, did not demonstrate ethnic and religious inclusion.
He called on Buhari to clear his role and make his position known on the party’s same faith ticket.
Yakubu said, “We feel the appointment of Governor Lalong as the Director General of the Presidential Campaign Council is an insult to our collective sensibilities as a devoted party faithful in the North-Central.
“Mr. President may wish to remember that in the affairs of the party, the North-Central zone has demonstrated an unalloyed commitment to the growth and development of the party. But what has the North-central received in return?
“We came from far and near to witness first-hand, the news making the rounds that you indeed, sanctioned the Muslim-Muslim ticket of our party. There have also been insinuations that the vice-presidential ticket was not given to a northern Christian because you supported it.
“We know you to be an advocate of unity, ethnic and religious inclusion. But again, we are short of words with the news making the rounds, hence, this open letter in a protest march to hear from you that you were indeed in support of a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“This is on the heels that as stakeholders of our party, we have consistently advocated for Governor Lalong as the party’s vice-presidential candidate because he possesses all the necessary qualities. But to our dismay, he was appointed as the DG of the Presidential Campaign Council.
“So many questions are left unanswered in our minds regarding the position of the party in the interest of northern Christians. We beg to ask the question, if a northern Christian is good enough to lead the Presidential Campaign Council, why then is a northern Christian not good enough to be nominated as the vice presidential candidate of our party?
“It is our considered position that the lines are not connecting for us as stakeholders of the party in the North-Central zone of the country. And consequently, we demand explanations as to why our interests have been jettisoned using a yardstick that defeats common sense.”
Yakubu said the APC was the only party that did not consider the country’s religious sensitivity in the composition of its presidential team, adding that it was not on the strength of a lack of qualified and credible candidates.
While insisting that there was something fundamentally wrong, Yakubu said the forum was convinced beyond doubt that the President could not sanction such a move, going by his antecedents as a unifier and an advocate of peace.
“Your fatherly disposition to all, regardless of ethnic or religious affiliations, has never been in doubt. You have been a great source of strength and support to all, and it is on record that you have treated all in the same manner since you assumed leadership of our great country.
“We know that you can’t be a part of religious exclusion under any circumstances; hence, our presence here in Abuja through this peaceful protest, to hear from you if you support the Muslim-Muslim ticket of our party.
“At this stage, we cannot rely on rumours and hearsay because we know your pedigree as a father and mentor to all party members across the country. Mr President, it is our earnest desire that you, in your fatherly manner,” he stated.
Yakubu asked the APC leadership to convoke an emergency meeting to reflect the wishes and interests of northern Christians in the composition of the presidential team of the party for the 2023 presidential election.