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YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon –Nigeria’s President-elect Bola Tinubu will face opposition from the Catholic Church if he makes the same mistakes as his predecessor, President Mohamadou Buhari, says a leading Nigerian bishop.
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto said Buhari carried an “unsavory baggage of triumphalism,” and said his “shameless nepotism” was immoral.
Buhari’s tenure was also marked by worsening insecurity, with Christians particularly being targeted either by Boko Haram fighters or Fulani herdsmen.
The Catholic bishops in Africa’s most populous nation accused Buhari of engaging in a cynical plan to “Islamize” Nigeria – a country of 225 million almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims – claiming that is why he failed to tackle the rising insecurity decisively.
Tinubu is also a Muslim, but Kukah said that he likely understands the diversity of Nigeria.
“It all depends, mere wishes or aspirations are not enough,” Kukah said when asked by Crux whether he thought Tinubu would be able to tackle the country’s security problem.
“It depends on if he is able to understand the extent of the damage inflicted on our much-cherished diversity by President Buhari,” the prelate said.
“Happily, he is a Muslim. but without the unsavory baggage of triumphalism that Buhari carried to immoral extent in his shameless nepotism. This is what I fought for the last eight years and if he tries to repeat the same mistakes, we will fight hard,” Kukah said.
The bishop said he was hopeful Tinubu won’t exhibit extremist tendencies, coming out of a Yoruba Islam that is known to be “moderate, open to the positive forces of modernity.”
“And in fairness, Tinubu has been known to be a good team builder over the years. So, he has to identify some of those Northern Muslims who compounded Buhari’s narrowness and distance himself from their provincialism. He has a chance to genuinely try to run a transparently open government aimed at uniting the country.”
But there are apprehensions in some quarters, especially as both Tinubu and his vice president are Muslims – traditionally, if the president is Muslim, his vice president is Christian, and vice versa.
Johan Viljoen, the Director of the Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), says there are already indications that the victory of a Muslim-Muslim ticket in Nigeria’s Presidential election has emboldened Fulani herdsmen.
“There is no doubt that the victory of the Muslim-Muslim ticket has seen a surge in Fulani attacks,” he told Crux.
“In Benue State the attacks in fact started on election day and have been continuing since then. It appears as if the attackers now feel emboldened – if nothing was done about the situation in the past, even less will be done now,” he said.
Asked if he thought the new Nigerian leader could change course and tackle insecurity problem head-on, Viljoen’s response was an emphatic “No!”
”There is a widespread perception especially in the South East that the ‘insecurity’ – armed attacks, insurgency and land occupations – is the result of a coordinated strategy to Islamize the whole country, and for Northerners to seize control of all resources,” Viljoen told Crux.
“As Patron of Miyetti Allah – the ‘cultural’ organization under which the Fulani operate – Buhari was widely seen as being directly involved – if not proactively, then at least in his failure to arrest and successfully prosecute a single perpetrator of the violence. Tinubu is Buhari’s handpicked successor. If the post-election surge in attacks in Benue State is anything to go by, ‘insecurity’ will become worse. Another potential source of violence: Tinubu’s victory has led to hopelessness and anger amongst the youth,” he added.
The anger among younger voter stems the fact that their preferred candidate, Peter Obi of the Labor Party, only received 25 percent of the vote, coming third behind winner Tinubu and runner up Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Both Obi and Abubakar have complained that there were voting irregularities and plan on challenging the results in court.
“I expect a lot from the courts in the land. The two opposition candidates themselves have confessed that they trust the courts and they have benefited from the courts,” Kukah told Crux.
“To push for judicial activism, we must remain vigilant and continue to make noise because the judges are human beings too. We hope that the facts, not opinions will win the day,” the bishop said.
Viljoen noted that “Nigerian courts have demonstrated a measure of independence and impartiality in the past. What happens in court will depend on the quality and amount of evidence of vote rigging that is presented to it.”