The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on Wednesday met with the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN.
The former Lagos State governor was invited for an interactive session with the apex Christian body to share his ideas and concerns regarding the nation.
Tinubu told CAN that he sees Nigerians as equals and as brothers and sisters in the national family, meaning that no one is inherently inferior or superior to anyone else.
The former Governor said that anyone who does not hold the view that all Nigerians are equal regardless of faith, place of origin, social status and gender should not run for president in a country such as ours.
“I understand the tremendous importance of your work and have nothing but the deepest respect for your selfless contributions to our national cause,” Tinubu said.
“I did not come here to flatter you. Yet, it is necessary to state that I see your work as essential. No society or nation can rightly function or achieve greatness without its moral and ethical fibre being properly intact.
“Without the right frame of mind and disposition of heart, we cannot attain the good place God has destined for this nation.
“Thus, I see as mutually reinforcing what I hope to be my future responsibility as president and your ongoing responsibility as a vital moral compass for the nation. My belief in the need for secular government and faith-based organizations to work in unison is not something adopted recently to benefit my campaign
“This cooperative agenda describes my entire political career. As Governor of Lagos, I partnered with the Christian to improve lives and foster education. For instance, I returned mission schools to their owners, most of who are Christians.
“I instituted yearly Christian Denomination Service at the Governor’s residence as we approached the new year. This tradition continues in Lagos. More importantly, we fostered an atmosphere of religious tolerance and inter-faith collaboration. My cabinet was diverse and talented. In the exercise of government, I did not give a thought to whether a team member was Christian or Muslim, Yoruba, Igbo or Arewa.
“I have never lent myself to baseless prejudice and discrimination. To do so would be a recipe for failure in the governance of a diverse society and I am not a man that is familiar with failing.
“I never chased people out of Lagos nor made them feel unwanted. Under my administration, Lagos welcomed all comers and continues to do so today. After me, Lagos has had one Muslim and two Christian governors.
“I may not be perfect. What human being is? But I am not a petty man secretly wedded to secret biases and prejudices. This brings me to the question on the minds of many here. Why Senator Kashim Shettima? Why a same-faith ticket?
“Well, I did not choose Senator Shettima so that we could form a same-faith ticket. The ticket was constructed as a same progressive and people-based ideology ticket.
“I offer a confession. I selected Senator Shettima thinking more about who would best help me govern. Picking a Christian running mate would have been politically easier. But the easy way is rarely the right one. The selection of a running mate is at once a very momentous yet very intimate decision.
“Resting such a key decision on religious affiliation as the primary weight did not sit well with me.
“I am not saying there were not good and adequate potential running mates of the Christian faith. What I am saying is that the times we inhabit do not lend themselves to the good or adequate. We have urgent problems that lend themselves not to a Christian or Muslim solution. We need the best solution.
“Every time I thought about it, and I did think a lot; I came to the same conclusion: Kashim Shettima. His faith was immaterial. He is a brilliant man with superior intellectual capacity. He is studious and detailed oriented. Enjoying excellent organization skills, Shettima fully understands the vital difference between governance and politics.
“This exceptionally gifted human being has humility of spirit, courage of his convictions and a strongly progressive worldview in harmony with my own perspectives on government and its relationship to the governed.
“I trust the calibre of the man. I know the great lengths he went in fighting Boko Haram in his state. He did his best to protect the Christian community and rebuilt damaged churches.
“This man understands the value of our national diversity in all of its ramifications, including religious. He possesses the courage to stand up to those who would wreck that diversity and freedom.”
Speaking on his personal life, Tinubu added: “I know people have reacted harshly to my selection. They have done so without knowing the man or giving him or me a fair chance. The rumour that this is some plot to suppress the Christian community is untrue and unfortunate.
“I can no more suppress the Christians of this nation than I can suppress the Christians in my own household, my very family. You all know my wife is Christian and a pastor. My children are Christians. I can no more disown them and their choice of faith than I can disown myself. As a husband and father to Christian wife and children, hearing such allegations is hurtful. However, that individual discomfort will not deter me from the job at hand.”
On his policies, the former Lagos helmsman added: “We must move the nation forward more quickly so that hatred and pettiness haven’t a chance to imbed themselves and become the main colours of the fabric of our society.
“My team, Senator Shettima and I have crafted our Action Plan for Nigeria titled Renewed Hope. This agenda is based on the progressive notion that our economy must be recalibrated to ensure better jobs and wages for people. That all are entitled to basic health care and education.
“We will combat hunger and poverty by growing more food and better rewarding farmers for their toil.
“We shall revive our industrial capacity to provide work for our growing urban population and to produce more of the things that we need.
“Where the private sector thrives, we will not attempt to fix what is not broken. Where it falters, government shall lend a hand to keep people employed and the economy vibrant. Where there is a gap, we must fill it so that we more fully employ our idle workforce and productive capacity.
“We must better tend to the poor, vulnerable and elderly by strengthening the social safety net.
“We shall end the fuel subsidy because it has become an unproductive policy favouring an elite that needs no favours while giving the people precious little.
“Funds that were previously used for the subsidy will be invested in public transportation and other infrastructure, education, and health.
“Let us advance to the economic point where no parent is forced to send their children to bed hungry and no one is fearful that tomorrow will bring more lack and poverty.
“Fiscal power and authority shall be recalibrated to give the states more latitude to better fulfil their mandate of grassroots development and empowerment of people and local communities. This includes assessing each state’s best option regarding a more active role in crime prevention and law enforcement.
“On security, we will not relent until terrorists, kidnappers and criminals quit their malign ways or are completely defeated. We shall augment our security forces and use advanced technology to track and defeat these evil groups.
They want to destroy our peaceful way of life. We shall destroy theirs first.
In conclusion, he said: “If elected, my door will be open to the leadership of CAN. You will be consulted regularly on the affairs of the state. I know that you will be talking to other candidates as is your right and duty. It would be inappropriate of me or anyone to ask for your support.
“What I ask for is your understanding of my policy direction and the rationale concerning my running mate selection.
“Some may not agree with my decisions. But let it be knowns that I made them in the good faith belief that they would best advance good governance in Nigeria. There is no religious hatred or nefarious designs. Just my determination to do the best I can for our nation.
“I thank you for listening to me and I join you in praying for peace in our nation and for elections that is devoid of violence and rancour but full of reason and democratic practice.”