Shettima’s support for Akpabio, Jibrin misinterpreted — Presidency

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Vice President Kashim Shettima’s support for the candidacy of Godswill Akpabio as President of the 10th Senate is being misconstrued to suit an agenda that sabotages Nigeria’s collective bid for unity, the Presidency has said.

This was contained in a statement signed on Monday by the State House Director of Information (Office of the Vice President), Olusola Abiola.

The statement is titled ‘Reports of Vice President Shettima’s Appeal for Southern Senate President in Context.’

During an interactive session with senators campaigning for the emergence of Senator Godswill Akpabio and Senator Barau Jibrin to lead the 10th Senate on Sunday, Vice President Kashim Shettima emphasized the nation’s current political structure and made a case for the emergence of a Southern Christian and a Northern Muslim as the best way to promote inclusivity at the centre.

But a northern socio-political organisation, under the aegis of the Northern Elders Forum, knocked Vice President over his alleged comments that “under the current dispensation, the worst incompetent Southern Christian is better than the most puritanical Northern Muslim for the Presidency of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

The elders also warned against the imposition of the 10th Senate President, insisting that 109 senators-elect be allowed to choose their leaders.

However, the Presidency said Shettima’s statement was motivated by a “profound awareness of the divisive factors within our great nation and was in harmony with the governing party’s pledge to ensure inclusivity across all regions and among all groups.”

It said President Bola Tinubu has wholeheartedly reassured the country of his dedication to providing every group with equal representation, which has resonated with the Vice President who shares the same commitment to this honourable endeavour.

“Unfortunately, the Vice President’s remarks during the parley with the senators, yesterday, have been stripped of context and mischievously circulated as an attempt to minimise the suitability of Muslim contestants in the race for the Senate leadership.

“The remarks have not only been taken out of context but also misinterpreted to suit an agenda that sabotages our collective bid for unity,” the statement read.

The Presidency explained that Shettima advocated during the meeting that considering Nigeria’s President and Vice President are Muslims, it would not be ill-advised for the lawmakers to choose a non-Muslim contestant, even if against a more qualified Muslim option, in order to achieve balance.

“It is alarming that such an unambiguous plea has been unfairly misconstrued to imply that the Vice President said the most incompetent Christian candidate is superior to a Muslim candidate.

“One can understand why this absurd interpretation would be found distressing and hijacked by those with a malicious agenda to push,” Abiola wrote.

The Presidency maintained that “it would be illogical for the Vice President, who is himself a Muslim and an essential member of the community, to second-guess the competence of fellow Muslims in a nation headed by a Muslim President who has demonstrated unmatched leadership qualities, on the strength of which they were elected under the banner of the APC last February.”

Therefore, the Vice President distanced himself from the “wrong and dangerous” inferences drawn by the public from his remarks.

While some are made innocently and without mischief, there are entities that have seized on the story to cause further chaos that transcends the realm of power politics, the Presidency reasoned.

Giving context to its argument, the Presidency claimed to be aware of some entities and individuals who were covertly pushing for Muslim leadership of the National Assembly with the sole aim of using the instance to legitimize their grievances against the Nigerian state and to prove to their communities that they have been marginalized and must rise to cause chaos.

It said, “This sheds light on the paradoxical situation where the same lawmakers who opposed a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket are now actively campaigning for political arrangements that would result in Muslims occupying all the highest four or five positions in the country.”

The VP’s position reflects the stance of the APC, which has not only assigned the leadership of the House of Representatives to the North-West but has also designated the position of Deputy Senate President to be held by the same region, the Presidency maintained.