North and South Interdependence and Integration in National Politics:
Thoughts on Political Stability, Nation-Building, and Progressive Transformation
Keynote address by Malam Nasir El-Rufai at the book launch/retirement event in honour of Professor Ishaq Lakin Akintola, held in the Conference Hall of LTV8, Ikeja, on Saturday, 9th July 2023
1. Permit me to begin by congratulating Professor Ishaq Akintola on becoming indisputably an old man. Those of us in our sixties often face no danger of being mistaken as young people but are sometimes considered not to have attained old age. But, except in jest, nobody accuses a 70-year of being a fledgling. As he retires from academia, I wish Professor Akintola many more years of good health and service to our country. I thank the organisers of this event for inviting me to join you here today to honour Prof and to say a few words.
2. Professor Akintola is a scholar of religion and an activist. He was a leading and tireless voice in initiating a political rapprochement between Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and I. The initial outreach surprised me, coming from people who were not politicians and with whom I didn’t have close relations. I was curious about the approach from Professor Akintola and his team. I later learnt that they felt encouraged to approach me because I had gone on the record in 2019 as being in favour of power shift for 2023. As is now obvious, the reconciliation effort succeeded, and I thank Prof. Akintola for his role and energetic contributions.
3. For this and many other reasons, I am honoured to be here today to join in celebrating with Prof Akintola, his family and friends. The invitation included a request either to speak on fostering national unity and stability through deeper collaboration between the north and south of Nigeria or the legacy of Sir Ahmadu Bello to the politics of Northern Nigeria. I have chosen to speak on the former as I feel better placed to share my experiences in the last 25 years of active public service, and similar, previous period of being a passive observer of Nigerian politics.
4. It is my view that a lot has changed in 50 years, and mostly not for the better. Increased literacy, religious and ethnic awareness, improved communication technologies and enhanced political sophistication have sadly led to more intolerance, ethno-religious division using manufactured falsehood, and overall poorer political, economic and social governance. How did we as a nation get to this point? How do we reject this toxic mix that has not served our nation well? These are the issues on which I wish to share my thoughts today.
5. Once upon a time, I grew up in a Nigeria where the ‘Northern’ counter-coup of July 1966, led by a Muslim, Murtala Mohammed of blessed memory, handed over power to the Christian trio of Yakubu Gowon, J E Akinwale-Wey, and Obafemi Awolowo, that ruled Nigeria for the next nine years. No one cared that the top three leaders were all Christians. In fact, following persons constituted the top six officials of the Federal Military Government (1967-1973) were:
i. Major General Yakubu Gowon Head of State
ii. Brigadier Eyo Ekpo Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters
iii. Brigadier Hassan Usman Katsina Chief of Army Staff
iv. Rear Admiral Joseph Akinwale Wey Chief of Naval Staff
v. Colonel Emmanuel Ikwue Chief of Air Staff
vi. Chief Obafemi Awolowo Minister of Finance and Vice Chairman, Federal Executive Council.
No one cared that there was only one Muslim in the top six. We had a nation to unite and a civil war to prosecute! Nigeria was the better for it.
6. The makeup of the top leadership in the last two years of General Gowon’s government, from 1973 to 1975, had a similar look. Vice Admiral Wey replaced Brigadier Ekpo as Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. Major General David Ejoor became Chief of Army Staff, replacing General Hassan Katsina, who had been appointed as Admiral Wey’s deputy at the Supreme Headquarters. Rear Admiral Nelson Soroh became Chief of Naval Staff.
7. When the five Northern colonels (Joe Garba, Shehu Yar’Adua, Ibrahim Taiwo, Anthony Ochefu and Abdullahi Mohammed) overthrew General Gowon in a bloodless coup in 1975, they handed over power to the trio of Murtala, Obasanjo and Danjuma. The religious or ethnic identities of the trio and the service chiefs did not matter to the coupists. We had a drifting nation to save. Again, Nigeria was the better for it. Even after Murtala was murdered, Yar’Adua deputised for Obasanjo to ensure the creation of the Second Republic in 1979.
8. The birth of the Second Republic came along with a presidential constitution, Abuja as a new capital and multiparty democracy with five registered political parties. The UPN, led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, fielded the Awolowo-Umeadi presidential ticket. The NPP’s Dr. Azikiwe had Ishaya Audu as running mate, while the other three parties had different religious mixes, but no one – either in politics or media, and certainly not on any pulpit – called the UPN and NPP tickets anything similar to a Christian-Christian ticket. As a people, Nigerians were too eager for the return of democratic rights to care about the religious or regional identity of the contestants.
9. Alhaji Shehu Shagari won the presidency, with Alex Ekwueme as Vice President, Joseph Wayas as Senate President and Edwin Ume Ezeoke as Speaker of the House. Justice Atanda Fatai-Williams was Chief Justice of Nigeria. Nobody complained about the ‘lopsided dominance of Christians’ in the three arms of the federal government under the Shagari administration. The service chiefs were variously Alani Akinrinade, Inuwa Wushishi, Gibson Jalo, John Yisa Doko and Sunday Adewusi, but no Muslim organization at the time shouted at what would now be regarded as ‘lopsided’ appointments!
10. My point here is that we were not always like the way we have been recently. There was a time when religion and ethnicity were rightly seen as private matters that were only incidental to politics and governance, and not as the sole definers of a person, and certainly not negotiating tools in serious national affairs – and this applied everywhere in Nigeria until the mid-1990s to date, sadly.
11. A shining example of this erstwhile progressive attitude was exhibited in the Southwest during the Second Republic. It is perhaps noteworthy that other than all the Southwest states are heavily mixed in terms of their religious demographics. Yet the people there willingly voted massively for the UPN. Let’s refresh our memories with the names of the persons who took the oaths of office in October 1979 as elected governors and deputy governors of the Southwest states:
i. Lagos: Alhaji Lateef Jakande and Alhaji Rafiu Jafojo
ii. Ogun: Chief Bisi Onabanjo and Chief Sesan Soluade
iii. Ondo: Chief Michael Ajasin and Chief Akin Omoboriowo
iv. Oyo: Chief Bola Ige and Chief Sunday Afolabi
12. Can anybody say that any of these Southwest states suffered retrogression, paralysis or exhibited unfairness to any religious group because they happened to be led by people of the same faith? Did their different faiths stop either Alhaji Jakande or Chief Ige from implementing their party’s manifesto of free education in their states, allowing the children of the poor of whatever ethnic or religious identity to enhance their prospects for social mobility?
13. We can go on and on about the Buhari-Idiagbon-Babangida junta that overthrew Shagari to wide applause across the country in 1983, with no one crying that the trio were all Northerners and Muslims. Needless to add that no one ever accused that regime of favouring one ethno-religious group over the other. Indeed, the regime arrested and detained all previous political office holders without regard to partisan, regional or religious identity! After all efforts to inject religious and regional sentiments in the politics of transition, the Abiola-Kingibe ticket shocked the Babangida regime in 1993 when it handily won the national elections even though it was tagged a “Muslim-Muslim” ticket then, defeating the Bashir Tofa-Sylvester Ugoh ticket which was the “balanced”, preferred one and was therefore expected to win. But Nigerians were determined to end military rule, and the endless transition of the time, and didn’t buy into the manufactured falsehood of an Islamisation agenda by Abiola, and they rejected the so-called ‘balanced’ ticket!
14. However, it is a paradox that it was in the decades of military rule after the 1983 Buhari-Idiagbon junta that religion and ethnic identity took on a new resonance. The Babangida regime allowed or even encouraged the ascendance of religion and region as the allocative principles for power, position and privilege. That set in motion processes that relegated bridge builders since the incentive was to stay in your own religion-regional cocoons. For instance, from 1991, it became a tradition to have a mixed governorship ticket in Kaduna State, and His Excellency, James Bawa Magaji emerged as the first Christian to be elected as Deputy Governor of Kaduna State. It is perhaps a noteworthy coincidence that the Zangon Kataf crises of 1992 occurred during which ‘indigenous’ Katafs attacked and slaughtered thousands of ‘Hausa settlers’ shortly after this governance “innovation”. The Babangida government prosecuted General Zamani Lekwot and a few other Kataf leaders for the violent crisis, and they were convicted but eventually pardoned.
15. Upon my emergence as the APC’s governorship candidate in December 2014, I named Architect Barnabas Yusuf Bala of blessed memory as my running mate. I had known him from our undergraduate days in the 1970s and had persuaded him to come out of political retirement so that we could be partners in progressive attainments for our people. Barnabas Yusuf Bala was the son of a priest, a brilliant man, and an accomplished architect. He was twice chairman of his local government council before representing Kaura Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. An alumnus of Federal Government College Warri, University of Lagos and Ahmadu Bello University where we met, Bantex was a gifted politician and a bridge builder who had invested decades of effort in building understanding and consensus across the ethnic and religious identities and groups in Kaduna State.
16. Recognising that we were both advanced in age, I deliberately organised the Kaduna State Government to be led by two partners at the top – Bantex as Deputy Governor sharing near equal power with me as Governor. I picked him personally as my running mate with the concurrence of our leader General Muhammadu Buhari. I trusted Bantex, respected his intellect and deferred to his judgment based on 30 years of mutual acquaintance and professional interactions. We were both committed to uniting our state by bridging the divides and promoting the progressive ideals of providing equal opportunity for all our citizens.
17. Nothing prepared either Bantex or I for the viciousness with which he was treated by the constituency he was meant to be representing by his presence on the governorship ticket. He offered thrice to resign from office within our first two years in office. Bantex therefore barely made it to the end of our first term, psychologically battered by the hostility and hobbled by a resurgence of ill-health. He was a powerful deputy, who acted as governor whenever I was away, presided at Executive Council meetings, swore in senior officials and was copied on every document that left my office. No Deputy Governor in Nigeria’s fourth republic is nearly as powerful as Bantex was, and this continued with his successor. Bantex lost his bid to represent the Kaduna South Senatorial District in the 2019 election. We lost him a year or so later.
18. Bantex’s travails made us in the Kaduna State Government to interrogate the substantive meaning of ethno-religious balance in politics, whether that created dynamics that made an elected person or an appointee to be seen by “his people” not as a servant of the whole or to be branded as a sellout. We reviewed the long line of persons from the same religion and same region who had been elected as deputy governor before Bantex: James Bawa Magaji (Bajju), Stephen Shekari (Bajju), Patrick Yakowa (Kagoma) and Nuhu Bajoga (Jaba). Had that made for a more united Kaduna State? Had it encouraged the politics of building bridges? Or had it instead created a sense of entitlement on the part of the three main tribes in Southern Kaduna, or even encouraged violent conduct by same to preserve their privileges? Personally, I realized that making Bantex nearly a co-Governor in Kaduna to unite our state served as no cure for bigotry from a section of the state, or the predilection to violence and using victimhood as justification for personal and group irresponsibility. By every measure, anyone familiar with the political evolution of Kaduna State will conclude that this was at best, a mixed picture.
19. The hostility to Bantex, I later learnt, arose and coalesced around multiple grievances. I chose him to be my running mate without requesting for a shortlist from the self-appointed, so-called Southern Kaduna Christian Elders; he was from the small tribe of Moroa, not the privileged Atyap (Kataf), Bajju, Jaba or the Kagoro; and Bantex was totally loyal to our party and its leadership, as he should have been!! He was not pursuing any so-called Southern Kaduna or Christian agenda, whatever that meant. He was therefore tagged a sellout!
20. Something had to change. For the 2019 election, my choice of running mate followed the established pattern, except in two particulars: gender and religion. Dr. Hadiza Balarabe is from a minority ethnic group (Gwantu) in southern Kaduna, but she is a woman and a Muslim. Her choice met with the usual hostility from the same persons that had so battered and demoralised Bantex, my first deputy. But it demonstrated that not everyone who mouths diversity and inclusion is actually interested in those values. The first woman to be elected as Deputy Governor from the far north of Nigeria was not seen as a pathfinder, a breakthrough for gender and a reaffirmation of the possibility of democracy to elect persons from minority and excluded groups. Only one marker of identity seemed to matter in such quarters. But the fact that Bantex had that marker – religion – had saved neither him nor I from opprobrium.
21. Dr. Hadiza Balarabe and I ran a government dedicated to the equality of persons, resolutely pursuing the policy of common citizenship. Despite sharing the same faith, we were bound by the injunctions of our Islamic faith, our oaths of office and our societal values to exercise our duties with fairness and justice. Electing persons of the same faith is neither a threat to the rights of others nor a blow to inclusion: it may only have highlighted other identities that tend to be excluded, as we did in Kaduna State. If we want our citizens to invest in common causes, to work in mutual endeavours for progress, to build a society of merit, hard work and fairness, we must deemphasise religion and region, and their vicious twin ethnicity, in making political decisions and choices. Let us build a society centred around citizens, who can live and pursue livelihoods everywhere, with constitutional rights that apply to all.
22. It is in this context that the recent furore and hysteria about my pre-inauguration remarks in May 2023 regarding politics and governance in Kaduna State and the electoral victory of the Asiwaju-Shettima ticket should be understood. I thank MURIC and many concerned individuals and organisations that rose to my defence and even offered accurate translations of my remarks and the key messages contained therein. I have chosen never to respond to these distortions and manufactured falsehoods like Islamisation, Fulanisation and the like because those that engage in these deliberate distortions will do so whatever we may say and they have no regard for truth or accuracy. They have made up their minds about the message and the messenger whether I speak or not.
23. To underscore the point above, consider this fact. The Kaduna State Government under my watch was variously accused by Southern Kaduna Christian Elders and their cheerleaders of ‘Islamisation’, genocide and ‘Fulanisation’. But we are the same government that confronted, degraded and prosecuted Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, proscribed his so-called Islamic movement and prosecuted him for various offences. There are still pending criminal charges against him being pursued by the Federal and State Governments for which he is avoiding service. We also launched aggressive onslaughts against banditry which is dominated by persons of Fulani extraction, killing many of their leaders and refusing to negotiate with them at any point. Those that quietly kill so-called ‘settlers’ in Southern Kaduna and shout ‘genocide’ when retaliation by the victims occurs are mere hypocrites.
24. So for those that care about the truth, my message at the Kaduna event which went viral was simple – leadership based on Islamic (and indeed, even Christian) principles is fair and equitable – and prescribes that a leader must be fair and just to everyone – whether Muslim (or Christian) or not. Let me elucidate with reference to both Christian and Islamic religious sources.
25. Let me start with the Christian scriptures. Is it not Proverbs 14:34 that stated “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” It it also not a Biblical prescription that “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” from the Book of Leviticus 19:18. Both prescriptions in the Bible focus on the ethic of reciprocity known as the Golden Rule or the Great Commandment. Is the Christian leadership in Nigeria consistent in preaching these exhortations to guide any faithful in politics and governance? Were these two principles the basis of the Christianization of Peter Obi’s campaign in churches during the 2023 elections? Certainly not!
26. In Kaduna State, and indeed in all my public service assignments, I am proud to be guided always by the prescriptions of my Islamic faith regarding the discharge of the responsibilities of leadership. From the administration of the BPE to the FCT and the governance of Kaduna State, I am constantly reminded of the writings of the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate closer to home in his Bayan Wujub Al-Hijra that “a society can thrive and prosper submerged in unbelief….but shall go nowhere under the yoke of injustice even in the light of [Islamic] belief.” As Muslims, we are also reminded of the words of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that “None of you will (be a true Muslim) until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” Even in the pre-Jihad era of the latter-day Sokoto Caliphate, the Hausa Kings of Kano, Zazzau and Katsina, among others, were deeply influenced by the works of Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, who wrote then that:
“It is said that Allah allows the just state to remain even if it is led by unbelievers, but Allah will not allow the oppressive state to remain even if it is led by Muslims. And it is said that the world will endure with justice and unbelief, but it will not endure with oppression and Islam.”
How can any Muslim placed in a leadership position be unjust to any person if complying with the foregoing principles?
27. Looking at the Christian and Islamic principles of public leadership, the similarities are clear and unequivocal. Under the inclusive leadership of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and the only Premier of the defunct Northern Region, these became embedded in the code of governance in Northern Nigeria between 1952 and 1966. It was therefore not surprising that Northerners of those days – Muslims and Christians alike – were brought up as part and parcel of this cultural and religious milieu up until the mid-1990s. Some of us remain guided by these principles till today, while sadly, many more have abandoned what essentially defined what it means to be a Northerner – fairness, truthfulness, honesty and keeping one’s words – for generations.
28. Ladies and Gentlemen, the point of my remarks in Kaduna and indeed today is that truly religious-guided leadership is fair to all – whether Christian or Muslim or a combination thereof. We have shown it in Kaduna where no non-Muslim can point to any treatment different from a Muslim residing in our state in terms of implementing policies, programmes and projects. No non-Muslim can point to discrimination in opportunities or political appointments, employment, access to education, healthcare, scholarships or other social services. The Muslim majority will always have its way in democratic contests, while the Christian minority will have its say, and have its rights protected as Kaduna State has shown. I have no fears that the same will happen in Nigeria today and always if we are serious about complying with the leadership prescriptions of our two main monotheistic religions.
29. I am therefore pleased to observe that the much-derided and opposed Tinubu-Shettima APC ticket not only won the presidential elections but has shown within weeks that the Muslim-Muslim presidency is capable of being fair to every one – Muslim and non-Muslim alike. President Asiwaju’s victory has not only silenced the once-loud religious bigots, but his few weeks of governance, policy decisions and the diversity of political appointments has confirmed that he will not be unfair to any ethnic, religious or regional identity. President Tinubu has shown so far that Nigerians should elect tried and tested problem-solvers of whatever religious, ethnic and regional description for righteousness to pervade our nation.
30. For many Muslims, and certainly as far as most Northern Muslims are concerned, the following words of Hammudah Abdalati (Salimiah, Kuwait 1978) reflect our regional attitude as a people, and the outcome of the elections of 2023 confirm that:
“religion is not to bewilder man but to guide him. It is not to debase him but to elevate his moral nature. It is not to deprive him of anything useful, or to burden him, or to oppress his qualities, but to open for him inexhaustible treasures of sound thinking and right action. It is not to confine him to narrow limits, but to launch him into wide horizons of truth and goodness. In short, true religion is to acquaint man with God as well as with himself and the rest of the universe.”
31. Our people overwhelmingly voted for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and across the North preferred him over a Northerner and Muslim – Atiku Abubakar – giving him nearly 64% of the total for the plurality of votes and 25% in virtually all the states. It is my humble view that this North-South electoral interdependency and political integration is a successful template for national politics and economics that will provide Nigerians the policy continuity, political stability and pragmatic leadership needed to propel Nigeria to the attainment of its manifest destiny of being the leader of the Black Race. It is an idea that I believe every patriotic Nigerian and concerned African should key into and support.
32. As I wind down this keynote, let me say it is only fitting therefore that this event organised to mark the retirement of a foremost scholar of religion offers a veritable platform to say these few words about my view of religion and region and their place, in our country. Nigerians are at least ‘on the surface’, a very religious people. Many others are very regional or ethnic in their thinking. I will elaborate on the qualification – ‘on the surface’ – subsequently in these remarks.
33. It therefore seems to me that our obsession with religion is only rivalled by the national fixation on ethnicity. These two markers of identity are pushed with a fervour that relegates or displaces the common bond of our humanity and the imperatives of equal citizenship. Those that are the forefront of advancing these dual agendas merely do so to acquire privilege, power and prosperity without the hard work of acquiring competence and capacity, without undergoing the rigours of electoral competition and without industry and job creation! By pushing these agendas, one can be wealthy, own private jets and live a life of opulence without any identifiable education, experience or business investments!
34. I say “on the surface” not only because of the points made earlier and clearly in these remarks, but when such ‘externally-religious’ people establish businesses, they don’t only employ people from their church or mosque but the best talent from anywhere and of every faith. When they fall ill, they never insist on being treated by a doctor of their faith, but the best available, even if of another faith or none at all. Yet, they wear their religion on their shoulders to persuade us that they will lead based on the guidance of our faiths. It is evident from the foregoing that most of our leaders simply do not practice what their respective religions preach in our daily lives.
35. Without a doubt, there is a jarring dissonance between the ubiquity of religion, the apparent sensitivity to religion, the performance of religious rituals and its glaring absence in informing virtue, promoting good behaviour, upholding law and order, concern for others or dedication to the public good, and equitable leadership. It is as if proclaiming religion is the superior undertaking, not to be confused with having anything to do with living up to its principles, pillars and precepts. Fidelity to religious principles should make an individual an ‘omoluabi’ in Yoruba culture or ‘mutumin kirki’ in Hausa parlance.
36. In my view, the intrusion of religion and region into the public sphere in Nigeria, and their subsequent over-politicisation is bad news for the country. It is divisive, costly and not conducive to national cohesion, unity and progress. Parts of northern Nigeria have, since the late 1980s, witnessed at great cost the worst manifestations of the divisions and conflict that the apparent obsession with religion promotes. In the North, we look with admiration at the absence in the Southwest of these religious and ethnic divides that manifest in communal violence and killings. I urge you to remain the tolerant society you have always been.
37. I am convinced that religion should retreat to the private sphere where it properly belongs. Region and religion should be deployed to unite, promote equity and justice and engender human progress. Faith is a direct relationship between an individual and God. The strength and depth of that faith may so impact a person’s character, values and respect for others that such a person may be recognised as an exemplary individual. Religion is supposed to help us become better human beings but is instead increasingly positioned as a negotiating platform for the acquisition of prosperity, power and privilege. Honest adoption of religious teachings in exercising leadership will remove, not entrench, discrimination and injustice. That is helpful for any society.
38. Should how individuals worship God or an accident of birth and geography be construed as bargaining chips for political power? Should they be deemed as the foremost markers of identity? Should region or religion be the preeminent feature of diversity and therefore the most significant measure of inclusion? I think that is a derogation from the purpose of faith. When construed as an allocation mechanism, religion, either on its own or when allied to ethnicity or region as so often happens, does not advance national unity or cohesion. In place of the modern notions of equality before the law, it creates the specious notion that only someone who worships like you or speaks the same language with you can treat you fairly and justly. Religion or region as bargaining tools fossilise division, turning the joyful tapestry of difference that diversity represents into concrete walls from which people emerge solely for the purpose of taking their share.
39. It is my humble view that after four decades of fixation with religion and region, and the atomisations and divisions attendant to that, we should as a nation, return to worshipping God in private and let our merits as individual citizens recommend us for elections and appointments. It is time for us as a people and nation to begin a conscious sprint way from this toxic mix that has so far not served us well. The election of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed and the woeful failure of Peter Obi present opportunities for this retracing of wrong steps and a renewed effort at nation-building.
40. In addition, I believe strongly that the election of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the president of Nigeria has been an opportunity to destroy many myths. First, it has ended the widely-held narrative in the South that the so-called northern oligarchy will hold on to power at all costs, disregard any commitments and deceive any political partners. Second, Tinubu’s ascendance and Peter Obi’s rejection to third place in the 2023 election demystified fake polls and ethnic pundits, and fully demolished the falsehood that religionising any national political contest by campaigning in places of worship and in tribal enclaves will lead to electoral success. Third, it has restored the long-held belief that northern politicians are trusted to keep their words and stand for fairness to all Nigerians, whether written or not. Fourthly, the myth that the elected president of Nigeria from the South must be a Christian, which effectively disenfranchises all Muslims from the South-West, South-East and South-South has been conclusively settled. Now we can say that the election of Chief Moshood Abiola of blessed memory was not a fluke, an aberration and some phenomenon that is impossible to replicate. We have replicated it in a three-way contest in 2023! Finally, President Tinubu has surprised all the pessimists by starting on a sound footing, guided by true Islamic principles of leadership – putting Nigeria first by appointing generally competent people with minimal regard to region or religion. That is what fairness and justice demands.
41. I am not surprised that those that opposed President Tinubu’s presidential aspiration on grounds of being a Muslim, and/or because of the choice of his running mate, have gone totally silent and failed to commend him for appointing many more non-Muslims into his government than they expected so far! As is usual for most of us, as distinct from the loudest bigots, our preference is to see competent people of any religion than just any incompetent Muslim! Let us therefore persist in praying for President Tinubu to make us proud first as Muslims, by continuing to govern along the Islamic path of fairness, justice and progress for all. Let all our brothers in South-West pray for him to make you all proud as well. As Northerners, we are often blamed for the failings of past military and civilian leaders from the North due to no fault of ours. We pray that this will not be your portion. As Nigerians, let us not only pray for President Tinubu to succeed beyond our expectations, but trust and allow him the freedom to choose his governance team without undue regional, religious and ethnic pressure. Let us also learn the lessons and failures of the 2023 election season to better plan for future political dispensations and focused nation-building.
42. Let me conclude by once again congratulating you, my brother Professor Ishaq Akintola. As you launch your biography today, I join everyone here and elsewhere to wish you long life, happiness and prosperity. May the rest of your life be the best of your life. You have done very well in all your professional, academic and civil rights roles, so far.
43. My dear Prof, we expect you to continue your activism in retirement. There is work to be done in promoting Islam and our values. There will still be some unreasonable religious bigots that must be responded to. Please never be quiet when an Islamic voice is needed, and remain the activist that you are. I must say I don’t agree with you and MURIC on all issues all the time, but yours is that voice that needs to be heard from time to time if we must build a nation where no religion and certainly no man (or woman) is oppressed.
Thanks for inviting me, and to you all for listening.
God Bless Professor Akintola.
God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, OFR, CON
Lagos, July 9, 2023