The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, on Wednesday met with officials of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the umbrella body of Christians in Nigeria.
Asiwaju Tinubu met with the leadership of CAN at their national secretariat in Abuja, where the group presented its demands to him.
The APC presidential candidate attended the meeting alongside his wife, Oluremi Tinubu, running mate, Kashim Shettima, House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, Governors Hope Uzodinnma (Imo), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), and Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq (Kwara).
Others are Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Boroffice, Senate Chief Whip, Orji Kalu, and the Minister of Special Duties, George Akume.
In a statement by the media team of APC Presidential Campaign Council, the President of CAN, Daniel Ukoh, presented a charter of demands to the presidential candidate.
“They demanded among others state police or a decentralised policing system, devolution of power to states, equal rights for all religions and their adherents, right to self-determination by all ethnic groups, right to control natural resources by communities that bear them, no to open grazing, and equitable electoral system that guarantees the right to vote and be voted for by all,” the statement said.
However, the former Lagos State governor opted to tap Kashim Shettima, a Muslim from Borno State, as his running mate.
Mr Tinubu justified the choice of Mr Shettima, saying it was because of his competence.
Since the announcement of Mr Shettima as the APC vice presidential candidate, some northern Christian leaders of the party have openly expressed opposition to the ticket.
Some of them are a former Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and the senator representing Adamawa North, Elisha Abbo.
In his speech, the former Lagos State governor explained that picking a Christian running mate would have been politically easy, but that he needed Mr Shettima to help him run government.
“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.
“He is a brilliant man with superior intellectual capacity. He is studious and detail oriented. Enjoying excellent organisation skills, Shettima fully understands the vital difference between governance and politics,” he said.
He assured the clerics of his commitment to secular government and not to run a religiously biased administration.
“My belief in the need for secular government and faith-based organisations to work in unison is not something adopted recently to benefit my campaign.
“As Governor of Lagos, I partnered with the Christians 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,” he said.
He informed the leadership of CAN that it would be a recipe for disaster for any administration to embark on discrimination in a diverse country like Nigeria.
“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,” he said.
Speaking on his manifesto, Mr Tinubu informed the audience that he is going to remove the fuel subsidy because it is no longer productive.
“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 economy 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,” he said.
In his speech, the CAN President said the First Republic failed because the colonial powers failed to integrate the diverse people of Nigeria.
He stressed the need for the Nigerian state to remove all discriminatory policies that cause dissatisfaction among citizens.