Vice President Kashim Shettima has said he was taken out of context by newspapers when they reported that he placed the worst Southern Christian above the best Northern Muslim in Nigeria.
Shettima was said to have made the statement while advocating for a southerner to become the President of the 10th Senate.
Olusola Abiola, Director of Information, Office of the Vice President, in a statement, said the Vice President’s statement was misconstrued to lower the chances of Muslim candidates in the contest for the Senate Presidency.
The statement reads, “During an interactive session with senators campaigning for the emergence of Senator Godswill Akpabio and Senator Barau Jibrin to lead the 10th Senate, yesterday, 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 fairest balance to promote inclusivity at the centre.
“Vice President Kashim 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.
“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 minimize 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.
“What Shettima advocated during the meeting was 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.
“Vice President Kashim Shettima’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.
“At the time of the Vice President’s remarks, approximately three contenders for the Speakership race had withdrawn their candidacy to support the candidate from the North-West.
“This well-considered balancing strategy aimed to mitigate the potential for crisis within the country, particularly by those anticipating the domination of leadership from the same religious faith in all branches of Government as a signal.
“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.
“The VP wishes to distance himself from the wrong & 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.
“This weaponization of our divisions is why the Vice President appeals for inclusivity to prevent any agenda designed to undermine the new Government and Nigeria as a whole.
“Before the media interface, the Vice President became aware that some entities and individuals 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.
“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 covert intent of their actions is evident to astute observers of our politics. This is the dimension to which our politics has descended, a dimension that does not align with President Tinubu’s and the APC’s vision of a Nigeria for all, which is the promise that propelled this Government to power even when some interest groups attempted to mischaracterize the APC ticket.
“The senators who met with the Vice President are known as the Stability Group, a group of 77 patriots who have signed up for the Akpabio/Barau ticket and believe the pair would represent the interests of the nation and the party.
“The group is neither an ethnic nor religious group but a collection of well-intentioned senators with a convincing solution to Nigeria’s stability dilemma, as their name implies.
“The Vice President remains grateful to the media outlets that have seen through the mischaracterization and have been able to provide context to those who missed it.
“We are at a critical point in our nation and cannot afford to lose our focus because of mischief-makers obsessed with starting a fire where there is none. Vice President remains grateful to those who have read beyond newspaper clickbait and those who have given him the benefit of the doubt and remain allies for the betterment of the country.”