The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has cautioned Vice President Kashim Shettima against the “imposition” of the senate president on the national assembly.
Shettima has been canvassing support for the candidates nominated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 10th national assembly leadership positions.
On Sunday, Shettima announced that Muktar Betara and Yusuf Gagdi, speakership hopefuls of the house of representatives, had agreed to drop their bids for Tajudeen Abbas, the preferred candidate of the party.
Godswill Akpabio, the APC’s anointed candidate for the senate presidency, is facing stiff opposition from other aspirants.
The vice president had repeatedly asked other hopefuls in the race to step down for Akpabio.
On Sunday night, Shettima was quoted as saying that the most incompetent southern Christian is better than the most puritanical northern Muslim for the senate presidency.
However, in a statement issued on Monday, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, NEF spokesperson, said Shettima’s remarks were “most unbecoming and irresponsible”.
“The Northern Elders Forum has cautioned the President Tinubu administration on many occasions to respect the rights and privileges of elected members of the legislature to choose their leaders and to conduct its campaign for its preferences with sensitivity and decorum,” the statement reads.
Baba-Ahmed said Shetimma’s comments “deepens the worrying position of religious faith as a fault line in our politics today and denigrates the place of an important value such as faith in the conduct of elected leaders whether they are Muslims or Christians”.
“The suggestion that poor faith and incompetence can be preferred to piety and competence when it suits political interests sends damaging signals to a nation desperate for good leadership,” he said.
“A statement of this nature coming from a northern Muslim who has earned his respect in the course of his political career is most unfortunate.
“The suggestion that the piety of leaders could be sacrificed for political exigences offends a nation of Christians and Muslims who watch as leaders swear by the Qur’an and the Bible to protect the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.”
The NEF said the vice president has done himself, his faith and his standing a “great injury with his comments” and that he should find appropriate opportunities to assure Nigerians that the Tinubu administration will “respect sensitive values that define us as Nigerians”.
“It is instructive that leaders who rode on the back of faith now turn around to advise that it is of no significance where their interests are at stake,” the forum said.
The forum asked Tinubu’s administration to respect the rights of the legislature to operate independently and allow legislators a free hand to choose their leaders.
“It is the desperation to determine leaders of the legislature that is responsible for damaging gaffes such as the nation just heard from our vice president and it may not be the last damage that can be caused to our democracy and national cohesion,” the forum added.