NIGERIA: Buhari’s Bow Tie Sparks Religious Debate

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 The bow tie worn by the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, in recent campaign photographs may have raised worries over the retired general’s religious views, a diplomat has told THISDAY.

Buhari had last week met with Catholic Bishops in Abuja. At the meeting, the APC candidate allayed fears of an agenda to Islamise Nigeria, if elected president, describing the allegations of extremism levelled against him as baseless.

However, a diplomat from one of the Arab-speaking countries told THISDAY that the  decision of the APC candidate  to wear a bow tie may be a reflection of his strong Islamic beliefs.

Spokesman for the Buhari Campaign Organisation, Mallam Garba Shehu, however, said there was nothing unusual with the bow tie. He was quick to add that the photograph was taken long before he became Buhari’s media manager and therefore could not comment on why a bow tie was chosen.

He promised to “cross check and get back.”

Elaborating on the photograph, the diplomat said, “I don’t know why (he) Buhari chose a bow tie. But we know that radical Muslims don’t wear neck ties out of the belief that it is Haram (sin).

“Such Muslims believe that the neck tie looks like a cross, which Christians consider the most important spiritual symbol of their faith, reason they don’t wear it.

“However, when it becomes absolutely necessary to wear a tie, such Muslims simply go for bow ties,” said the envoy.

The diplomat who didn’t want his name in print, was quick to add that millions of  Muslims around the world, including himself, wear neck ties, “not minding the religious theories surrounding its origin.”

He said, “We  have great Muslim professionals like lawyers, bankers and security operatives who wear neck ties.”

Buhari had in 2002 reportedly urged Muslims to vote for only Muslim candidates. The report had portrayed the retired general as a fundamentalist, an impression he has been fighting hard to change.

The APC candidate has been accused by rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of harbouring a religious agenda. PDP has also accused APC of supporting the terrorist organisation Boko Haram.

THISDAY gathered that one of the strategies adopted by Buhari’s handlers to woo Christian voters, particularly in the South-east and South-south was to capture him in a suit and tie.

The handlers also released another campaign photograph of the retired general in traditional Igbo attire, apparently to appeal to the Igbo who have a block vote in the five South-east states.

The campaign photographs had Buhari and his running mate Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in suit.

In the photograph, Buhari was decked in black suit, a white shirt, a black bow tie and a pair of designer glasses. Osinbajo, a professor of law, had a black suit on, a white shirt, and a dotted red tie.

This is the first time Buhari, who ran for the presidency in 2003, 2007 and 2011, would brand himself in suit and tie.

In the three previous elections, the 72-year old retired general used baban riga (flowing robes) and cap for his campaign posters.

However, according to the diplomat,  Buhari’s preference for a bow tie to a neck tie may have backfired.

He pointed to the United States where  members of the islamic religious movement, Nation of Islam (NOI), do not wear neck ties.

Such NOI members, he said, include former world boxing champion Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X and NOI leader and world famous Islamic preacher, Loius Farrakhan.

THISDAY checks revealed that some Christians prefer bow ties over neck ties as a matter of style. For radical muslims, however, said the diplomat, “it is a matter of faith versus fashion.”

The diplomat claimed that Buhari may have settled for a bow tie “to strike a balance between achieving some degree of acceptance among Christians and not offending the religious sensibilities of certain category of muslims.”

He said, “Look at the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), (Sanusi Lamido Sanusi), before his appointment as the Emir of Kano, he (Sanusi) was a professional banker but never wore a neck tie.

“Due to Sanusi’s strict Islamic upbringing and education, he had to always make do with bow ties,” claimed the diplomat.

He told THISDAY that Shitte muslims don’t wear neck ties for religious and ideological reasons. Iran is home of Shitte muslims.

“After the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran overthrew the monarchy, the country’s new spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeni, banned neck and bow ties.

“Till date, most Iranians, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wear suits but leave the collars of their shirts open,” he declared.

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