Caveat: while acknowledging the multi-religiosity of Nigeria, this piece draws examples largely from Christianity, for this is the religion the writer is most familiar with and it will be a disservice to other religions attempting to speak with authority or certainty on matters he knows next-to-nothing about.
In 1843, the German economist, Karl Marx must have been ‘divinely’ inspired to say that “religion is the opium of the people” or how else will you explain that one hundred and seventy one years later, that statement is still very much valid especially in Nigeria. Not in agreement with this submission? Do a quick scan right now and depending on your area, see how many churches, mosques and perhaps traditional homes (this is the twenty first century, overtly built hurts and shrines do not seem appealing) you can count.
Nigerians are hypocritically religious or how else will you explain the prevalence of so many religious people (who supposedly should be good people) in government, public institutions, civil service and politics and yet because of their actions and inactions, Nigeria is still the way it is; backward, poor, pitiable and dying but thankfully and by God’s grace, not dead yet. Some religious people would scold me right now for speaking ill of Nigeria and describing her negatively. Another proof that we are a people high on the opium called religion. Little wonder those governing and the governed are never objective and sensible when it comes to matters of national importance like the quality of governance and the kind of leaders to elect. After all, when you are high on opium, you don’t see things they way other sane people see things.
Among several other side effects of opium are diminished mental capabilities and confusion. These two side effects particularly caught my attention because they are indicative of what shapes our sentiments towards governance and the reception or rejection of potential leaders at the poll. The two leading parties in the 2015 presidential election are the PDP and APC with the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) the flag bearers respectively. Also leading to the emergence of Prof. Osinbajo as Buhari’s running mate was suspense and permutations by Nigerians trying to ‘balance’ the APC team with a Christian running mate. The PDP have also complied with the religious propriety we have collectively bestowed and burdened the political parties with – a Christian/Muslim or Muslim/Christian arrangement. I do not blame the political parties for dancing to our tunes, necessity behoves it to act out a script we have written for them. A script they know too well that over 65 million script writers (voters) produced with the influence of opium and expectedly, they have acted out the script with great caution and precision too, after all, in dealing with a ‘high’ person, one needs to be cautions and precise to avoid any backlash in the moment of frenzy and I tell you, opium produces one of the greatest frenzies. Let us keep in mind that I am not talking from hands-on experience but from ‘google experience’. Having made that clear, let us get back to the matter and examine how we, as voters under the influence of religious opium constantly shoot ourselves in the leg.
What if Sambo is a Christain and Osinbajo a Muslim? For the PDP, this means that in the last election and in the recently conducted PDP primaries or ‘adoption meeting’, President Jonathan would have had no choice but to pick another running mate regardless of whether Sambo is good for the job or not.
For the APC, it would have deprived them of having someone with an impressive CV and potential for good performance to be the running mate to Buhari. Other potential candidates like governor Fashola would have had no chance at all, no matter how slim in the light of our religious sentiments. It does appear to me that the provision in our constitution that allows freedom of religion is but a mere fanciful sentence when it comes to the election of our leaders. Religion constricts them, thanks to all of us or maybe most of us.
I have heard several arguments for and against both presidential candidates of PDP and APC regarding their religion and how it will best advance Nigeria or otherwise. Surprisingly, these arguments are from ordinarily very bright minds but when infected with the opium of religion, confusion and stupidity sets in. I will now attempt to examine the two candidates based on their religion after all I am a religious Nigerian too but somehow, the opium has not succeeded in getting me high or so I think.
BUHARI AS A MUSLIM
The religious fellow Nigerians against the candidacy of this man say that he is a Muslm, he supports sharia and he will Islamize Nigeria if elected.
Hypocritical people let me remind you of two men in the bible; King Cyrus and King Artaxexes. Cyrus was a pagan king but was used by God to achieve a divine purpose, in fact, the bible says that God anointed him so that he would rebuild the temple and that he did. He was not a Jew, he did not believe in the God of the Jews but yet he fulfilled a divine purpose.
Artaxexes was also used by God to give Nehemiah all the support needed to rebuild the wall of Jeruralem broken and destroyed by the same king. How ironic! This man also did not believe in the God of the Jews. So ask yourselves o ye people high on opium, has God changed? Can he still use Buhari to advance Nigeria regardless of his religion? Most of Europe today has become very secular and their leaders too, yes we can argue that they had solid spiritual foundations but in the present context of secularism, don’t they still govern well regardless of their ‘godlessness’. Shouldn’t this tell us that there is more to leadership than religion?
On the flip side, what if it is true that Buhari has those intentions? Instead of misusing your opium-contaminated minds and mouths to conceive and say stupid arguments, can’t you go to God like Elijah did and cut off wickedness like he did to the house of Ahab, Jezebel and the prophets of Baal. Your knees, your mouths and your cries to God for a better Nigeria (please note that I said prayer for a better Nigeria and not imprecatory based on your personal hatred and ill-conceived sentiments) and a good leader will ensure that God, the always fair umpire will not allow that to happen in a multi-religious country. I am so sure because God is so powerful that he stopped a moving donkey conveying a prophet on a mission to harm his people (and Nigerians are his people or how else would you explain why we are still intact as a nation?). He is still the same God; he will stop and very ruthlessly too, anyone that tries to harm his people. Ask the General ‘whom the cap fits’ if you see him.
Before I move to President Jonathan, let me also remind you of what the bible says; that all power belongs to God and the most high gives rulership to whomsoever he will. Not even our sentiments can influence that. Period!
PRESIDENT JONATHAN AS A CHRISTIAN
To the religious fellow Nigerians against the candidacy of this man that say that he is a Christian, he does not support the cause of Islam, he is no good but an infidel and therefore he should not be voted, the same logic of King Cyrus and Artaxexes applies here, cry all you want, God will use anyone or anything to achieve his purpose regardless of his religion so you can do well to stop spreading falsehood, religious intolerance and hate in your sermons during Jumat prayers and fora where young, gullible and naïve minds are gathered to hear your ‘respected’ opinions. Please spare us another religious crisis pre and post election. ‘You hear’?
To the religious fellow Nigerians that support the candidacy of Jonathan just because he is a Christian, you are very shallow minded. Before I continue, maybe I should let you know that by the Nigerian religiosity metric you can’t be more religious, devout and christianly than I am. As a matter of fact, I travel every Sunday and vigil Fridays out of my state to worship in my God-ordained church and happily too! Back to the matter, I, like a lot of Nigerians strongly believe that the emergence of Jonathan as the president of Nigeria has divine signature written all over it. I also believe that 2011 was president Jonathan’s time. Everything just worked together for his good. While you can nod and clap to this submission, what you are not permitted to do is to think that because divinity was involved and supported Jonathan in 2011, it automatically translates to endorsement for 2015 by divine powers.
Let me take to you back again to the scriptures, King Saul was handpicked by God, everything worked together for him, he was taller than all the men in Israel, though he was from the least family and from the least tribe in Israel, what we like to call the minority ethnic group in Nigeria, his appearance was appealing and to crown it all, Samuel the respected prophet anointed him King. What endorsement can be greater than that? Fast forward to a few years after, God said “it repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king…” based on his actions and inactions. Not too long after that, God also reaffirmed what he said earlier to Samuel “how long will thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel”. From the foregoing, we can learn a lesson or two that God is not static or unrepentantly rigid. This is not the same as his unchangeable attribute as regarding his personality but rather his decisions. This is why God can be angry this moment with an erring child and be pleased the next moment with him following repentance.
These past years of president Jonathan’s rule, his actions and inactions will determine if he will get a pass mark from God through your PVC and the ballot boxes to extend his rulership and not whether he is a Christian or not. Let that sink into your opium filled Medulla Oblongata o ye blindly religious fellow citizens whose only criterion for re-electing the incumbent is his religion.
Let me ask you to be reflective and honest for a moment; think back, think deep, the ones who have hurt you most, disappointed you most and robbed you most, are they not the ‘religious ones’? Whether Christians or Muslims. You remember that brother or sister in your church/fellowship or that fellow faithful in your mosque, how he leveraged on religion and your naivety to dupe you, slander you and sometimes even tried to kill you. That’s the same experience you will have in the next four years following 2015 elections if you vote based on religious sentiments.
Religion can easily be used as a sanctimonious façade to perpetuate the most evil, sanction incompetence and entrench corruption. You and I are the ones depriving ourselves of quality leadership and quality choices at the polls through our frivolous expectation of the religious affiliation of the contestants as if that is what will fix power, guarantee security, give access to quality education, infrastructural development, stem corruption and guarantee you and your neighbours at least the first three steps in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Nigerians, the ball is in your court.
BY ABAYOMI G. OMOTAYO
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