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The Question of Religion and Ethnicity in our Politics

The Question of Religion and Ethnicity in our Politic

Religious leaders these days are not helping the growth of unity in Nigeria going by their public preaching, greed, sycophancy, body language, behavior and antecedents.

Of recent, religious difference was smuggled more into politics in the case of the just concluded presidential and national assembly elections. That may not be the first time such sentiment surfaced in our politics that is seriously retarding our progress and affecting good governance, unity and confidence. Religion has unfortunately been carried to the highest level of decision making in our political and governing system. There lies a big problem.

Nigeria is few days away from witnessing a change of baton, but the campaign leading up to it is serving as a reminder of the sharp Muslim-Christian divide in the country.

The importance of that divide is well illustrated by the fact that religion——not nationality———is the way in which most Nigerians choose to identify themselves not minding the negative effect on unity and good governance.

Religion and religious conflict have long been part of Nigerian politics and public life. This explains the reason every political process in Nigeria is seriously influenced by religious prejudice; the civil service, appointment to important positions in government, and the entire body politic of the nation has religious undertone.

Consequently, as tensions rises ahead of the May 29th inauguration, the budding politico-religious culture in politics becomes more glaring.

Though Nigeria is said to be a secular state where religious communities have no recognized role in politics or governance and no formal relation to the state, tension between Muslims and Christians has become a consistent feature in the politics of Nigeria.

This phenomenon of religious politics is an obvious one because religion often determines the choice of flag bearer/running mate for elective posts, especially for the presidency and some state governors. This is done to ensure that the interest of adherents of a particular religion is protected and defended for a reason not clear.

Voting and campaign are usually based on religious sentiments and ethnicity in most cases. In this case, religion and ethnicity are used to either canvass support for a candidate or dissuade the electorate from supporting a candidate no matter his/her quality. In some cases, hypocrisy is blended with regional difference to defeat a candidate despite his/her quality.

Underlying these sharp divergent desires is the deep distrust each group feel towards the other. On February 25, Nigerians were at the polls to cast their votes for the successor to outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the Northwest geo-political zone of the country of Fulani extraction who served for eight years and those members of the national assembly that have exhausted their constitutional tenure subject to re-election as the case was.

The clamor within the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) for power shift to another geo-political zone for possibility of a Christian candidate to succeed Muhammadu Buhari or at worst a vice-presidential slot was an issue that created tension and animosity within the party not minding the consequences involved against national interest.

However, the question is: does Nigeria really need a ‘Christian or Muslim’ as president to attain our developmental desires or any qualified patriotic Nigerian no matter his religious, tribal inclination or geo-political zone?

This question is coming against the backdrop that we have had two ‘Christians’ and two ‘Muslims’ presidents from the Southwest, South- south and Northwest since the return of the democracy in 1999 and two ‘Christians’ and two ‘Muslims’ vice presidents from Northeast, South-south, Northwest and Southwest, yet we are regarded as the poverty capital of the world with high rate of corrupt practices and looting of public resources despite our claimed religious affiliations that can be described as pretentious and hypocritical in every sense. Why not we try a Pagan or an Atheist for possible change of the narrative since religion is now part of our political calculation?

Under ‘Christian’ Olusegun Obasanjo, corruption was deliberately allowed to flourish and shielded by state power. Aides and ministers accused of corrupt practices were either protected against arrest and prosecution or allowed to stay in their respective positions with clean bill of health for business as usual.

The administration of ‘Christian’ Goodluck Jonathan went early to bed while the insurgent group, Boko Haram ran amok, killing and maiming thousands and capturing our territories as large as the entire land mass of Belgium in its bid to create a dream Islamic Caliphate for their types. The former president only acted decisively when it became clear that the insurgency would cost him his return for a second term which it partly did.

Now, look at the ongoing mess bedeviling the presidency of a Muslim, Muhammadu Buhari who was erroneously rated as an upright leader that hated corrupt practices. Ironically, corruption is now fashionable under the watch of Mr. Right with the corrupt having even the guts and temerity to wage open and silent wars against whistle blowers with the support of compromised greedy security agents. National lawmakers that are ordinarily expected to checkmate the excesses of the executive are allegedly more corrupt than corruption itself. They are in a rat race for illegal wealth accumulation and ostentatious living styles and still claiming to be Muslims and Christians while existing on illegal wealth that deprives the original owners from enjoying.

The judicial arm of government is not better. It now trades in favorable judgments for the highest bidder hiding under several technicalities and gorilla styles of judgment while our security system is more active on providing security to thieves in government than to the ordinary people including their parents languishing in abject poverty and malnutrition in remote villages and shanties.

May be, our leaders have either redefined what the religions of Islam and Christianity entail or are fully prepared for the wrath of their dubiousness from the Creator they always claim to worship.

Since 1999 to date, Nigeria has tasted the combustible consequences when politics is focused on religious faith. Both Muslim and Christian politicians have honestly failed as leaders since they cannot blend politics with religious values. Hence, the solution to the enormous problems bedeviling us as a nation is not to enthrone a (quasi-) theocratic state.

Nigeria as a nation is religiously pluralistic. In spite of this, Nigeria is a secular state as claimed. Unfortunately, the secularity is threatened by religious bigots who manipulate religion, using it as a potent factor to exert a powerful influence on the nation’s public life.

Leadership is about managing people and resources and not about being a perfect or virtuous man or woman as some religious leaders portrays their candidates.

Therefore, as Nigeria is gradually moving towards another brand new administration, it behoves us to gird our loins; that a particular candidate is a Christian or a Muslim should not determine our trust and confidence. Instead, credibility—strength of their policies and the quality they can provide-should determine who gets our support. If we do that, we shall have a happy and prosperous country that we can all be proud to have. But the present exiting leadership at the centre, states and local governments are best for the dustbin of history. What we have presently are the Yahoo Yahoo and bandits as politicians that engage professional liars and deceivers to market them for support and trust.

Prior to the concluded general elections, some mean politicians printed deceitful loan forms for ‘FREE’ distribution to the ignorant as was the case in Bauchi and some states from the Federal Ministry for Disaster Management in anticipation of votes for a particular gubernatorial candidates before accessing the non-existent loan. Dishing out of fake appointment letters in some cases as political aides to those ignorant of the trick and several other deployed deceitful mechanisms just to have votes for either return to business or to access an elective office.

Take a critical look on how we survive as people under insurgency, banditry activities, high cost of living, collapsed infrastructure, high unemployment, protected corrupt practices and above all, cluelessness and ineptitude combined. Nigeria is a failed state in the hands of its Muslim and Christian undertakers living in pretence. But Allah de!

Lest I forget, may I congratulate all those outgoing State Governors and former governors who contested for senatorial seats in the February 25th election but received defeat as their ‘winning’ votes for job well done because, the very people they once governed, underdeveloped and shortchanged, have retired them possibly from political circulation anymore. They should better read the writing on the wall to understand what it means to have been consigned to the dust bin for good governance to flourish. It was really a good riddance as we march forward to better days!

On a final note, it is now crystal clear that the president-elect and leaders of his party, APC are determined to impose their stooges on the 10th National Assembly against decorum. Majority of those concerned have already visited their armories for the June 13th battle to finish. The people are loudly saying: “Sen. AbdulAzeez Yari is our next Senate President and Rt.Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase is our chosen Speaker”. My position is based on facts. The Northen Region delivered 63.7 percent of the total winning votes of APC while the Western, Eastern and Midwestern Regions contributed the balance of 37 percent. Why the North not dictate where the pendulum should swing? We are watching the unfolding drama with interest!

Muhammad is a commentator on national issues

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