By Jude Eze
No counter argument was more baseless on the road to 2023 general election than the “religion shouldn’t matter” shenanigans by APC and Tinubu supporters.
Pardon me for using separately, two words that should be synonymous. Ordinarily, whoever is supporting APC is a Tinubu supporter. But it is not so in today’s reality of the ruling party. Their insensitivity to the countenance of millions of Nigerian Christians that made them allow (or pressure) their Muslim flag bearer choose another Muslim as running mate has sharply divided the party into two lateral halves. In APC at the moment, there exists two camps separated by gulf of contrasting interests — the northern Christian caucus with their Muslim sympathizers, and the rest.
This group has the likes of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and former Speaker House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, as their leaders. They’re APC members, but not supporters of Tinubu’s presidential aspiration, since he spitefully picked a Muslim-Muslim ticket citing ‘competence’ as the criterion. They were at Port Harcourt the other day to woo Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers for an unidentified or unmentioned motives.
This again was an eloquent proof that religion matters. At least in the life of an average African. As a billionaire owner of mega media organisations in both print and broadcast sectors, Tinubu may feel no qualms, knowing his lackey fawners (who are apostles of “religion shouldn’t matter”) are doing their jobs, but he may just be sitting on a keg of gun powder.
The truth is that we all wish to live and inhabit that idealistic society where tribal and religious sentiments should not be criteria for measuring competence for political offices. But for now, that era has not arrived, and we have to accept the reality that it hasn’t.
Three weeks ago, while musing on the topic: “Women’s religion and marriage choices: the meeting and diverging points,” we established a premise that: “over the years, natural scientists had insisted that our body is 60% water, and so had social anthropologists been establishing that religion influences over 60% of our actions and idiosyncrasies.
“The same way, social scientists teach that man is homo-politico (political being), anthropologists add that Man is also homo-religiosus (he is inborn religionist).
“Consequently, religious convictions, without appeal to any particular sex, inform people’s daily choices. And the choice of who becomes their spouses is not exempted in this respect. Inadvertently, it expresses itself, in the decisions of, to whom we commit our future as spouse.”
Religion has so much a-fleshed men that even America, which many in this part of the world believe represents an corporeal departure from everything divine has as its motto “In God We Trust.” This motto was signed into law in a 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. And as recently as 2011, their House of Representatives again, voted 396 to 9 to reaffirm it.
Just about ten days ago, our own Toby Amusan, in stout exhibition of the Nigerian spirit, became not just world champion in female 100 metres huddle, but also a record holder as 12:06 seconds finisher. After the ceremony that marked her decoration with the medal, she granted a three-minute interview to Anderson Emerole. Within such short interview session, she mentioned God three times, dedicating her triumph to Him and her pastor — Bishop Oyedepo.
Ese Brume, the long jump silver medalist did same.
Religion truly matters. If it doesn’t, sharia wouldn’t have featured conspicuously as it did in the 1999 Constitution. Even in 2013, when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo wrote his letter to then President Jonathan, he mentioned God thirteen record times!
So last week, Mr. Peter Obi of Labour party, alongside former PDP presidential aspirant and Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, as well as first lady of Delta State, were invited to the Mid-year service of Dunamis International Gospel Church by its founder, Dr. Paul Enenche. His wife introduced all the dignitaries, and they were applauded. But the moment she mentioned “Mr. Peter Obi,” the congregation gave a prolonged standing ovation!
And as the video trended, many, clothed in the apparels of detractors jeered at his supporters saying he is playing the religious card! Fair weather analysts like Enenche Enenche and social media urchins like Deji Adeyanju have started berating the church for this.
On June 23, Mr. Peter Obi, on invitation, was at the Assumpta Cathedral Owerri for the installation of Archbishop Lucius Ugorji. Gov. Hope Uzodimma was there too. When the Bishop mounted the lectern for the rite of homily, he acknowledged the presence of dignitaries who honoured the invitation. But as he mentioned “Mr. Peter Obi,” the entire nave went wild in jubilation. The archbishop had to beg the congregation to remember that the purpose of their gathering was for bishopric installation and not swearing-in ceremony of 2023 presidential candidate of the Labour Party.
The religious card is actually played by nobody in this instance. It is beyond Peter Obi to stop integrally bruised Nigerians both in the church or marketplaces from expressing their joyful hope for a better Nigeria under his presidency.
Why wasn’t Buhari and APC accused of playing the religious card when they sent high-powered emissaries to Fr. Mbaka’s adoration crusade ground to extract favourable ‘prophecy’ and buy supports ahead of their 2019 re-election bid?
Between September 11 and 12 1999, a national conference on the 1999 Constitution was held at the Arewa House, Kaduna. In a paper presentation at the occasion, former CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said that Nigeria is not a secular state, and must not be considered so. He boldly made the following submissions: “the Islamic faith has never accepted the dichotomy between Religion and Politics. Political life for a Muslim is guided by Sharia and in all those aspects of law where an explicit religious injunction exists, a Muslim expects this to be held as valid above any other law.
“To ask Muslims to abandon Sharia in the name of a Secular Nigeria is to give them an unjust choice. The matter is not one of being either Muslim or Nigerian when they can be both Muslim and Nigerian. The attempt to turn Nigeria into a Secular State seeks the erosion of Muslim identity and history. This will continue to be a source of conflict as Muslims will always resist it, with justification. Nigeria is a multi-religious state which should, however, ensure that no religion is given preference over others.”
Till date, no one had accused Sanusi of playing the religious card in a national constitution review conference. But all incisors and canines were sharpened against Peter Obi over his invitation to a church function.
Even Tinubu as far back as April 22, this year, was reported by national dailies to have attended Friday Juma’at at Abuja, and wooed worshipers.
According to Fr Kevin Oselumhense Anetor in his Facebook handle: “common sense tells us not to play the religious card. They say it’s not about religion. They say it’s about the person. However, it is undisputed that religion shapes the person. If properly taught, properly received, and properly understood, religion transforms the person.”
Six days ago, a BBNAIJA housemate, Eloswag adorned a hoodie with inscription: “Obedient and useful.” It sparked a trending social media frenzy from the “OBI-dients”. Both the Atikulated and BATified camps cautioned the organisers of the reality TV show to sanction such subtle use of the platform for political campaigns. But before their appeal could get to the roof, the multitudes of Obi’s followers have offered prayers of canonization to heaven for the housemate.
Perhaps Peter Obi’s noticeable visits to churches of late is a proportionate response to the assertion by former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, who in an exclusive interview with Arise TV said that it will take a “miracle” for Peter Obi to win the Presidential election. Obi must have taken his words seriously, and has been on church roll in search of that miracle.
Jude Eze sent this piece from [email protected]