It is said that man is both a physical and a spiritual being. In this bodily framework, he is aware of the need to prepare for the hereafter. He believes that if he wants to escape the punishment of his evil ways in this life in the hereafter, he must cleanse himself of all forms of wrongdoing. The strength of religion is mainly derived from moral strength.
More than 13 world religions, including Christianity and Islam, are founded on the need to “do unto others as you want others to do unto you.” If this earthly life is to serve as a simulation of what is to come; second, those who believe in the concept of a divine power reigning over the affairs of men are aware that religion derives its relevance from doing good, justice and equity for all.
The relevance of religion has always been assessed from various perspectives. The theory of evolution as proposed by Charles Darwin has often opposed eternally immutable creation by divine force, as evidenced by some religions. In a word ruled by the powerful, commoners often embraced religion as a consolation for the afterlife. The Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca once said, “Religion is considered by the people to be true, by the wise to be false, and by the rulers to be useful.”
It is for the strict ‘useful’ content of religion that politicians in Nigeria have found in religion a diversionary tool to deepen our loopholes for their personal gain. In the wake of the Muslim-Muslim ticket adopted by the All Progressives Congress (APC), analysts, including some Christians, have rationalized the same-faith ticket. While some were quick to recall the past when the same-faith arrangement prevailed, especially during the Gowon era, they simply forgot that the military era was not a democratic government.
These analysts also reminded us that in 1993 the same faith ticket beat the Tofa/Ugoh ticket. Curiously, they forget to tell us what happened to the unfortunate note. Memorabilia from this June 12 episode is the GCON award given to Chief MKO Abiola’s surviving running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, who was known to have given up on the fight. The truth is this: 1993 will not be the same as 2023. The issues that defined the emergence of the same-faith ticket are not the same.
The main objective in 1993 was to end military rule in Nigeria. Amid deep mistrust over allegations of religious killings in Nigeria, enthroning the ticket of the same faith may provide oxygen for a final hell because of religion. The manipulation of ethnic and religious sentiments remains a serious threat that we need to save our nation from the slippery slope of national catastrophe.
More than ever, the terrifying havoc unleashed on citizens by groups opposed to the secular Nigerian state must be addressed if fears of religious domination are to be eradicated. When a government appoints more than 70% of people of the same faith and from the same region to head its security organizations; it becomes clear that there is cause for concern. It is clear that our politicians have not only mismanaged our diversity; they have also exploited them to divide and ruin the unity of our nation.
Many emperors, philosophers and great thinkers, among others, have always considered religion as a popular tool in the hands of the powerful to control the population. The French Emperor and one of the world’s greatest military leaders, Napoleon Bonaparte, aptly describes religion as the moral force “that keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” While religion could serve as a powerful moral force for good, those who seek the destruction of society often deploy it for purposes of manipulation. In modern democratic society, the enthronement of religion in national life has the potential to torpedo the ship of the state. Where religious champions are unable to destroy a nation; they thwart any attempt to manage such a nation for peaceful coexistence.
The appearances last week of some clerics dressed in “bishop’s regalia” at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Center made for a heartbreaking sight. Although their appearances could have been seen as the product of negotiation, the uproar following the event reflects the apparent anger in the country. For a nation that has suffered human deprivation and its many communities turned into killing fields because of faith by enemies of the state, desperate citizens need not be distracted by the shenanigans of politicians.
For those who insist that religion doesn’t matter in a country whose streets are dotted with mosques and churches on every corner; they lie. If religion doesn’t matter; the gruesome killings and rampant destruction of Nigerian communities by groups meant to fight for their religious beliefs must be ignored. How these insurgents whose mission has been clarified could beat all watertight security points to storm Kuje prison and free their members and commanders remains a troubling prognosis. President Muhammadu Buhari kicked the same-faith ticket in 2014. What happened to justify a change? Would General Buhari, who cried his way to power in 2015, now allow a switch that could throw his party into the dustbin of history?
The good thing about democracy is the right to choose. Whatever happens, the Nigerian people, if the votes are allowed to count, will have the final say. The interests of the elite of any political party are often strange and mostly incomprehensible. Those who oppose the ticket of the same faith can always be the same ones who defend its triumph. This explains why the contestation of the homo-confessional ticket by certain religious clerics of the two religions will perhaps not change anything.
Unfortunately, democracy is not a matter of religion. The irrelevance of adherents of a particular religion in a party is a measure of their influence in terms of strategic thinking. If a Muslim-Christian ticket is all that was needed to move Nigeria forward; President Buhari and his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, would have taken us to the Promised Land. The duo may not have led to the defeat of Boko Haram, at least followers of Islam and Christianity seem to derive from it the psychological assurance that it would render null and void any possible domination of a religion. on the other.
In the final analysis, those who decide are the members of the political class. After impoverishing the citizens, the only way to cover up their misdeed is to feed them the stale food of religious domination. Since religion, according to Karl Marx, is the opiate of the masses, nothing excites some religious followers more than seeing the contemporary contest for the soul of Nigeria dressed in religious garb. It only takes discernment to decipher the hidden motivations of these political manipulators. Unfortunately, discernible people in both religions are too few, with their numbers being greatly decimated in the current framework.
The current hubbub over the Muslim-Muslim ticket hinges on APC’s refusal to choose a Christian from the North to serve as deputy to Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Choosing BAT shouldn’t be a troubling question. It does not call for a public quarrel. If you do not agree; go to the party that will serve your interests.
The truth is that most Christian politicians, especially in the North, only do politics for appointments. Once in the halls of power, they want to be the only rooster that crows. While others are busy trying to build their communities, these Christian politicians are busy weakening and uprooting those they see as political enemies. Their relevance is only demonstrated by the number of properties they have acquired during their tenure. For most of them, political appointments are personal rewards that only they and their immediate family members should enjoy.
After serving as an elected or appointed public official, what does the northern Christian politician take home? A little big bank account without community development! A few years later, the big account runs out easily as it quickly turns into a shell of itself. With nothing left to show of the supposedly glorious past he spent hunting and stalking perceived enemies, the Christian politician returns to his benefactors, often kind-hearted Muslims, for rehabilitation and rescue.
For those struggling with the Muslim-Muslim ticket, you can’t expect anyone to treat you differently than you treat your own people. When you honor your own people; others will do the same to them. When you overthrow your own people; don’t expect others to exalt them. We live in a society where what happens comes back. The terror of the past begins to haunt those who think that individualism trumps conformity.