No counter-argument was more baseless on the road to the 2023 general election than the “religion shouldn’t matter” shenanigans of supporters of the All Progressives Congress, APC and Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Forgive me for using separately two words that should be synonymous. Ordinarily, whoever supports APC is a supporter of Tinubu. But this is not the case in the current reality of the ruling party. Their callousness in the face of millions of Nigerian Christians to allow (or pressure) their Muslim flag bearer to choose another Muslim as their running mate has sharply split the party into two lateral halves. Within the APC, there are currently two camps separated by a chasm of opposing interests – the northern Christian caucus with its Muslim sympathizers, and the rest.
This group has the likes of former Federation Cabinet Secretary Babachir Lawal and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, as their leaders. They are members of the APC, but not supporters of Tinubu’s presidential aspiration, since he spitefully chose a Muslim-Muslim ticket citing “competence” as a criterion. They were in Port Harcourt the other day wooing Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State for an unidentified or undisclosed reason.
This was once again eloquent proof that religion matters, at least, in the life of an average African. As a billionaire owner of mega-media organizations in print and broadcast, Tinubu may feel no qualms knowing that his fawn lackeys (who are apostles of “religion shouldn’t matter “) are doing their job, but he may just be sitting on a barrel of charred powder.
The truth is that we all wish to live and inhabit this idealistic society where tribal and religious sentiments should not be yardsticks of competence for political office. But for now, that era has not arrived, and we have to accept the reality that it has not arrived.
Three weeks ago, as we pondered the topic: “Women’s Religious and Marital Choices: Points of Meeting and Divergence,” we established a premise that: “Over the years, natural scientists have insisted about the fact that our bodies are 60% water, and that social anthropologists have established that religion influences more than 60% of our actions and idiosyncrasies.
In the same way, sociologists teach that man is homo-politico (to be political), anthropologists add that man is also homo-religiosus (he is innately religious).
Therefore, religious beliefs, without appeal to a particular gender, inform people’s daily choices. And the choice of who becomes their spouse is not exempt in this respect. Inadvertently, it is expressed, in the decisions of, to whom we commit our future as a spouse.
Religion has so many men in the flesh that even America, which for many in this part of the world represents a bodily estrangement from all that is divine, has the motto “In God We Trust”. This motto was signed into law in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. And as recently as 2011, the United States House of Representatives, again, voted 396 to 9 to reaffirm it.
Just ten days ago, our very own Toby Amusan, in great display of the Nigerian spirit, became not only world champion in the women’s 100 meters, but also record holder in 12:06 seconds. After the ceremony which marked her decoration with the medal, she granted a three-minute interview to Anderson Emerole. During such a short interview session, she mentioned God three times, dedicating her triumph to him and his pastor, Bishop Oyedepo.
Ese Brume; the long jump silver medalist did the same.
Religion really matters. If not, Sharia would not have featured as clearly as it did in the 1999 constitution. Even in 2013, when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo wrote his missile letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, he mentioned God 13 record times!
So, last week, Mr. Peter Obi of the Labor Party, LP, alongside the former People’s Democratic Party, PDP, presidential aspirant and Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, as well as the first lady from 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, dressed in the garb of haters, mocked his followers saying he was playing the religious card! Fair weather analysts like Enenche Enenche and social media kids like Deji Adeyanju started berating the church for it.
On June 23, Mr. Peter Obi, by invitation, was at Assumpta Owerri Cathedral for the installation of Bishop Lucious Ugorji. Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State was also there. When the bishop ascended the lectern for the rite of the homily, he recognized the presence of dignitaries who honored the invitation. But as he mentioned “Mr. Peter Obi”, the whole nave went wild with jubilation. The Archbishop had to beg the congregation to remember that the purpose of their gathering was the installation of the bishopric and not the swearing-in ceremony for the Labor Party’s 2023 presidential candidate.
The religious card is not actually played by anyone in this case. It is beyond Peter Obi to prevent bruised Nigerians both in the church or in the markets from expressing their joyful hope for a better Nigeria under his presidency.
Why were President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC accused of playing the religious card when they sent high-level emissaries to Fr. Ejike Mbaka’s worship crusade ground to extract a favorable ‘prophecy’ and buy support ahead of their 2019 re-election bid?
Between September 11 and 12, 1999, a national conference on the 1999 constitution was held at Arewa House, Kaduna. In a presentation on the occasion, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said that Nigeria is not a secular state and should not be considered as such. He boldly made the following observations: “The Islamic faith has never accepted the dichotomy between religion and politics. A Muslim’s political life is guided by Sharia and in every aspect of law where an explicit religious injunction exists, a Muslim expects it to be held valid above any other law.
Asking Muslims to abandon Sharia in the name of a secular Nigeria is giving them an unfair choice. It is not about being neither Muslim nor Nigerian when they can be both Muslim and Nigerian. The attempt to transform Nigeria into a secular state is aimed at the erosion of Muslim identity and history. This will continue to be a source of conflict because Muslims will always resist it, with justification. Nigeria is a multi-religious state which should however ensure that no religion is privileged over others.
Until now, no one had accused Sanusi of playing the religious card at a national constitutional review conference. But all incisors and canines have been sharpened against Peter Obi following his invitation to a religious function.
Even Tinubu on April 22 this year was reported by national dailies as having attended Juma’at Friday prayers in Abuja and wooing worshipers.
According to Father Kevin Oselumhense Anetor in his Facebook account: “common sense tells us not to play the religious card. They say it’s not about religion. They say it’s the person. However, it is undisputed that religion shapes the person. If it is well taught, well received and well understood, religion transforms the person.
Six days ago, BBNAIJA housemate Eloswag adorned a hoodie with the inscription: “Obedience and helpful”. This sparked a trending social media frenzy from “OBI-dients”. The Atikulated and BATified camps have warned the organizers of the reality TV show to sanction such subtle use of the platform for political campaigning. But before their call could reach the roof, the multitudes of Obi supporters offered canonization prayers to heaven for the roommate.
Perhaps Peter Obi’s high profile visits to churches lately are a commensurate response to the assertion of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who in an exclusive interview with Arise TV said it will take a “miracle” for Peter Obi to win the presidential election. Obi had to take his words seriously and was enrolled in the church in search of this miracle.
May the light of day spare us!
Ogechukwu writes via