By Casmir Igbokwe
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) are associations fighting for the interest of their members. No doubt, these two bodies, like any other recognized group, have right to do so. But the way they are going about it in recent times could further polarize the already divided Nigerian society. It is dangerous, to say the least.
Recently, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said it was the turn of Christians to produce Nigeria’s President in 2023. The Youth Wing of CAN (YOWICAN) reportedly noted that having a Christian President would ensure balance in the leadership of the country. In a communiqué he read after the National Executive Council meeting of YOWICAN recently, the national chairman, Belusochukwu Enwere, said the emergence of a Christian as President in 2023 “will be a true expression of equity and justice for Nigeria.”
MURIC quickly replied CAN in kind. According to the group, it is the turn of a Muslim to occupy the presidential seat in Abuja. Director and founder of the group, Professor Ishaq Akintola, said: “We believe that it is not yet the turn of a Christian to be President of Nigeria, if we want to go by mathematical exactitude from the time Nigeria began civil rule in 1999.”
According to him, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo ruled for eight years while Goodluck Jonathan ruled for five years. Cumulatively, the two Christians, in the logic of Akintola, occupied the seat of power for 13 years. He noted that a Muslim President, Musa Yar’Adua, spent three years in office while the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari, had spent six years so far. By 2023 when Buhari will leave office, the two Muslims will have spent 11 years as President.
Hence, MURIC advised CAN to wait for its time, noting that “it will be unfair to install a Christian President in 2023 when Muslims still have a shortfall of two or four years. It is the group that has a two-year or four-year shortfall that should be given the chance for a make-up, not the group that has a two-year advantage.”
This type of sectarian sentiment permeates through almost every section or region of Nigeria. Even among people of the same faith, there are divisions. In Anambra State, for instance, there is a subtle rivalry between Catholics and Anglicans when it comes to political power. Anglicans believe Catholics are marginalizing them politically by monopolizing the governorship seat of the state. It is such that a priest could mount the pulpit to urge his members to vote for a particular candidate because he is a member of their church.
In Islam, the same thing plays out. Sunni Muslims often disagree with their Shia counterparts. People go to any length to defend what they believe are their sectarian interests. I shuddered when I read the position of some Muslims on the current travails of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari. Here is a man being investigated for alleged involvement in fraud cases with a fraudster called Hushpuppi. Those defending him say he is being haunted by the United States of America because he is a Muslim. Is Hushpuppi, whose real name is Ramon Abbas, not a Muslim? Is the Qatari man they defrauded of over $1 million not also a Muslim? Nothing can be sillier.
Whenever religion is involved, many people lose their sense of reasoning. This is worse in a country like Nigeria adjudged the most religious country in the world. In a May-June 2006 survey, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicated that 76 per cent of Christians in Nigeria say religion is more important to them than their identity as Africans, Nigerians or members of an ethnic group. For Muslims, 91 per cent believe religion is the most important factor in their lives.
This is why mixing religion with politics is seen as normal in Nigeria. It did not start today. In 1986, the then military President, Ibrahim Babangida, dragged Nigeria into the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). This generated serious tension in the country then.
Make no mistake about it, many of those who front religion in the affairs of the country do so for selfish reasons. Politicians understand this game perfectly. During campaigns, some of them who do not know the entrance to their village churches begin to hobnob with priests and become regular donors to religious activities. Muslims become very serious with Juma’at prayers.
Nigeria is not alone in this form of deceit. The Northern Ireland conflict, also called The Troubles, had some tinge of religion in it. The conflict, which occurred between 1968 and 1998, was essentially political and nationalistic. Unionists (loyalists), who were mostly Protestants, wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom (UK). They saw themselves as British and feared that they might lose their culture if they were made to leave the UK. But Irish nationalists (republicans), mainly Catholics, saw themselves as Irish and wanted the province to leave the UK and become part of a united Republic of Ireland. This divide between Catholics and Protestants gave the conflict some sectarian colouration.
Nevertheless, the two dominant sects in Northern Ireland have a clear-cut agenda – to be or not to be with the UK. The agenda of CAN and MURIC is to have a Christian or a Muslim, as the case may be, to become President. The question is, what do they stand to gain? Will the President begin to build mosques or churches, if he gets to the seat of power?
They say rotating the presidency between Christians and Muslims ensures equity and fairness. Fair enough! But what then is the fate of adherents of other religions like traditional religion? What of those who don’t even believe in any religion? Is it fair to exclude such people?
The point is, it is these same Christians and Muslims that have ruined our country. Their leadership has not stopped the spate of corruption and evil that permeates the corridors of power in Nigeria. At this critical juncture in Nigeria’s history, we should de-emphasize religious affiliation of our leaders and focus more on their competence, effective and transformative leadership, vision, intelligence, transparency and accountability.
I can understand the political zoning arrangements in some states and in Nigeria generally. It is to prevent a particular zone or region from dominating political affairs. It is to ensure equity and fairness in the distribution of resources and appointments among this heterogeneous society. That is why we have the Federal Character principle enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution. And that was what informed the emergence of Chief Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe as presidential and deputy presidential candidates of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), respectively, in the annulled 1993 presidential election. Abiola was a Muslim from the South-West, while Kingibe is also a Muslim from the North. But what Nigerians considered was their region and not religion. This is how it should be.
By and large, mixing politics with religion is a dangerous game. It will spell doom for this country, if care is not taken. Those involved should retrace their steps now. They should leave politics for politicians and focus more on winning souls for heaven.
Re: Nigerian Senate on bended knees
Casmir, truth becomes a stranger in every corrupt system. The rulers in such system always justify their actions, no matter how harmful to the occupants.
The government of Buhari and APC are toxic to the prosperity of Nigeria. From all defined indices of international standard of a progressive nation, it has failed. Unfortunately, the last hope of the common people has joined the toxic rulership to perpetuate the suffering. The Senate and House of Representatives occupants knew that allowing e-voting and transmission of results will checkmate the evil landslide wins. Nigeria will never progress under such guise.
– Pharm. Okwuchukwu Njike, +234 803 885 4922
Mazi C. Igbokwe, truly, even on family levels it is the same. But when the house collapses, not many people will escape the catastrophe.
– Emenike Samuel, Niger State, +2348165643411
This 9th national assembly characters are nothing to write home about. Their legislative work is just a laughing stock in the eyes of Nigerians. Nigerians have tagged them rubberstamp legislators because they are dancing the tune of the executive. The only achievement they recorded is rejection of Mrs. Loretta Onochie’s nomination as INEC Commissioner.
– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535
Dear Casy, a proverb has it that he, who is owned or a guinea pig, has two gods: his god and his master. The present NASS seems a puppet bedevilled by the burden of serving two gods and where the interests of the two gods clash, that of the master prevails. That’s what has played out in the electronic transmission of election result voting debacle. The current NASS is a world on the lowest rung when compared to the days of Hon Ghali Na’aba as Speaker that bubbled with legislative activism. In acting out the given script, the present NASS has not only made Nigeria a laughing-stock in the eyes of the world but has also sown evil seed whose tree shall grow to serve as perforated umbrella where both rain and sun shall beat us all, including the NASS men and their future generations.
– Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731
Dear Casy, the Nigerian senate and entire legislature, judiciary, executive are not only on bended knees but have turned Nigeria into a mess. The legislature under Lawan and Gbajabiamila approved budgets and loans for Aso Rock king since the inception of this government without oversight function, checks and balances. What have they achieved with the budgets and loan approvals now that they have pushed Nigeria into avoidable debts? What is the level of our development since the inception of APC government under Buhari’s watch? Lawan and his henchmen in APC have aided Buhari to mortgage and ruin Nigeria politically, economically, socially and security wise.
– Eze Chima C., Lagos, +2347036225495
It is not in all circumstances that one needs an interpreter in order to know the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of an act of commission or omission. President Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as proposed by the 8th National Assembly clearly exhibited the ‘politician’ in him. He would not append his signature because of the inherent ‘landmines’ for the sake of his political survival. The president protects and courts the interests of his North and party. A party that mindlessly exhibits desperation and delights in violating the Nigerian constitution, and even its constitution, cannot lend its support to electronic transmission of election results. That the Supreme Court – either by politics or technicality of a simple majority split decision – allows the people’s votes to prevail, does not in any way wash away APC’s sin of outright infraction of the party and Nigeria’s constitution. The roguery or rigging instinct has remained an intractable virus in our political system.
-Edet Essien Esq., Cal. South, 08037952470
Dear Casmir, since the mergers that formed APC were very aggressive against rigging at ruling time of PDP, why can’t they just give us the change they promised in their campaign?
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu,
+234 909 538 5215
- Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, August 9, 2021.