Today’s article, in this column, is not through the pen of yours sincerely. It was written by a well known Nigerian journalist and front line human rights activist, Richard Akinola, of the Christian faith when elections were approaching in 2014.
The article which was originally entitled ‘Pastor Bosun Emmanuel: The Political Red Herring’ was published in several Nigerian newspapers in December that year. It is being republished here today, for two reasons:
To serve as a reminder on how religious pollution surreptitiously crept into Nigeria’s political atmosphere in 2014 at the instance of some bigots who deceptively clad in religious cassock and throw political missiles to disrupt the serenity of Nigerian society.
To serve as a warning against any inflammatory statement that may fortuitously instigate unnecessary hostility and cause unwarranted destruction in the land, especially now that political windows are being gradually thrown open for 2023 election. Excerpts from Richard Akinola’s article go thus:
“…In the long term, we can hope that religion will change the nature of man and reduce conflict. But history is not encouraging in this respect. The bloodiest wars in history have been religious wars”
By Richard Nixon (the 37th American President, January 1969-September 1974)
“Richard Nixon was being futuristic when he made this statement several years ago. He apparently never knew that there would come a time in the history of one country called Nigeria, where political actors, buoyed by some of their friends in cassock, would be fanning the embers of religious war.
I am not by any stretch of imagination, discounting the several human and material losses of Christians in several sectarian crises in the Northern part of the country over the years, accentuated by the Boko Haram insurgency, which unfortunately had been used to misinform people as being programmed against President Jonathan, being a Christian. Boko Haram did not start under President Jonathan. As a matter of fact, late president Umaru Yar’Adua had a running battle with this bunch of demented terrorists. The insurgency actually gained prominence with the killing of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf by security forces in 2009 under the government of Yar’Adua. In 2009, following various assaults in Yobe, Bauchi and Borno states, the security forces killed over 1000 of the insurgents. It would therefore be false, to claim that Boko Haram insurgency is as a result of Nigeria having a Christian president”.
“As l have always argued, the Boko Haram variant of Islam is antithetical to the mainstream Islamic teachings, just like Uganda’s terrorist group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), purporting to be fighting for my Jehovah God, cannot be representative of Christians”.
“There is this CD that is being well-circulated among Christians in various churches. It’s a political message by a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Bosun Emmanuel, where he launched into an Islamophobic tirade against Muslims and the All Progressives Congress (APC), which he declared as the Islamic Brotherhood of Nigeria.”
The filthy contents of that CD were so disturbingly embarrassing that
“the General Overseer of Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor E.A. Adeboye had denounced this divisive message and directed his church members to discountenance the message. Unfortunately, the message has gone viral. It was soap-box rhetoric, using the pulpit as a campaign platform for President Goodluck Jonathan, urging Christians to vote for Christian candidates.
Using the pulpit to campaign for either PDP or APC or any other party for that matter is an abuse of the pulpit. We need to be careful and circumspect, particularly religious leaders in their association with politicians. Religious politics is dangerous, like Roger Ebert once said: “Lebanon was at one time known as a nation that rose above sectarian hatred; Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East.
All that was blown apart by senseless religious wars, financed and exploited in part by those who sought power and wealth”.
Religion in the Southwest
“Over the years in the South West, religious politics had never been an issue. When Chief Olagunsoye Oyinlola was the Governor of Osun State, Erelu Olusola Obada, a fellow Christian was his deputy, in a state that has a preponderance of Muslims. In Edo State, both Governor Adams Oshiomhole and his deputy, Dr Pius Odubu are both Christians in a state where there is a substantial percentage of Muslims, particularly in Edo North. But because religion had never been an issue in electoral contests in Edo State, it was difficult for anyone to make a political capital of a phantom marginalization of a religious group in the state”.
“Due to their cosmopolitan nature and level of political awareness, Lagosians have never really bothered about the religious faiths of their governors, until the politics of 2015 crept in. Yes, in fairness to the proponents of this move, there has been the preponderance of elected Muslim governors in Lagos State. However, my take is that l would rather prefer good governance, bolstered by a didactic leadership, than pander to religious sentiments. And l say this with due respect to the proponents of Christian governor.
Come to think of it, if we look at it from the time of Alhaji Lateef Jakande, till now, with the exception of the lackluster government of ‘Baba go slow’, Chief Michael Otedola, (a Christian) of blessed memory, the state has witnessed remarkable developments and giant strides. And this has nothing to do with the religious persuasion of Tinubu and Fashola but the product of good leadership.
The current magnificent edifice of TREM headquarters at Anthony, Lagos, could not have been today if not for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a Muslim, who overruled his ministry of environment which had wanted to stop the construction based on the discovery that the property stood in the path of a major drainage”.
Use of Hijab
“Interestingly, it’s another Muslim governor, Raji Fashola that banned the use of Hijab in Lagos public schools, a move that irked the Muslim faithful who dragged the governor to court on the issue but the court ruled in favour of the state government. And this is despite the fact that both the Governor and the Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji are both Muslims. Of what use is having a Christian governor while it is possible to have a Muslim-dominated House of Assembly which if it wants to push for Islamic-inclined laws can easily do it and the Christian governor would have no choice but to implement? Since the tenure of Tinubu till date, Lagos State’s annual thanksgiving service, organized by the governor every January, has always been anchored by Pastor E.A. Adeboye. Yet, Tinubu and Fashola are Muslims. Pastor Emmanuel uncharitably branded APC as ‘Islamic Brotherhood of Nigeria’. I am not a member of APC. But by using the pulpit to preach hateful politics, he had removed whatever credibility that may be attached to his said message. I would have taken the same position if he had used the pulpit to promote APC and demonize PDP. And his premise for labeling APC an Islamic party was so puerile, disingenuous and downright illogical. He went on to authoritatively state that the chairman and all other officers of APC are Muslims….”
“If we assume for the purpose of argument that APC is a Muslim party, are we then to assume that PDP is a Christian party led by an Alhaji Mua’zu, a Muslim. Isn’t that preposterous? I ask because Pastor Emmanuel said that in 2015, Lagos Christians should vote for a Christian candidate for governor but with a caveat that they should not vote for a Christian candidate from an Islamic party!
We are playing a very dangerous religious game here. That was how the Hutus and Tutsis pogrom in Rwanda started in 1994, leading to the extermination of over 800,000 Rwandans, to the extent that even the priests became victims- massacred by fellow Christians inside the church….”
Problem of religion
“The problem of Nigeria is not the religious persuasion of our leaders but that of leadership deficit. It is only when you have nothing to offer that you resort to religion and ethnicity. No government has raised the bar of religious politics like the current Jonathan government and some pastors and Christians unfortunately fell for this bait. That is why Pastor Emmanuel can state with temerity in the CD that President Jonathan was not elected to fight corruption or tackle the economy but there to fulfil God’s mandate. Really? What a balderdash! No wonder he went on to declare with magisterial candour that the best leader this country ever had was General Sani Abacha because he deposed the Sultan! Can you imagine such gibberish?
So, as long as you are a Christian by name, we should support you. It doesn’t matter if you had used a seven-day old child as ritual to get into office. Or was it not in this same country that a Southwest governor (now an ex-governor) forced all members of the House of Assembly into a ritual process which was done with all of them naked before a shrine, just to extract oath of loyalty and allegiance from them? And this same governor would always grace the Holy Ghost night at the Redemption Camp with his plastic permanent smile for the cameras to show that he is Christian. If just being a Christian is a yard stick to win election, how do you situate the case of a prominent Christian woman banker, who was convicted by the EFCC for fraud and had to do a plea bargain with the EFCC to return N191 billion to the government coffers?”.
Boko Haram Insurgents
“When the demonic Boko Haram insurgents entered Mubi and people were running out of town, nobody asked the drivers if they were Muslims or Christians. All they were after was to get out into safety. Both Muslims and Christians are victims of the scourge. Or how many air travelers, upon entering an aircraft, insist on knowing the religious persuasion of the pilot and the co-pilot, whether Muslim, Christian or Atheist? How many Christians and Muslims have resigned from their jobs because their bosses are of different religious faiths?
If we stretch the argument further, are we saying Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by a lunatic called Joseph Kony, who had waged over 20-year war of attrition against Uganda, raping, maiming and terrorising people, are fulfilling God’s mandate just because their creed is to rule by the Ten Commandments? These brigands are like the Boko Haram of Nigeria. (Yet, Muslims did not say they were fighting for Christ)”.
Neither the Cross nor the Crescent
“It is not about the cross or crescent but about leadership qualities.
The Dubai that many of our Christian brethren go and spend holidays, are they being ruled by Christians? In 1991, Dubai was just bare. But with visionary leaders, it has been turned into a tourist haven. North Korea, China and Russia are advanced technologically but they are not Christians. Many of them don’t even believe in God. Moammar Ghaddafi turned a desert country into a well-irrigated country. After the first Gulf War in 1990 and despite all the massive bombings by the allied forces, there were still street lights working on the streets of Baghdad. Go to Egypt, Morocco and other North African countries, they look like Europe. Yet, they didn’t carry the Bible to build their countries. Please, don’t get me wrong. Being a good Christian with leadership potentials is an added advantage. Core competence should override any religious or tribal consideration.
Our problem is that we are so religious but not godly. Our values are warped and upside down. We go to churches and mosques but our hearts are very far from God. On December 31 of every year, we fill up the churches for the cross-over night to the New Year but by the 1st of January, we start plotting the downfall of our fellow human beings.
The fact is that our hearts are very far from God. Most times, we shift our responsibilities to God. I believe so much in prayer. I do pray a lot but there is a time to pray and a time to use your head. To whom brain is given, sense is expected….”
By God and not by Man
“The truth of the matter is that from being a deputy governor, to governor, to vice president, to acting president, up to being a president, God went ahead of President Jonathan. He didn’t fight anyone before he got there and nobody then talked about him being a Christian or a southerner. But now, out of desperation, his Christian cheer leaders are deceiving him as the anointed, using the religious mantra. But the man himself knows that God is not in this his current agenda, irrespective of what his spiritual consultants tell him; because his current endeavour is all by flesh. That is why just like when God left Saul, he went to seek the witch of Endor when the Philistines came after him. Our dear president too, surrounded by his Philistines, this time the opposition, has resorted to self-help by also seeking from his own variant of witch of Endor- police and other arms of security forces, to fight his opponents through dictatorial tendencies and resorting to religious and ethnic sentiments, which he did not do before he got to the throne….”
“God is still God. He can use anyone to accomplish His purpose. What
we need are visionary and competent leaders, and being a good, God-fearing Christian would be an icing on the cake. But insisting on a Christian president or governor, even if he is a cultist and the most corrupt person, would be stretching it too far. And mischievously labeling a party as an Islamic party is pure hogwash. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti once titled one of his albums, l would tell Pastor Bosun Emmanuel, ‘Teacher, don’t teach me nonsense”.
• Akinnola is of Christians in Politics Initiative.