Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State on Monday described as baseless calls that the next governor of the state should be of a particular faith.
The governor spoke on Monday at an inter-faith conference organised by the state government. The conference was themed: “Peace, Religious Harmony and Good Governance: Issues and Challenges”.
He contended that religion and good governance were two different things and democratic dividends had no religious coloration.
Fashola stressed that anybody could emerge as governor irrespective of faith, noting that Lagosians had not been known to elect their governors based on religion.
The governor said that he read in a newspapers on Monday morning a statement to the effect that a group was insisting on a Christian governor in Lagos State.
“I don’t recall the last time that a governor of Lagos was elected on the basis of his religious beliefs.
“What will the preference for governor of one faith over the other even benefit us?
“Will it give one religion roads that other faiths cannot use? Will it give them schools that children from other faiths cannot attend or will it bring water that only one faith can drink?
“Will it begin to draw a very clear line between poverty and the faith? Does hunger know your faith?”
The governor urged religious leaders to guard their pulpits with utmost responsibility and watch the messages they pass across from it.
He advised them not to use religion for personal aggrandisement but a tool to promote peace and unity.
The governor cautioned religious leaders against religious debates that would lead nowhere. “There are rules in the legal profession, there are rules in football as well; you cannot tackle from behind.
“What are the rules in religious debate? Who is going to be the umpire? I know that there are many people for whom spirituality is a calling; I also know that for some, it’s a business.
“For a long time, the state and religion have been one, but over time, we have also tried to separate religion from the state, but it has not been a successful venture.
“I am not sure that clear separation will happen and I’m not even sure what clear separation will deliver.
“But one of the things I will suggest is that we should take better control of our pulpits and be more restrained in what comes from there,” he advised.
Earlier, the Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture, Mr Oyinlomo Danmole said that the meeting became imperative to examine the correlation of peace and religious harmony.
Danmole, who quoted from both the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran, harped on forgiveness and peace as key elements for development and progress.