The Independent National Election Commission (INEC) once reminded religious leaders of an electoral law that forbids political campaigns in the mosques and churches. That law must have stemmed from stark ignorance and/or complete detachment from reality. Primarily, there is no separation of religion and politics in Islam. The gathering of the faithful in a mosque is essentially the polity at prayer. Therefore, the mosque is a veritable forum for politics. Unavoidably, Imams must preach politics from the mosque dais.
Secondly, despite centuries-old determined attempt to separate religion from politics in Christianity, politics and religion remain inseparable, and pastors have to talk politics. Moreover, if every Nigerian generally have political views, and can express them through their different media – singers through their songs, writers through their writings, etc – why are pastors not expected to express their political opinions from the pulpit? Is the pastor’s statement of his political opinions from the pulpit tantamount to political campaign in the church?
And churches sometimes invite VIPs, including political figures, and yield the pulpit to them. What is expected of such political figures furnished with a church audience and a pulpit? Is he expected to extol the beauty of the weather outside, the resplendence of the congregants or the excellence of the center of excellence? No, he will talk politics: extol his political candidacy and political party and denounce his political opponents and their political parties. Will these be tantamount to political campaigns, and thus, a breach of the law?
Nigeria is in dire straits. She is reeling from the criminality, dereliction of constitutional responsibilities, irresponsible economic policies, disregard for human lives, and ruthless exploitation of the masses by the Buhari administration. The Buhari administration is the present face of an iniquitous oligarchy that has, in advancement of its selfish, cliquish and fiendish interests, literally destroyed the country.
In its acquiescence to terrorism and banditry, the Buhari administration relinquished the control of parts of the country to terrorists and bandits, and allowed Fulani herdsmen to range across the country, unchallenged, killing, raping and kidnapping with impunity. Its much vaunted fight against corruption is a colossal farce; official corruption is thriving at hitherto unprecedented heights. The economy wobbles perilously at the brinks of a collapse; poverty became more pervasive and entrenched, with increasing percentage of Nigerians trapped in extreme, raw-dirt poverty. Horror-struck by terrorism, banditry and Fulani herdsmen murderous lunacy, frazzled by official irresponsibility, corruption and brutality and wrenched by poverty and hunger, Nigerians are vegetating in misery, gloom and despondency.
It is impossible for any sane Nigerian, thoughtless of religious leaders, to remain ambivalent or indifferent to the country’s harrowing dilemma. Moreover, unlike other professionals, pastors are exceptionally empowered as social crusaders because their economic base is not susceptible to government and/or corporate sanctions. A government, corporate or university employee that challenges the status quo can readily be fired from his job. And for opposing the system, a businessman can have his business interests endangered: contracts and business engagements cancelled, and licenses revoked. In addition, pastors are armed with the sacred word of God and the inviolable moral and spiritual authority of the pulpit.
Not surprisingly, preachers have played pivotal roles in the struggle against bad rulers, social injustice and other societal evil. In the Black American fight for racial justice, pastors featured prominently: Elijah Mohammed, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, etc on the Moslem side; and Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, etc. on the Christian side. Nigerian preachers should be in the lead in the resistance to this evil oligarchy consummate in its corruption, thievery, anti-human policies, and looting and tearing down the country. Any pastor that is not a party to this struggle must be feigning neutrality in a time of a great national crisis. It has been written that, “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in time of great crisis, maintain their neutrality.”
The solution to our festering multifaceted problems lies in a complete rejection of this coldhearted oligarchy in the 2023 presidential election. Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu are inextricable parts of the oligarchy. As president, Atiku Abubakar will promote corruption, and invariably, accentuate mass poverty, economic misery and social injustice. He has demonstrated disquieting sensitivity to the susceptibilities of violent Islamic fundamentalists. He is a Fulani, and like Mohammadu Buhari, he will pander unyieldingly to Fulani expansionism and its associated banditry, terrorism and Fulani herdsmen blood-soaked excesses across southern and north central Nigeria.
Perplexingly, although Nigerians are sick and tired of Buharism, Bola Tinubu affirmed that his presidency will be a continuation of Buharism. With the ravages Buharism has wrought on Nigeria, why would any sane individual want to continue with Buharism? It must be due to blind loyalty to the outrageous designs of the oligarchy; senescent disconnect from reality; and sadism that gloats in the increasing economic strangulation of Nigerians. Secondly, Tinubu is a questionable character that cannot be trusted with presidential powers. And, in his avariciousness, he is too prone to channeling public funds into his personal account and sequestrating state resources and property for himself. The election of either Atiku or Tinubu, as president, will strengthen the grip of the immoral oligarchy on the country and complicate and compound all our national problems.
Therefore, it is the duty and obligation of every Nigerian pastor and imam to enjoin his flock to reject Atiku and Tinubu in the 2023 presidential election; and vote for Peter Obi. For he has what it takes to extricate Nigeria from the suffocating and strangulating grip of the evil oligarchy; roll-back official corruption, insecurity, anarchy and moral squalor; and thus, set Nigeria on a pedestal of accountability, security, economic prosperity, rule of law and moral and ethical rejuvenation.
*Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
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