Religion governs the sacerdotal facet of human life. Religion does not only bring out the divine and the human in us; it also unsheathes the basest and vilest part of us, depending on where the lamp is rubbed. We are all religious beings, but with a divergent pool of beliefs.
Religion is an emotive subject; hence a dangerous and nonpartisan explosive when soused with politics. The flame from the wrong application or deployment of religion consumes all — the genie, the lamp, and the wielder. It spares neither friend nor foe.
That which is temporal should not impugn that which is holy and spiritual. What is for the dogs should be for the dogs, and what is for God for God.
Religion has always been an undercurrent in Nigeria’s politics. It has always mattered in our elections. And it has always been of significance in our national life.
However, owing to Nigeria’s delicate religious complexion, political actors who are sensitive to the country’s unity, have always been cautionary about making religion the centrepiece of their politics. Understanding that the votes of Nigerians, whether Christian, Muslim or traditionalist, count in deciding the outcome of elections, these political actors walk the tightrope of not pitting one religion against another.
Even when religion is in the mix, it has always been subtle; whispered and operated behind shutters. Never has religion been so abused in our politics in recent history as in the 2023 elections. Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party, exercised religion in his campaigns with an open assault on national unity and cohesion. And he appeared blatant, defiant, and unperturbed about the concomitants and reverberations of his methods on national unity.
To Peter Obi, the election was a ‘’religious war’’ — perhaps with casualties, victors, vanquished, missing limbs, and torsos. This jaundiced thought process obviously set the stage for the rampaging of his ‘’Obidients’’.
Peter Obi’s politics has scourged the land. It has scorched the umbilical cord holding us together – just as his ‘’Obidients’’ continue to poison our unity dutifully. A dangerous precedent has been set. When political campaigns are driven by prejudices and ethnic contaminants, the corollaries remain long after electioneering. The leadership may find itself on tenterhooks as regards establishing trust and building cohesion with some sections of the country over vicious ethnic and religious obloquy.
It is concerning that some respected Nigerians are endorsing this naked abuse of our electoral process as the Electoral Act 2022 prohibits campaigns with the underpinnings of religion. It is fair, according to them, because Peter Obi is the protagonist today, but what happens when the table turns?
This utter disregard for our laws, all sense of decency and patriotism is precarious for Nigeria as it sets one religion against another. With such a precedent, elections may no longer be about competence and governance, but about religion and about who has the largest following among the religions.
This is a path to doom. It does not bode well for our country. It is regressive, atavistic, and destructive. What Peter Obi has done with his politics should not be rationalised by anyone. In fact, it should be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians.
We cannot speak of building a united country and endorse what Peter Obi has done with his unfettered struggle for power in any way. It is wrong, and a blight on the national conscience.
If the purpose of seeking power is truly for the good of Nigerians, then the highest level of patriotism is expected of political actors. But why is Peter Obi so desperate for power? Why is he so menacing about the outcome of the election? What is behind this rabid quest for power? Why is he seeking to plunge the nation into crisis over his ambition?
Politics reveals the concealed hue of a familiar face; it awakens forgotten prejudices. In politics, our weaknesses are emboldened, and native fissures foregrounded.
I believe our politics is religiously and ethnically charged because good governance is not at the core of the game. Some politicians and even some citizens see political power as conquest and as a diadem to assert sectional and doctrinaire relevance and pursuits – as Peter Obi’s bent shows. We must do away with this. If it is really about leadership, then religion and ethnicity must remain on the back burner.
To radical ‘’Obidients’’ who are still in campaign mode and slinging prejudices for nuisance advantage, the elections are over, and the rest of Nigeria are now focused on governance and on advancing with Nigeria. Not that patriotism matters to radical ‘’Obidients, as they have shown themselves incapable of logic and reason, Nigeria is still a country of laws for those who may want to manifest their delusions.
Nigerians must begin to wrest the narrative from this horde. We must speak peace and unity for the country.
May Nigeria find healing.
Nwabufo aka Mr OneNigeria is a media executive