Politics of religion: Nigeria lost at a crossroad


Last Updated on June 19, 2022 by Memorila

Nigeria can’t eat her cake and have it: professing to be in a secular state but imposing religious criteria for her electoral processes

Without mincing words, Nigeria is a country where obviously, religion and religious matters influence political decisions. Except, of course, for the very wrong reasons.

For many years, in fact since nationhood in 1960, and as a Federal Republic in 1963, religion has been presumed as the bedrock for sharing Nigeria’s national cake.

At every turn, Nigeria’s leadership has been swayed to reflect a religious balance, so to say.

Not minding the fact that at the same time, we are taught that Nigeria is a secular country where religion should not be allowed to determine our national vision or mission. That we should be more patriotic and should not wish to project our faith on national matters.

Surely that is what is preached to our armed forces, political leaders, civil servants, labour unions, students, and so on.

That merit is sacrosanct over and above the tribe we belong or the religion we profess.

In our trials of partisan politics, we have been made to believe that it is democracy all the way. Nothing more, nothing less.

And moreover, since we are modeling the presidential system of the United States of America, purely, what should decide the game would have been numbers, not religion, tribe, region or what our politicians have mischievously crammed into our heads, geo-political zones.

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Therefore, it doesn’t matter if people come together within the extant political laws of the land, campaign and win election, notwithstanding their religion or tribe.

The year 2023 is a year that seems to have awaken Nigerians to the reality we have been feigning. That either we accept religion as a yardstick and insert it in our laws or we jettison it as non-issue in our national decisions.

Atiku has chosen Okowa as running mate

We may quickly remember how we threw overboard the salient regional requirement in sharing political power when the leading opposition party, PDP jettisoned its gentleman agreement by throwing open its 2023 presidential primary. This was what gave rise to the emergence of Atiku Abubakar, Turakin Adamawa, to clinch the party’s presidential ticket.

This also informed the reason why the ruling APC also allowed northerners to contest again after the tenure of their kinsman, President Muhammadu Buhari, instead of restricting it to the south.

Except for the stance of northern governors who insisted that power should shift to the south, a northerner could have emerged as well in the APC.

The point is in all these are because the key figures of the two parties, Atiku of PDP and Tinubu of APC, have been the major lubricators and financers of their respective parties, they held the aces and pulled the strings.

Tinubu is finding it difficult to name a running mate

Today, after Tinubu’s emergence as the flag bearer of the APC, it means the national balance is at risk of derailing from the normal patterns.

Both aspirants from the two major parties are Muslims, and both ‘must’ pick a Christian Vice President.

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It is a difficult decision for both, but in reality, it is neither a constitutional fulfilment of party requirement. If anything, it is only to fulfil a religious requirement for cohesive existence.

For sure, it is all for the votes, that is the reality. The North has the votes. But now the North are asking many questions.

For example, “Could the South accept a President from the South to pick a renowned Sheikh as Vice President, just as Buhari had picked a renowned Pastor from the South to be his Vice President for all of eight years?” “Could a Southern Christian work hard and fund a political machinery as done by Tinubu?”

Therefore, if it is not for religion, it shouldn’t be pretended to be like a religious matter.

2023 should open our eyes to reality either to go the whole hog and legislate for religion, or abandon it.

Those using religion in politics are gradually being demystified in Nigeria.

Given the litany of religious crisis in the North, with a sitting president from the North, a retired general for that matter, it means there is more to it than meets the eye.


M. A. Nababa

M. A. Nababa is an essayist with deep interest in education and history. He has written on several topical issues for decades. And he is the co-founder of Memorila.

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