Of course, Nigerian Christians have every reason to be apprehensive. President Buhari’s handling of the security situation in the country has come under serous scrutiny by those who believe he has handled the menace of Fulani herdsmen killers and bandits with kid gloves. Unfortunately, he has not done enough to prove critics who accused him of ‘Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda wrong. One proof of this was his identification with Gumi’s thesis that rehabilitation and reabsorption of repentant killers into the security services as against outright elimination of those who had visited violence on Nigerians vigorously canvassed by Kaduna’s Nasir El Rufai and Katsina’s Aminu Masari. Today, herdsmen and bandits operate unchallenged attacking trains, liberating prisoners from correctional centres and keeping their victims in the bush for as long as they desired.
But it will be a disservice to the nation for stakeholders including Christians, opposition parties and their media that rightly hold Buhari responsible for the mismanagement of our crisis of nation-building to give the impression that our problems are about Christians Muslim conflict. “The nation’s scourges are Fulani herdsmen terrorists, bandits and kidnappers who hide under religion to wage war against the nation, sacrilegiously torching churches and mosques to massacre worshippers and attacking subsistence farmers and confiscating their farmland. And for the north that has always manipulated the poor masses of their people using religion as instrument of electoral warfare, the chicken has only come home to roost.
Undoubtedly, religion plays an important role in modern society. Part of this includes ‘promotion of good citizenship, dialogue among the people and serving as witness of truth and righteousness by speaking against injustice’. Unfortunately for our nation, instead of acting the gospel by promoting fellowship, trust, faith and hope, a large section of the church uses the church for the exploitation of the innermost fears and ignorance of our people. In the east, the church has become instrument of economic warfare with the church selling grace to the highest bidders especially their governors just as the Catholic Church did some 500 years ago before Martin Luther. In the southwest, Obasanjo, Jonathan and Osinbajo wasted a great deal of time they should be ministering to the people doing night vigil while their ministers stole the country blind. Buhari’s inept management of Fulani herdsmen and bandits onslaught on Nigerians, sometimes using attack on Christian churches to divert attention from their real objective – the lust over land – as an incentive for crooked pastors to further exploit the ignorance of our people by inflaming passion.
But Tinubu who insists religion is not our problem hopes to change the above narrative by proving Muslim-Muslim ticket is not antithetical to the interest of all adherents of various religions in Nigeria. But for the PDP and their media that are expected to reflect society or set agenda for society, it is an all-out war against Tinubu. Whipping up religious sentiments against his Muslim-Muslim ticket, they hope will enhance their chances in the 2023 election.
Since the ethnic irredentists in Buhari’s government are more favourably disposed to replicating the crisis in the south rather than find solution, the question today should be which of the three leading candidates are best prepared to achieve elite consensus that has defied the nation since the end of the civil war.
Both PDP and APC unfortunately suffer the same affliction. By its constitution, PDP presidential candidate ticket ought to have gone to a Southeast or South-south Christian, the two geo-political zones that have remained loyal to PDP since 1999. To this end, PDP and APC southern governors met in Asaba under Governor Okowa. Pa Edwin Clark cursed any southern leader that would accept VP slot from any northern PDP candidate. At the end, the hegemonic owners of PDP from the north, claiming they could not find an electable Christian candidate from the south, outwitted Wike, the leading candidate from the south and handed over their ticket to Atiku who had contested every presidential election under various parties since 1999. PDP and their today’s warring clerics kept their peace.
But for his grit and gut, Tinubu was not supposed to secure the APC presidential ticket already ceded by Adamu, former PDP stalwart and Buhari imposition as APC chairman, to Ahmed Lawan, another Fulani from the north. His steadfastness paid off when 11 predominantly northern Muslim governors rebelled against Adamu and took sides with Tinubu. And based on their advice, he settled for a Muslim-Muslim ticket as a strategy to win the election.
That was all PDP stalwarts, their powerful and influential media, Pa Clark, their sympathetic Bishops and clerics from the southwest and southeast where religion is heavily commercialized, needed to start a war in support of northern minority Muslim VP candidate.
Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation who lost his ward to PDP and yet hoped to be picked as VP candidate says Tinubu’s choice of “Muslim-Muslim ticket was a direct attack on Christians. A section of CAN even passed a fatwa: “This is a clear instruction, when it is time to vote, vote only in the favour of the Church not for your party. Any believer that sells out his faith in the name of party is heading for hell”.
Tragically for our nation, this type of CAN members would prevent their Christian children from reading the Quran just as some misguided Muslims parents would prevent their wards from reading the Bible forgetting we are grooming them to manage our society.
For the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria’s (CSN) Fr. Zacharia Nyantiso Samjumi and Rev. Fr. Michael Nsikak Umoh “the unity of this country has, over the years, been maintained by a delicate balancing of the religious and the regional”, a claim not totally true. Religion has always been a threat to the survival of our nation with many complaining Islam is mentioned in more than a dozen places in the constitution as if Nigeria, a secular state dragged by Babangida to Organisation of Islamic countries (OIC) without consultation is an Islamic state.
Former President Obasanjo says that any attempt to engage in Muslim/Muslim ticket will not only amount to “insensitivity of the highest order but will also amount to very bad politics indeed”. I hope someone reminds him that it was under his Obasanjo/Atiku Christiaan/Muslim ticket, 13 northern governors institutionalised illegal Sharia, sent their youths to Sudan for indoctrination under Osama Bin Laden and returned to form the nucleus of today’s insurgents’ groups. General Aziza, President Jonathan National Security Adviser, shortly before a helicopter crash told us it was Obasanjo’s PDP that was behind the formation of Boko Haram to serve as balance of terror for political opponents.
With the above facts, it is difficult to fault those who say that warring southern Christians who instead of first removing the logs in their own eyes are waging battle on behalf of northern minority Christians are PDP sympathisers.
The only purpose religion shares with politics according to George Will in his ‘Statecraft as Soul craft’ is the emancipation of the individual through the education of his passion”. And if a section of CAN is nostalgic about their gains under Obasanjo/Atiku and Jonathan years of the locust want to know how Christians can lead by example, they can take a look at the life of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis who has a reputation of modesty and humility, eschewing trapping of office by living in an apartment where he made his own food and rode to work by bus.