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Preserving secularity of Nigeria

Preserving secularity of Nigeria

By Ayodele Fagbohun
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“I believe in an America that officially is neither catholic, protestant nor Jewish where no public official either requests not accepts instruction in public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source, where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or public acts of its official and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

-Mr John F. Kennedy, United States (US) President, January 20, 1961 –  November 22, 1963.

President John F. Kennedy, one of the greatest American Presidents that ever lived believed in America where the separation of church and the state is absolute.

No catholic prelate would ever tell the President (John F. Kennedy, a devout Catholic himself) how to act. And no protestant minister would tell his parishioners whom to vote.

John F. Kennedy astutely demonstrated this unalloyed quality of patriotism whilst on electioneerings to office of presidency. He was faced with a dilemma to either choose his religion or state, Kennedy opted for the latter and there and then, was overwhelming elected as United States’ President.

That was the high-water mark of allegiance to the American State, which is diametrically opposed to lethargic adherence to primodial religious and racial chauvinism and bigotry prevalent among Nigeria’s political leadership to upstage the essence of democracy and to serve the naked self of the backward looking force of few dominant and oppressive ruling elite.

It is unthinkable and very inconsistent with the dictates of progressive thought that some religious rulers whose roles dovetail to the potentates as prescribed authorities in their respective domains more often than not set the political pace for the nation to follow.

This cleverly and diplomatic fashion translate to a concept of sacrificing the political destiny of the country on the altar of aggrandizement and sacerdotalism.

We won’t do the future generation of our country any good if we continue out of obduracy to conduct the political affairs of the country along parochial religious and ethnic lines to obfuscate cause of good government which negates the spirit and letters of Nigeria’s constitution as a secular state.

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God is omnipresent. His ever-ready responsiveness to our supplication and needs is not confined to any church, mosque or place. In other words, it is said in the Holy Bible that “God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth, not essentially in mundane or material term. In the outpouring of hypocritical and snobbish exhibition may provoke and escalate religious disharmony and deep division among the diverse peoples of Nigeria.

In a spirited search for nationhood, political leadership should strive hard to sever the nation from the religious umbilical cord which could daze her socio-economic and political sensibilities as a keen player within the orbit of modern and enlightened nations.

For peace, progress, unity and political stability of the country. Nigeria should remain and be preserved as a secular state devoid of any religious interference in the day to day activities of government be it at local, state or federal level of operation.

Let me quickly identify this essay with the immortal submissions of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his book “Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution.”

Accordingly, the late sage said: “The existing association/relationship between the state and the church or mosque should be completely severed. It is an old British custom which is apish, unreflecting and discriminating to preserve.

“There should be no state services at either in the churches or in the mosques. No clergy should also partake in the opening ceremonies or proroguing in the parliament. Neither should the judges also participate in a purely political function. In this connection, there should be no religious services in the opening of the assizes.

“To be sure, it is a very good thing indeed for the churches, the mosques and other religious gatherings, to pray, from time to time, for the success of the government of the day, if they are convinced that its plans and programmes are good and promotive of the welfare and happiness of the people.

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“But, it would be wrong, and of course futile for them to pray, for success of a manifestly satanic and diabolical administration. For the reformation of such a nasty government they certainly must pray. By participating in state ceremonies and getting too much involved in official functions, some religious leaders find it difficult to speak out with freedom, forthrightness and courage in condemnation of what they know to be evil in the doings of the state,” Chief Awolowo enthused.

If the foregoing proposals premised on “austerity and discipline” are enshrined in the federal constitution of the republic and meticulously and unafraid implemented, will certainly take the sail out of the wind of the depraved religious and ethnic jingoists across the country.

This irresponsible clique is fanning embers of mutual religious disaffection that may kick start religious imbroglio and warfare.

Recently, some Nigerians dailies splashed a screaming headline with scornful and hateful banner “Sultan knocks Christian leaders on killing “Nobody is persecuted.” Only God knows what empty trash would go into the social media contemptuous of Christian faith especially Roman Catholicism to incite muslims prone to violence.

Speaking at the first quarterly meeting of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) meeting in Abuja, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III expressed doubt about the sincerity and commitment of NIREC members to religious peace and tolerance in Nigeria. This obviously was to counter the position of the Christian Association of Nigeria and Catholic Bishops who said their adherents in some Northern parts of the country are facing religious persecution.

Not only the muslims and the Christians but the African traditional religious worshippers, and the free thinkers otherwise labeled as agnostics and atheists should note and realize that our allegiance goes forth to the sovereignty of our nation and it supercedes our individual religious confessions.

Without the nation being intact, free from insecurity, strife and tremours of war, we won’t be able to perform our religious obligations effectively.

The NIREC and other religious organisations in the country should serve as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) which must not be founded by the government. However, the activities of the religious organisation must be regulated within the individual state’s ministry charged with interior or home affairs.

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By extension, the Christian and Muslim Welfare Pilgrims Boards across the federation should be abolished forthwith and the activities taken over by department allotted to it in the appropriate state’s ministry.

This far reaching decision will curb government’s undue meddlesomeness in the affairs of religion which is not a political matter by stretch of sane imagination but purely of the heart.

Over and above it all, there is need for strong leadership at the centre imbued with political will and vision to give the nation a fresh new lease of life free from religious bigotry and tribal ethnic chauvinism.

Ondo HoS extension, kudos to Gov. Aketi

For extending the tenure of Ondo State Head of Service, Mr Oluwadare Aragbaiye by one year, the Governor, Arakunrin Odunayo Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) deserves kudos for his courage and statesmanship to promote stability. And to reward dedicated, unstinted and selfless service of the recipient.

It is remarkable to note that on assumption of office as governor in November 2016, Arakunrin Akeredolu retained the services of the hardworking and indefatigable former Head of Service, Mr Toyin Akinkuotu who ought to have retired and gone alongside his boss, the former governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko having completed his mandatory second-term in office.

The governor, Arakunrin Akeredolu (SAN) a.k.a Aketi in his wisdom elongated the tenure of Aragbaiye as HoS without prejudice to the extant and statutory provisions and regulations of the civil service.

This writer salutes the courage of the governor, for this noble, bold and non partisan step to encourage and motivate upright staff with excellent track records base on wealth of experience gathered over the years of unparalleled and unblemished records in the service.

The maxim “old broom knows best the corners of the room’ comes in handy. This will certainly pay off in the ultimate leaving worthy legacy and fastracking easy and smooth succession to the highest office in the public service.

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