By Bisi Olominu
Religion is an opium. Politics is war. Both are interwoven. There is politics in the church, once you do not strike the right cord, you cannot be promoted or taken to a ‘juicy’ church. As a pastor you have to lobby, even buy gifts and ensure payment of ‘fat tithe’ to curry the favour of those in charge of promotion.
Religion and politics have been bound in a passionate love-hate affair since the beginning of time. Bearing in mind the volatility of Nigeria and the havocs religious crises have wrecked in the country, one may ask: should religion and politics be mixed, most especially in a secular state like Nigeria? Should men of God be involved in politics? Should they be seen hobnobbing with politicians? And if they are mixed, would the mixture be like “manna from heaven”, or a powerful poison that burns everything it touches?
During the Middles Ages, the church was a formidable power, potent enough to threaten the monarch. To keep itself strong and viable, the church encouraged feudalism and discouraged independent thought. However, massive corruption and abuse of power by the church led to popular dissent and revolution.
The debate on whether men of God should hobnob with politicians has continued to generate different reactions. Some have condemned the action, saying it was nothing but against the tenets of God. This class believes that men of God should be consulted in the House of God and not in the houses of politicians.
The other school believes that there is nothing wrong in men of God playing politics. This class argued that politics is made for man.
More befuddling is that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and its leadership have allowed themselves to be dragged into the antics of politicians who are ready to explore any means to score political goals. The allegation of N6,000,000,000 and/or N7,000,000,000 bribe monies purportedly given to the CAN leadership by the immediate past presidency aimed at wooing the Christian body to support and canvass for votes for the re-election bid of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was perplexing.
Also bewildering is the purported “Whatsapp message” being circulated and alleged to have originated from the CAN leadership warning Christians not to vote for a Muslim presidential candidate in the 2015 election; that a vote for a Muslim president was tantamount to automatic Islamization of Nigeria.
Hobnobbing with politicians is not only a Christian affair, Muslim clerics are also doing the same. They are at the corridor of power to share out of the commonwealth. They have even formed an association, Muslims in Politics, to shore up their relevance in the government of the day. They share money openly and at every occasion they showcase their prayers proficiency .
One therefore begins to wonder, could it be that the Nigerian government and religious leaders (both Muslim and Christian) have forgotten that Nigeria is a secular state as routed for by our founding fathers?
The President, Mohammadu Buhari has warned religious leaders not to be involved in political controversies.
“Having witnessed the roles our religious leaders have been playing so far,I appeal to them to eschew partisan politics and appeal to their respective members to read the manifestoes of each political party, discuss and pray for God’s guidance before casting their votes.
” Religious leaders should not be seen involving themselves in partisan politics or political controversies, otherwise, they risk losing their status and public respect”.
Buhari said that his advice became necessary having witnessed the roles religious leaders have been playing so far ahead of the 2019 elections.
Speaking on the issue, Pastor Isaac Komolafe said that religious leaders who ought to be seen as small gods have turned themselves to beggars in the corridors of power.
“It is true that God mandated us to be praying for those in authorities, but it should not be done to the extreme as we have today, that you see religious leaders at campaigns, offices and homes of politicians praying for them. If indeed you are called by God, God has his own way of providing for you. Those in authorities should come to you and not otherwise.
“We have heard in the country of a respected cleric, whose jet was used to ferry a huge sum of money outside the country. This is ungodly and God will always frown at that.”
In his contribution, the Imam of Okeodu Mosque, Alhaji Alalaaye posited that everything should be done in moderation.
According to him, the Holy Quran is so explicit on what religious leaders should do, “pray for those in power”. Anything shot of this is against the will and wish of Allah.
“Our function is to pray and advise those in authorities on programmes and policies that would better the lots of the people. We are not to curry their favour by going to their homes and offices, thereby turning ourselves to errand boys. Those playing politics, go and see them, they have become irrelevant in the society.”
He therefore warned religious leaders to be wary of those who want to spoil their names in the name of politics.
To Pastor Moses Aro, there should be a distinct separation between politics and religion.
“If you want to practise politics as a man of God, then forget your calling and join politics. Mixing the two together will always end in sorrow. Politics is good but in our clime, it is dirty and when you play it like the politicians, such person will become dirty too.”
The National Missioner, Ansar -Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria, Alhaji Sheikh Abdul-Rahman Ahmad urged men of God to do away with attitude that would portray them as being partisan.
Sheikh Ahmad who frowned at a situation whereby religious leaders involved themselves in the endorsement of candidates, posited that although these leaders have the right of association, it should not go beyond that, in order to keep their respectability and the unity of the religious community in their care.
He maintained that heads of these faiths must focus on their callings, in order to guide, speak the truth to those in authority without fear when the situation calls for it, live above board and be transparent in whatever they do .
“They should focus on their callings, guide and admonish the people, speak the truth in all situations and live above board, they must be simple and worthy for people to emulate. They must be transparent in all circumstances”.
Contributing to the issue, the founder of King of Old Soaring Ministries, Prophet Ibikunke Owoeye said that Christian politicians should be good ambassadors of Christ.
He posited that they should emulate Jesus Christ style of leadership while on earth, urged them to lead others in the right direction, through their exemplary leadership lifestyles.
“I want you to know that you are in that office to be a change agent and make positive impact in the society, while discharging your duties in the fear of God.
“Nothing forbids Christians from either actively participating in politics or electing credible people to lead them through their votes.