By Wole Olujobi
I never knew that infidelity in brotherhood and sisterhood in sectarian faith also existed in the christendom until the February 25, 2023 presidential election when people of the same Christian faith, in an act of betrayal, played the Iscariot by thrusting forth their malicious thumbs to damn one of their own in a contest that such a faith fraternity is most needed to create conditions that would allow one of their leaders to serve humanity, which, I suppose, is the cornerstone of the Christian faith as espoused by Jesus Christ.
But by sheer Nigerianess in the church that turns standard practice into an odd reality, the election turned out an exemplar of a failed dream of a united nation; for the moral of the election was indeed antithetical to the thesis of “though tribes and tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand”. It was indeed an election that turned a potential beneficiary of religious solidarity to a victim of “religious politics” in the club of the clergy.
After the poll, the results that emerged clearly negated the verse that romanticised the filial amity needed to forge a united country that was birthed in 1960.
It all started by some pastors who were never quite educated or pretended never to be educated enough by the principle that produced the best election in Nigeria in 1993 when the late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (MKO) and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, both Muslims, swept the polls across Nigeria in a fashion never seen before in the nation’s political history. That poll was the first to bond Nigerians in the spirit of togetherness irrespective of tongues, faiths and tribes that differed.
But the Nigerian potentates aborted the dream, the result of which forced Nigeria back again to the old prejudices that had held the nation down over the years. The drums of war sounded thereafter, forcing dislocations, as Nigerians in different parts of the country returned to their states of origin.
I had thought that this lesson of history would play a role again in the 2023 presidential election anchored on rotational power scheme to keep Nigeria united in peace, but the elite in cassock, some of them best in their professional callings, abandoned the gains of their educational attainments and whatever scholarship stands for, to pursue narrow religious lines to stoke old religious prejudice that was the bane of the nation’s growth over the years.
The most vociferous of these religious bigots against Moslem/Moslem ticket were led by Winners Chapel partisans and others in the manner that the Philistines would never contemplate against the Israelites at the time that what Nigerians needed most was good and experienced leadership that would turn around the fortunes of Nigerians for good to enable them earn a decent living.
Except Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly and other pastors who refused to join rebellious preaching masterminded by the top echelon of the clergy, these politicians on the pulpit hid their political persuasions in cassock to launch a vicious battle against Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Senator Kashim Shettima, against the use of their calling. And even from The Redeemed Church corner, mum was the word in the conspiracy of silence.
I salute Pastor Bakare and other noble pastors for being faithful to their calling at the time decency was needed to guide Nigeria’s march towards economic prosperity and progress anchored on proven leadership competence that Tinubu and Kashim Shettima represent. To these Pastors of true faith and virtue, God bless you all mightily in His vineyard.
In the past, one of these political Philistines threw decency to the winds by openly campaigning for PDP in Kwara State. He was later discovered to be allegedly campaigning for former President Goodluck Jonathan to enable his brother in PDP emerge as Governor of Kwara State. But Kwara people saw the trick and voted for APC’s candidate. Pronto, after the death of PDP in Kwara, he turned his church to anti-APC platform to roast President Muhammadu Buhari and whatever APC stands for. And after his brother’s failed bid, he never forgave APC, which informed his support for Peter Obi of the Labour Party in his relentless attacks against Tinubu and APC as a party.
Another Pastor in a video that went viral before the election swore with his life that Tinubu would never win the election. He said repeatedly that God had told him that Tinubu would fail in the election. He even challenged God Almighy, saying: “If Tinubu wins this coming election, then there is no God. It is you God that told me that Tinubu would never win, but if he wins, then it means that there is no God. It also means that if Tinubu wins, I will stop worshipping God and return to my traditional worship in my village.”
He went to this ridiculous and blasphemous length to persuade worshippers to vote against Tinubu by desperately “implicating” God as the author of his bile against the Jagaban.
Several pastors, by many of these tricks, had put millions of worshippers in distress over fake predictions that made these worshippers to abandon promising paths that would have taken them to their glory, but the propensity towards ostentatious living as assured them by their prosperity pastors had led many worshippers to their everlasting penury.
Unfortunately, leading churches in Nigeria were in that fray during campaigns preaching ferociously against Tinubu, who is the husband of one of their pastors.
During church services, they preach to worshippers that husband and wife live in one spirit, and so “let no man put them asunder”. But the next moment when they are seized by political spirit, husband and wife must be put asunder, as religious solidarity spirit has no place in political worshipping.
Consequently, several Nigerian pastors, united in the conspiracy of the spirits, worked against one of their own, Pastor Oluremi Tinubu, of the Redeemed Christian Church, who is the wife of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the President-elect, on the platform of APC. For them, Pastor Oluremi Tinubu does not belong in the political worshipping that favours the promoters of anti-moslem/moslem ticket in the church.
But like the rejected stone that becomes the head of the corner, Pastor Remi Tinubu triumphed in the battle fought by God Himself, leaving the sphinx in the church to gnash their teeth in submission to the supremacy of the righteousness and faithfulness of God in His benevolence to the people He wishes to crown in laurels.
But beyond the vanity of their enterprise are the bigger consequences of the sentiment that our pastors have stoked in the polity.
Using Peter Obi as a poster boy for religious segregation and oppression in Nigerian politics, after a vicious campaign against Tinubu, the Labour Party candidate won in only Christian-dominated states and areas, thus promoting another divisive tendency in Nigeria after ethnic bigotry was defeated in Nigerian politics.
Even though they are both agents of destabilisation, of the two tendencies (ethnic and religious), religious solidarity is more deadly, made so by the co-habitation orientation and tendency in religious solidarity. While mobility is easier during ethnic combustion, religious hostility does not have that luxury. We saw it in Kaduna, Owo in Ondo State and other parts of the country where places of worship were set ablaze and worshippers killed enmasse in guerilla tactics whereas such cleansing is rare in ethnic face-off.
Many pastors and other religious zealots, without firing a shot, have succeeded in creating a condition for the moslems to dig trenches in ambush for Christian politicians that hope to contest for the Nigerian Presidency in the future. That is the reality of their indiscretion. If Pastors could turn a blind eye on the husband of one of their own, then we should expect moslems to have their pound of flesh when a Christian emerges a presidential candidate of a political party, as the sounds of fury are already emitting from moslems over this unconscionable breach of Nigeria’s search for unity.
Like Dele Alake, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity of APC Presidential Campaign Council, noted in his press statement on the danger posed by the results that emerged in christian-dominated areas, Obi has created a record for himself as the most dangerous politician in Nigeria, whose conduct will aid and promote disunity and religious distrust, fueling what promises to be one of the most dangerously divisive consequences after the Nigerian Civil War.
It is unfortunate that the so-called men of God and their followers, most of them very literate and in the ruling class, are the champions of this Special Purpose Disunity Vehicle in which they have put Nigerians after decades of efforts to achieve religious and ethnic harmony and peace.
The result of this indiscretion by our pastors manifested in Abuja few days ago when Igbo people in their thousands lay a seige to the INEC building chanting and demanding that Obi that lost the election be declared the winner or else the Igbo would secede from Nigeria. This was after a Southerner was beaten blue and black in the East on election day for voting for APC, according to media reports. All of these because Tinubu and Shettima are moslems!
Yet the same Tinubu’s wife and children are Christians, even as he is renowned for appointing several Christians to sensitive positions when he was Governor of Lagos State, while the Vice President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima, sees all Nigerians as equals, and as Borno State Governor, he regularly sponsored Christians to holy pilgrimage in Rome and also adopted an Igbo Christian, Paul Chukwu, as a son with full education sponsorship up to masters degree abroad.
Closely related to this threat is the role that an elderly Nigerian leader is playing to fester disharmony in the polity. Notorious for holier-than-thou conduct even while secretly pursuing selfish agenda that is ruinous to his station as a statesman and inimical to the nation’s wellbeing, Tinubu’s success at polls has exhumed the fatality that lives in the skin and vessel of this political bogeyman with the heart and soul of a hedonist.
Indeed, the reality of Tinubu’s victory is manifesting in contradictions symptomatic of the purport of democracy itself that thrives on the plurality of ideas and ideals, the worst being this Ogun State chief, who appropriated the thuggery of the late lamented Ibadan octogenarian hoodlum, by suborning another 70-year-old hell-raiser minstrel to recruit young Nigerians as dogs of war, in armed insurrection, to storm the streets in an act of rage against Tinubu’s mandate. Few days later, Igbo people stormed the streets of Abuja and INEC headquarters demanding that Obi that lost the election be declared the winner or secession knocks the doors for Igbo’s exit from Nigeria.
And in effect, without uttering a word as Nigeria’s official President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Tinubu’s victory has exposed betrayal of varying colours among the vicious and deceitful potentates that arrogate state powers to themselves in the country. Tinubu’s victory has indeed rebuked the genius of this “sainted” comprador who believes he owns Nigeria and must determine what to accept and what not to accept in Nigeria by Nigerians.
Now, rapidly, the cookies are crumbling and our yesterday’s king the giant is fast receding to a walking shadow, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing; a mere slave to depravity and thrall of emotion as revealed in his leaked telephone conversation.
In closing, let me advert the minds of our malicious pastors to the book of Micah Chapter 7, Verse Six: “For son treats father contemptuously,
Daughter rises up against her mother,
Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.”
Is this a virtue in christendom? The Bible says husband and wife are one in spirit and so let no man put them asunder. Do you political pastors realise that you put the marriage of your fellow pastor asunder during that election? Or is Pastor Oluremi Tinubu no longer part of your pastoral conclave? Bury your heads in the Bible to answer these questions.
*Olujobi, Deputy Director, Media and Publicity,
Ekiti State APC Presidential Election Committee, writes from Ado-Ekiti