By Dr Ugoji Egbujo
Governor has declared Rivers a Christian state. He has repeated that declaration every time he has found himself in the midst of bishops.
And every time he has repeated it, he has reminded us that he has no apologies to make.
If Gov Wike were a layman we could have excused him. Many governors, intoxicated by office, forget the actual size of their powers. But Wike is a lawyer. He knows the constitution. He knows Nigeria is a liberal secular state. He knows proclamations that should belong to beer parlors.
Governor Wike knows that the constitution prescribes a liberal multi religious society and prohibits state religion which will constitute blatant religious discrimination. He knows he cannot, no matter how how deep his voice it, decree his state a Christian state. But he also knows that such pronouncements could touch hearts and fetch endorsements and votes. And that is why he bluffs and blusters, and mouths it.
It’s all opportunism. That’s what political charlatanism breeds.
We need not ask the governor what it means to be a Christian state. Wike is now a self appointed ambassador of Christ in government. But Rivers and Wike actually joined that political trade in religions a little late.
Rivers joined late because states like Zamfara have poked their fingers into the eyes of the constitution while doing the buying and selling of religion for ages now.
Many years ago, there was a certain Gov Yerima. He woke up one morning and made Zamfara an Islamic state. Unlike Wike and his ineffectual noise making, Yerima didn’t just mouth declarations and didn’t have to talk about apologies. He made laws and championed causes that elevated his religion to the status of state religion.
The soldiers of God in Zamfara chased the poor who stole goats. And cut off limbs. They called God’s name at every opportunity. And the people cheered and forgot to keep their eyes on the treasury. We know how Yerima and Zamfara ended. When the wind of the EFCC blew towards Zamfara, the under belly of a certain fowl was exposed.
The citizenry want good governance. But politicians sell them religion to sedate them. Religion is when it means love of God and love of mankind. Religion is meaningful when it means honesty, selflessness , probity, transparency, productivity and humaneness in government.
What calculating politicians sell to the masses in Nigeria is a dubious love of religion, the counterfeit of the real thing. Religion for politicians is a device to hoodwink, brainwash, divide and subjugate. Their religion is not used to unify, to edify and to enthrone harmony.
They rig elections, they do elaborate thanksgivings. They build sham roads, they shout glory be to God. They won’t build schools. They won’t build hospitals. But they will sponsor religious pilgrimages. It’s marked by superficiality and artificiality.
It’s a trade in religions. The use of God to grab votes and gather political influence. The love of God and the love of the people—their neighbours—are not their priority.
Zamfara is a cautionary tale. Zamfara has warned us to watch carefully those who make a public show of religion in governance. Because they are often the very people who despise true righteousness and basic accountability.
When a state sends its religious police to seek and destroy Guinness trucks on public highway that state has adopted a state religion. It’s ridiculous. Many states in the north have brazenly adopted Islam as state religion. That’s where we have been. States fostering the very ideals of Boko Haram. And it all seemed mundane. They simply said that sharia was customary law. And we simply shook our heads and looked away.
It took Wike’s declarations for the absurdity of that entire trade to become visible to all.
So Rivers is a Christian state? It’s comical. Rivers, where bitterness and acrimony is the hallmark of politics. Rivers, where leaders do not preach love. The same Rivers where cults rule and militants roam? Wike is now an ambassador of Christ. That’s interesting. The very Wike who is one of the most dreaded governors in this country? Perhaps during the next national elections Rivers will have another opportunity to show us its love for Christ. Because the hollowness of existing holiness was visible in its proclivity for violence in previous national elections.
Kano too pretends to be a holy state. O yes, after all Nigerian brewery trucks cannot negotiate kano streets without a camouflage. The eyes of the Kano public cannot behold evil. But they can stand a man who was seen clearly in a video stuffing his babanriga with wads of bribe dollars. Kano’s holiness can let that man remain on his throne. And the other throne has a man of probity who can’t explain how he wasted billions of public funds. So Kano is where a king frets once he sees the local police knocking angrily on palace doors.
Fortunately, I live in Lagos. Lagos, the commercial capital of the country, where nobody trades in religions.