By Sunny Ikhioya

TO get a clearer picture of the Muslim-Muslim ticket presently causing a lot of hoopla in the country, we must begin from the basis of Nigeria as a secular country. If this is the case, why are people pushing religion over matters of effective governance? This is because, overtime those in authority have used their positions to push for the interests of their religion and ethnicity, and this cannot work in a plural society like Nigeria. 

No particular ethnic and religious group has the monopoly of wisdom; therefore, if things are not handled appropriately the country will be thrown into anarchy; that is what is currently playing out. It is not about the capacity of the individual to perform; it is about what is right, given the state of things in Nigeria at these times. If you care to know, no one cares whether you are Christian, Muslim or Traditionalist; we use to celebrate festivals, eat, drink and live together as one, but with things have been distorted by certain elements in power, not asking for balance and equity will be a serious disservice to our children and generations yet unborn and a desecration of the spirits of our ancestors who had entrenched in us the beliefs and traditions that we practice today. 

Do not be deceived by the logic of a vice-president without power; when you lose sight of little details, the wound manifests into a festering sore. We saw Alex Ekwueme as vice-president to Shehu Shagari; we saw how he performed and became a balancing force for the integration of a one Nigeria. We saw Atiku Abubakar as vice-president to Olusegun Obasanjo; his influence on the governors, how his input on the economy during that period is still touted as a reference until today; and we saw how he built bridges across the Niger that are still tied in relationship until today. We saw how Goodluck Jonathan transformed from a passive vice-president to become a President  who ran the freest democracy that this country ever witnessed in the post-civil war era. 

You cannot be at the seat of power in a secular country and be speaking one religion; it will not augur well for the country’s growth.  We are beginning to witness gradual religious and cultural audacity in this country. During the last Sallah celebration in Calabar, the recently coronated head of the Hausa-Fulani community in the state capital, Alhaji Garba Lawan, was addressed and hailed as the Emir of Calabar and paraded as such. Something like this was also attempted in Edo State but the people resisted it. Very soon, if not resisted or totally stopped, the handshake will extend beyond the elbow. Such undue permissiveness  will only attract religious fundamentalists, insurgents and bandits like ISWAP, Boko Haram and others. 

Freedom of association and movement is the fundamental right of all Nigerians, but the conduct of anybody must be such that will give due respect to the tradition and customs of the land. Many of the conflicts that have engulfed this country today arose from the inability of people to live within the boundaries allowed for them; when they gain little power or influence, they try to subvert the process. That is why people are saying that the best society is the one that lives strictly by the rule of law, not through any religious or ethnic sentiments.

The law recognises both traditional and religious boundaries, and when there is conflict in any of the situations, the Constitution, which is the grundnorm, should always be applied; that is why our law courts are there. The position of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, is that the government should stick strictly to the secularity of the country, which means that Nigeria operates on the basis of multi- pluralism in the matter of religion, free from government involvement and participation. 

If you think CAN is fighting for nothing, it means you do not know history or deliberately avoiding that route. The history of religious spread has shown that the one in control of government has the advantage. Christianity was in seclusion until a powerful Roman Emperor got converted and decreed it as official state religion.

Islam did not gain a foothold in the land until the proclamation  of a Jihad by the leaders against those regarded as infidels. The two major religions we practise in Nigeria today are foreign in origin: Islam came to the North through conquest, while in the Southern part of Nigeria, Christianity was supported through the instrumentality of the colonial government. 

So, you will see a newly converted Christian go to his village shrine and put a torch to it and district authorities, who were mainly White Christians, will give them backing, like it happened in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. A brand of religion grows if the powers in government are in support of it, whether tacitly or covertly. Those familiar with history will remember Constantinople, which history records “ developed into a thriving port, thanks to its prime location between Europe and Asia and its natural harbour.

In 330AD it became the site of Roman Emperor Constantine’s  ‘New Rome’, a Christian city of immense wealth and magnificent architecture”. A very important Christian city, which is in present day Turkey, captured through conquest, today it is a Muslim country, where important Christian legacies have been converted to Mosques by state authorities. 

In Lebanon, the Christians were in clear majority; along came a few Muslim fundamentalists, who started destroying properties, killing and forcefully converting people to their religion with the support of Islamic countries like Syria. Today, Christianity is no more the dominant religion in Lebanon. That is why CAN is crying for balance at the top, if it has happened elsewhere, it can be replicated here, unless nipped in the bud.

From what we have witnessed so far, the authorities have not demonstrated enough capacity to protection the people, especially minorities who have been displaced from their homelands. They cannot openly practise their faith without persecution, not everyone is prepared to face death for their faith; so you find many of them staying away from places of worship. 

The attacks on Churches and other places of worship are meant to scare people away; the longer you stay away from your place of worship, the quicker the spirit of worship departs from you. So, when you examine the situation critically, people are right to insist that their interests must be factored in when the issues of Nigeria are been tabled for discussion and nobody should begrudge them or deny them of their right in this regard. 

Ikhioya wrote via

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