By *Jerry Ochada*
As expected, Nigerians have retired to another season of hullabaloo in criticism of a recent aberration by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) where Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Presidential Candidate of the party has settled for a fellow Muslim (Shettima) as his running mate. This is the bone of contention.
Contrary to my usual outings, I rarely discuss religion – in writings or verbal debates – because it is too sensitive and can easily be misconstrued by fanatics to instigate unnecessary uproar. Be that as it may, the worst fate that can befall a man is untimely death, thus it is better to assert the truth and die than to live in self deception amidst perceived abnormalities.
Tinubu’s choice of running mate is an insult on the common sensibilities of Nigerians. I am glad so many Muslims who understand the intricacies of politics are also criticizing in strong terms this broad daylight goofing in anticipation of a free and perhaps fair general election come 2023. In reality, religion and politics are interwoven but we must not heat the polity especially at this critical stage of our nation’s history. Religion should have been a binding factor but in Nigeria, citizens are divided on the margins of religion.
To my stark dismay, so many Christian supporters of Tinubu are tragically celebrating his options because they have no choice. It beats my wild imaginations for Jagaban to shoot himself on the leg with claims of competency – according to him, Shettima is the most competent personality to be considered as his running mate. In a country of over 180 million citizens, Tinubu could not find a competent believer of the christian faith to adopt as running mate? Well, the die is cast but his standpoint is a collective insult on all reasonable Christians in Nigeria.
Now let’s roll the dice:
Islam and Christianity are the two major religion in Africa’s most populous country. Interestingly, these two religion are borrowed. Pitiably, the indigenous African Traditional Religion has been sidelined in the scheme of political consideration but in candid assessment so many Christians and reasonable amount of Muslims still patronize and obey the alignments of their forefathers. True or False?
If the above projection is true, considering an ifa Chief Priest or a witch doctor as running mate by any Presidential Candidate is also not out of place. To this end, Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state, therefore issues concerning religious beliefs must be treated with care; not levity.
Again, Christians must wake up from their slumbers by learning how to create the much needed relevance for themselves by preaching and showcasing love. The Bible and Quran invariably teaches us to be our brother’s keeper (showing love to one another without reservation) but in practice, our Muslim brethren have exemplified this instructions without shouting on a wider scale of measure –without shouting “Hallelujah”. Let me quickly share a personal experience that once threatened my Christian faith.
In the year 2015, a Muslim relative of mine (Jibrin Faruna) facilitated a job offer for me to work briefly with Access Bank. I was shortlisted and posted to Gombe state, Northeastern Nigeria. At that time, the region was ravaged with heinous crimes perpetuated by Boko Haram insurgents and I had so many reasons to shun the offer but my Muslim cousin advised me to go and resume duties. He charged me to go and register my presence in any Catholic Church hinting it would solve the problem of accomodation.
I was encouraged and on Friday 22 May 2015, I journeyed to Gombe state and reported for duties as an Enrolment Officer. My task was to enroll customers in line with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directives for Bank Verification Number (BVN) which took effect all over the country. I approached the branch manager and narrated my ordeal. He told me the bank does not provide accomodation for any staff. A colleague later directed me to a nearby Catholic church upon enquiry. I arrived the premises and informed the security guard that I would like to see the Parish Priest. As usual he asked “any problem”. I replied “no”.
He went inside the Parish House and returned after some minutes to inform me the Reverend Father is having his dinner. It was getting dark so I narrated my ordeal to him. Judging from his facial expression it was obvious the guard pitied my condition. He asked if I have any means of identification proving I belong to the Catholic faith and I hurriedly removed my baptismal card from my bag alongside an old St Vincent De Paul Society manual and handed it over to him. He took these items to the Priest and returned almost immediately.
In his words, “Oga no vex, Fada no gree ooo. I tell am everything where you tell me. I even give am your baptismal card and this book but he say you fit be Boko Haram”.
At that point I was short of words and lost in confusion. Returning to Abuja at that time of the night was not an option because Boko Haram were holding sway. I pushed further by begging the guard that I want to see the priest in person. He advised I take my leave because his job is at stake. Left with no other option, I asked if there is any Corpers lodge in that locality and he directed me to one. In summary, I was permitted to reside in NCCF family house located in Federal Low Cost, Buban Shango, Gombe state for sometime but my own church denied me accomodation. I later came across a secondary school classmate, Adebayo Salawu (a Muslim) and relocated to his house. I spent the remaining weeks of my stay in his residence and we shared all his Ramadan meals together.
In essence, my predicament is one out of many hindrances we encounter amongst the christian faith. Christians in Nigeria are not united because the proliferation of churches is a major setback. Secondly, we all read the Bible with divergent opinion and beliefs. This is rarely practiced among believers of Islam. Today in Nigeria, a Roman Catholic Church goer wields a good measure of sentiments against a Jehovah Witness believer and the case is vice versa. As Christians, we must learn how to preach and practice our faith because the price of disunity is too big to pay. Christians should halt varying degrees of discrimination among churches and brethren if at all we want to get it right.
The ruling All Progressives Congress should reconsider their mistake before it is too late. The country is presently sitting on a keg of gunpowder and religious intolerance can ignite further crisis. Political interplays should not hunt a particular sect or religion. Let us give peace a chance by doing the needful at least for the sake of posterity. For now, the doctrines of one Nigeria has been set ablaze by a group of retired but not tired power drunk comrades in new Agbada.