Re­li­gion and pol­i­tics in Nige­ria

Sunday Trust - - SERMON - By Cor­nelius Afebu Omonokhua Fr. Cor­nelius Omonokhua is the Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of the Nige­ria In­ter-Re­li­gious Coun­cil (NIREC) ([email protected]; www.omonokhua.blogspot.com)

On the 20th of Oc­to­ber, 2011, Dr. Good­luck Ebele Jonathan, the for­mer Pres­i­dent of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria, called an ex­tra or­di­nary meeting of the Nige­ria In­ter-Re­li­gious Coun­cil (NIREC) to dis­cuss the state of the na­tion. In that meeting, he called on the Re­li­gious lead­ers to use re­li­gion to pro­mote peace­ful co­ex­is­tence in Nige­ria. Pres­i­dent Jonathan coun­seled that the pulpit should not be used by Re­li­gious Preach­ers to pro­mote hate speeches as that could lead to vi­o­lence and killing of in­no­cent cit­i­zens. This concern of Pres­i­dent Jonathan was taken se­ri­ously by the Nige­ria In­terReli­gious Coun­cil and be­came part of the agenda of the meeting of NIREC at Ilorin on De­cem­ber, 2011.The In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (INEC) also warned against hate speeches by political aspi­rants, party faith­ful and other stake­hold­ers dur­ing political cam­paigns (https://www.le­git.ng)

Even with the warn­ing of INEC and the state­ments by the Catholic Bish­ops’ Con­fer­ence of Nige­ria (CBCN) that re­li­gious lead­ers should not be par­ti­san or show pref­er­ence for a par­tic­u­lar political can­di­date, the 2015 elec­tions had records of some Men and Women of God who took over the political space akin to the pro­fes­sional prophets of the Old Tes­ta­ments of the Bi­ble. Some Re­li­gious Preach­ers be­came ei­ther pro­fes­sional Seers for some politi­cians or cam­paign agents for the high­est bid­ders mak­ing money a form of de­ity. Now, the game has started again and some pro­fes­sional prophets are al­ready giv­ing their agenda for proph­e­sies and or­a­cles to de­clare who will win the 2019 elec­tions. This political and re­li­gious com­merce is so shame­ful hence we must take se­ri­ously the coun­sel of the in­cum­bent Pres­i­dent as re­ported in the front page of Guardian (Satur­day, De­cem­ber 1, 2015) that Nige­ri­ans should not politi­cize Re­li­gion. The Pres­i­dent ob­served that there are those who seek to di­vide Nige­ri­ans with re­li­gion for their own ad­van­tage.

The re­la­tion­ship that had ex­isted in Nige­ria be­tween Re­li­gion and Pol­i­tics could be per­ceived as a kind of sym­bi­otic and mu­tual ex­tor­tion. This re­la­tion­ship has noth­ing to do with In­ter-Re­li­gious con­flict but the im­pres­sion given is that Chris­tians and Mus­lims are strug­gling for lead­er­ship po­si­tion to out­wit each other. In this con­text, the call by the for­mer Pres­i­dent, Dr. Good­luck Jonathan and Pres­i­dent Buhari should re­po­si­tion re­li­gious lead­ers to give hope to Nige­ri­ans in­stead of trading on politi­cians with the sale of fake proph­e­sies, mir­a­cles and vi­sions. Re­li­gious lead­ers must not for­get this proph­esy of Ezekiel: “Woe to the fool­ish prophets who fol­low their own imag­i­na­tions” (Ezekiel 13:3). Re­li­gion and pol­i­tics has a his­tor­i­cal re­la­tion­ship for the well­be­ing of the cit­i­zens. The re­li­gious and political lead­ers have com­ple­men­tary roles to work as agents of God, the King of kings to cre­ate hap­pi­ness and joy for hu­man­ity.

The re­li­gious lead­ers have the vo­ca­tion to pro­mote mu­tual re­la­tion­ship be­tween the peo­ple and those God has cho­sen as political lead­ers. This re­la­tion­ship is cap­tured in Saint Paul’s let­ter to the Ro­mans. “Let ev­ery­one be sub­ject to the gov­ern­ing au­thor­i­ties, for there is no au­thor­ity ex­cept that which God has es­tab­lished” (Ro­mans 13:1). The gov­ern­ing au­thor­i­ties in Paul’s let­ter are the ideal lead­ers who are con­scious that they are elected by the peo­ple for the peo­ple. A true politi­cian is a fel­low ci­ti­zen with the peo­ple and a ser­vant of the cit­i­zens. The Prophets di­rected the kings to serve the peo­ple in jus­tice. They en­cour­age the kings who were truly ser­vants of the peo­ple and re­buked the kings who ex­ploited the peo­ple. The true prophets did not re­late to the kings for ma­te­rial re­wards. The prophets did not make them­selves act as if they were God. They only

1. Hon­our. God hon­ours those who serve Him. John 12:26, “Who­ever serves me must fol­low me; and where I am, my ser­vant also will be. MY FA­THER WILL HONOR THE ONE WHO SERVES ME.”

Hon­our does not come from what you ac­quire; it comes from ser­vice. For many, hon­our is elu­sive be­cause they serve self. But if you truly want to be hon­oured, you must acted as God’s agents for the good and wel­fare of the peo­ple. Their mis­sion was to lead the kings and the peo­ple to the vi­sion of the true God. His­tory could prove that it is dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate re­li­gion and pol­i­tics as long as the politi­cian seek­ing a political of­fice be­long to one re­li­gion or the other.

Both the Re­li­gious lead­ers, Sec­u­lar lead­ers and the cit­i­zens must seek first the King­dom of God and his right­eous­ness. By so do­ing, ev­ery other thing will be given to them (Matthew 6:33). God changes times and seasons. God alone de­poses kings and raises up oth­ers to re­place them. He gives wis­dom to the wise and knowl­edge to the dis­cern­ing (Daniel 2:21). The peo­ple through cred­i­ble elec­tions are there­fore God’s in­stru­ment to choose a cred­i­ble leader or to re­move a bad leader. Con­se­quently, who­ever sells votes or takes part in elec­toral fraud is be­tray­ing the gift of God in him or her to share in the king mak­ing role of God. For God to use any gov­ern­ment to save a na­tion, the peo­ple must re­ject the devil who wants to rule the world through his agents. Some peo­ple be­lieve that to be suc­cess­ful in pol­i­tics, the politi­cian must be­long to a se­cret cult of Satan. Our politi­cians can prove this wrong by putting God first in their political ca­reer and am­bi­tion. The politi­cians must prove that they are called to be Saints and Na­tion­al­ists.

It is sad that some peo­ple are still obey­ing Satan by promis­ing to change stones to bread for the peo­ple who have no wis­dom to re­spond that “It is writ­ten: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on ev­ery word that comes from the mouth of God.” Some peo­ple to­day de­sire a re­li­gious or political ruler who can show that he or she is pow­er­ful and can do ex­tra­or­di­nary things like jump­ing down from the top of the pin­na­cle in­stead of telling Satan, “It is also writ­ten: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” So many now obey the devil who promised them the wealth and lux­ury of the world say­ing, “All this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.” Un­for­tu­nately, many do not have the faith like Je­sus to say, “Away from me, Satan! For it is writ­ten, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only” (Matthew 4: 1-11).

A gov­ern­ment can give mean­ing to the life of the cit­i­zens by do­ing the will of God with the knowl­edge of the truth (1 Tim­o­thy 2:4). The political his­tory of Nige­ria has shown that prom­ises are like but­ter with which some politi­cians prey on the elec­torate as if they were eat­ing bread. Nige­ri­ans must not be de­luded to think that a change in gov­ern­ment will trans­form the na­tion into par­adise. What Nige­ria ac­tu­ally needs is a change of at­ti­tude and in­te­rior con­ver­sion to be bet­ter hu­man be­ings who care for the com­mon good. Je­sus lived by words and ex­am­ple in cor­rect­ing the pa­gan world. The apos­tles con­tinue in this spirit by giv­ing clear ev­i­dence to the gospel’s trans­form­ing power with their wit­ness of life and re­spon­si­bil­ity to gov­ern­ment (Ro­mans 13:1-2).

The mis­sion of the Church is to change the hearts of the peo­ple by words and ac­tions. The Church must be a model in trans­form­ing the hearts of peo­ple by en­sur­ing that the pol­i­tics within the Church is ideal and wor­thy of em­u­la­tion by the sec­u­lar world. Oth­er­wise, the voice of the Church would not be strong enough like the true prophets to cor­rect the ills of the so­ci­ety. The Church must be a model through ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal gov­er­nance to have the moral courage to preach against the sins that are putting the cit­i­zens in pains and penury. Political par­ties can­not be the Saviour of any na­tion as long as in­ter-party dif­fer­ences pro­mote ha­tred be­tween brothers and sis­ters. The sal­va­tion for all mankind has been man­i­fested in Je­sus Christ. May God through our hu­man co­op­er­a­tion, give peace and re­birth to Nige­ria in dis­tress.

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