The widely circulated memo issued by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) has stirred more than the hornet’s nest. It has been a hotly debated topic not only among the Nigerian Muslims, but also among the Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal Christians. The Muslims argue that they have been vindicated. Their allegation of Christianization agenda is now proven beyond doubt. While some Christians continue to defend the memo, many others are of the opinion that the Church shouldn’t have had anything to do with politics.
They argue that Nigeria is a secular state and thus there should be a separation of the Church from politics. In other words, ‘there should be a separation of religion from politics.’ This notion of politics being divorced from religion within the Nigerian context is deceptive. We all know it.
First of all, the notion that Nigeria is a secular state in the strict sense of the word ‘secularism’ is bogus. How can a state which claims to be secular officially engage in religious activities and rites? How can a secular state channel public funds in the construction of churches and mosques? How can pilgrimage commissions (of Christians and Muslims) be financed and managed by the government?
If religion is truly separated from politics, why do we have problem with Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian ticket in selecting presidents and their running mates? Why is it that in the core Muslim dominated north, it is no-no for a Christian to be a governor or even a deputy governor? For the rest of my temporary sojourn on earth, my imagination refuses to imagine a Christian governor in states like Kano, Jigawa, or Sokoto.
I will also not believe my dream even if I were to dream it hundred times that a Muslim becomes a governor in southern states like Imo, Anambra or Abia—at least in my life time. Except and perhaps there is military take over, the possibility of what I portrayed above is impossible.
Though the fact that there is an exception to every rule might make us acknowledge God’s ability to make what is humanly impossible possible, yet I can bet that there are people who will flatly disagree that God can make a Christian to become a governor in Kano State or a Muslim to become a governor in Imo State in 2023. While ordinarily we should believe God has power over all things, many will still argue that these are things that God can do but will not do!
But we claim Nigeria is a secular state. Why can’t a Muslim become governor in Cross River? Why can’t a Christian become governor in Zamfara? If your answer is as good as mine, then we should stop the hypocrisy. Religion has always been a factor in Nigerian politics. Thus, Nigeria is not a clear-cut secular state.
Ahmet Kuru classified secularism into ‘passive’ and ‘assertive’ in his book titled “Secularism and State Policies toward Religion.” According to Ahmet, passive secularism demands that the state play a passive role by allowing the public visibility of religion; while assertive secularism requires the state to play an assertive role to exclude religion from the public sphere and confine it to the private domain. He identified the United States with passive secularism and France with assertive secularism. These are good examples. He went further to identify China as anti religion state which officially espouses state atheism.
Where does Nigeria belong in these categories? Obviously, it is not an anti religion state like China. If we admit that it is a secularist state, it does not practice assertive secularism like France. Nigeria also goes beyond passive secularism like the United State because its role is not just passive by allowing the public visibility of religion, it actively participates in religion rites as explained above. Therefore, Nigeria does not fit into any of Ahmet Kuru’s typologies.
Furthermore, the word ‘secularism’, or any of its derivatives, does not exist in the Nigerian Constitution. Nigeria is not a secular state even with the provision of Section 222 (e) which says; “No association by whatever name called shall function as a party, unless the name of the association, its symbol or logo does not contain any ethnic or religious connotation…”
So, why the fuss and the uproar about RCCG’s establishment of an Office of Directorate of Politics and Governance? As far as I am concerned, it is not against the Constitution. Religion is one of the agents of political socialization just as the churches and mosques are fora for political mobilization. This is not a new reality. It has been the norm in Nigeria. Both Muslim and Christian clerics have, times without number, instructed their followers on whom to vote for and whom not to vote for through the pulpits. After all, it is not a leaked memo. I salute RCCG’s gut to make its bias public. This is democratic. To hide it might be hypocritical.
I think the allegation that the memo is purportedly meant to campaign for Osinbajo should not be the headache of anyone who is not a member of RCCG. Those that should be disturbed have started kicking. My ‘uncle’—Egbon Dele Momodu—has started ranting. Read his ‘My Kobo Advice to RCCG’ where he addressed fellow Nigerians as usual. I also expect Sen. Oluremi Tinubu, being a member, to seek explanation from Daddy G. O. and ask: “why Osinbajo?” “Why not Tinubu to whom she is married?”
If the Muslims consider the Memo a threat, they should also create a directorate with the same mandate. Simple. As for the trite allegation of attempt to Christianize or Islamize Nigeria, I always think it is a joke.
But will Osinbajo be a good president? I doubt. I am more inclined to think his presidency will be a continuation of the disaster into which we are already enmeshed and from which he cannot exonerate himself—as Vice President and Acting President.
May God have mercy on us and liberate Nigeria.