I feel compelled to make a few comments in light of the articles and comments a few people have made in pursuance of the various election campaigns that are being mounted in the run up to our general elections.
My first observation is that most of the campaigns have become negative, attacking opponents credentials and character and failing to spell out plans and policies, almost as if we are being solicited to vote against and not for candidates. Because of my position as a Christian leader I have chosen to maintain a non-partisan stance even though I have personally decided for whom I will vote and will exercise my right in a secret ballot.
My main concern is the dimension religion is taking in our polity, manifested in the accusations made against General Mohamadu Buhari with regards to religious fundamentalism. Never before has religion become such a major factor in our political life as it has in the last few years, and if left unchecked religion has the capacity to destroy our nation. Christians and Muslims have been slaughtered in the orgy of terror that has been unleashed on our nation through Boko Haram, yet the promotion of religious harmony requires dialogue and not accusations of fundamentalism and religious bigotry. The Islamisation or Christianisation of Nigeria requires an amendment to our constitution and no President can change the Nigerian constitution without obtaining three quarters of the votes of the National Assembly in addition to the votes of two thirds of the State Assemblies. It is easier to impeach a President than it is to amend our constitution.
There is no question that GMB is a strong adherent to the Muslim faith, which is his constitutional right and which we are bound to respect. If GMB is a fundamentalist then so am I, because I desire to see a wholly Christian Nigeria, the result of proselytising and not of force. I also believe Jesus words when He said ‘I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except by Me’. Does this mean that I believe that other faiths are inferior to the Christian faith? Of course not, for I accept the right of every Nigerian to hold whatever faith he chooses and would be irresponsible to denigrate that faith.
Dialogue between Christians and Muslims was first championed in Nigeria, and has become imperative as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency. We should as ‘Peacemakers’ be leading the way to peace and not fanning the flames of strife. We should cease from inflammatory language and respect the right to freedom of worship. A man’s freedom to worship ends where he impinges on the freedoms of others, Boko Haram clearly impinge on the freedoms of others and must be stopped. This position does not belie an insensitivity to the suffering that Christians and Muslims have suffered in North Eastern Nigeria, but a realism, that accepts that we must live together and we can do so in harmony if we work to do so. Christians must be prepared to engage in discussion with Muslims who we know do not embrace Jihad or Islamism, these abound and include General Mohamadu Buhari.