In the past, I had believed that this famous prayer of the father of Scottish Presbyterianism ended as a request on his knees and I believe Christians of various denominational persuasions might have bought into this conservative political approach. The misleading phrases like “politics is a dirty game, played by dirty people” make the abstinence of Christians from politics more pronounced.
Beliefs like this kept the Christians from key decision-making events and meetings, which is like Daniel or any of the three Hebrew boys resigning their positions in King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom in order not to defile themselves with the portion of the King’s meet. I am convinced beyond all reasonable doubts that if not for Daniel, who because of proximity to the palace had read that the time of their captivity was over, the other nominal Jews who had been taken captive might not have done anything to intervene more or less to know that it was necessary to pray for the return of the Jews to Jerusalem since the time of their captivity had elapsed (70 years).
Esther’s defeat of Haman the Aggagite (Yes, a descendant of King Aggag whom Saul had refused to kill when the command was for him to expressly destroy the Amorite) throws up another intriguing story in the Bible. Remember, Mordecai and Esther, were descendants of Shimei, the brother of King Saul (Esther 2:5). In fact, King Saul was the grand uncle of Mordecai. Does it ring a bell why there was a resentment of the duo for Haman?
The Bible offers us historical contexts because these things “were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4). These contexts are for us to learn from, mirror our actions, and improve upon.
At the recently concluded two-day regional consultation conference organized by the Africa Progress Group (APG), held at the International Conference Centre, Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, former President Olusegun Obasanjo opined that ‘Western liberal democracy was unsuitable for Africa and seems not to be working for Nigeria and other African countries” owing to the spate of coups and counter-coups across Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly in the Francophone countries. I was taken aback by that. Former president Obasanjo is often known for his pyrrhic victories and it seems like Muhammadu Buhari and others who have contributed to Nigeriia’s political stunted growth, have the antidote to democratic problems after they’ve left office.
Obasanjo was known to have conducted the worst elections in Nigeria and the European Union Election Observation Mission issued a statement to the effect that the 2007 general election could not have passed off for an election A part of the EU’s preliminary conclusion, which was that “They were marred by poor organization, lack of essential transparency, widespread procedural irregularities, significant evidence of fraud, particularly during the result collation process, voter disenfranchisement at different stages of the process, lack of equal conditions for contestants and numerous incidents of violence. As a result, the elections have not lived up to the hopes and expectations of the Nigerian people and the process cannot be considered to have been credible.
This is all the more regrettable since they were held in an improved atmosphere in which freedoms of expression and assembly were broadly respected during campaigning, the judiciary played a generally
positive and independent role and the people showed remarkable commitment to democracy, eagerly engaging in the electoral process and waiting patiently to vote in often very difficult circumstances.”
This piece is not a focus on former president Obasanjo and his often puritanical approach to national issues when called up, but a rallying point for the proactiveness of the Nigerian Church to the polity. Last election, the APC’s sheer bravado to go the single-faith route was well-berated. It was not helped by its satirical renting of Bishops of Questionable Dioceses and Hysterical Assemblies to redeem its badly tattered image in the eyes of the Nigerian public. It is high time the Nigerian Church rose to its responsibility. This responsibility is not to offer the pulpits to self-righteous politicians who often take turns to make unverifiable and pious claims about their public office pasts but to create a room for proper vetting of characters seeking public office.
Before its backtrack, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, which boasts of pastors like former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, First Lady Senator Oluremi Tinubu, and the APC National Youth Leader Dayo Israel had in a memo dated February 28, 2022, signed by the Assistant General Overseer, Administration and Personnel, Pastor John Odesola. announced the creation of a Directorate of Politics and Governance. The mandate of the directorate as stated was ” to help coordinate the engagement of our people who are willing to be involved in politics as well as mobilize support for them when required”. This creation which was hailed for its ingenuity as the elections drew near required all levels of the church – zone, area, and parish – to nominate coordinators for the office of Pastor Odesola within two weeks of receipt of the letter. However, no sooner had the former Vice president lost his bid to be the APC’s flagbearer had the initial gusto of the directorate died down. Zeal without knowledge? While that might be a harsh call, it was a welcome development for the largest denomination of the Pentecostal faith in Nigeria to take such a lead.
While we must draw lessons from such moves, the actions and implications of that move must be extrapolated beyond the interests of its members. I do not agree with the internally rooted belief that electoral choices among Nigerians between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria are one of light and darkness going by the rhetorics of some inciteful and borderline hateful Islamic clerics and some badly raised Christian leaders in the country. Those who understand politics know that it is a nuance, especially in a religiously polarised country like ours where electoral choices and their outcomes have been influenced by badly colored themes in the past.
If you read through the pages of social media platforms like Facebook and X (formerly known as Twitter), you would have thought Nigeria was in a civil war going into the elections going by the rhetorics of the various divides the Atikulators, BATists, and the Obidients. Rabiu Kwankwaso’s red cap chiefs (the Kwankwasiyas) seem to be too indigenously off-ramp or more focused on the princely appearance of their red-striped caps than the former groups that engaged in all sorts of vitriol, rabid discussions, and cruel mockery of their principals. These sorts of distractions heralded the campaigns and shifted the focus from issue-based campaigns to extremely immodest discussions and inanities.
The story of John Knox serves as a persuasion for the participation of Christians in politics. While the misgovernance by the ruling monarchy of Scotland was overdue for reshuffling, the man did not end up only praying for the delivery of the soul of the nation into his hands. He was heavily involved in the reformation that saw the overthrow of Roman Catholicism in Scotland for the more assuring Presbyterianism rather than Anglicanism, which was popular in England.
The 2023 election also threw the church into needless chaos and drew it far from many desireables. While they say politicians prepare for elections only, it doesn’t take away the fact that strategic (proper) planning they say prevents poor performance. The Church, leading the Christian faith and emulating Christ, whose admonition is for it to be the light of the world must lead from the fore. The Church must also borrow a leaf from the Christian Democratic Party and Christian Social Union in Bavaria both in Germany which in the aftermath of World War 2 built a framework for the political rapprochement of German politics and its foreign policy thrust taking up non-Nazi and dominant center-right positions while being conservative. The CDU applies the principles of Christian democracy and emphasizes the “Christian understanding of humans and their responsibility toward God”. The Nigerian Church must stay above board and contribute with moral and spiritual persuasion towards the development of our country because it is only “the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward” (2 Kings 19:30).
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