Equality And The Right To Freedom Of Conscience By Ade Ilemobade
The drama of anointing at the Chapel of Christ the Light, Alausa, Lagos State, is a drama that will not go away quickly even though Lagos State Government and Christian Association of Nigeria have given us an adulterated version of events, we the skeptics are not willing to buy into such falsity and cover-up.
According to Bob Marley ”You can fool some people some times but you cant fool all the people all the time.”
The principle of equality is a recognition of the fundamental rule in human social interaction predicated on the affirmation that all homo-sapiens are created free and equal by God. This equality in God’s creation in respect of human beings translates into sameness of rights and respect before God and amongst fellow humans.
The Constitution of Nigeria Art. 17 : Equality and Protection from Discrimination is very vivid on this issue and it states:
(1) The State social order is founded on ideals of Freedom, Equality and Justice.
(2) In furtherance of the social order-
(a) every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law;
(b) the sanctity of the human person shall be recognized and human dignity shall be maintained and enhanced;
(c) governmental actions shall be humane…
It is germane to mention categorically here that equality is not only God’s mandate but also constitutionally guaranteed to avoid arbitrariness of public authority actions Art. 17. (2)(c) governmental actions shall be humane… is very instructive.
Please, note that this article is not against positive discrimination because sometimes the need might be there to apply positive discriminatory policy to achieve equality. However, the crux of the matter here is TO QUESTION the inhumane mannerism or tendency of public authority and officialdom in Nigeria when dealing with disagreements between government and citizens.
Recently, in the news Lagos State Government, Governor’s wife Bolanle Ambode and Chaplain Femi Taiwo saga has opened up the need to ask fundamental question about the abuse of governance paraphernalia in discharging private matters. Religion and religious activities are purely private engagements and government should not be seen tampering with protocol in theological environment by an appeal to preferential treatment for an unelected, constitutionally not recognised Governor’s wife.
Is Bolanle Ambode in the service of Lagos State government as paid employee or what is the relationship of the office of the First Lady of Lagos State with the supervision of churches that is under the Ministry of Home Affairs? Is this not usurpation of the function of the Commisioner or Director in the Ministry of Home Affairs?
What is government business in the establishment of Mosques and Churches anyway. Why did Lagos State Government not establish a citadel for worshiping traditional gods and deities. Is this not ”Prefentialism” a state sponsored religious discrimination?
In addition to Nigeria constitutional guarantees Art 38. (1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
There are other international human rights treaties like the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights that protect the right to follow one’s own beliefs in matters of religion and morality.
The right to have freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief is contained in article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 18 of the ICCPR protects the right to hold positions based on conscience and that in my opinion is exactly what Chaplain Femi Taiwo did going by the reports in the public space and from the congregation.
Chaplain Femi Taiwo of Chapel of Christ the Light, conscientiously holds the view that there is no superiority in the house of God amongst the congregants, everyone is equal before God. This is a conscientious opinion of the Chaplain which Lagos State Government or Governor’s wife Bolanle Ambode cannot regulate because any attempt to do such is a violation of the rights to freely express religious freedom and conscientious views as constitutional guaranted rights, also it is sacrilegious by tampering with Biblical injunctions that guide theological environment of conscientious opinion.
I would like to draw the attention of my readers to the following verses of the Bible as justification for my viewpoints on this subject matter though they are not exhaustive but would help in guiding our compass.
Genesis 1:27, ”So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Deuteronomy 10:17, ”For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.” Galatians 3:28, ”There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” These are some of the equality related injunctions in the Bible preaching egalitarianism.
In my view the Chaplain refusal to participate in compulsory preferential discrimination in the house of God in this case given unwarranted preferential treatment during anointing service to Bolanle Ambode is not an offence punishable neither is disrespecting Governor’s wife who is not an elected official nor has any constitutional significance is a punishable action rather it is purely a question of private moral signification.
If Bolanle Ambode felt disrespected in any manner the onus is on her part to seek legal redress according to the rule of law principles stating her case and showing justification according to law why anyone or citizens of Nigeria should respect her just because she is the Governor’s wife.
Discrimination in the house of God is sacrilege. Chaplain Femi Taiwo’s actions on conscientious egalitarian grounds conform to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of Christianity. No legislation or government directives, actions, must encroach on this fundamental rule in the process of discharging private matters as it is/was the case in Lagos State Government, Bolanle Ambode vs Chaplain Femi Taiwo.
OTUNBA ADE ILEMOBADE IS A PHILOSOPHER.