What A Muslim-Muslim Ticket Will Do For Nigeria In 2015; by Abimbola Adelakun
The question of whether a mono-religious presidential cum vice-presidential ticket (such as a Muslim-Muslim combination) will fly in Nigeria shows, once again, that religion in Nigeria is principally about politics; its aspect of devotion to God is just a major side attraction.
Religion is the opium of opiated Nigerians
It is ludicrous that the discussion about the possibility of pairing Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and ex-governor Bola Tinubu as presidential candidate and running mate respectively has been swallowed up by which religion they practise; as if that is the sole thing wrong (or right) about that sort of ticket. For me, religion is like sexuality; it is entirely up to you to do your thing as you choose. It should not be dragged out for approbation, opprobrium or for the sheer exhibitionist sake.
If the pair should ever be presented as potential candidates on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, the only viable alternative to the Peoples Democratic Party currently, their religion should be the least of our problems. Yes, that sounds idealistic but then the furone about their religion – especially for both men to be Muslims in the age of religious terrorism – shows that it will be a major talking point.
That says how religion will serve us in 2015: It will be a major diversion, real issue; politicians will deploy it like a weapon to distract, divide and despoil us. Most likely, it will succeed because seeing people in power share the same tenet of faith with you provides a vicarious pleasure that is almost like being in power yourself. That feeling makes their odiousness rationalisable. By the time it is all over, and we are stuck with a clueless leadership all over again, we would wish we had paid attention to substance rather than the shadows. But we would still have learnt nothing.
Rather than the obsession with prospective candidates’ religion (or lack of it), the biggest questions should be about their qualifications for the highest offices in the land. Does the pair of Buhari-Tinubu (if they ever emerge candidates) represent the change Nigeria needs or not? That’s the germane question. Are they better prospects than the PDP candidates they intend to dethrone or this is merely change for its sake? Have these people demonstrated that they have a profound understanding of Nigeria’s problems and can work together to dig the country out of the muck she is stuck in? Or, this is just an improbable marriage by two incompatible fellows who just want power to fulfill their personal ambitions?
It is probable both men are genuine in their desire to rescue Nigeria but that is not enough. We need to properly find out whether they can truly effect the needed structural changes or their soteriological drive is mere delusion. If the men are not the ones for the job, we should toss them out quickly and move on to more worthwhile people. Religion should not even come up in our calculations at all. How does the God both Tinubu and Buhari worship factor into their understanding of, and sincerity, about Nigeria’s situation?
The trouble with the politics of religion in Nigeria is that the goat has already escaped its tether. The constant pandering to religion as a defining factor in our political system has come to stay, at least for a long time to come. From state sponsorship of people on religious pilgrimages to President Goodluck Jonathan’s announcement that he would be worshipping in a different church every week, religion has become fossilised into politics. To try to curb it now would be incurring the wrath of Nigerians who, for lack of many meaningful things to anchor their lives to, hold on to religion tenaciously. If the argument is true that Nigerians will not vote either a Christian-Christian or Muslim-Muslim ticket, then, it shows that Boko Haram is not only the religious group with an intolerance streak; what differs is the scale of destruction everyone is willing to invest to make their point.
Even the most uninformed Nigerian knows that religion is never enough to incommode our leaders when they want to steal, yet, its spectacle is a permanent smokescreen. By now, everyone knows that Jonathan’s knees are never far from the floor. Before you know it, he starts his self-effacing rhetoric and begs for prayers. He is every pastor-politician’s dream because his presence in your church endorses your prosperity gospel and increases your cultural power. His devotions to God are always in your face, like the Pharisees whose public worship Jesus condemned. It is not that he cannot distinguish between private and public acts, he simply manipulates both. But when it comes to issues that should rightly be public, like his assets for instance, he just does not give a damn. So, what does his religiosity truly contribute to his ethics/morality as a public officer?
Why, again, I wonder, are people fixated on religion of their candidates when God will not help us run the country?
This is how I see it: Religion, for most Nigerians, forms a locus of identity. While self-categorisation on the bases of ethnicity, gender, and even regionalism are strong, religion is perhaps more powerful because it is a sentiment overlaid with retributive fear. To the Muslim, kicking against a Christian-only ticket might as well be a service to God. The same goes for Christians whose resistance of a Muslim-Muslim ticket is Jihad against a “Boko Haramisation” of Nigeria.
In a deeply superstitious society like ours, doing God the favour of preserving His politics is a script that is replayed all the time. When we do it, it makes Him love our abject souls more. And in the course of it, we become pawns in a bigger political game played by those who manipulate our religiosity. If you can hear the mind of a religious bigot, it will go something like this: I know all politicians are the same but I might as well choose someone like me to rob me. To be robbed by someone of another religion is to be twice screwed! As much as we can try, we cannot wish away religious politics for now. Maybe, when we become a truly industrialised nation; when we have grown to become a society that places emphasis on the mind rather than the metaphysical.
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