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Role of Christians in transforming Nigeria’s politics



Being a paper presented by Sir Melie Onyejepu to the Directorate of Civic and Political Affairs, Dioceses on the Niger


Religion has become an important factor in Nigerian society, particularly as a veritable means of political mobilisation. Within the last couple of decades this issue has become manifest in almost every part of Nigeria. It has turned so much so that any group of people, including people of faith and culture who are interested in the political future of their society or the nation play actively in politics in various ways. The relationship between religion and politics is therefore huge in the country. Though some people hold strong opinion that religion and partisan politics operate separately, the reason for this topic is that religion goes beyond just a person’s faith and goal. It has vital social and cultural components. It makes claims on people’s ideologies, allegiances, beliefs and crucial tendencies in supporting politics. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to re-examine the age old controversy on the relationship between religion and politics with focus on the current Nigerian situation. The paper will suggest workable formula for a complementary relationship between religion and politics for a progressive Nigeria, especially, for Christians.

 Key concepts: Religion, politics, pluralism

 Religion: This is a set of beliefs, feelings, dogmas and practices that define the relations between human beings and divinity.

 Politics: The process of making decisions that affect members of a group.

 Pluralism: The existence of many groups of people.

 Politics and issues of morals in Nigeria

 Political ethics is the practice of making political action through moral judgments. It covers two areas: the ethics of process, which deals with public officials and the methods they use.

 Human beings have a system of morality, which guide their actions based on virtue and vice, good and bad, right and wrong.

 Morality is part of the vital factors in culture, traditions and norms. Humans cannot do without culture and by implication, without morality. Culture is from man and for man, and it depends on the environment, which is why no two societies have the same culture. Without culture and morality, there is no way humans can live meaningful life and manifest their full potentials. So it is necessary to ask what morality has got to do with politics and what is the essence of politics?

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 According to Aristotle, human beings are political animals and politics is applied ethics. Politics has to do with the rightful allocation of value, process of executing politics, and the quest for power, order and justice. Experts generally believe that acquiring, retaining and maintaining power and authority are central in politics.

 Of common importance here are the state, the nature of power and the essence of politics. All other forms of power have been subordinated to state or political power and are controlled by it. This is what makes political power very attractive, and everybody craves to acquire it by all means.

The usual high tension generated in politics globally, when compared with universal attention to serious economic matters and other social activities, is also a result of these central roles of the state and its powers, in the control of the lives and destinies of men is general.

 One of the very great and highly reputable presidents of the United States of America (USA), Abraham Lincoln, a generally humble leader, was reported to have asserted, in a dispute with the Congress that he was the president of the US, clothed with great power. Again, one time president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo was also reported to have made the same remark while appointing a set of his special advisers.

  Some of the world’s major political leaders have in one occasion or the other indicated allegiance to the school of thought that believes that conscience is an expression of feelings of pleasure or pain. This school, ‘Hedonist School of Ethics’ reasons that an action is right if it is pleasure-producing and wrong if it is pain-producing. In such worldview, high moral ethos should be  kept away from politics and exercise of power and authority. This is dangerous to our daily moral life. Sadly, such ideologies have held sway and have influenced most of the high level of misrule, looting of public treasury and abuse of human and peoples’ rights in many climes including our Nigeria.

 Values are definitely, important to human beings. They are of such high status in in the strata of human societies that without them, one cannot possibly discover meaning to life.

If one considers the depleting level of our values which is in tandem with the deterioration in our political system, one will be compelled to conclude that democracy in Nigeria is like four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. The lamb here clearly represents the harpless masses. As a result, the modern youths think that politics is a game of deception bereft of value which is not what it is meant to be.

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 Political corruption is a social problem with various forms. Some reports claim that it is more prevalent in the developing countries than the developed ones. This is debatable but what authorities in relevant fields agree is that in areas where politics is practiced without morality the people suffer and development is difficult to achieve because whilst political leaders who lack conscience and morality need legal prod to do what is right for the masses, power holders with high moral ethos only have to recourse to their conscience to the right thing.

  Conscience and morality work together to produce both balanced individuals and better society. The absence of one means the absence of both. Individual without conscience and morality views justice in his society differently.

   Betrand Russell noted that there are two kinds of morality: one we preach but do not practice, and another which we practice but seldom preach. So, the subversion of justice would continue to abound so far the two kinds of morality are in play in Nigeria. In other words, people who lack conscience and morality would continue to lead in all the levels of government, unless the masses come to grips with the democratic impulse.

 Christians must be involved in politics

 Christianity is a belief system that imbues her faithful with high moral values. Imagine what our country would be, if true Christians are found in positions of power and authority or where the believers who are already there live up to the tenets of the faith. All Christians should pause and ponder this so that we can perform our civic duties in a conscientious way. The message of Christ in this regard is clear: Christians should be the light of the world, and the salt of the earth. This means that Christians must be the light of the Nigerian society, radiating faith in God, holiness and joy as well as working for progress.

Again, Christ is urging Nigerian Christians to take politics seriously. Beyond the altar, even in their secular fields and personal gifts, Christians are expected to work conscientiously and vigorously so that by human labour, technical skills, merchandising and civic actions everyone and the society will reap benefits according to the design of our Creator.

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  Christians are reminded that they have not only a right but also a duty to work for and ensure the establishment of a just and moral social order in the nation. Those of them with inclination and talents for political leadership should take bold steps forward, for the service of the nation to rescue our land from endemic moral degradation, corruption, injustice among others. The social task of providing food for the hungry, water for the thirty, shelter for the homeless, schools and hospitals for all, can only be brought to reality via active participation in politics and governance. This gives Christians ample opportunity to carry our Christ’s mandate in a large scale through proper democratic structure.

 The trouble with Nigeria, as Chinua Achebe reasoned almost four decades ago is not only lack of human and material resources but the failure and absence of good leadership. Therefore, now is the time any man or woman of great integrity should come forward to provide the much-needed leadership. Christ is our model. He taught us that anyone aspiring to a position of leadership must be prepared to serve, not to be served. Anyone who wants to be great must first be a servant and anyone who wants to be first will first be a slave. Therefore, Christ through this admonition is calling on Nigerian Christians who are endowed with the attributes of good leadership to come forward to serve. Again, those who do not have inclination for politics should participate in molding public opinions via discussions using mass media and be vigilant so as not to get our masses misdirected to blindly follow money-bag politicians because nobody would give what he does not have.

  Sir Onyejepu is Special Adviser to Governor of Anambra State on Budgets


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