By the implications of one of the most popular definition of what democracy is which has been adjudged by many to be one of the most complete definition and description of what democracy truly is, governance us for everyone in the society. As given by Abraham Lincoln who defined democracy as a government of the people, by the people and for the people. This as earlier explained implies that everyone has or must have a say in the affairs of governance either an elite or not.
Whether you are a politician, or not or just a market woman or trader who has not even seen the lofty Gates of the state government house or do not even know the complete name of the governor of your state or the President of your nation. However while we enjoined the major players in the nation’s national political terrain to ensure that governance is made for all, we must all also come to the basic understanding and acceptance that we all have our different roles to play and we must understand what these roles are else we come to conflicts of interest.
Just like the three tiers of government in Nigeria, the executive, the judiciary and the legislative arm, while they are an integral part of the government, they have their distinct roles and functions. One administers the state, one makes the law and the last enforces the law. Here it is clear, defined and clearly stated out and backed up by the Constitution.
This basic understanding brings us to the roles of religious leaders in Nigeria to the understanding of what their roles are in Nigeria politics. We must bear it in mind that the Nigerian federating state embraces the concept of secularism which means the separation of the state from religious affairs. This is because of the multi faith outlook and setting of the nation and for the sake of national unity and peaceful co-existence in Nigeria. It is strongly advised that the Nigerian government steers clear from unwholesome religious interference which may jeopardize its unity considering the volatile nature of religion.
Recent electoral process in Nigeria has seen many Nigeria religious leaders or figures coming out to make strong political stand in the nation, while I do not see anything wrong with this because in some cases it is important that men of respect and influence rise up to challenge government policies which they feel do not go down well with the people, however what I really find distasteful is the various instances of these religious leaders coming out to take sides in politics or even going as far as making predictions of who will win elections in Nigeria.
In the wake of recent elections in Nigeria, many pastors has come out bold to make predictions about the outcomes of elections in Nigeria, at times these predictions come out true and in other cases it turns out the other way. Many Nigerians have come out to express their grievances against this counter culture of what the religious affairs stands for which is fast becoming a trend whose fire must be put out before it bastardize the significance of the Nigerian religious institution
Notable among these set of religious leaders who have made it an habit to making election predictions over the possible winners are Father Mbaka of the Adoration Ministries who was popularly during the Imo state Governorship election make a bold predictions about the outcome. Others are Prophet Joshua Iginla, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, Apostle Johnson Suleiman, Primate Theophilus Oluwasaanu Olabayo, Guru Maharaji and many other pastors.
The Church by outlook is expected to have a neutral stand when it comes to the issues relating to politics while it is also expected to be an advocate of good governance in the Nigerian setup. The Church and it leaders must come to the understanding that it first and major role is the Spiritual growth of its flock and it must not do anything outside this to jeopardize its integrity.
Using the Church as a case study, when men from the outside world that is when politicians makes attempt to unduly influence the church, there is always a far cry from the church because this is always seem as an attempt to manipulate this religious body.
This also on the other hand is what happens when religious leaders makes political affiliation or predictions of who will emerge victorious in any election in the State. We must come to the pure and critical understanding of the nature of religion its strong hold on people. People are more liable to follow their religious leaders than to following their Political leaders. This must not be exploited or bastardized.
Also within a church setting, there are members of various political parties there who come together under the aegis of the church to fellowship. Religious leaders must not cause confusion by pitching their tent with one over another. Neutrality is what is expected of them even if they have their own personal candidate which we cannot deny them.
Going against the ethics of neutrality when it comes to the issue of predicting who will eventually emerge victorious in elections in Nigeria is going against the stand of Jesus Christ who is regarded as the founder of the Christian religion.
The role of the church to its flocks is to help them grow spiritually while we cannot also forget that this role has changed or evolved in the wake of the 21st century in Nigeria and the world at Large. They have come to take more socio-economic roles in our present day realties. However we must be clear on their roles and responsibilities when it comes to politics; Neutrality is the word.
Pastors and other religious leaders are men who are expected to be of integrity and respect, they are icon of unity, love and hope in the human society. They must be mindful of these factors. The world needs them to stamp their legacies by facilitating the advancement of the human society by working in accordance to the dictates of their original functions and responsibilities; entangling themselves in politics or election predictions belittles this great and noble functions. God help them all.
By Marcus Amudipe