NUMEROUS media reports have surfaced indicating that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) got N7 billion to enlist pastors to endorse President Goodluck Jonathan and campaign against the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), in the coming presidential election. The reports came in bits, and on the heels of an earlier allegation by the Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, who announced that President Jonathan had paid some pastors N6 billion to aid his bid to retain the office he is currently occupying.
With the presidential election on the horizon, it is quite easy to conclude that politicians are ready to rekindle their primordial instincts and if one adds these allegations to the already established climate that favours, condones, glamorises and promotes corruption, the harmful consequences of the allegations become very clear. In this shameful time, political games in Aso Rock seem to be attracting more attention than political substance.
Stung by the numerous media reports of the bribe, the CAN feebly denied receiving any billion of naira from the government to manage its campaign from the pulpit. However, past alleged involvement of the CAN president in botched arms deals and the apparent Faustian pact between the top echelon of CAN and the presidency are permanent highlights of Pastor Oritsejafor’s tenure at CAN. Leaving aside CAN’s feeble denial, the aggressive and blistering rhetoric of some pastors who are using all dubious ploys to confound their members are recognizable strategy of thinly veiled desperation of politicians that are quickly approaching their “use-by” date.
There is something fundamentally perverse about these so-called “men of God” romping with politicians who best epitomize the unchecked gangersterism. They not only disfigure the public face of religion, their very utterances and acts betray the values and principles that divine religions call to.
And the alternative to this way is clear and well trodden by other men of God who have historically made important sacrifices to sublime causes. In the first of the “Conscience of America” series, a man was cited in 1957 by the Gallop Poll as one of the most admired religious leaders in the world. This same man was selected in 1957 by Time Magazine as one of the 10 outstanding personalities of the year. His citations, more than 75 in number, include the fact that he was ranked as one of the 16 world leaders who contributed most to the advancement of freedom in the year 1959. This was a poll conducted by Link Magazine of New Delhi, India.
This great man was Rev Martin Luther King Jr. In addition to his regular duties as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. King was an activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He chose a different path, one that is less travelled by those who call themselves men of God today, but who are nothing more than demagogues that have built their reputation on political games. While religious leaders like Dr. King used the pulpit to advance the cause of honesty, freedom, impartiality and openness, while leaders like him engaged in difficult struggles to bring peace through justice to fellow human beings who may not be known to them personally, others use the same pulpit to abuse these same values and devalue Dr. King legacies.
However, the desperate politicians’ nemesis seems to be the Nigerian voters, especially young adults, who take their democratic responsibilities seriously. This increasing politically active and informed constituency expects candidates to earn their trust through knowledge, sincerity and intellect, not due to some association to any religious leader or religion. Some have asked the question: why the fuss about a N6 billion (or N7 billion) when there have been countless reports of missing billions in living memory. The one word that comes to mind is corruption. Corruption of epic proportions! But these corruption and allegations will not cease until enough Nigerians take control of the democratic process, expose any flaw in the election security, and demand real election reform that will include demilitarization of the electoral process and freedom from external interference.
As the 2015 elections approach, Nigerians need the discipline of self-introspection to get it right this time. We need to engage in the serious analysis of our thoughts, ideas, feelings and actions. We must awake to the fact that no politician is corrupt for our sake or because of any religion, but in spite of it. As such, we must commit to work hard to elect only exemplary social leaders who, through their love for people and social competence, would be able to bring a sea change to turn our current challenges into opportunities.
Our search for leaders that have excelled in knowledge, skills and character must be done together, irrespective of our faith, or lack of it. It is time that we amplified the voice of reason and showed preference for candidates that set out clear understanding of important issues, define the road-map to bring about measurable improvements and enrich our personal and national lives. At this moment in our national life, we are getting a renewed opportunity to participate in a process that may usher in a new deal for all; one that will enable us to overcome the many predicaments that have been piling on us. It is crucial that we do not bungle the opportunity again this time.