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2023 election: Nigerian pastors and partisan politics

By Simeon Olayiwola

The role and activities of Nigerian Pastors/Reverend Fathers in Nigerian partisan politics have been subject of discussion especially in the last decade, there about. Attacks and counterattacks have also been generated owing to the roles men of God have played during electioneering campaigns, during and after elections. The last presidential and gubernatorial elections are points of reference for the activities of these pulpit/altar men. I have therefore decided to look at what should be the roles of the Nigerian Pastors/men of God in our electoral processes.

We are all political animals therefore, no one can remain neutral. Politics, like religion, is an entity in which everyone is interested in either embracing/accepting, condemning, or criticizing. This is the reason it will be difficult for anyone to claim s/he is not partisan. It is important to note that even in their partisanship, Pastors and Men of God are expected to demonstrate some sense of understanding that in the churches they pastor, almost all the political parties are represented. This is the reason they NEED to, for the sake of peace, “pretend” that they are not partisan when on the pulpit/altar.

What we have witnessed especially in the last elections was nothing but a flagrant display of spiritual rascality laced with consistent and disillusioned arrogance that Pastors are superhumans who hear from God and who prophesy those who will be elected. These Pastors even arrogate powers to themselves right from the pulpit/altar. No wonder they categorically told their congregations who already won even before the elections were conducted. This is not religious in any way!

From the pulpit/altar, many of our Men of God praised some candidates while others are castigated knowing fully well that their members belong to different political affiliations. This is sad. One would think they were only preaching against Muslims (Muslim-Muslim ticket) until one Reverend Father in Anambra State preached against candidates of Anglican Dominion! Excellent enough, The Catholic Diocese of Awka issued a Disclaimer owing to some controversial homilies of that Father. We don’t need to descend this low. If this is what the Pastors can offer, it can therefore be said the Nigerian church is creating issues and dangers.

We should be reminded of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the role of the Church. 93% of the country’s population being Christians, 43% are Catholics. It is not only surprising, but it is also equally worrisome that that genocide was fuelled by the Rwandan Catholic Church. From the Altar as well as from public places especially radio and television stations, the Catholic Church spread hate speeches that led to the gruesome killing of more than 800,000 people.

It is in recognition of the ignominious role that Reverend Fathers, Reverend Sisters played in the crisis that the Pontiff, Pope Francis visited Rwanda in March 2017 to openly ask for forgiveness for the Catholic Church’s role in the Rwandan genocide. Instead of going the Rwandan way, Churches in Nigeria can do better.

Nigerian churches, in my own opinion can emulate some of the countries of the world in how politics and electioneering campaigns are handled. Let us look at France, Germany, Australia, and Scotland. These countries have Christian political parties duly registered.

In France, The Popular Democratic Party (French: Parti démocrate populaire, PDP) was a Christian democratic political party founded in 1924. The PDP had its roots in French Catholicism and various Christian movements. The creation of the PDP has its premises in the context of the immediate post-war, the reintegration of Catholics in France.

Further, The Christian Democratic Union of Germany (German: Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands) is a Christian democratic and liberal conservative political party in Germany. It was founded in 1945 as an interdenominational Christian party, sharing a concern for the Christian worldview. This party won 152 out of 736 seats in the 2021 federal election. Though the CDU is currently in opposition at federal/governmental level, Germany’s three longest-serving post-war Chancellors have all come from the CDU, more specifically: Helmut Kohl (1982–1998), Angela Merkel (2005–2021), and Konrad Adenauer (1949–1963).

In Australia, The Australian Christians (political party) was founded and registered in 2011, The Australian Christians is a political party that is described as socially conservative and Christian-conservative. It is primarily active in Western Australia and contests both state and federal election, although it is yet to elect any representatives. The party aims to represent Christian values.

Though, a minor political party in Great Britain, The Christian Party which originated as Operation Christian Vote was founded by George Hargreaves, a Pentecostal minister in May 2004. Based in Stornoway, Scotland, the mandate of this party is the promotion of Christian values.

The political preferences of US religious groups are very clear, especially during campaigns. As a complex society, religious groups in the United States of America have their political leanings. Such affiliations are never hidden.

Why would Reverend Fathers or Pastors stand on the Altar on Sunday and be running down a candidate or a political party when nothing stops Christian Association of Nigeria, for instance, to get registered as a political party? If and when this is done, it would be understandable if a man of God stands on the pulpit to extoll the virtues of a candidate standing for election or presenting the manifesto of a political party.

I must say that in Nigeria, there are many respectable Reverend Fathers who have shown distinctive qualities of how to pastor a church. Same goes for many Pastors too who are worthy of emulation. However, those who engage in unchristian attitudes have no place on the pulpit.

I hope we will soon have Catholic Party of Nigeria, Pentecostal Democratic Party, Celestial Political Party of Nigeria, Christian Spiritual Political Party, and why not Islamic Political party, Ansar Urdeen Democratic Party, and Traditional Religious Party of Nigeria?!

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