Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa and some Islamic Clerics have urged Nigerians to emphasise competence rather than dwelling on religious bias in choosing the next President.
They also called on religious bodies to deploy their energy on issues that would unite Nigerians rather than dwelling on issues that would divide the nation.
They spoke during the 14th annual Hijrah lecture tagged, “The Role of Religious Bodies in a Democratic State” held at the Assembly complex, Alausa, Ikeja on Wednesday.
According to Obasa, whether the Political Parties are running on Muslim-Muslim tickets or Christian-Christian tickets or otherwise, our focus should be on the good intentions of the contestants.
“Let us not allow any politician to bamboozle us with religion as a determining factor for who we will choose as our leaders.
“Therefore, at this time when Nigeria stands at its most critical juncture in history regarding next year’s general elections, there is a crucial call for religious bodies to deploy their collective spiritual energies in not only undermining the negative forces of nepotism and dysfunctionality but in positively enhancing the development of Nigeria”, he said.
The Speaker added that as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria being a secular state, there is no provision for the elevation of a particular form of religion over another, “let alone which one should be in charge of the government. Instead, what we have is freedom of religion.”
“At the same time, we have even had some States of the country where either a Muslim or Christian has been in charge without any meaningful performance or development.
“This invariably translates to the fact that religious faith does not determine the success of a given government at whichever level. Rather, a competent, qualified, accomplished, and knowledgeable individual, irrespective of the religious background, should be our focus,” Obasa added.
Obasa said all over the world where democracy is being practiced, it has been established that good governance is not determined by their religions.
He said: In countries like India, Singapore, China, and most of the democratic states in Asia and some other parts of the world where neither Islam nor Christianity is being practiced it is gratifying to note that good governance is seen all around them.
“There is no doubt that Nigeria is at a precarious phase in its existence as a nation. These are indeed trying times for Nigeria and Nigerians. My opinion is simple: We seem to have lost our ways because we seem to have lost the wisdom of governance and the wisdom of service as well as the wisdom that flows from the spirituality that undergirds both. In other words, we should focus more on how the failure of politics and faith has compromised the unraveling of the Nigerian project”, he added.
An Islamic Cleric, Sheikh Ishaq Mustapha Zughool Sunnusi, who was a guest speaker at the event, said that Islam is about peace, love, compassion, understanding and justice.
Sunuusi, who condemned those calling for fight as the All Progressives Congress (APC) went for Muslim-Muslim ticket for the presidential election, said that Nigerians should avoid provocative statements and promote peace.
While saying that Islam is a religion of peace, he said that Muslims would always fight for their rights, and condemned some media houses, who he said were promoting disunity over the issue.
Going down memory lane, Sunuusi said that there had been occasions, when Christian-Christian ruled at both the state and federal levels, adding that Muslims are more than Christians in Nigeria based on the 1963 population census and 2008 survey.
“We should not consider religion, we should look at the competence of Tinubu and his vice presidential candidate, Kassim Shettima. All Christians should know that they will work for the progress of the country,” he said.
Also speaking as a lecturer, A judge in the Kwara State Shariah Court of Appeal, Justice Abdurraheem Ahmad Sayi called for unity and love among churches and mosques.
Justice Sayi said that there is no difference between Christian and Muslim and that God created everybody equally.
“Let us not be arrogant. You must love yourself what you love for others. We should not use religious media to preach hatred and disaffection.
“Pastors and Imams must lead people to virtue and some lives have not been touched the way they should be touched.
“Prosperity teachings lead to high financial crimes. When religious leaders are after prosperity then there will be no virtues,” he said.
In his lecture, the Chief Imam Offa, Kwara State, Sheik Muyideen Salman Husayu said that every religious leader is a messenger and that this must be done properly, adding that people could vote for whoever they wanted.
While saying that there is no difference between Islam and Christianity, Husayu stated that what matters is competence.
“Politics is different from religion. Nigerians are one because we are from the source.
“Religion should be separated from nation building. All men of God are the same, so we should help one another.
“It is the duty of the followers to elect the leaders and we should stop saying that politics is a dirty game,” he said.
While re-echoing the statement credited to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, (Emi Lokan), “it is my turn,” Sheik Husayu urged the people to vote for the person from the South Western region.
He stressed that the region should not allow the opportunity to slip them by as it happened in 1979 and 1983 under the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the late Chief M.K.O Abiola in 1993 under the Social Democratic Party (SDP).