Even though there are 366 ‘Fear Not’ in the bible to give a Christian victory over fear, most Nigerian Christians still fear politics like death. Many of them hate politics like shit. Their beef with politics is that politics is dirty and should be avoided like a plague. They claim that politics is so bad that it will be very difficult for any genuine or practising Christian to successfully navigate the terrain of politics without soiling their hands in sin. I used the adjective ‘practising’ because Christians in Nigeria are classified broadly into two categories – orthodox and unorthodox. In both classes you have ‘practising’ Christians, that is Christians that live by the bible fastidiously and nominal Christians – Christians who do not uphold the dictates of the bible much in their daily behaviour and activities and may be ready to cut corners here and there to get by. The practising Christians see their faith as a way of life and living. The nominal Christians see their faith as a commitment to religion.
The reasons, opinions, and misconceptions that Christians dwell on to abhor politics in Nigeria have grown to become deep-rooted strongholds in their minds and if these strongholds are not confronted and subdued, they will negatively affect many future generations. These strongholds, if not broken, will persist in strengthening practising Christians to continue to stigmatize good and brilliant Christians with political missions/mandate and prevent them from stepping out to help run the affairs of Nigeria better. And for the bold ones who are able to overcome the stigmatization and dare to step forward, the wrong belief that politics is not good for Christians will continue to force their brethren to deny them of the support necessary for their victory at the polls. I had my first-hand experience of that stigmatization when I ran for election in the general elections of 2019 as ANRP’s candidate for senate in the FCT. A lot of Christians who knew me as a role model in every area of my life suddenly changed my name to ‘the political pastor’ simply because I obeyed the leading to help FCT with the wisdom God endowed me. The insults got to me so bad that I would have called it quits if I wasn’t sure of how the mandate came.
There are various reasons why Christians in Nigeria hate politics and call it dirty. I will attempt to discuss three of these reasons in this piece.
The first reason practising Christians shun politics is due to their conviction or conclusion that politics in Nigeria is conducted in darkness. The belief is that diabolism and occultism are endemic amongst Nigerian politicians. This is largely true, but participation in diabolism is by choice and not by force. The question that most Christians failed to ask is “how did darkness take over politics in Nigeria?” As the saying goes, “each one brings what he has”. Most people who believe they are good people of faith (Christians and Muslims alike) shun politics like the plague because of their misgivings or because they don’t want to be abused as backsliders. As a result, believers in traditional African beliefs took over the system and began to dictate how it is being done. Many of these people are more political investors and adventurers than believers in democracy or transformational leadership. They see politics purely as a business, so they invest heavily in it expecting to reap back heavily when they or their candidates and political party triumph at the polls. As a result, they run their political business in a cult-like manner. To select candidates for available positions in some instances, for example, they may decide to consult their oracles just as a good Christian would consult the Holy Spirit. To secure loyalty from members and ensure their investment is not jeopardized by over-ambitious or rogue beneficiaries, they force new entrants or aspirants vying for political offices to swear oaths of allegiance to the investors and the cause in the name of their god.
The second reason Christians abhor politics is because of human sacrifices that politicians are perceived to allegedly engage in because of their morbid desire to win and to be ‘fortified’ against their political enemies and rivals. These barbaric practices, though highly condemnable, show the failure of Christianity and Islamic religion (the two prominent religions in Nigeria) in their evangelism and outreaches to genuinely transform the lives of Nigerians despite the preponderance of churches and mosques all over the place. On the other hand, it shows the failure of governance and the criminal justice system in Nigeria. A very good government that amplifies a sound criminal justice system that leaves no room for sacred cows, embraces technology and innovation in crime prevention and dispenses court processes promptly will wipe out the practice of human sacrifices within four years of serving justice to evil perpetrators. When evildoers are appropriately punished, this will teach others a hard lesson. How are we going to have such good governments when genuine Christians run away from politics?
The third reason they allude to is that politics is full of corruption and deceit. Corruption and deceit exist in politics in Nigeria because corruption and deceit exist in abundance in the Nigerian society as a whole. Corruption and hypocrisy are present in virtually every aspect of the Nigerian nation from the family, to the religious bodies, to the private sector, the public sector and the government. Our politicians don’t fall from heaven. Their character and conducts simply reflect us and mirror the popular culture in our society.
The terrible state of politics in Nigeria is an opportunity beckoning at Christians and all people of good and living conscience to step in and show the way. Christians can join politics to uproot all the vices and redefine how the game is played. Darkness shines when the light refuses to shine. Christians can create a new pathway in politics in Nigeria by establishing a new party based on Godly principles and foundations. They can sanitize the system also by pouring into an existing political party in their large number as an army of occupation to subdue all the evil elements. The reason Christians haven’t been able to step in to change the narrative is that the average Nigerian Christian loves to fast and pray more than getting involved in the system. Many prefer to fold their hands and watch instead of rising up to support what is obvious to everyone as a good and desirable thing.
If Nigerian Christians and people of faith generally ever need any inspiration on how to move from haters and lookers in Nigeria’s political and governance space to participants and influencers, they could borrow ideas from members of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), one of the political parties that contested for the 2019 general elections. ANRP was founded by mostly young Nigerians who have never been interested in politics before. In ANRP, the founders laid a new foundation where you don’t have to bow to any idol or kiss Satan to contest for any election. Positions in the party were not for the rich in cash. The party and her candidates focused on promoting a revolution of ideas that will truly lift Nigeria up and cause her to command respect globally. The party’s manifestos and programs were full of innovation and creativity needed to transform Nigeria without politicking. Many people saw what ANRP candidates did and acknowledged that the party was truly different from the rest. It was only the strong wall of big party and cash and carry mentality of the Nigerian electorates that prevented the party’s candidates from winning.
As a pastor for 31 years, I was a hater of politics hiding in community development projects before, but ANRP afforded me the opportunity to enter the political space without consulting an oracle, swearing an oath of allegiance to any godfather or having to eat human body parts to be ‘fortified’. ANRP made politics fun and gave youths the joy of vying for elective office or participating in the electoral process. We called ourselves technoticians to keep our distance from the shenanigans of professional politicians. We leveraged technology to announce our identities, values, ethics and moderations. We were not politicians. We never saw ourselves as politicians. We were change drivers on a mission through Nigeria’s political avenue. We found it heartwarming that one could foray into politics without becoming politicians. It is that fear of becoming politicians that locked many good people away from politics in Nigeria.
Though I had never played politics at any level in my life before, ANRP gave me the opportunity as a pastor and development specialist to bring skillfulness, innovativeness, creativity and passion that I learned in 31 years of ministry and community service into envisioning my desired future for the federal capital territory. As a result of our brilliant ideas and hard work, we came 4th in a contest of 32 candidates in the FCT house of reps and senate elections. We would have won if all those whose ideologies of faith align with our philosophy didn’t hold tight their hatred for politics.
When we lost, Nigeria lost because those brilliant ideas we ran on simply died with our ‘defeat’. Good people are roundly defeated in every election cycle in Nigeria because good Christians and good Muslims shun politics. The recent circular by the RCCG leadership on the creation of the directorate of politics and governance, and the many more similar circulars that are sure to come after it from other ministries (both Christians and Muslims) will improve politics and governance in Nigeria in the years to come. The new change of attitude will brighten the chances of good candidates to do well in future elections.
If Nigeria must be saved, Nigerian Christians must change their perception about politics and lean over to save Nigeria from the hands of professional politicians. But to do this, the Nigerian Christians must become born again and put off their current negative attitude about politics and governance. It should be noted that one circular or the creation of a department of politics and governance by any ministry can not by it itself change a deeply entrenched mentality. Teachings, programs and announcements to uproot the old mindset must be introduced and sustained.
The forces of evil are climbing the shoulders of lack of righteous and good governance at every level of political leadership to destroy Nigeria while her watchers are sleeping and hating politics which is the only legitimate access to governance with passion. Christians must, as a matter of utmost urgency, recognize that they shun politics and governance to their own peril. Their churches are part of the most iconic buildings in Nigeria. They have some of the best vision crafters, architects and engineers in the land. They run some of the best schools, operate some of the best social welfare schemes, house some of the most brilliant and kind-hearted Nigerians. These are some of the best qualities needed to govern a country successfully. But because of their wrong attitude towards politics, they bury all these talents in the church and watch on as the worst of the land rule over the land and its best. What an irony!
To save themselves and their fellow countrymen, women, youth and children, the Nigerian Christians and people of good conscience must borrow from the wisdom of the for leppers in 2 Kings chapter 7. The wisdom of the four leppers is the basic rule of survival when one is striving against all odds as has been the case of Nigeria all these years of fruitless hope and endless wait for change. Those exceptionally smart leppers said – “If we stay here we will die, if we move, we may die”. The risks of staying in this status quo (of hating and avoiding strategic participation in politics) is higher than the risks of moving against this status quo. Nigeria Christians need to take the former and dive in now as the momentum for 2023 is gathering. Kudos to RCCG leadership for freeing their members from the chains of ignorance. We need more religious organisations across Nigeria to rise up and do the same. It is the power of productive politics and good governance, not the power of fasting and prayers that are the key requirements for sustainable development.
Joining politics is good for Christians and everyone with good conscience. Politics allows people with good hearts to take charge of making the laws for the nation. It allows people with conscience, good hearts and positive spirits to run the affairs of the nation and guarantee sustainable development. Angels don’t change any country, only good people do.
Osho is a development specialist, change architect, author and Pastor. He was the candidate of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) for the FCT senatorial seat in the 2019 general elections. He is a member of My Great Nigeria Project (MGNP) @www.mygreatnigeriaproject.org