With the 2023 general election drawing close, the focus should be more on the need for better governance, not religious sentiments that include Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian tickets, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, has tasked Nigerians.
Obasa gave the charge on Wednesday at the 14th Annual Hijrah Lecture organised by the Lagos State House of Assembly.
His position was supported by guest speakers at the event including popular Islamic cleric and Chief Imam of Offa, Kwara State, Sheik Muyideen Salman Husayn; Hon. Justice Abdurraheem Ahmad Sayi, a Kadi of Sharia Court of Appeal, Kwara State; and Sheikh Ishaq Mustapha Zuglool Sunuusi, head of academics, Daru Dawah Wal Irshad Arabic Centre, Isolo.
According to the Speaker, even though it has been argued that religion and politics are intertwined, it has been noted that religion has never been a determinant in the development of many countries that are currently doing great.
“All over the world where democracy is being practised, it has been established that good governance is not determined by their religions. 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 practised, it is gratifying to note that good governance is seen all around them.
“Even here in Africa before the advent of both Islam and Christianity, we had a good and steady democratic setting with our traditional beliefs. It is now worrisome, however, that we allow religion to dictate to us how democracy should be practised,” Obasa said.
He argued that the spiritual core of democratic governance is the obligation to serve the people with godly principles and noble objectives.
“People should understand that whoever will be fair, just and visionary, who can look back and identify good people to form a team with, to achieve success is someone who should be of concern to us in a democratic state to lead, not religion.
“There is no doubt that Nigeria is at a most precarious phase in its existence as a nation. These are indeed trying times for Nigeria and Nigerians. We should focus more on how the failure of politics and faith has compromised the unravelling of the Nigerian project.
“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.
“Whether the political party contesting is running on Muslim-Muslim ticket or Christian-Christian ticket and otherwise, our focus should be 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.
“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,” he added.
On his part, Justice Sayi said Islam all humanity is one.
“The primary roles and responsibilities of religious leaders are to teach, guide, educate and emancipate the minds of primordial sentiments like tribalism, nepotism and the rest that affect the minds.
“Message of unity and humanity should take the lead of what should come out of religious houses, whether churches or mosques. Religious leaders should know that God has created us equally and they should also know that nobody has been created superior. The first most important responsibility of pastors and Imams is to lead the people to virtue,” he said.
In his lecture, Sheikh Sunuusi noted that Islam urges co-habitation and cooperation with others for the benefit of society.
“Islam says we should not cheat any other person,” he said as he punctured the arguments of those against the Muslim/Muslim ticket with how situations had sprung up Christian-Christian governments in the past.
Explaining the idea behind the topic, the chairman of the 14th Hijrah lecture, Hon. Adams Noheem Babatunde said it had become imperative for religious leaders to tread softly and preach unity.
“This is not the time for teachings that would polarise us. We expect people of influence to always emphasise peace and unity at all times,” he said.