The Redeemed Christian Church of God recently announced the creation of her ‘Directorate of Politics and Governance’. It’s to assist her members in realising their political ambitions. Subsequently, the Supreme Council of Shariah has been advised by frontline presidential aspirant, Bola Ahmed Tinubu to create a similar Directorate to support Muslim political aspirations. Perhaps in what looks like a response to the perception that RCCG may have truly set up the department to give wind to the unconfirmed ambition of one of their pastors and current Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo to become Nigeria’s next president. The above scenario raised a red flag for me. That’s because one of the drawbacks of the Nigerian political evolution has been the exaltation of ethnic and religious sentiments above merit, competence and capacity in the choice of political leaders in the country. In a nation of over 250 ethnic groups, language bias is bound to exist, but Christians must rise above such sentiments to take the higher ground at all times. After all in Christ Jesus, racial and gender differences are non existent(Galatians 3:28). The same spirit should be carried into our relationship with others as we ought to put our differences aside in order to collaborate for our common causes.
The influence of RCCG on the body of Christ at large is very enormous and I sense scores if not hundreds of churches and denominations will take a cue from them to establish similar departments. We however must think through our strategy clearly and ensure we are guided by the wisdom of God. For instance, it is very naive and unrealistic to ever think we can ever organise ourselves to ensure only Christians rule Nigeria or govern our states. The response of Tinubu asking muslims to create similar departments to support muslims already shows no religion has a monopoly of numbers or potential political influence. Anything done without synergy with people of other persuasions is bound to fail. As President Buhari failed several times to win the presidency with northern votes alone, so is it impracticable to win the presidency with people of only one faith voting for a presidential candidate. A Christian who wants to represent a constituency, govern a state or the entire country is a representative of all and not of Christians alone. Our Heavenly Father causes His sun to shine on the righteous as well as the wicked and believers must include non believers in their projections and permutations. The Lord Jesus died for all even if many do not know it and some who know do not believe it.
A second critical orientation for Christians going into politics is that of respect for other people’s faiths. The probability of being a person of a different persuasion ourselves is high if we were born in other parts of Nigeria or of the world. Most people are born into their religion. On platforms that are not religious, we must learn to deemphasise the things that divide us and focus on the ones that unite us. Prof Yemi Osinbajo couldn’t have become Attorney General of Lagos state with a holier than thou attitude towards the then Governor Bola Tinubu nor become such a trusted Vice President of a Muslim principal. I remember a dear Muslim friend of mine in my teenage years. This was after one of our usual bouts of arguments that usually ended my attempts to convert him. He says to me lovingly, ‘Victor, my prayer for you is that your eyes will be opened before it is too late’. I know some Christians will scoff at this but we must come to terms with the fact that other people share a similar conviction about their faith as we do about ours and deserve our respect when we engage them in the political, business and secular space. We should find common grounds with them around shared values. Values of love, compassion, truth, integrity and selfless service are shared by Islam and Christianity. I remember faintly, watching an engagement between a committee of the senate while interrogating the then CBN governor Sanusi L Sanusi. It was in response to a senator questioning the validity of his claims of mismanagement of oil money. He was repeatedly saying ‘I swore by the Holy Quran’. Such is his conviction about and reverence for the Muslim holy book that it is similar to ours. Conscious that many aspects of the Quran tally with the Bible Old Testament, we can respect their views and unite around shared values.
Of greater importance to this article is my desire that Christians be good ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. I remember the current PFN chairman lamenting to me how a Christian governor who had prayed fervently in his hotel room for reelection turned out a confirmed corrupt politician who had the authorities on his trail. The said child of God is sadly in jail today. I also remember a mentor of mine telling me how he rejected a gift from a then sitting governor because he heard he was corrupt. He lamented he had no knowledge he later got a new generator installed in one of their church branches in the South South. The said governor was later convicted of corruption too and he was a ‘born again Christian’. It is shameful that as believers, we would go into politics and do such damage to the name of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. That is certainly not how to live our lives worthy of our calling(Ephesians 4:1). It is better not to go into the murky waters of politics than to go in and get our hands soiled with mammon. We are proud of the likes of Dr Akinwumi Adesina the African Development Bank president who served as the Minister of Agriculture under the Goodluck Jonathan administration and came out with clean hands. After being scrutinised by experts both within and outside the ADB, he was found to be stainless. He is a testimony of the fact that it is possible to participate in government and politics in Nigeria and come out with clean hands. Oby Ezekwesili can run the federal government better than most Nigerian politicians. After setting up the ‘Due Process’ office, she served as a minister of the Solid Minerals Development and Education ministries and came out unscathed. Good ambassadors of God’s kingdom. The days are coming and very soon too when corrupt politicians will no longer be voted for. Will God’s children be among the discarded or the chosen?
I commend the effort to build political consciousness among believers in Nigeria. The church is loaded with enormous potential to influence the political direction of the country but it must be handled with care. We are to handle it as sheep in the midst of wolves, wise as serpents and harmless as doves. We must also remember we are salt and light and must not allow ourselves to lose our taste and illumination. RCCG and others, including Global Harvest church, must carefully navigate the delicate balance of the probable conflicting interests of church members contesting against one another. This means churches are better off not partisan and only supportive of those who have emerged through the political process and internal systems of scrutiny to contest for offices. Such support should however not be partisan in nature to avoid politics dividing churches and opening doors for forces of evil to derail our ministries and destroy our unity. I pray the Lord grant us all, more understanding.