Amid the controversy trailing the All Progressives Congress (APC) Muslim-Muslim ticket, the Serving Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church and former All Progressives Congress presidential aspirant, Pastor Tunde Bakare, on Sunday, urged Nigerians to prioritise nation-building over ethic or religion sentiment.
Bakare stated this on Sunday in a statement he made available to journalists after the church service in Oregun, Ojota, Lagos, in reaction to the Muslim- Muslim presidential ticket of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and former Borno State governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima.
The fiery preacher who urged Christian leaders to learn from past mistakes of not participating in politics said the development which had been greeted with vehement opposition, rejections, resignations and resentments by members of the Christian community was not an issue as the aversion to what had been termed a Muslim-Muslim ticket was not unexpected.
He urged the Christian leaders to bring all the candidates and their running mates across the political parties in the country to the negotiation table with an open mind to discuss and agree on a way for nation-building and national development.
Bakare said, “As standard bearers of the message of the New Nigeria, we dream of a nation in which every Nigerian will be judged, not by their ethnicity, political leaning, regional affiliation or religious persuasion, but by the content of their character, as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. once proclaimed in respect of his nation, the United States of America (USA).
“We dream of a Nigeria where there will no longer be indigene or settler but only a Nigerian citizen. We dream of a Nigeria where the state of residence will replace state of origin in our official forms and where zoning or federal character will become archival aspects of our journey into political maturity.
“We dream of a Nigeria in which every woman as well as every man will be able to aspire to any political office at any time without playing the ethnic card and without recourse to it’s our turn or it’s their turn,” he said.
The cleric who said he had chosen to be a bridge between Nigeria’s past, present and future, added that “We choose to do this because we believe that building the New Nigeria is the calling upon every Nigerian worthy of the name.”
According to him, the pillar of Northern Nigerian politics, the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, recognised this moral obligation to ensure that due consideration is given to diversity of persuasions in public policy, adding that this informed his statement to the peoples of Northern Nigeria in a unifying message.
“As a result, Northern Nigeria had its political foundation built on the principles of inclusion and religious harmony. This value system of religious neutrality and inclusion played out when military forces from Northern Nigeria took over power in the 1966 counter coup. The military had the confidence to leave the nation in the custody of a Christian from a minority ethnic group in the North. General Yakubu Gowon would go on to govern Nigeria for nine years keeping Nigeria one amidst a Civil War.
“So, this moment calls for every Nigerian, from the North, South, East and West, to renew our commitment to nationhood, building upon what worked in the time of our founding fathers, while learning from their mistakes and imperfections as we build a more perfect union.
“What we need is a New Nigeria that works for every Nigerian, Christian as well as Muslim. Nationhood, rather than divisiveness, must be the objective of every engagement.
“As Christian leaders, we must also realise that the church in Nigeria is today paying for decades of erroneous teaching that posited that Christians have no business in politics. What is happening today is the price we have to pay for the years of failure of the church to strategically participate in the political process,’’ he said.
Bakare said the antagonism that was meted to some of them who have ventured from the pulpit to the podium, from amongst fellow Christian leaders was a pointer that a day would come when the church would face a rude awakening of the consequence of passivity, apathy, non-participation and an anachronistic adherence to the Aaronic priesthood.
He added that, “Going forward, ahead of 2023, we must learn from our mistakes. Christian leaders must, at this point, bring the candidates and their running mates to the negotiation table doing so with an open mind and based on a clearly articulated charter for nation-building and national development.
“Christian leaders must, at this point, convene a strategic concourse to define the minimum standards across sectors of governance below which no Nigerian, Christian or Muslim, must be subjected. The SNG Charter and the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Reintegration which was unanimously adopted by the delegates to the 2014 National Conference, can be a springboard for such sector-by-sector deliberations. This must be done between now and September when the campaigns will officially commence. The Charter may be launched in Abuja and may be termed The Abuja Declaration for Nationhood.
“Thereafter, Christian leaders must then carefully engage each presidential candidate and running mate based on that Charter and provide a unified direction to the body of Christ in Nigeria having assessed each presidential/vice-presidential ticket based on key performance indicators around the Charter. This would be a more mature, structured and strategic way to respond to the situation as against the emotional reactions that have dominated the polity since the choice of a running mate was made by the APC presidential candidate.
“For the Christians in Northern Nigeria who feel marginalised by the choice of a Northern Muslim as running mate, the time has come to upgrade the conversation from politics to governance. The time has come to interrogate the impact of politics on development,” he said.