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Pulpit politics: Religious leaders under fire

Pulpit politics: Religious leaders under fire

“It would be wrong to stand at the pulpit to make any political statement. There is a document issued by the Bishops’ Conference to that effect.”

Olakunle Olafioye, Onyedika Agbedo and Agatha Emeadi

When elections get this shut, Nigerian politicians want no reminder that no gathering is just too negligible for electoral success, not even spiritual gatherings with their large report of attendance.

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Because the Unbiased Nationwide Electoral Fee, INEC, formally introduced the graduation of campaigns final month, spiritual trustworthy within the nation have witnessed extra visits by vote-seeking politicians to their numerous gatherings.

Worshippers at Church of Divine Mercy, Lekki, Lagos, have been handled to an sudden spectacle within the penultimate Friday as politicians and their supporters stormed the church in what has develop into the development throughout electioneering in Nigeria.

Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; the Peoples Democratic Get together Vice Presidential candidate and former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; Lagos State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his PDP counterpart, Jimi Agbaje, took worshippers on the church unexpectedly as they stormed the venue of their worship in what many consider was an try and promote their candidatures and their candidates to the adherents on the church programme.

Sources on the programme informed Sunday Solar that the occasion virtually turned a political floor as celebration supporters resorted to hailing their very own candidates and booing the candidates of the opposition events when the names of the VIPs have been referred to as for recognition. The incident was stated to have precipitated a serious controversy on the next day when the PDP accused the ruling APC within the state of being chargeable for the destruction of posters and billboards of its governorship candidate, Agbaje. However the Lagos State Signage and Commercial Company, LASAA, stated it eliminated some billboards and posters from some roads over failure of events involved to acquire permission.

The Basic Supervisor of the company, Mobolaji Sanusi, who gave the clarification throughout a safety/stakeholders assembly with INEC, candidates and political events assembly with the Commissioner of Police in Lagos, CP Imohimi Edgal, stated that the ruling APC sought the permission of the company earlier than mounting its billboards.

“The All Progressives Congress, APC, obtained permission from the agency before mounting the billboards and pasting the poster, especially on the Lagos Island. There are rules and regulations guiding the pasting of bills and posters in Lagos State which must be strictly adhered to.”

As this was to not die down, Sanwo-Olu was once more sighted on the headquarters of Lords’ Chosen Church, Ijesha, Lagos, final Sunday. The go to coincided with the grand finale of the church’s annual two-day worldwide campaign, tagged “Hope for the Needy”. The APC candidate left nobody unsure over his mission on the church.

“Some of us have been watching the General Overseer, Pastor Lazarus Muoka from a distance and we know all the miracles that have been happening here. We need to hold onto our God because we can see people witnessing miracles today. Miracle is real. I am a living testimony of miracle. It is not by man’s power. This is why I’m here. God has started the work, and He is going to perfect it come 2019. I implore all of you, let’s pray. Let’s hold onto Jesus, and God will continue to be with you in Jesus name,” he stated.

In response to his request for prayer, the Common Overseer of the church, Pastor Lazarus Muoka urged the congregation to intercede on the behalf of the governorship candidate, asking God to grant his coronary heart wishes.

However none of those political visits has raised a lot mud and attracted consideration than the current go to by former Governor Obi, the PDP vice presidential candidate to Adoration Ministry, Enugu through the church’s thanksgiving service and bazaar held final weekend.

Mr Obi who attended the programme for what many consider to be political purpose, acquired maybe greater than he had bargained for when he refused to brazenly declare his monetary contribution to the church through the programme regardless of sustained strain from the religious director of the ministry, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka.

When it was apparent that Obi wouldn’t budge to Fr. Mbaka’s strain, the cleric was quoted to have resorted to condemning him collectively together with his social gathering, describing Obi’s motion as stinginess, saying “God hates stinginess. I’m not telling you this, to make you cheerful. That is what is going to save your life. In any other case you and Atiku will fail.

“If there is a place they will coat words for you, it is not at Mbaka’s altar. You can save your political destiny or in 2019, you people will not even know how they did the election. What will make my brother to come for bazaar and he won’t even break kola? The way you and Atiku are moving will end in shame. Let us continue our bazaar. You know since he is not supporting us, the ministry has been moving. If people start arguing like this, their downfall begins.”

Not a number of Nigerians have, nevertheless, reacted to the event, with many bemoaning the cleric’s outburst. The Catholic Church in a response via the Director of Communications, Catholic Diocese of Enugu, Rev. Fr. Benjamin Achi, condemned Mbaka’s motion, sustaining that the church stays apolitical.

“The diocese is just not in help of any priest making political statements. The church is meant to be apolitical and the Bishops’ Convention has stated that repeatedly.

“We aren’t imagined to make any political assertion from the pulpit inside the context of Mass, that’s, church service. So, it might be improper to face on the pulpit to make any political assertion. There’s a doc issued by the Bishops’ Convention to that impact.

“So, he (Mbaka) just spoke on his own, not representing the diocese. We are not expected to come out openly to support a particular candidate for any reason. The church law does not accept such a thing. So, it would be wrong for anybody (priest) to come out and give an endorsement to a particular candidate,” he stated.

Taking political campaigns to spiritual gatherings is just not a current improvement in Nigeria. The development, nevertheless, assumed a extra worrisome dimension within the construct to the 2015 common elections when former President Goodluck Jonathan was quoted to have admonished church leaders throughout his visits to The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) camp alongside Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Motion Ijesha, Lagos, towards surrendering their pulpit to politicians for political campaigns.

“I would not say much because this is not a good period for those of us who are contesting for election to talk so much in church. I do not want to be accused of coming to campaign in churches because I believe that we should not campaign in churches. We may discuss with people, but not to use the platform of the church to campaign,” he was quoted to have stated then.

Though political campaigns at spiritual gatherings is extra pronounced amongst Christian congregations, Nationwide Missioner, Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria, Sheik Abdulrahman Ahmad, advised Sunday Solar that Islamic trustworthy in Nigeria even have their very own share of this disturbing development.

He, nevertheless, famous that many Islamic leaders have been turning into extra circumspect with politicians who take campaigns to spiritual grounds.

He opined that politicians think about political gathering as veritable platform to reaching the citizens owing to the huge end up of adherents at spiritual centres.

“In Nigeria, we have large congregations, which will naturally attract politicians; politicians will go anywhere there is crowd. There have been attempts (to turn gathering of Muslim faithful to political rally), but I think so many of us are much more circumspect and that is why you don’t read about high flying endorsements that smack pecuniary interest (at Muslim setting),” he famous.

Sheik Ahmad stated that though permitting politicians to work together with spiritual trustworthy about their programmes and insurance policies won’t be misplaced, including, nevertheless, that Nigeria’s peculiar nature referred to as for warning. “Ordinarily, I don’t see it as a problem, however in our state of affairs it takes on added issues as a result of we’re in a society that’s already being polarized by so many forces – faith, ethnicity and enlightened self curiosity.

“It is not healthy whether within the church or the mosque, because there are people who support different political parties and if it should be so, people should be free to express themselves and make their choice to associate, whoever they think will serve their interest best,” he stated.

The nationwide missioner of Ansar Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria additionally condemned the apply the place spiritual leaders brazenly declare their help for candidates or political events, declaring that such follow is able to polarizing the nation additional.

“I don’t assume spiritual leaders ought to endorse any candidate. I feel relatively than that, they need to create a platform for flag bearers of political events to work together with their congregations so that folks will be capable of ask questions on what distinction they intend to make after which the individuals must be left to determine. Individuals who go to mosques and church buildings are Nigerians; they’ve the rights to decide on their leaders. They shouldn’t be excluded. The difficulty is that faith shouldn’t be on the service of politicians and non secular leaders have to be cautious of being brazenly partisan.

“What is happening today in our country shows that some people who claim to be men of God are not truly men of God. Some people claim to hear from God, but they only hear from the devil and we should be wary of them because people who claimed to be men of God have predicted elections which have gone the other way. So, people can become disenchanted and lose faith, not only in these religious leaders, but also even in the religion itself. That is why people must be very careful and anything that will further divide and polarize us, religious leaders must avoid it,” the Muslim chief admonished.

Talking in the identical vein, the Common Overseer, Firstlove Meeting, Rumuokwuta, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Pastor Simeon Afolabi, deplored the apply the place politicians solely discover time to work together with spiritual trustworthy throughout electioneering.

He referred to as on them to domesticate the behavior of getting private relationship with God and never solely resort to Him when looking for political workplaces. “I think seeking prayers in churches should not be restricted to when people are seeking political positions. God is not ‘jinnee’ that you expect to do your will. I would expect politicians who do not know God, not to crash into God’s programmes. There is need to have a personal relationship with God before now,” he admonished.

On his half, the Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province of the Enugu and Bishop of the Diocese of Enugu, Anglican Communion, His Grace, Most Reverend Emmanuel Chukwuma, warned church leaders towards encouraging politicians to make use of the church as marketing campaign grounds, saying it’s harmful and causes ailing feeling amongst members of the congregation who’ve totally different political affiliations.

His phrases: “It isn’t to be inspired as a result of there are totally different individuals with totally different political pursuits within the church. So, we should not give room for any political aspirant to return to the church to marketing campaign. All we have to do is to wish for them and to ask them be trustworthy as they go about their campaigns. The church isn’t a spot for political campaigns, so anyone who encourages that’s partisan. And church leaders aren’t alleged to be partisan.

“However you possibly can have a private curiosity and you may talk about something about that outdoors the church, however not within the church actually. The best way issues are going, one can have curiosity in a political celebration, however that doesn’t imply that you must give room for anyone to take the microphone and start to marketing campaign within the church. That’s partisanship.

And that was what led to what occurred within the Adoration Ministry, Enugu, the place Mbaka misplaced his head. If not so, I don’t see why he ought to give individuals the microphone and begin forcing them to offer one thing to his church. Church leaders have to be very cautious so they won’t be lured by financial presents to wish for politicians.

“We aren’t prayer contractors. If anyone needs to assist the church it’s voluntary; you give in the direction of the tasks of the church and go away, to not say that the church ought to pray for you since you gave. Prayers can’t be purchased and other people ought to desist from that. And no pastor or church chief ought to be seeing pointless prophecy or visions for these politicians. It’s harmful and deceitful. Let’s simply pray for our individuals and ask God for good governance.

“We should pray that people who want to serve the country will come with sacrificial spirits. Our concern should not be about political parties; it should be about the preparedness of the people who are coming to serve the people and take Nigeria to greater glory. That should be our message. So, nobody should turn the church into a ground for political campaigns. It is dangerous, it is divisive and it can also cause ill feelings among members who belong to different political parties.”

Archbishop Chukwuma, nevertheless, careworn that whereas church buildings ought to encourage their members to hitch politics, they need to not permit them to return to the church to marketing campaign.

He stated: “Politics just isn’t dangerous, however the best way it’s performed in our nation. So, Christians shouldn’t desist from doing politics as a result of if they’re honest of their politics, they may rework the environment of politics. However when they don’t seem to be there, the unrighteous will take up the throne and proceed to rule the righteous. So, we enjoin our members to hitch political events and vie for political positions and we shall be praying to God to grant them these positions.

“But you should not come to the church to canvass for support. You can only come there to ask us to be praying for you, for God’s will to be done in your life. That’s all. You can’t use the church as a campaign ground; that is not accepted. If anybody tries it in my church, I will seize the microphone and stop the person.”

Additionally Bishop Ransome Bello, the presiding Bishop of Calvary Life Meeting Kano, on his personal half, stated that though there was nothing incorrect with politicians going to spiritual settings for prayers, spiritual leaders must be cautioned towards giving politicians the liberty to show their conferences into marketing campaign floor.

“The church is a segment of the Nigerian population, so it’s not strange if politicians take their campaigns to religious gatherings. Depending on the type or nature of gatherings, nevertheless, I don’t think it is the best for a minister or a church to allow his meeting turned into a campaign ground for political parties. I pray for all the politicians who come to me, but that doesn’t translate into any form of endorsement. It is a disservice to the church as religious leaders desire financial gains in exchange for endorsement,” he stated.

In his response, Rev. George Shoboyede, founder and presiding pastor, Path to Righteousness Evangelical Mission, Ota, Ogun State, argued that since no management is enthroned with out God’s consent, males of God shouldn’t be condemned for giving politicians the privilege of reaching out to their congregations to canvass for help.

He maintained that such platform is of mutual profit to each events because the congregations are given the chance to precise their expectations and disappointments, because the case could also be to their leaders.

On the apply the place males of God brazenly declare help for politicians, Rev Shoboyede stated, “Do males of God have the proper to vote? If they’ve the proper to vote throughout elections, then they need to be free to precise their help for candidate of their selection whether or not within the open or inside the confines of their room or church.

What I can’t help is a state of affairs the place a spiritual chief mandates his members to help a specific candidate or political social gathering.”

Pastor Nkwocha Okwuchi John, a historian and Founding Pastor, Days of Favour Bible Church in his response stated politicians search endorsement from males of God with the mindset that they (spiritual leaders) have some degree of affect on their followers.

“Ninety-nine per cent of Nigerians are religious either as Christians or Muslims, so the religious leaders have ways of influencing them. These politicians go to them to seek endorsement so they can influence their members to vote for them, but that is not the right thing. The second reason is that in Nigeria now, everybody is becoming conscious of God and for that, even if you are an idol worshipper, you will like to pretend to either be a Christian or a Muslim, if not you will be seen as an occultic person canvassing for votes.”

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