Worried by the activities of religious and ethnic bigots interfering with Nigeria’s political affairs, a group known as the National Inter-faith and Religious Organizations for Peace (NIFROP) has pledged to embark on aggressive campaigns against what it termed unholy interferences by the clergymen.
NIFROP’s coordinator, Bishop Garuba Sunday, who spoke Tuesday in Abuja after a meeting of the group in preparation for an International Conference on Religion, Politics and Ethnicity, revealed that measures are being considered against any clergy, irrespective of faith, that tries to undermine the unity of Nigeria for their selfish interests. He explained that the conference is a component of a wider campaign against religious and ethnic bigotry.
Bishop Sunday frowned at religious leaders and ethnic groups that succumb to selfish and primordial agenda to directly participate in uniformed political activities in clear violation of the codes they operate just as if they were politicians or those not in support of their views were less than citizens of Nigeria.
He explained that the International Conference on Religion, Politics and Ethnicity was informed by the need to address the growing abuse of religious and ethnic affiliations for politics even when it is glaring that it is a trend that portends danger to the unity, cohesion, stability and peace of the country.
According to him, “We had expected that the animosity that peaked during the elections will diminish once a winner has been declared. It turned out that President Muhammadu Buhari emerged winner. But the bitterness of those opposed to his groundbreaking reforms have only worsened with the tragic dimension that some clergymen and even religious bodies are in the forefront of deepening division among Nigerians based on politics.
“The conference will address the dangerous situation by attempting to correct the wrong impression Nigerians have been given about their leader. The theme of the event was therefore conceived to encapsulate this as ‘Understanding the PMB Phenomenon’ by which we believe that Nigerians will come to appreciate what they must do as citizens in other to attract the blessings of God to the country.
“The theme speaks to how the Buhari phenomenon has come to mark the end of religious and ethnic bigotry in politics. It is a signpost to those hiding under the cover of being clergy or ethnic warriors to sow disaffection that they must begin to understand that the country must be allowed to heal, the better for the image and unity of the country,” he clarified.
Bishop Sunday warned that history is replete with human suffering occasioned by fusing religion with politics noting that humanity has advanced beyond the stage where umbrella organizations for Islam and Christianity would be jostling to outdo one another in becoming politicized.
While recognizing the rights of Nigerians as individuals to take part in politics, the Bishop warned that such right should not be misused by conferring it on organizations that are naturally expected to be apolitical.
He said “As individuals clergymen have the right to hold political beliefs and even identify with political parties but the situation where they attempt to mislead the believing population by presenting their political preferences as spiritual decrees emanating from the Almighty is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.
“It is our conviction that Nigerians should be able to discuss these things and agree on what is acceptable as well as what is not. When people gather at the conference that is what will be taking place. People will look at what roles religion and ethnicity are allowed to play in the national life and whether a leader that is working to the benefit of the population should be distracted by leaders that are meant to cater to the spiritual wellbeing of adherents. NIFROP does not have the answer to these issues so it will be Nigerians that will decide what the norm should be,” he asserted.