The importance of religion in a society cannot be over emphasized, it has caused wars and has built nations, and that is why it is paramount that religion as a weapon in politics is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all cost.
River State Governor, Nyesom Wike had openly declared Rivers a Christian state in a crusade of the Lord’s Chosen Church. He had said his victory had been made possible by the support and prayers of the Christian community.
“I repeat once again without apologies, Rivers State is a Christian State. That is why nobody can touch us. When it mattered most, the Christian community prayed and God heard your prayers.”
He had gone ahead to promise support of all the activities of the church, saying that the government will always partner with the churches in all their activities, this of course is a good step. After all, we know without any iota of doubt that one of the major pillars of a society is the religion of that state, it cannot be downplayed and over emphasized.
But, in as much as Wike had promised partnership with the churches in Rivers state, he should have done same for the Mosque. Doing anything short of this could lead to very unpleasant situations. It is important he takes into cognizance other people’s belief, for strongly intertwined into the core of a man is his belief in a supreme being, every other thing comes second. So to trivialize this belief, is to throw a stone at that person aimed to deflate his ego and all other things that he holds dear.
This article is not a prophesy of doom, as a reaction has already started playing out. The Muslims Rights Concern(MURIC) have come out to show their displeasure at Wike’s statement and have resorted to name calling. The Islamic group had said and I quote:
“At a time when Nigeria is facing religious and ethnic crises, a state governor still has the temerity to declare his state a Christian state. Wike is short in intellect, long in impunity. It is not his first time of making this pronouncement. We ignored him the first time because we did not want to dignify him with a response. But he has just exposed himself as an analogue governor with a triangular approach to all problems: religion, violence and impunity. Wike cannot think outside this triangular box.”
This statement has gone a long way to show how truly hurt the Muslims are about the statement made by the governor. They feel belittled and irrelevant, even if majority of the population in Rivers state are Christians, the minority should not be left out. Give one man a gun and he could take as much as twenty lives. Give him a bomb and he will bring down a city.
Nigeria can be said to be in a fragile state presently, and some religious sect might be currently looking for any situation or means to act out. Rivers, or any other state in Nigeria for that matter, belongs to Nigerians, not to Muslims, Christians, Traditional worshipers or any other religion in the country but to Nigerians and that in itself is enough.
In as much as Wike is trying to show his appreciation for the role played by the Christians during his election , he should also not forget that during his time in power, he will be governing not just Christians but people from other religious sect. This action taken by him is a dangerous precedent and it would be in the best interest of Rivers if it is corrected.
Let Us Take A Brief Look At The Downside Of Religion In Nigerian Politics
Religious conflicts can be dated as far back as the Kano riot in 1953, which claimed so many lives. We also have the Tafawa Balewa saga in 1948 in the Southern part of Bauchi State in Northern Nigeria. The Igbo massacre of 1966, which was a series of massacres committed against Igbo people and other people of Southern Nigerian origin living in Northern Nigeria definitely cannot be left out. These events led to the secession of the eastern Nigerian region and the declaration of the Republic of Biafra, which ultimately led to the Nigeria-Biafra war.
In the 1980s General Ibrahim Babangida had enrolled Nigeria in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and it had at that time aggravated religious tension in the country. There was also a serious outbreak between the Christians and the Muslims in Kafanchan in southern Kaduna.
In 2002, the Nigerian journalist Isioma Daniel wrote a newspaper article comment involving the Islamic prophet Muhammad that led to the demonstrations and violence that caused the deaths of over 200 in Kaduna, as well as a fatwa placed on her life.
There seem to be in every Nigerian this fear of an external body getting rid of what they believe in and imposing something totally different on them. Fear can be a healthy emotion, it’s a signal telling us it is time to pull back and stay away, but it can also be a very destructive weapon, for out of fear, hatred can be born and so can war.
It can be said without further ado, that little actions and words can lead to a bruised ego, create spite, fear, pain and a ripple effect that would subsequently cost so many lives. It would therefore be in the the great interest of the state and Nigeria as a country, for Governor Wike to make it right, send out an apology and declare Rivers a neutral state. For it is important to note that first of all we are Nigerians before anything else.