According to Wikipedia, a secular state is a concept of secularism, whereby a state or country purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion.”A secular state also claims to treat all its citizens equally, regardless of religion.Happenings in our polity over the years have shown we have been divided between two powerful religions, Christianity and Islam. Both have large followership in Nigeria. A person’s social status is often determined by religious affiliation.The similarity between both religions is the absolute certainty that they are correct, their beliefs are the will of God, the highest authority over man and therefore their belief should be respected and worshipped.Today, one can’t separate religion from our politics. Both religions have been a dominant factor in determining who rules, gets appointed and promoted. In Nigeria, the undue attention to religion has widened the gap between adherents of Christianity and Islam. Faithful view each other with deep suspicion, as both believe they deserve more attention, when it is not forth coming; it is often interpreted as persecution.Government’s meddling in religious activities has not helped matters. Rather, it has led to an increase in fanaticism and extremism in the country. Some go as far as causing mayhem over government’s policies that did not favour their interest. The insurgency ravaging North Eastern Nigeria is a good example.Our clerics’ meddlesomeness in politics and their arrogance on the pulpit is appalling. Some of them have lost their credibility at the altar of politics, and have virtually turned blind eyes to the sufferings of the people. Not surprisingly, some have relocated to Aso Rock, Villa and become personal pastors to the President. These meddle some acts have made the public to take a rather apathetic approach towards religious issues,as more Nigerians are becoming secular and rejecting any form of religious faith. A friend recently told me that he would not vote for Buhari in 2015 because the latter will Islamise Nigeria if ever he won. This is the same view shared by many Christians. Why will a Muslim president Islamise Nigeria? Where has that happened in the world? And what does he stand to gain? Likewise, Muslims, see no reason in voting a Christian into power in any capacity, even if the latter is more qualified than the Muslim counterpart.The use of religion for political gains or to incite violence should be avoided. We should be mindful of hate speeches at public gatherings, especially now general the general elections are at hand. Any individual who thinks he or she is credible enough to vie for any position should come out and convince Nigerians regardless of religion.We need to separate religion from politics and abide by the secularity of our nation which the constitution recognizes. The United States and Turkey are both Christian and Muslim dominated countries respectively. Their constitutions proclaim the secularities of their nations; they have to a reasonable extent separated religion from politics. Why can’t we do that in Nigeria? Our unity in diversity should be a unifying factor not the other way round.Religion being a matter of individual discretion should be left for clerics to take care of, while our political leaders take care of the business of governance. We should resist the temptation of making religion a tool of our national partisan politics, as it has not contributed in any way in uniting us as a people.
*this was published in the Daily Times dated Thursday, December 18, 2014