Religion and Politics: The Abuse of Clerics


Several papers and books have been written by renowned scholars of repute on the relationship between religion and politics. Most of these papers and books are available in journals and bookshops or on the internet. They all make good readings, but from my understanding, no clear-cut distinction has been rendered between religion and politics, particularly, when one considers that there are different religions with varying political views. However, it is submitted that both religion and politics have one common goal: “that to acquire power and use it to fulfil their aims”. To this end, their methods in acquiring power are different such that while religion mobilizes the sensibilities of the people to get power support, politics adopt diplomacy, and intrigues to get public opinions.

Source: Google search

This means that religion is not anti-government as some may erroneously wish to believe. In a classical power struggle, it is submitted that both politics and religion ” make attempts to undermine each other”. Religion often claims that it derives its authority from divinity and as such its mission is holy and meant to reform society under spiritual guidance.
Over the years, three models have been identified between religion and politics, and these include:

  1. The integration and sharing model where both religion and politics are in harmony
  2. The subservient model where politics overpowers and subdues religion
  3. The conflict model is where both religion and political conflict with each leading its separate ways.

The question of whether it is permitted to use religion as a political tool or not still rages in controversy among various religious groups and scholars which I am not qualified to deeply comment. Nonetheless, the common view has been that religion is considered above politics on pedestals of reasoning such that political leaders ought to submit to the superior powers of religious leaders. In my opinion, I align my views with this as far as my religious belief is concerned.

However, in our contemporary times, particularly, in our dear country, Nigeria, we are witnesses to changes to the contrary where religious leaders fully dressed in their cassocks are openly seen visiting and being commanded by political leaders in such a manner that gives concerns. Could this be fulfilling the subservient model?

For example, we are all witnesses to an event where it was alleged that fake Bishops were hired during the unveiling of the APC’s vice presidential candidate. How this allegation has been handled or investigated by religious bodies remains to be heard. If this turns out to be true, what are the implications for such abuses? As if this allegation was not shameful enough, the DG of the Tinubu campaign organization in the person of His Excellency, Gov Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau state, while justifying his acceptance for the appointment had robbed in and alluded to the fact that even the Pope had not frowned against his acceptance of the offer as the DG of the Muslim-Muslim ticket.

His position was quickly considered untrue and offensive by the Catholic communities and other Christian denominations, and similarly, with one voice all condemned what he had told the public. He was made to offer an apology to this effect. All these incidences are a sequel to what we now refer to as the Muslim-Muslim ticket adopted by APC at the national level.

This has given rise to what exactly the purpose of the Muslim-Muslim ticket is between religion and politics. The introduction of religion in this manner is an attempt to justify the inclusion of other faiths in the process which in my candid view makes it more of a deceptive game using religion. From the day Tinubu announced the nomination of Shettima as his running mate, the political space has been dominated by religious views and will continue till election day.

The same-faith ticket is not new, particularly with more than 50 % of our states. At the federal level, the Abiola-Kingibe SDP ticket of 1993 is one example, but it did not see the light of the day. It is therefore a bad example to cite as it was not successful. In addition to individual protests against a same-faith ticket, several Christian groups including CAN have openly made their positions known against any same-faith ticket, with the major reason being that it is divisive in an already polarised country like Nigeria.

As earlier mentioned, the promotion of same-faith tickets in our political space is directly the promotion of that faith against other faiths. However, to politicians, what matters is the acquisition of political power, and this is what seems to be playing out. Our politicians care less if we remain united or not and if one religion dominates over others or not.

Source : Google search

Therefore, as it stands now, the majority of the voters may take their decision to vote in 2023 based on religion, in addition to ethnicity. My concern with these primordial tendencies is whether Nigeria can truly be developed like other countries.

Between our political and religious leaders, who are to be blamed in our current dispensation? The politicians no longer revere the cleric with their religion such that a politician can fake a Bishop and still goes to sleep as if that is not an offence. A religious leader will appear at a political function fully dressed in his/her cassock, with several of them openly campaigning for some political parties.

Unless and until something is done by our religious bodies, the decay will continue because this is what the politician wants, to dominate over the religious leaders.
My candid view is for religious leaders to give divine guidance and not to be commanded by politicians. Our politicians should also know that our political system cannot be driven by anger, hatred, adversarial or aggressiveness.
Vote Wisely to save Nigeria.

As per Prof Bukata Bukar