The political climate in Nigeria is heating up speedily. Not surprising so as we enter the year of gubernatorial slugfest in some states  which also happens to be the year before the year of the almighty presidential elections. All weapons of (political) war are being unearthed, retooled, and made ready for the season that is near. Politics being a game of numbers, we see many ethnic, tribal, zonal, state, and rotational affinities being resuscitated, emphasized and decorated, in the keen competition to be regarded as the beautiful bride of political necessities. Many, like the proverbial prostitute are making themselves attractive to all and sundry, even where it seems so odd.

Political reporters and forecasters are in full bloom. Pentecostal pastors seized the opportunity of the beginning of the New Year 2018 to tell the ever listening segment of the public what God has told them, which mostly is about politics.They amuse us with the imminent death of unnamed political leaders, or governor; the electoral fortune of those seeking office or wishing to retain office. It is to these same soothsayers in collar that politicians will flock for divine intervention in their political adventure. At least one sitting governor has affirmed that a jet-owning pastor did foretell that he would be governor. Our own brother in Enugu is no longer a fan of the incumbent president and has anointed the Governor of Gombe as Khalifa.

An emerging scenario is one in which the kingmakers now want to be kings. Helicopters ferrying political office holders to their holy lands in search of anointing is okay, but what is wrong with the anointer anointing himself. As governor, he would fly the state-leased helicopter to Church and his Church-financed jet to Abuja for Council of States meeting.  After all, he would be tithe-keeper and Ghana-Must-Go-Dispenser at the same time. All hail to the pastor-king!!!!One of them says that God told him to return to politics and contest the presidency. His case contrasts that of the gubernatorial talking-head who says that he may become a Church Minister when his political office term expires.

Now with all that said about pastor-kings-to-be, what is the role of true religion in politics? Does religion have a place in politics? Should mosques and churches leave politics to politicians and restrict their activities to preaching and doing good for mankind? The answer for me is a resounding NO. True religion should serve to moderate the lives of adherents in totality and safeguard the wellbeing of the general public. A very good example is the role of the National Peace Committee during the last presidential elections. Their interventions before, during and after the polls went a long way in dowsing what otherwise could have been an explosive situation. We must be proud of the leading roles that Catholic clergy and lay faithful played in that committee.

That was then, this is now.

What are we Catholics doing as the true Body of Christ to sanitize our politics? Participation is key to influencing the polity. Catholics need to be encouraged to participate in the electoral process. The leadership of the laity needs to map out plans to improve on its mobilization efforts and in monitoring participation. For long, the Laity Council at various levels has been active in urging participation. In the late 1980s, the then Secretary General of the Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria CLCN, Sir D.D.Dodo, championed a sustained campaign of mobilizing the laity for political participation. Sir Dodo who later became the National Chairman of CLCN travelled the length and breadth of Nigeria, organizing activities towards such end. It was the era of Mobilaity. Since then, the Laity Council has continued to act as an effective organ of political mobilization, if subtly.

The Church has been active in other ways. The Bishops Conference through its interventions has been a respected voice in national and local political affairs. The Bishops have bravely and responsibly lent their voices to the clamor for a better society. The Prayer for Nigeria in Distress and Prayer against Bribery and Corruption attest to this. Also organs of the Church such as the Justice, Development and Peace Commission, JDPC, have conducted voter education and election monitoring exercises. As to actual participation in campaigns and elections as candidates, it is left to individuals within the Church to stand up to be counted and some are doing so without flying the flag of the Church.

The failure of people of faith to participate in politics is an open invitation to people with neither faith nor values, with little or no concern for the plight of the common man, to dominate the political terrain. Let us realize also that if we fail as members of the Catholic Church to participate in politics, people of other faith will take our place and play the game according to their beliefs; and they are not waiting for us.

During the past week, Dr. Abdul-Hakeem Abdul-Lateef admonished Muslims to participate in politics. If you know Dr. Abdul-Lateef as Lagos State Commissioner for Chieftaincy Affairs and no more, then you do not know him. He was not only the Chief Imam of the Lagos State House of Assembly, but the state Amir Hajj to the last pilgrimage. He is a notable mobiliser for the Islamic cause.

Let our own mobilisers multiply in number and increase their activities. We can make a difference in the polity.

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