Lately, former President Olusegun Obasanjo made a call at a church event in Ogun State.
He ’ s quoted as saying Christian leaders should “ speak truth to power” because the founder of the faith did the same .
It’ s fine that a Christian calls on fellow Christians regarding matters they consider important to their faith .
Leaders in every religion do the same .
But from the happenings around us , I have concerns about the call from Obasanjo .
One is how some religious leaders who abandon their core mission to preach hate against tribes and religions other than theirs will interpret it .
The other concern is why , in a nation whose unity he has spent his entire life defending, Obasanjo doesn ’ t send similar messages to religious leaders who make divisive comments .
I’ ve heard some address the political leadership on national challenges and I conclude it ’ s how servants of God should speak in order to maintain peace among our peoples.
But interventions by others have been propelled by considerations such as ethnicity, religion and political party affiliations , thus fuelling division.
These are leaders who would be angry if a member of their congregation falls out of line to challenge them .
But they stand on pulpits and in public spaces to send abuses to political leaders in a manner unbecoming of religious leaders .
They portray political leaders as devils , inciting followers to hate people who are of the same tribe as the political leaders .
I find it a baffling contradiction that religious leaders utter hate against anyone at all.
Burundi in Central Africa has experienced inter – ethnic violence.
Last September , the government of Burundi accused priests of promoting hate among different ethnic groups .
In Rwanda , we know how religious leaders contributed to the murder of almost one million people .
The same situation in September 2018 made the immediate past deputy governor of Kaduna State , Barnabas Bala Bantex, say the attempt by some religious leaders to give the policies of the state government ethnic coloration must stop .
He and his fellow Christians in government stated as follows : “ We are appalled by the role of certain pastors in spreading hate , encouraging violence and undermining the security efforts in Kaduna State.
These apostles of hatred do not speak for us , and we condemn the attempt to reduce our religion into a vehicle or a convenient mask for the bloodthirsty to practise their trade of division, violence and destruction.
We cannot condone illegal conduct even if it is perpetrated by people with whom we share the same faith .
We are shocked that pastors have desecrated the altar of faith to spew lies about the situation in Kaduna State. It has saddened and shocked us to watch videos of pastors preaching fiction and needlessly inciting people . ”
He added that a pastor even hinted at ties between criminals who perpetrate violence in some parts of the state to “a political party . ”
Bantex said as a Christian , he welcomed the intervention of religious leaders “ in advancing peace … (but condemns the ) irresponsible utterances and conduct of persons who disgrace the very notion of priesthood .
Christianity obliges us to the finest standards of conduct, propelled by our faith in God and His abiding grace.
Christians are enjoined by our faith to strive to live up to the standards of compassion and tolerance to which we are commanded by Christ ’ s example in the Sermon on the Mount. ”
Obasanjo says Christian leaders should emulate the founder of the faith and reprimand political leadership .
With the foregoing , I ask : Which version of the founder of the faith should Christian leaders emulate ; the one presented by Obasanjo or the peace – seeking , all mankind -loving one presented by Bantex ?
I don’ t know the form of speaking truth to power that Obasanjo has in mind . But I can guess from his own interventions in the public space over the years while speaking to governments.
I have no issues with that as well as his latest call .
My concern is how the kind of religious leaders that Bantex complained about would understand Obasanjo ’ s call .
For it ’ s clear some Christian leaders forget that despite what the Roman government did to Jews , the founder of their faith haboured no hatred for non- Jews.
He helped Roman citizens who approached him for help.
In spite of the oppression visited on the Jews by the Roman rulers , he didn’ t allow himself to be either dragged into political matters or become a political Messiah that Jews desired .
He never became an ethnic defender . Militant zealots among the Jews did , he didn’ t. Rather, he concentrated on his mission .
Despite the vexing activity of the Roman government ’ s representatives such as tax collectors, he didn’ t demonise them .
He attended to them, making it known that they formed his core mission .
Isn ’ t Obasanjo ’ s call to Christian leaders contradicting that?
In any case , do all Christian leaders meet precepts as laid down by the founder of their faith ?
Certainly not the group that Bantex was addressing .
Each time I hear religious leaders utter hate, the kind Bantex describes , I wonder how anyone sits and listens .
I suppose it ’ s what they want to hear . Is that what Christianity has become ?
Is that its mission ?
Religious leaders speak love, they speak peace no matter what happens .
It ’ s in doing this that servants of God have space to fulfil their mission .
Ironically , servants of God who closely follow this path as laid by the founder of their faith are accused by churchgoers (not Christians) as being silent on the situation in the country.
Obasanjo ’ s call will potentially empower religious leaders who have lost focus of their core mission to become ethnic advocates .
Meanwhile , when religious leaders focus on their core mission that should be among peoples, we ’ ll have a situation whereby upright political leaders that emerge won ’ t need to be sent reprimanding words as Obasanjo wants done .
The unbecoming utterances of some religious leaders make me wonder what the consequences of Obasanjo ’ s call will be .
Will more servants of God go to the street to insult the political leadership rather than face their core mission ?
Will they continue to cast as devils members of other tribes and religion whom the founder of their faith actually instructs them to win over ?
Will they concentrate on flinging more abuses at political office holders who belong to political parties that they bitterly abhor , something the founder of their faith didn’ t do ?
Or will Christian leaders speak up on behalf of all Nigerians irrespective of tribe and religion ?
Will they take up the cause of the poor and the helpless wherever such are found , something the founder of their faith spent much of his time doing more than he addressed himself to the political leadership ?
This leads me to another aspect of the remarks that Obasanjo made at the same church event .
He said the biggest mistake Nigeria will ever make is for the people not to stay together.
“We would be devoured and that we should not take lightly .
” I’ ve always applauded Obasanjo’ s zeal to ensure Nigeria remains one . It’ s my belief in the same that makes me get concerned about the implications of his latest call .
I was present everywhere he stopped at the time he paid an official visit to Osun State in 2001 . At one point , he spoke in Yoruba to anyone who might think his presidency was an opportunity to break our country into pieces .
He said that having so many tribes sit at the same table is what makes things sweet , and not otherwise .
With his latest remark that it will be a mistake to consider breaking up Nigeria , what’ s his message for the kind of religious leaders that Bantex talks about ?
For such religious leaders are doing extensive damage , planting hatred in the younger generation of Nigerians .
Obasanjo thinks it appropriate to call on Christian leaders to speak truth to power. He shouldn ’ t stop there .
Muslim leadership in Nigeria has been working over the years to curtail the activities and utterances of clerics that it deems inimical to peace .
Since the former president thinks political leaders create problems for which Christian leaders should reprimand them , he should also ask activist – pastors who incite followers to hate across tribal lines to desist from it . Until they do , they are contributors to the problems of this nation as much as any political leadership may be .
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