Even before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) sounded the whistle to kick-start the campaign activities for the 2023 general elections a few weeks ago, some clerics have been bombarding the media space with prophecies of those who would clinch elective positions across different political parties.
Sadly, this practice has been part of our electoral processes in recent years …they are seasonings that spice up the pronouncements from the pulpits. As the dates for various stages of the elections inch close, so will the electorate be overwhelmed with predictions believed to come from above.
Nigeria has never fallen short of attention-seeking prediction mongers. We recall the warning by the Sultan of Sokoto and President of Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, to religious leaders to desist from predicting the winners in the rescheduled 2019 presidential poll.
The Sultan gave the admonition at the meeting of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP) held in Abuja. He said that given the way such rampant predictions were being dispensed, they might trigger a disaster, particularly if the proclaimed presidential candidate did not win the election.
He said, “As spiritual leaders, we need to be cautious about what we are saying to our followers in churches and mosques, taking into consideration that we shall stand at some point before Allah and account for our deeds.
“We ought to by no means permit ourselves for use by any political candidate. If you want to help any candidates, do it personally.
“Religious leaders should preach love for one another and do whatever they do with the fear of God.” prophecy
Clerics and other forecasters ought to be reminded of the Sultan’s admonition again. This is because the tendency is always there for political actors and their followers to see such prophecies as God’s verdicts, leading to complacency on their part. Those favoured by such predictions could take their hands off the plough in the belief that their victories are a foregone conclusion, rather than doing the needful during electioneering.
Such pastime should be left to political analysts and pundits who base their forecasts on hard facts and performances of parties and their candidates in an atmosphere devoid of electoral frauds. In a country where clerics lay claims to being the representatives of God with large followers who are so gullible, any failed prophecy would be blamed on manipulation of results by electoral umpires at various levels and other factors to rubbish such predictions originating from God!
These political clerics have sympathies for certain candidates or parties and as such, the tendency to incite their followers to resist the outcomes of polls even if they were credible would be there, claiming that the will of God has been shortchanged.
Besides predicting winners ahead of polls, there have been instances where some men of God claimed they had received divine instructions from God to contest elective positions only to fail in the end. When such vote-swaying declarations backfire, what impression do they want the people, especially their followers, to have about God?
While charging clerics who are paid or influenced in one way or the other to dispense prophecies to desist from such, politicians should also be cautioned against using religion to precipitate conflicts in the country ahead of the forthcoming polls. Equally, we enjoin the youths to avoid politicians that deploy hate speech to incite violence for their selfish interests before, during and after the polls.
Be that as it may, clerics are not the only ones bitten by the bug of partisanship. Traditional rulers, who are supposed to be fathers for all, tend to join the fray also. Most of them endorse and openly campaign for candidates of their choice. Such partisan royal fathers expose themselves to the danger of being attacked by thugs belonging to the political parties they do not support. Such leaders also lose the right to make peace in the event of any conflicts in their domains.
Lastly, it is high time we came to terms with the fact that we are first and foremost Nigerians before anything else. The way Nigerians deploy religion into politics as exemplified by the same faith imbroglio is mid-boggling. Politics and religion were made for us and not the other way round. It is a truism that religions are a spiritual compass aimed at guiding us on our life journey. Those who deviate from the path and choose to deploy it to fan the embers of disunity for their selfish interests are Nigeria’s No. 1 enemies.