The religionisation of politics in Nigeria has rifely manifested in two ways; (1). Where religion is constantly invoked in religious discourse, and (2). The phenomenon where religion plays an active role in politics, thereby influencing its livelihood, behaviors and trends, as well as the outcome of elections. Nigeria chiefly being a very religious country has its politics dominated by religion, its clerics, their sermons, and the religious belongings or beliefs of political players. A statement recently released by the Arewa Elders Forum, where it tried to cascade political parties and their candidates/candidate pairings based on their religious beliefs, preferably, Christian or Muslim (while omitting other religious beliefs like traditional worshipers, etc); convincingly puts to rest the debate on whether or not, religion is a major decider or factor in the outcome of religious politics in Nigeria. The religion debate was at its finest when the emergence of the APC’s Asiwaju was consumed by the religion of his would-be running mate and his, other than their pedigree; in terms of wealth of knowledge, experience in leadership, and their capabilities that would be veritable tools in the discharge of their duties.
When Asiwaju emerged as the APC’s presidential flagbearer, it was deemed that his religion, Islam, just as it was detrimental to the APC pairings in 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari emerged as flagbearer; would be a setback to his ambition and to the success of the party at the polls. He needed to be Christian to give the ticket a religious balance, in cognisance of our huge religious divide, especially during the politicking season. And since he’s Muslim, he needed a Christian vice, to make Nigeria work. The genius in the growth of Lagos IGR, independent power projects, the light blue rail, and the political dexterity of harvesting almost all South-west states from the control of the PDP, to under the belt of the APC, were not to be considered as the defining factors of Asiwaju’s candidacy as antecedents that qualify him as the best candidate for the APC.
Even at that, his Islamic credentials were put to a debate, and there was a hugely successful campaign, that denigrated him as a Muslim who is married to a pastor, and raising children on both religious beliefs. The larger Muslim North was inundated with calumnious innuendos that sought to create sentiments against Asiwaju, as a non practising believer, or even as a non Muslim altogether. This was enhanced by the religiosity of our politics. The Muslim North pandered towards their baser instinct of supporting a ‘bona-fide’ Muslim they feel they could identify with. On the altar of religious politics, Asiwaju was crucified for being a Muslim on one hand, and not being a devoted Muslim on the other. (In Nigerian parlance, ‘Tinubu has suffered sha’). This confirms the suggestion that no politician has been criticised, abused (even used actually), dehumanised, and taken to the cleaners like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, The Jagaban of Borgu, the leader of Nigerian progressive politics, and the Cicero of Nigerian politics in general.
Now there is a viral Islamic sermon video of Sheikh Kabiru Gombe, who is among the top three Islamic preachers and leaders of thought. In the said video, the Sheikh used Asiwaju as an example of one of those Muslims who may perhaps be rated poorly in the court of public opinion; but are in fact one of the best, in the court of Islamic jurisprudence. According to Sheikh Kabiru, he and quite a number of clerics had gone to condole Tinubu when he lost his mother. They flew to Lagos as a delegation and went to commiserate with him over his loss. They preached to him and prayed for his late mother. The Sheikh in his sermon relayed how every year, Asiwaju’s mother did in fact seek her son’s favour, in sponsoring Muslims for pilgrimage to Mecca. No matter how many people she sent, she would still come back to indulge Asiwaju, seeking more sponsorship, excusing that she had omitted or forgotten a few people. Tinubu did this every year for his mother, in servitude to her, and in a most humble and respectful way of making her happy, and eventually seeking and gaining God’s blessings. As a religious Nigeria, we all know the magnitude and blissful importance of obedience to parents. As Muslims, we are taught that our hereafter is right under the feet of our parents, especially our mothers. We are guided by the Qur’an and the ahadith/teachings of the Prophet, SAW; that our servitude to them is the meal-ticket to a worthy end, in the hereafter- in paradise. Rewards as paradise do not come about by killing in the name of religion as some are wont to believe. Paradise is a sure banker, when one is an obedient and respectful child of his parents. Therefore, it is instructive to ponder on the blessings of Asiwaju’s political story, dynasty and his trajectory, as indeed the fruits and blessings from an obedient son of his mother, the former Iyaloja of Lagos.
The more you take from the man, the bigger he becomes, and the more unbeatable and undeterred he seems. Sheikh Kabiru Gombe and myriads of people, not only clerics, keep attesting to the benevolence of Asiwaju. His charitable lifestyle is a rare and favoured one. If religion is indeed our opium, it is turning out to favour him miraculously, judging by how it has looked like a disadvantage before now. The clerics are beginning to speak on behalf of Tinubu, and the sermons are fast spreading, while the listeners are fast learning of who Tinubu really is, and what he stands for. Accounts like that of the learned Sheikh abound. They are just yet to go viral.
Tahir is Talban Bauchi.