Feb 8, 2016

Nigeria, the Religious Chessboard

Ibibio dancers of Nigeria

It’s indeed amazing how time flies. At about this time last year, Nigerians were getting prepared to decide whether or not they wanted to keep erstwhile President, Goodluck Jonathan or ferry in his main opponent in the political contest, General Mohammadu Buhari (Rtd). 

In Nigeria, we all know that what sways the decision of voters is largely faith, as religious and voting maps are hardly distinguishable. The few who choose to vote on the basis of the pedigree of the candidates usually determine who wins. I am joyful for my mindset ensures that I will continue to be a member of this school of thought. It’s that state of mind that led me to vote the APC.

Voting APC did not come easy though. I came under constant pressure from some Christians, who were of the view that the Muslims had a hidden agenda of compelling every Nigerian to become one of them, and that anything the Muslims say against Boko Haram never came from the bottom of their hearts. 

From Independence, the Muslims led the country for about three decades. Throughout their respective reigns, there was no Muslim leader, military of civilian, who made any attempt or even showed any interest along this line. For those who said that, come what may, a Muslim shouldn’t rule this country, it was a crazy thing to say. It was synonymous with the comment of an American presidential candidate to the effect that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed into America. This was what I told them: “as long as Nigeria remains one nation, a Muslim must preside over issues. Furthermore, if we insist that no Muslim should rule, it means that the nation would have to break, as no Muslim would accept this condition.”

But how do you even slice this country with a religious sword? Where are we going to draw the line that ensures one religion on the right, and the other on the left, given that Islam and Christianity arrange themselves in Nigeria like the black and white squares of a chessboard? Within the north that is predominantly Islamic, there are pockets of Christian minorities. For instance, there are the Maguzawas in Kano, the Tangale’s in Gombe, the Kilbas in Adamawa, the Biu people in Borno States, pure breed Hausas in Katsina, etc, who are all Christians.  As a matter of fact, the scenario is more intricate than this. It is the same in the middle belt region, where there are Muslims within the largely Christian population of the region. Down south, the southwestern states have Christians and Muslim populations as well. Here, it is even dire, as, within a family, children could be divided evenly among the two religions.  If one should take the southern minorities, referred to collectively as the South-South, there are Muslim populations among them. For instance, you have the Etsakos in Edo State, who are largely Christians.  Seeing all this, one comes to the conclusion that Nigeria was meant to stay as one forever.

The prelude to the elections also made me understand that, for many in Nigeria, the understanding of the character of a next door neighbor is terribly discouraging. It’s the only reason why someone would think that a Muslim leader would coerce every single Christian, in this modern time, to become a Muslim, especially given that the suspected leader had ruled this country before. Also, I realized that courage is not only for leaders, but for followers as well. We need strong courage to fight the emotions that insist we have to vote persons who are related to us by faith, regardless of whether or not he can deliver. 

About a year since the elections, I, despite being a Christian, have seen reasons why my decision to vote Gen. Buhari isn’t regrettable. I feel safer and have confidence in the government to manage public resources with the greatest sense of responsibility and my decision does not make me an irrelevant Christian.


By Kelechi Oduebo Berom Dancers If the person is a Nigerian and has names like ‘Dung’, ‘Gyang’, ‘Pam’, ‘Kachollom’, ‘Kangyang’ or ...