CHRISTIANS’ PARTICIPATION IN POLITICS: THE MORAL PERSPECTIVE IN NIGERIA
1.1 Background of the Study
Religion and politics are two different institutions that exist in the state and contribute their quota in different capacities to better the life of citizens of the state and the sustenance of humanity. Nevertheless, there have been continuous romance between religion and politics, to the dismay of many especially who thinks it should not be so. This commonalities between the two concepts are unavoidable since participants in electoral or political activities are in themselves religious, particularly in Nigeria. Even in religious institutions, politics is in itself a necessity, for want of organization and responsible leadership.
Doubtlessly, there are varieties of religion in Nigeria, but the interest of this research is focused on the Christian Religion and its response to political affairs in the country. This research is set to unravel two apparent realities confronting Christianity and politics in Nigeria. First, that Christian denominations through literal interpretations of some biblical passages seek to exclude Christians from political participation, secondly, the fact of political misconducts, malpractices and faulty democratic leadership in a process many Christians are involved in, considering the moral Christian ideals.
The ideals of Christianity are good guides to better political conducts, but the practice of such ideals are usually influenced by the socio-cultural institutions in the society, including politics.1 this suggests that Christians have the moral norms needed to better a society, but if Christians do not participate in policy making, where politics is a mechanism needed to exercise that, then, these qualities are as good as nothing. Therefore, Christians from every walks of life should heighten their political participation with the view of ameliorating the political system in Nigeria from every corruption.
Again, many Nigerians have resorted to tag politics as a ‘dirty game’, owing to the misconducts prevailing in the political system. This is due to assumptions that people have lost confidence in the political class and on the electoral processes in the country, where votes cast by electorates are presumed not to count, where there is so much of political thuggery and ballot theft. Worst of all, these anomalies prevail amidst Christian presence in the process, the same people who are supposedly taught the ethics needed to build a morally viable world. In view of the above, this work seeks to restate those Christian ethical principles that is poised to better the society, as well as encourage Christians to participate in the electoral processes, party politics and other politically related activities, so that they could use their moral consciousness to improve and sanitize the political system and ensure sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Man they say is a ‘Political Animal’ suggesting that man has in his nature, inherent political motivation and impulse and thus partake in it, inevitably. Thus, problems accrues when society tries to determine who should or should not partake in political activities. In Nigeria, Christian denominations whose main sermons target low societal value system, political corruption and have a persistent approach to holiness have sought to condemn politics in its entirety, thereby discouraging its members from any form of participation whatsoever. Adetoyese, John traced this back to the inception of Christianity in Africa. He wrote that “the early missionaries distant Christianity from politics, especially in some African countries and this brings a significant forebear towards politics by Christians and they have transferred that to their children which brought about wrong impression that some Christians have about politics and its role in human existence.2
Many churches uses literal interpretations of some biblical passages to drive home their points on why Christians should not be politicians. Passage such as 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship has righteous with unrighteous? and what communion has light with darkness?”3 etc. have been instrumental to this Christians’ apathy to politics in Nigeria. The lack of effective Christians’ participation in politics have culminated to so many ill fates to the Christian faith in a multi-religious state like Nigeria. We now have Christian wailing here and there that they have been sidelined politically, that government pays deaf ears to their cries and that they are suffering unfavourable government policies which does not allow the church to thrive. These have been traced to the fact that the Nigerian church is unable to produce a political Christian leader, making it difficult to harmonize the various groups in the church into an effective political machinery.4
Addressing some basic problems in Christian political activism, Redekop, John queried “Politics press the Christian toward compromises, can a disciple keep his integrity there?”5 However, question such as this, throw Christians off balance and in many cases, harden their determinations to stay off politics. This is due to the way politics is practiced in Nigeria today, which has made it look dirty in the perception of committed Christians who have in turn seen the politicians as fraudulent people.
Despite the afore stated points, Christians have explicitly not opted out from politics. For instance a Christian dominated state like Akwa Ibom has her politicians and political leaders majorly from the christian stock. In fact all the state governors from her inception have been christians. Thus, political misconducts in a system controlled by Christian is also problematic and of course the researcher’s burden. This work therefore aims at encouraging christians to participate in political activities and in doing so, should bring Christian ideal necessary to better democratic experience in Nigeria into practice.