2015: Christian or Muslim governor for Lagos? By Bayo Olupohunda

There is a campaign currently going on in Lagos State. Its drumbeat is beginning to reach a crescendo in recent times. As the race for the 2015 general elections gathers momentum, the question of who succeeds the incumbent governor, Babatunde Fashola, has become the subject of intense public speculation. The governor, who is on the final lap of his second term tenure, will quit office in 2015. Thus, it is not surprising that the debate of who replaces him will become the subject of public interest. The succession brouhaha in Lagos is not totally unexpected. Lagos, with a population of 25 million inhabitants, is perhaps the only Nigerian city with global acclaim. It has also over the years grown to be Nigeria’s most important state. Its massive internally generated revenue, about N17bn; a huge commercial and industrial base coupled with its being a former federal capital city make it a coveted state among the political elite in the country. That is why Lagos has been the theatre of fierce political battles–the struggle for its political dominance peaked since the return to democracy in 1999.

More specifically, the state is still the scene of an ongoing political struggle between the Peoples Democratic Party and the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria now under the All Progressives Congress. The jostle for who becomes governor had also once witnessed intra-party rivalry that pitted one faction against the other. The importance of Lagos has ensured that it is continually in the eye of the storm with the Federal Government which would give anything to bring the state under its political control. Successive governments in Abuja have always sought to wrest control of the state from the “progressives” who have dominated political power since. In most cases, they have blocked policies embarked on by the state just to prove a political point or strangle it to submission. This points to the importance of Lagos in the national political equation. That is why it is not surprising that, once again, the race for Alausa is attracting attention, except that this time, it has taken a religious dimension. But I consider the present call by some Christians for a Christian governor strange and unprecedented. It is strange because it is curious that some so-called Christians in the state would seek to campaign for a Christian governor as if it is the sole determinant of good leadership.

It is also unprecedented because this is the first time an attempt will be made by a religious body to consciously campaign that a governor emerges from their faith. The clamour first began not too long ago. It was brought into the public space by the Director of Civic and Political Affairs of the Diocese of Lagos Mainland of the Anglican Communion, Venerable Folarin Shobo, who asked Lagos residents to vote in a Christian as governor in 2015. Shobo said it was time for power to shift in the state. According to him, ‘’Lagos residents cannot afford to continue with the present political arrangement whereby political officers were largely people of a particular faith”. The cleric urged Christians in the state to change the political status quo. He said, “It is not fair to have a government that is largely tilted to people of a particular religion. Christians over the years have been magnanimous enough. We have worked for people who are not of our faith and we have supported them to be in government. It is now time for us to come out and take the bull by the horns’’. He reportedly lamented the situation where none of the five people being tipped to succeed Fashola come 2015 is a Christian. “Asking for a Christian governor in Lagos State at this time is not out of place. It is long overdue and it is time we began to do something about it,”  Shobo’s position was re-echoed at another forum by a group called the Men Mission’s Union of New Jerusalem-City Baptist Church, Ejigbo, at a breakfast session with the Chairman of the Ejigbo Local Council Development Area, Kehinde Bamigbetan, on the theme: Christians and Politics: A Personal Reflection. Bamigbetan debunked the allegation that neither the party nor its leaders is consciously sponsoring Muslim candidates. Then enter the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria Lagos branch. In a statement titled, “The Church and Governance of Lagos State”, Its chairman, one Apostle Alex Bamgbala, said Christians have supported the two Muslim administrations in the state since 1999 and it is only fair that they give room for their Christian counterparts to be elected in 2015.

As the race for the Lagos top job gathers momentum, I am sure it will not be long before other Christians join this annoying and bizarre campaign. My take on this is simple. I consider the reason behind the Christian-for-governor disgraceful and odious. The campaign by these so-called Christian leaders is also dangerous, diversionary, hypocritical and inimical to peaceful co-existence of the state’s residents. It detracts from the real issues of governance. And there lies our problem as a country. I am a Christian and if you ask me, I do not give a hoot about the religion of the next governor. Neither has religion determined who gets my vote. Not in past elections and not in the future. For all I care, the next governor can be a traditionalist or even an atheist. What is important to me and for all residents is performance and pedigree.

 The position of the so-called Christians is immoral to me, and reprehensible at best. It is curious that they have chosen this time for their divisive and unpatriotic campaign. One would expect them to demand good government no matter who will rule Lagos. What Lagos needs is good governance. Lagos residents want improvement in all aspects of their lives. They want better inner city roads, effective transport services, good schools, improved health care services, more independent power projects and security of lives and property. So, what has religion got to do with these? Lagos needs the best man for the job. There are those who have applauded Fashola’s performance so far. Never for once has his religion been in contention. What these masquerading as religious leaders have failed to tell us is how Fashola’s performance have impacted on Muslim alone.

What they have also failed to tell us is what other leadership qualities a Christian governor must possess other than just being a Christian. For them, Lagos needs a Christian governor even if the would-be candidate lacks the qualities. This attitude should be condemned by all Lagos residents. This is a dangerous trend that must not be allowed in a democracy. Not the least an enlightened state like Lagos. It is either they are acting in ignorance of the ignominious role religion can play in our national life or are being mischievous. Have they even forgotten that a political party has its own structure? Are they now saying that even when a candidate, who is Muslim emerges, he should be dropped for a Christian who is not in the ballot or who did not have the required number of votes to stand election? Christian leaders should be conscious of the role they play in the society. They should avoid stoking the embers of religious hatred by playing up one religion against the other. Playing on mass hysteria will further widen the schism that is threatening to tear us apart as a nation. They should encourage leaders to deliver on their electoral promises. A Christian governor is not a guarantee for good governance. This campaign is nonsensical and must stop.

@bayoolupohunda on  Twitter

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In the beginning...Let there be Light http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japheth_J._Omojuwa

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