As standard-bearers of the message of the New Nigeria, we dream of a nation in which every Nigerian will be judged, not by their ethnicity, political leaning, regional affiliation or religious persuasion, but by the content of their character, as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. once proclaimed in respect of his nation, the United States of America.
We dream of a Nigeria where there will no longer be indigene or settler but only a Nigerian citizen. We dream of a Nigeria where state of residence will replace state of origin in our official forms and where zoning or Federal Character will become archival aspects of our journey into political maturity.
We dream of a Nigeria in which every woman as well as every man will be able to aspire to any political office at any time without playing the ethnic card and without recourse to its our turn or its their turn.”
We choose to do this because we believe that building the New Nigeria is the calling upon every Nigerian worthy of the name.
As a result, Northern Nigeria had its political foundation built on the principles of inclusion and religious harmony. This value system of religious neutrality and inclusion played out when military forces from Northern Nigeria took over power in the 1966 counter coup. The military had the confidence to leave the nation in the custody of a Christian from a minority ethnic group in the North. General Yakubu Gowon would go on to govern Nigeria for nine years keeping Nigeria one amidst a Civil War.
So this moment calls for every Nigerian, from the North, South, East and West, to renew our commitment to nationhood, building upon what worked in the time of our founding fathers, while learning from their mistakes and imperfections as we build a more perfect union.
What we need is a New Nigeria that works for every Nigerian, Christian as well as Muslim. Nationhood, rather than divisiveness must be the objective of every engagement.
As Christian leaders, we must also realise that the church in Nigeria is today paying for decades of erroneous teaching that posited that Christians have no business in politics. What is happening today is the price we have to pay for the years of failure of the church to strategically participate in the political process.
The antagonism that was meted to some of us who have ventured from the pulpit to the podium, even from amongst our fellow Christian leaders, was always a pointer that a day would come when the church would face a rude awakening of the consequence of passivity, apathy, non-participation and an anachronistic adherence to the Aaronic priesthood, especially long after the author and finisher of our faith had moved on to the Melchizedek priesthood. Failure to admit this would amount to hypocrisy.
Going forward, ahead of 2023, we must learn from our mistakes. Christian leaders must, at this point, bring the candidates and their running mates to the negotiation table doing so with an open mind and based on a clearly articulated charter for nation-building and national development.
“Christian leaders must, at this point, convene a strategic concourse to define the minimum standards across sectors of governance below which no Nigerian, Christian or Muslim, must be subjected. The SNG Charter and the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Reintegration which was unanimously adopted by the delegates to the 2014 National Conference, can be a springboard for such sector-by-sector deliberations. This must be done between now and September when the campaigns will officially commence. The Charter may be launched in Abuja and may be termed The Abuja Declaration for Nationhood.
Thereafter, Christian leaders must then carefully engage each presidential candidate and running mate based on that Charter and provide a unified direction to the body of Christ in Nigeria having assessed each presidential/vice-presidential ticket based on key performance indicators around the Charter. This would be a more mature, structured and strategic way to respond to the situation as against the emotional reactions that have dominated the polity since the choice of a running mate was made by the APC presidential candidate.
For the Christians in Northern Nigeria who feel marginalised by the choice of a Northern Muslim as running mate, the time has come to upgrade the conversation from politics to governance. The time has come to interrogate the impact of politics on development.