• Friday, December 01, 2023
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Stakeholders point ways out of religious divisions in Nigerian elections


Stakeholders have proffered solutions to curbing the menace of religious divisions witnessed during the 2023 general elections in Nigeria.

Many spiritual leaders, who spoke at a post-election stakeholders’ forum on religious divisions in electoral politics in Nigeria, organised by Community Life Project (CLP) insisted there is a great need for various religions to educate their worshippers on the need to see others as fellow humans first, and de-emphasise differences in faith to curb religious divisions in during elections.

Oluwo Solagbade Popoola, president of the International Council of Ifa religion, speaking during a forum panel discussion on the theme: “Healing the Wounds Inflicted on Society by Religious Divisions in the 2023 Elections: An Interfaith Conversation said that education very essential in salvaging the damage of religious divisions during elections.

“We need to continuously educate each other to curb the menace of religious intolerance in our society. We need to understand each other more, and it is when we understand each other that we can respect each other.

We are all advocating God, why should we fight? We need to teach our children what we believe, each religion teaches that one should do good, if we teach our children that, then it will be difficult for them to do evil,” he said.

Popoola also insists that religious tolerance can be achieved in Nigeria through proper indoctrination, which according to him will help eradicate poverty of the mind, and inculcate the wisdom to accommodate others in humility.

“If we emphasise our strengths, and de-emphasise our weaknesses, we will go far. It’s only the wise that can behave like a fool, a fool can never behave like the wise. Let us imbibe the quality of a good neighbourhood. Let’s learn to give each other a handshake without arrogance,” he stressed.

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Raymond Anoliefo, executive director at Justice, Development and Peace Centre in Lagos reiterated the need for inter-religious dialogue and love among citizenries.

The clergyman said that religious leaders must embrace the ideal education of their congregants in line with their faith and ensure awareness creation is maintained.

“The authorities have intentionally refused to get the people educated. They have decided to impoverish us through ignorance. Education and awareness is a key factor to salvaging the religious intolerance orchestrated by politicians who weaponise religion to win elections,” he said.

Anoliefo maintained that the Catholic mission faith encourages that members should others irrespective of religion just like the story of the ‘Good Samarittan’.

“We stress love across faith, we encourage our members to do to others what they would others do to them; that is the golden rule.

Secondly, we embrace educating both of the clergy and of the worshippers. Those ruling us in Nigeria have decided to trade on our ignorance, making us believe religion is our problem.

Hence, we are educating our members to understand who the real enemies are. Our enemies are not those in other religions, but those in government who are weaponising religion,” he noted.

He advocated for inclusive governance across all government levels, which he affirmed would give the people a sense of belonging and not otherwise as is noticeable in the country today.

Temitope Abdulrasaq Orebiyi, chief imam of Ishagatedo Mosque, speaking from the Islamic perspective decried the fact that politicians have weaponized religious weaknesses to swing the election pendulums to their favour.

Orebiyi cited poverty as a tool the politicians are using besides ignorance to maneuver the people during elections.

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“If the people are properly educated, they will not allow the politicians to use them against other religions.

Kolade Fadahunsi, director of the Institute of Church and Society, Ibadan speaking on the Christian perspective said there is a great need to evaluate and monitor different agencies in charge of nation building such as the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) to ensure that the right thing is done.

Ngozi Iwere, executive director of Community Life Project explained that the forum was organised as a result of the negative effects of past elections.

“We experienced a lot of religious manipulations and divisions in the 2023 election which interfered with the process of citizens exercising their civic responsibilities and their mandates and that has implications for the outcomes of elections at every level in the country.

We feel that society is deeply divided; a lot of wounds have been inflicted, and post-elections, we still see people smarting from those wounds.

So, we felt it would be important to bring interfaith leaders together to discuss ways to heal the wounds of the 2023 general elections,” she said.