More Christians must join politics ahead 2023 polls —Echioda
Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN) chairman, Niger State chapter, Reverend (Dr) Mathias Echioda, in this interview by ADELOWO OLADIPO, speaks on national issues and what Christians must do towards the growth of democracy in Nigeria.
Another democratic dispensation, which marked the 20 years of Nigeria’s democracy, has just commenced in the history of the country, what is your advice to President Muhammadu Buhari and other newly elected public office holders?
My counsel to them is that they should not be tempted to take it all and the losers should not hold on to their huts of losing election. Thus, I advise those that just assumed power to have an all-inclusive government; people should be brought on board in order to achieve good governance. I also wish to advise people across board to bury their hatchets and give their best to achieving greater opportunities for people and the society at large.
There was hue and cry over perceived militarisation of elections in the last polls. How do you see the trend?
We did not witness much about the alleged militarization in Niger State, compared to other parts of the country. We relatively witnessed electoral malpractices or interference of uniform or military men during election process. However, I do not think that the issue of vote buying was exclusively limited to any particular political party, and as a cleric, I should speak from the point of a leader. One thing is certain, where poverty reigns; where ignorance pervades, and insecurity of lives and properties are the story of the day; conscience becomes very vulnerable and could be easily taken advantage of. Vote buying should be condemned in totality. Politicians should stop mortgaging the conscience of the electorate. I appeal to them that no matter what their aspirations or pursuit might be, they should know that there is an overall ‘governor’; who is the true owner of life and at the end, we are all answerable to Him. This is why the Bible says that God cannot be mocked; that whatever a man sows shall he reap.
I had expected the politicians to have allowed the electorate to make their own free choices of who to vote for. I had expected ideological campaigns where manifestos, and pedigree speak for each candidate. To say the ideal thing, I had expected violence free; corruption-free election. But going by the repeated trend in our political culture, it looks like we have not learnt many lessons from our political history. It shows that we have not made much political progress, as well as not built much on whatever we met. It also depicts that we don’t seem to have any clear political future as a people. This is a concern to all responsible minds. This is what usually births the culture of violence, economic cluelessness, corruption, abuse of fundamental rights, insecurity, and general moral decadence.
What do you think the citizenry can do concerning the over-bearing influence of political godfathers on their godsons and followership?
I think the political juggernauts; political godfathers should get closer to God. But then I know how shallow the ‘religiousness’ of an average Nigerian is, Christian or Muslim. My appeal is that people should have their conscience opened towards God; irrespective of how wealthily or powerful they are, as well as be mindful that we will all leave all these things behind some day. We should always bear in mind that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Whoever is in any position of influence should use the privilege to better the lot of the populace, and should strive to leave legacies behind. After all, we shall only be remembered by whatever we did with our opportunities in life. Finally, we must not forget that political ‘godfatherism’ is never permanent – it is also ephemeral.
I believe that a number of the political godfathers and their godsons are not sincere in their dealings with each other. Some of them don’t know how to manage the wealth or powers they acquire. So, my appeal is that we should all let genuine God-fearing people take over the affairs of the country. I also believe that good people should start going into active politics. I mean those with good morals, people with true religious upbringing, and those that have conscience towards people and fear God.
The year, 2023 is actually around the corner, although some people may think it is still far away. I think the positive-minded people should start warming up in commanding necessary influence; setting up certain humanitarian services that will benefit the people; they should start identifying with the people of like-mind, and bring themselves into the limelight. They should start identifying with certain interest groups or political parties, weigh their manifestoes, and start getting involved early enough.
What is your take on the refusal or inabilities of most governorship candidates to field Christians as their running mates at the 2019 election, especially in Niger State?
Well, we actually released a press statement on that subject matter that anyone vying to be governor of Niger State and wanted the support of Christians should be reasonably fair to the two main faiths, Christianity and Islam, in the choice of running mates. We appealed that a Christian candidate should have a Muslim as a deputy and that a Muslim candidate should have a Christian as a deputy. Of course, the two major political parties never complied with our obvious appeal, but the smaller ones (about four of them) complied.
But then, Christians in the state need to be remembered across board, on political appointments and knowing that the governor today is a gentleman, we expect that we shall have a fair share. Number one, the question of principal officers in government comes to the fore: we should have Christians also as part of the principal officers in the state. We also have some other positions such as commissioners, permanent secretaries, and heads of different government agencies. These are all other areas for inclusive governance. At least, there should be adequate, fair and proper representations of the two main faiths.
What is your advice to Christians in the state?
I urge them to join politics and political parties of their choice early enough. They should go into politics with the mind to love their neighbours, welcome strangers, fair and just, and be at peace with everyone. Christians should be actively involved in any political party they belong to. As Christians, we are scripturally mandated to pray for the people in authority, our leaders, just as we spent time with our people before, during, and after the elections to pray, let us not relent in praying for those in power today, for them to succeed.