Nigeria elections: Lessons from Islam

THE Nigerian nation, again, is presently engrossed in the process of electing new leaders to pilot its affairs for the next four years. While the process is itself transitory, the Islamic religion has identified enduring lessons for all those involved – candidates, the electorate, umpires and observers – in order to emphasise the importance of the activity in the life of our nation.

To begin with, Allah the Creator reminds man a lot that He has not relinquished His role as the One who institutes authority. “Say, O Allah, Owner of sovereignty, You give sovereignty to whom You will and You take sovereignty away from whom You will. You exalt whom You will and You humble whom You will. In your hand is all good. Indeed, You are all powerful.” (Q 3 vs 26). Islam places the whole process of selecting leadership on Allah. What this means is that the process is conducted without transgressing the limits of the Creator. Thus, any method we have agreed on as a people to institute our leadership should take cognizance of our duties to Allah, our fellow beings and, indeed, all creatures. Elections would reflect these duties when we regard the process as a form of ibaadah (worship), which is certainly subject to scrutiny and accountability before Allah. It is He who grants authority to whom He wills; we are involved only as His vicegerents and witnesses. Since Allah ultimately decides whom to put in positions of authority, winners of elections must not be boastful in victory or losers downcast over something that is surely beyond their control.

Leaders should not have the notion that they were the best as Allah favours whom He wills. Many leaders have failed because they see themselves as superior to the followers. When Prophet Musa thought he was the most knowledgeable, Allah revealed and directed him to Khidr to learn more about humility. When leaders become arrogant and create barriers between themselves and their followers, such communities hardly witness progress.

Islam has designated authority as a trust. For leaders, it is a trust on their competence and integrity. The basic rule is for aspiring leaders to be above board on the two criteria above, around which their accountability before Allah revolves. One night, during his caliphacy, Umar bn Khattab was going on his usual rounds at a suburb of the Islamic capital, Madinah, together with his slave when he noticed a fire in a distant desert. On reaching the place, Umar found a woman and her crying children. Upon inquiry, the caliph discovered that the woman was boiling water in order to deceive the hungry chidren that food was being cooked. Umar returned to Madinah to bring loads of foodstuffs on his back to feed the hunger-stricken family, refusing the pleas of his servant to assist him in the process. He simply told the slave, “It is I who will be directly questioned on the Day of Judgment.”

Islam enjoins aspirants to leadership positions to aim for something for which they would pass the competency test and not found wanting on the integrity scale. It is advisable not to aspire to a position where either competence or integrity would be compromised. Umar bn Khattab demoted Khalid bnWalid from the position of commander of the Muslim army despite his uncommon heroics in battles because he (Umar) feared that Muslims would ascribe their success in battles to him (Kahlid) and would start to place reliance on him instead of Allah.

It is the practice of Allah to select leaders for a community based on the position of the followers with Allah. “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” – Q 13 vs 11. Nigeria will only produce God-fearing leaders when Nigerians demonstrate the etiquettes of godliness as enshrined in their faith. Our leaders will be touched to care for us when we show concern for our fellow beings and Allah will bring leaders who will not steal our common resources only when we individually and collectively desist from fraudulent activities.

As Nigerians go to the polls, they must come to terms with the reality of their status before their Lord. The country has consistently ranked high on the corruption index while the rate of inhuman activities among us has swelled. We are well aware of these facts. Why, then, do we blame Allah for choosing for us leaders who are not meeting our yearnings?

So, as we continue to elect new leaders, the buck stops at our desk more as a people to understand this concept from the Islamic viewpoint and be determined to play our part in building a future that we can all be proud of.

Adesina is the Imam, Ash-Shamsiyyah Mosque, Kukwaba, Kubwa, Abuja.

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