August 31st, 2022 was a colourful day at the Lagos State House of Assembly as most people spotted blue and white attire, Muslim clerics, Christians, Politicians, Royal Fathers, the white-capped Chiefs from Lagos-Island, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, among others, were all in attendance. It was the Lagos State House of Assembly 14th Annual Hijrah Lecture 1444, to mark a New Year in the Muslim Calendar. The Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa and others spoke on the Muslim/Muslim ticket and reiterated that focus should be on our needs for good governance, to end our present challenges, empower our jobless youths, and make the All Progressives Congress (APC) the best choice. “We are all Nigerians, no matter the language you speak. Let us all accept to move the nation forward”, Obasa said: The speaker, in his statement, said: “with the 2023 General Elections drawing close, the focus should be more on the need to have better governance, not religious sentiments on Muslim-Muslim or Christian/Christian tickets”.
His position was supported by the Guest Speakers at the event, including a popular Islamic Cleric and Chief Imam of Offa, Kwara State, Sheikh Muyideen Salman Husayn, and Hon. Justice Abdulraheem Ahmad Sayi, a Kadi of Sharia Court of Appeal, Kwara State. Other guests who agreed with the speaker were Sheikh Ishaq Mustapha Zuglool Sanusi, head of academics, Dara-Dawah-Wal-Irhad Arabic Centre, Isolio, white-capped Chiefs from Lagos-Island, and the former Iman of Nasfat, Sheikh Abdullah Akinbode.
The Speaker said though religion and politics had been inter-woven, he noted that religion has never been a determing factor in the development of many countries that are currently doing great all over the world, where democracy is being practised. He stressed that good governance is not really determined by religion, in countries like India, Singapore, China, and most of the other democratic states in Asia. He pointed out that in some other parts of the world, where neither Islam or Christianity is practised, good governance was in vogue. He recalled that earlier in Africa, before the advent of both Islam and Christianity, we had good and steady democracy with our traditional beliefs. He expressed worry that we have allowed religion to dictate to us how democracy should be practised.
Obasa argued that the thrust of democratic governance is the obligation to serve the people with godly principles and noble objectives. He explained that people should understand that whoever would be fair and just, should be visionary. A person who could identify good people to form a team that could achieve success of the concerned people in a democratic state, not religion. He said: “there is no doubt that Nigeria was at a most precarious phase in its existence as a nation. These are indeed trying times for Nigeria and Nigerians, we should be more focused on how to reverse the failure that politics and faith had imposed on the Nigerian project. Therefore, at this time, people should de-emphasise the influence of religion in next year’s general elections”.
He called on religious bodies to deploy their collective spiritual energies in not only undermining the negative forces of nepotism and religion but to positively enhance the development of Nigeria, whether the political party contesting is running on a Muslim-Muslim ticket or a Christian/Christian ticket and otherwise. “Our focus should be the good intentions of the contestants. Let us ignore religion as a determing factor for who we will choose as our leaders. Nigeria, being a secular state, there is no provision for the elevation of a religion over another, let alone which one should be in charge of the government. Justice Sayi said Islam regards all people as one, the primary roles and responsibilities of religious leaders are to teach, guide, educate, and emancipate the minds of premodial sentiments, such as tribalism, nepotism, and the rest that affect the minds. The message of unity should spur humanity and take the lead in what should come out of religious houses, whether Churches or Mosques.
“Religious leaders should know that God created us equally and they should also know that nobody has been created superior. The first important responsibility of pastors and imams is to lead the people to embrace virtue”, Justice Sayi noted.
In his lecture, Sheikh Sanusi noted that Islam urges co-habitation and co-operation among members of the society, Islam says: “we should not cheat any other person”, he said, as he stressed that the arguments of those against the Muslim/Muslim ticket had brought up Christian/Christian governments in the past. The Chief Imam of Offa talked at length on how to make peace in Nigeria, by loving one another. He said this was not a time to emphasise what would polarise us.
“We expect people of influence to emphasise peace and unity at all times and the government should also remember the masses, he concluded.