If Ethnic Balance Counts Then Religious Balance Counts By Adeola Soetan

Ordinarily, ethnicity and religion should play no role in determining good leadership & government. But if unprincipled power-mongering politicians promote ethnic balance for “fairness”, why not same with religion for the same fairness and delicate balance in a country torn apart between the two dangerous weapons of mass destruction under the attack of some crazy Islamic fundamentalists, Boko Haram and the Islamic States of West Africa Province (ISWAP), a Salafi jihadist militant group.

ISWAP just attacked a catholic church where over 40 congregants were killed and several others severely wounded. Despite attacking citizens of other religions and ethnicity at random also, the criminals have not changed their names or abandoned their core objective in spite of dissociating them from Islam and condemnation by credible Islamic leaders and citizens.

Fear people who change thoughts and principles like baby diapers to achieve a selfish end, by all means necessary, are ready to damn the consequences, and regret later and do costly damage control later. They are very dangerous people and constitute a real threat to the peace and stability of the nation because they profit from the crisis.


We have over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria but there are just three major religions in the country. Ask yourself why is it that at any private or public function including government functions attended by more than one ethnic group, opening and closing prayers are always said in either of the two religions (Christianity and Islam) and discussion is never done in the languages of all ethnic groups present but in English?


The answer is simple; it is because the dichotomy of religion is sharper than ethnicity and everybody recognizes this. Even in labour and civil society programmes, the moment you agree to pray, you must pray in the two foreign religions. Some of the duplicitous human rights and pro-democracy activists now turned political entrepreneurs, to many rogue politicians put Islamic and Christian prayers on their program agenda to balance the religious equation.


The media is not left out. All newspapers, radio and television houses have Islamic and Christian programnes for religious balance. No thought is given much to the other 250 or more ethnic nationalities. Government and the ruling class appreciate the threat of what they have promoted, that’s the reason we have pilgrim boards for the two “major” religions. It’s a monster they created, it is a monster they must tame in spite of Nigeria being a “secular nation” which should have no official religion.


Why is it that we have public holidays for Muslim and Christian festivals – Easter, Christmas, Eid el Fitri, Eid el Kabir, and not too long ago we now have Eid el Maulud public holiday? It’s in recognition of the need for sensitive balance yet no national public holiday for the traditional religion adherents despite commanding the highest secret followership by birth, origination, association or consultation.


This means religion divides the nation sharper, more than ethnicity hence there is always a need to balance the sensitive equilibrium. In the university system, the same thing applies, to every university chapel there must be a central mosque and vice versa. Some lawyers now saying religion doesn’t count had cause at one point or the other to complain about the religious imbalance in the appointment of judges in their states. Government secretariats and lodges now have central mosques and central chapels. As scandalous as it sounds, that’s the sad reality.

So, why are the same people now pretending that religious balance doesn’t matter but ethnic North-South balance matters?


Those who are making reference to June 12 Abiola – Kingigbe Muslim – Muslim ticket don’t really understand the dynamics of June 12 presidential election. First, religion played almost no debilitating sharp divisible role then like now and the eagerness to get the notorious Babangida and his deadly military off our neck was a more unifying factor. Then there was no ISWAP or Boko Haram threatening to Islamise the country. And Babangida was never accused or suspected to be outwardly ethnically provincial or of being a religious bigot. He was a common power-mongering evil genius who united almost all interests against him and must be done away with.


MKO Abiola’s towering figure, credibility, and charity across ethnic and religious boards for decades was another great point. For many years, he was donating and helping to develop churches and mosques. I covered some of Abiola’s charity to Christians and churches where he would sing Christian songs and dance, tell tales of himself and his family background which had a mix of three religions. MKO was a very distinct genial figure on his own with high acceptability across the religious divide.


Hell Rufai rightly said he bothers less about the religion of the pilot when he boards a plane, but he conveniently forgot to tell his gullible audience if he ever bothers about the ethnic identity of the same pilot. If not, then why did he bother about the ethnic identity of his party’s presidential flag bearer before the primaries and in the years past? Part of the reasons his state has become a large easy killing field and vast crematorium of corpses of citizens is because he undermined religious balance in his dying Kaduna state now under ethnic & religious terrorism which he has no solution than lamentation after each successful attack and mass killing and kidnapping by the criminals. Again, beware of people who change principles like baby diapers, what they want to eat or what they are eating makes them foolish.


As I earlier mentioned, ordinarily, religious and ethnic considerations should not be a consideration for choosing leadership for good governance, after all, Jonathan and Buhari are alleged to be pious Christian and Muslim respectively, and we, as victims of their bad governance, can attest to their “religious piety”. But religion in politics has become a monster created by the ruling class in their desperate power game. The monster has now outgrown its creators, and like its twin monster, ethnicity, it has to be tamed for now by maintaining a delicate balance so as not to further escalate the already deadly situation.


The twin monsters can only be tamed finally when the leadership of labour, radical organisations, and left ideological movements properly arrive at the arena of power politics, and are ready to mobilise the rank and file workers, the masses, youths and students around unifying pro-workers/masses, anti-capitalist economic and social programnes to win power on their own strengths with clear-cut working-class socialist ideology.


It’s an achievable historical duty and responsibility. Until then, ethnicity and religion would, unfortunately, continue to play a major role and be deployed opportunistically by the rogue ruling class to get power or maintain power. Balance must be maintained to avoid a foreseen journey to Afghanistan.

 Soetan is an activist and pro-democracy campaigner.


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