Religious Politics in Lagos: A Journey To The Unknown…

Revisiting the issue ‘Christian Governor for Lagos in 2015’ has become crucial now that the issue has crept into the midst of and being echoed among political elites. It becomes more imperative because even political parties and politicians who are mostly regarded as ‘not religiously inclined’ are now re-echoing this pointless idea in selecting candidates.

Muslims especially consider this development and the intriguing twist as insulting to their sensibilities giving their massive support for Akinwunmi Ambode in his sojourn to becoming the flag bearer of APC despite his Christian background only for their brethren to be brutally cheated at the PDP primaries, allegedly on the basis of religion.
They found it most irritating and embarrassingly irreconcilable that the leadership of Lagos PDP could brazenly affront the Muslims populace without regard to the harm the millions of votes of Muslims could do to their candidate. The aggrieved Musiliu Obanikoro clearly stated that the leadership of PDP instructed delegates ‘not to vote for Muslim aspirants’ saying that “his (Bode George) introduction of religious bias and sentiment into Lagos PDP by asking delegates to vote for a Christian, instead of a Muslim candidate, is dangerous for the peaceful cohesion of Lagos PDP and totally condemnable.’’
Though Bode George has denied many other allegations Obanikoro accused him of, he is yet to denial this.
It will be recalled that a call by some Christian groups for ‘a Christian Governor’ started as a strange and unprecedented demand in political history of Lagos. It was strange because on one hand, religion or religious affiliation has never been a major determinant of good leadership and on the otherhand, it could not be said to be the reasons behind the emergence of previous civilian governors in the state.
It all started like a ruse, when the Director of Civic and Political Affairs of the Diocese of Lagos Mainland of the Anglican Communion, Venerable Folarin Shobo publicly urged Lagos residents to vote in a Christian as governor of Lagos in 2015. The chairman of Lagos PFN (the umbrella body of Pentecostalism in the state) Apostle Alex Bamgbala followed suite when he said ‘Christians have supported the two Muslim administrations in the state since 1999 and it is only fair that they (Muslims) give room for their Christian counterparts to be elected in 2015,’ as if Bola Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola were anointed Muslim candidates from the Mosque!
Shock was the reaction of Lagosians that trailed those public statements and demands. Some even condemned it. Many, however, particularly among non-indigenes reasoned along the line of and supported the position of these Christian leaders.
Most Lagosians insisted that Lagos needs the best man for the job irrespective of his religious background. They asked: did any of the governors come to power because he was either a Muslim or a Christian? The answer, of course, is Capital NO.
The move is therefore interpreted as not only mischievous but a cheap blackmail and a calculated distortion of the political history of Lagos. Lagosians, it must be noted, are not only politically well informed but also religiously tolerant. True Lagosians know too well that both Muslims and Christians would be profoundly found in almost every family.
While Christians in the past voted for Lateef Jakande of UPN against their brethren, Adeniran Ogunsanya of NPP and voted for Bola Tinubu over Funsho Williams, Muslims on their part voted for Michael Otedola against their own, Yomi Edu. The victory of Fashola over Musiliu Obanikoro, a more pronounced Muslim and Jimi Agbaje in 2007 was definitely without any religious colouration. This is the way of Lagosians as a people.
If I may ask, was the Lagos Municipal Transport Service (LMTS, the Predecessor of BRT) of Lateef Jakande made only for Muslims? Both Christians and Muslims benefited from housing and educational programmes of Jakands’s administration. He established the Lagos State University for Muslims and Christians alike. Did Tinubu and Fashola’s extraordinary performances and successes affect Muslims alone?
In fact, some Muslims still could not believe that the return of public Schools to missionaries (majority being Christians), the demolition of mosques in the State Secretariat, Alausa and other areas like Ijora and Obalende, the promulgation of Cremation law, the implementation of Coroner law and the ban on hijab in public schools among others could ever occur under a Muslim governor.
For obvious reasons, Muslims were vehemently against the return of schools pushed by Christian missionaries since Otedola’s tenure, but it was Tinubu, a Muslim Governor that returned it against the hues and cries from his own brethren; just as Fashola carried on with his anti-Muslim policies, doing the bidding of the missionaries not minding the feelings of those who were against it.
As political analysts and well-meaning Nigerians counselled those behind the demand on the dangerous trend of selecting a governor on religious affiliation, which may eventually have watershed effect on Nigeria’s political scenery, some incurable optimists but rather conservative Lagosians initially assumed that the needless demand for a Christian Governor cannot divide Lagosians because of the over a century of tradition of peaceful co-existence.
But while it may be pardonable for an ordinary citizen, and excusable for a bigot or an extremist evangelist to canvass votes for a ‘religious’ candidate, it becomes disquieting when a party bigwig give such obnoxious directive. Hence, Obanikoro’s allegation against Bode George must not be treated with a kid’s glove.
Muslim politicians were among the groups that found this development very disturbing for Muslims abound among the party delegates who voted for Akinwunmi Ambode and Jimi Agbaje at the various party congresses and same will still repeat itself in 2015 general election.
It is, therefore, expedient for leaders of thought and political leaders in Lagos to tread with absolute caution not to offend the sensibilities of Muslim voters ahead of the forthcoming election. They must understand that Muslims who supported Akinwunmi Ambode with vigil as they glued to their television sets during the State gubernatorial congress of APC were not stupid and their jubilation over Ambode’s success should be not taken for idiocy or political naivety.
In October 2014, a cross-section of Muslims in Lagos under the platform of Muslim Support Group did not only endorse Ambode, a Christian Gubernatorial aspirant of APC and also promised him a minimum of two million votes at the 2015 polls. So why will any politician think that the Muslims could be treated with contempt, insolence, and disdain and then get away with it?
Arguably, the best government Lagos State ever witnessed is the duo of Lateef Jakande and Rafiu Jafojo and nobody ever whipped up any religious sentiment. They were chosen based on their competences and political expedience of the time.
The dangerous trend of this demand will eventually play out in 2019 and years to come if serious steps are not taken to re-orientate Nigerians.
One, it will engender mediocrity over incompetence. For instance, many who supported Ambode in APC did so because of their awareness of the feat he achieved as the Accountant General of the Lagos State under Bola Tinubu and Raji Fashola. Lagosians will not forget in a hurry how Ambode came to the rescue of the State with his ingenious accounting wizardry when the federal government under President Olusegun Obasanjo almost suffocated the state financially.
Two, politicians will once again exploit this vulnerability to curry our votes and mislead us from getting the best person for the job having narrowed our search to religious consideration.
It must be noted that when APC claimed to have zoned Lagos Governor 2015 ticket to Lagos East, some of the aspirants evolved brilliant ways of tracing their lineage to the zone.
Lagos residents will consequently not be taken by surprise if some smart Christian politicians suddenly convert to Islam ahead of 2019 or 2023, since by the ‘new’ found logic and the ‘latest’ political formula, it will then be the turn of the Muslims. It will also not be amazing if some clever Christian groups come up with another principle or argument that since Muslims ruled the State for two consecutive terms, it will only be just and equitable for the Christians to be given similar opportunity; that is if the traditionalist do not come up with a demand to have their turn as the governor of the commercial nerve-centre of Nigeria!
Ultimately, let those who initiate mischief and perpetuate distortion of history be warned that they can only lay claim to being in charge of the start but they certainly will have no control of the process or the determinant of the future. They may temporarily relish the fleeting gains therefrom but they probably may not be alive to witness and ‘savour’ the consequences of the evil precedence they have laid for posterity.
Ibrahim Ola Balogun 

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