Pastor Tunde Bakare, the Serving Overseer of Citadel Global Community Church yesterday urged Nigerians to prioritise nation building over ethno-religious sentiments.
Bakare, who one of the All Progressives Congress presidential aspirants on June 14, charged fellow Christian leaders to look into the issue on same same-faith ticket in the context of the 2023 elections with civility, clarity and with continued hope in the possibilities of a united Nigeria.
The cleric was reacting to the decision of the ruling party to present a president and running mate.
According to him, this is the time to show maturity in decision-making and to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging.
He said: “As standard-bearers of the message of the New Nigeria, we dream of a nation in which every Nigerian will be judged, not by their ethnicity, political leaning, regional affiliation or religious persuasion, but by the content of their character, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once proclaimed in respect of his nation, the United States of America.
“We dream of a Nigeria where there will no longer be indigene or settler but only a Nigerian citizen. We dream of a Nigeria where state of residence will replace state of origin in our official forms and where zoning or federal character will become archival aspects of our journey into political maturity.
“We dream of a Nigeria in which every woman as well as every man will be able to aspire to any political office at any time without playing the ethnic card and without recourse to its our turn or it’s their turn.”
Describing himself as a bridge between Nigeria’s past, present and the future, the cleric said: “We choose to do this because we believe that building the New Nigeria is the calling upon every Nigerian worthy of the name.”
Going down memory lane, Bakare recalled the statement credited to the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello.
He said: “As a result, Northern Nigeria had its political foundation built on the principles of inclusion and religious harmony. This value system of religious neutrality and inclusion played out when military forces from Northern Nigeria took over power in the 1966 counter coup.
“The military had the confidence to leave the nation in the custody of a Christian from a minority ethnic group in the North. Gen. Yakubu Gowon would go on to govern Nigeria for nine years keeping Nigeria one amidst a Civil War.”
He urged Nigerians to renew their commitment to nationhood by building upon the foundation of founding fathers
“What we need is a New Nigeria that works for every Nigerian, Christian as well as Muslim. Nationhood, rather than divisiveness, must be the objective of every engagement,” he said.
According to him, Christian leaders should change their stand on party politics.
“What is happening today is the price we have to pay for the years of failure of the church to strategically participate in the political process.”
He described as unfortunate the antagonism meted to him and others who ventured from the pulpit to politics.
“Going forward, ahead of 2023, we must learn from our mistakes. Christian leaders must, at this point, bring the candidates and their running mates to the negotiation table; doing so with an open mind and based on a clearly articulated charter for nation-building and national development.
“Christian leaders must, at this point, convene a strategic concourse to define the minimum standards across sectors of governance below which no Nigerian, Christian or Muslim must be subjected.”
On what should be done by Christian leaders, Bakare said: “Thereafter, Christian leaders must then carefully engage each presidential candidate and running mate based on that Charter and provide a unified direction to the body of Christ in Nigeria having assessed each presidential/vice-presidential ticket based on key performance indicators around the Charter.
“This would be a more mature, structured and strategic way to respond to the situation as against the emotional reactions that have dominated the polity since the choice of a running mate was made by the APC presidential candidate.
“For the Christians in Northern Nigeria who feel marginalised by the choice of a Northern Muslim as running mate, the time has come to upgrade the conversation from politics to governance. The time has come to interrogate the impact of politics on development.”