The immediate former governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, has accused President Goodluck Jonathan of stoking ethno-religious tension in Nigeria for political gains ahead of the 2015 elections.
Speaking in Lagos Tuesday, Mr. Fayemi said the president and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are deliberately encouraging sentiments that divide Nigerians along ethnic and religious lines, as a political strategy ahead of next year’s crucial polls.
He said Mr. Jonathan “stage-manages” visits to influential religious leaders to exploit their popularity for his political gain.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that one of the do-or-die strategies of the ruling party to retain power in 2015 is to compensate for poor performance in office by stoking ethno-religious sentiments and pushing the country to the brink of crisis,” Mr. Fayemi said at GLEEHD Foundation’s Election ThinkTank Series in Lagos.
“This can be deciphered from the ethnic jingoists who brazenly threaten fire and brimstone if President Jonathan is not returned in 2015, as well as the predilection of our president to stage-manage visits to influential spiritual leaders and exploit their goodwill to masquerade as the anointed candidate of people of a particular faith,” the former governor said.
Mr. Fayemi lambasted the federal government’s “feeble response” to the insurgency in the north-east, and wondered why the same government deployed huge number of troops to militarise elections in his state.
Mr. Fayemi canvassed support for any presidential candidate with the most convincing manifesto for achieving sustainable peace.
“There is no gainsaying that we are going into the 2015 elections a deeply divided people, with the elections itself being a potential source of further polarisation.
“It is (for) this reason that has seen increased advocacy particularly by renowned civil society actors to force ‘peace and national cohesion’ to the top of the agenda as the single most important factor in determining who the next president of Nigeria should be,” he said.
The former governor described Nigerians as a religious society difficult to comprehend.
“This is a reality that we can all affirm anecdotally but which is absolutely empirically verifiable,” said Mr. Fayemi.
“Consider some facts and figures. There are more Anglicans in Nigeria than there are in England, the denomination’s mother country, or anywhere else in the world.
“The largest Roman Catholic seminary in the world is the Bigard Memorial in Enugu which has about 1,000 students – five times the number enrolled in the largest U.S. Catholic seminary. No other seminary matches this prodigious intake.
“The Living Faith Church possesses the largest church auditorium in the world, the 50,400-seat Faith Tabernacle in Lagos.
“The Deeper Life Bible Church’s headquarters congregation in Lagos had 150,000 members as at 2004 and had planted more than 6,000 branches across Nigeria. In Nigeria alone, the Redeemed Christian Church of God claims 14,000 branches with 5 million members.”
Mr. Fayemi said that despite Nigeria’s potential emergence as a hub for global Christianity, the nation still suffers from endemic corruption.
“We are beset by a host of plagues: hunger, chronic conflict, terrorism, disease, corruption and various portents of weak statehood,” Mr. Fayemi said.
“Official graft is particularly endemic. Conservative estimates indicate that between $4 billion and $8 billion is stolen from public coffers annually.”
According to the former governor, the nation’s landscape has continued to be marked by institutional dysfunction and infrastructural dilapidation.
He also noted that the despite the proliferation of churches and mosques in the country, public morality continues to decline.
“All of us here bear the burdens of working and producing without basic infrastructure such as power supply or of securing our families given the weakness of the formal security apparatus,” said Mr. Fayemi.
“Churches are proliferating in the midst of social and moral squalor. Nigerian Christians live in a bipolar reality.
“The same can be said of Islam and its phenomenal growth in the country over the years. As Nigerians, we share in a common social experience marked by decadence, while we also function as people of faith in the controlled environments provided in our churches.
“In effect, the values and virtues imparted by our faith are hermetically sealed off from social reality. Consequently, the society persists in its ethical freefall despite what appears to be an ongoing religious revival.”