Omodot Jackson

Nigeria is a “plural state”, rich in different ethnic groups, languages, and religions. Despite her wealth in these elements of nation-building and national integration, it has failed to harness the potential of these key institutions in society to the advantage of the economic, social, and political development of the nation. With recourse to the events in Nigeria, religion has become a tool that is threatening the national unity and peace of the country. This is evident in the constant comments on National decisions by critics that a certain religion tends to gain more political favours above others, in terms of consideration for appointments and assignment of tasks and contracts.

However, in many nations, religion has played very important and incredible roles that cannot be overemphasized in terms of fostering a sense of national identity. It is also observed that in many areas, religion has managed to survive as an integral part of nationalism even in the face of a growing overall secular culture where religion is not given a primal place.

On the other hand, religion has gone on to cause ethnicity and created some sort of mental picture that shapes the thoughts of one religion against another. Sadly, this has been in practice for as long as Nigeria had been freed from the bonds of colonization. The crises become recurring and are preceded by ethnic clashes. There are two primary religions in Nigeria – Islam, and Christianity – and these two are always in constant competition with each other, causing intolerance and socio-political crises within and outside the shores of Nigeria. More so, in recent times, Nigeria has continued to suffer the adverse effects of religious crises even as the 2023 elections draw closer.

A closer look at the 2023 elections billed for February and March, 2023 shows that religious units have played a somewhat passive role in getting people involved in getting their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and in giving the right orientation on how to choose a better leader. The churches and mosques should be the primary place to educate and sensitize voters on making the right choice at the polls, irrespective of the political and religious divide.

Christian bodies as well as Muslim communities should channel some reasonable efforts into creating awareness and sensitizing members during religious gatherings on the need to go and collect their PVCs and as well exhibit a morally right practice at the polls by not taking bribes, selling their votes, engaging in activities that will deface the image of the nation and voting for candidates with the right leadership credentials, irrespective of party ties, religion, and ethnic group.

In addition, given the high stakes regarding the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, all clerics across the different religions in Nigeria should begin “Operation Show Your Permanent Voter’s Card” by members during the days of worship service. However, this does not mean that members without their PVCs should not be allowed in religious gatherings, but should be encouraged and mobilized to obtain their PVCs, if they registered.

Members who belong to the same religious outfit should serve as channels of motivation for others to collect their PVCs, and use them wisely. They should help to create a common belief that votes will count and amplify the need to be involved in the decision-making process of the nation when it comes to choosing its leaders.

In summary, religion, though weaponized for the perpetration of evil and moral vices in society, can also be the soft grounds to drive the change we hope to see in society. It is high time the message in our religious institutions changed to a more issue-based and solution-orientated one where ideas are not just passively talked about but actively considered.

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