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17 Feb Written by  Japheth Omojuwa

Religious Leaders and the Burden of Leadership

Many Nigerians used to look up to God for answers to almost every question but these days, most would rather look up to their religious leaders. If Papa says it, God need not even speak again. This unfortunate reality is not the purpose of this piece, it is only to emphasize the fact that, when it comes to the issue of men of God in Nigeria, you’d not be wrong to assume most Nigerians take them as god of men.

This is not to knock on the hustle of these important men. It is just to plead on behalf of the Nigerian people for them to see a few things some of them are likely to have missed out because of their busy schedules, not to mention their disconnect from the unwholesome realities of everyday Nigerians.

As we speak, students of Nigerian polytechnics have been home since the first half of 2013. We are nearing the end of the 1st quarter of a new year and no solution appears in sight. Students of our public universities only just resumed a few weeks ago and with reports the government is already refusing to honour some of the agreements with the university lecturers, it would only be a matter of time before they go on another round of strikes.

The students of the colleges of education are home too. Not on holidays but due to yet another strike. These students are members of churches and mosques across the country. They are church workers and volunteers to the things of God. How many times have we heard any of you pastors and imams demand that the government expedite action on their return to school? How many of you spoke for them during ASUU strike?

If these young people are sold out to your leadership as their religious fathers, would it be too much to use your political capital to demand that the government does something about their situation? Were government to close religious houses for one reason or the other for nine months, would these students be silent on the issue as you are on theirs?

More souls were lost to terrorists in Borno State last week. There is no point pushing it, security has failed in Nigeria. How many meetings have our religious fathers called with the government to demand a more strategic, multilateral response to the insecurity issue across the country?

When you meet with the president, do you praise him and tell him to remain strong in the face of strong political opposition or do you tell him what the people you lead in your churches and mosques would expect you tell him? Do you use your close relationships with Nigerian political leaders for personal gains or for the gains of your religious organisations or do you see it as an opportunity to influence government to serve the people – your members – better?

The 2015 elections are here soon enough. We will see presidential candidates and gubernatorial candidates kneeling before almighty religious leaders for prayers. We know that despite the best rationalizations for those prayers, it would be about the photo ops. We trust you never to tell your members to vote for any candidate. But we also trust your members to see the pictures and know the direction of their thumbs during the elections.

These things will happen. These tactics will work for the politicians that choose that path. It will bring a lot of power-broking influence to religious leaders that play along. Would it be in the interest of your members to continue to play this game that has left most of them as destitutes? Is this what service to God really is? Does service to God include serving the interest of his people?

One must at this time praise the efforts of those religious leaders who continue to speak truth to power. Today may look like the people don’t see your work, but posterity is a better judge. As for the rest, with so much power, influence and responsibility, it will never be too late to let the pains of the people influence your engagement with the political system.

The people may look like they don’t know a thing. They may be like a herd ready to go wherever they are directed. But if one day they wake from their slumber and realize they have nothing to lose, they will not be able to differentiate their political oppressors from their religious ones. It is never too late to think about these things and make amends.

@omojuwa

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