After weeks of campaigning, propaganda messages, lies, half-truths and fact-based declarations by political parties, and analyses of how the presidential election would be won and lost by certain candidates, it is only few days before Nigerians go out on March 28, 2015, to cast the ballot for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Leonard Karshima Shilgba As it is common with Nigerian politicians, a lot of fuss about religious and ethnic affiliations has been made either directly or otherwise in order to confuse or manipulate the sentiments of the electorate. Our electoral choices must be devoid of sentiments if we are not to make the same 2011 mistake again. Few days ago, I received in my mail box a message by a group that called itself Nigerian Christian Elders Forum (NCEF).   They boldly stated what they perceived and believed the 2015 (presidential) election is all about.

First, those church elders said, "For us as Christian Elders, the 2015 Election is about the future of the Christian faith in Nigeria." This statement, to put it mildly, is outrageous and betrays their ignorance of the requisite knowledge of the Christian faith. The future of the Christian faith has nothing to do with the 2015 elections. The claim by those Christian elders is almost blasphemous. God's word says, "We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth."  Without any form of pretense, those elders are in support of the status quo, which President Jonathan represents, and are clearly against General Buhari, whom they sought to bring some evidence from the past to paint in filthy brushes. Having cleared where they stand, I must ask them the question: What contribution(s) has President Jonathan made to the "future of the Christian faith in Nigeria"? I know as a pastor and teacher of God's word that the "future of the Christian faith" does not depend on which leader people vote for in a country. The truth of the word, taught faithfully by godly Christian elders and teachers, strengthened by the power of personal example, is what deepens the faith and spiritual conduct of Christians. But when "men of God" in Nigeria have become men of money, being compromised by bribes offered by politicians and taken by them, how shall we guarantee the strength of the church? When those "men of God" have chosen to preach covetousness and the selling of their "anointed" nonsense (water, sand, "zobo", oil, stickers, etc.), how can the future of the Christian faith be guaranteed? "Faith of our fathers, living still; we will be true to thee till death." The genuine Christian life is brighter in times of persecution. There is no auspicious season in "practicing Christianity." We are to be faithful in season and out of season. Certainly, the 2015 elections are not about the "future of the Christian faith in Nigeria."

What Christian virtues has President Jonathan demonstrated in governance in accordance with Romans chapter thirteen? Under Jonathan, falsehood has become common. Under Jonathan, corruption has become common, "moved from the living room to the bedroom" [Obasanjo, My Watch, 2015]. Under Jonathan, human life has been cheapened, both Christians and Muslims are slaughtered every so often in their lands, becoming refugees in their country. And did the sharia menace not start under PDP rule, under a "Christian" president’s rule?

The NCEF also quoted what General Buhari purportedly said in the past, and mentioned his "body language" as reasons why his election will not guarantee the "future of the Christian faith in Nigeria." They should have mentioned the "body language" of Jonathan in the PRESENT that has preserved both churches and mosques in North-East Nigeria, Christians and non-Christians in Nigeria, preserved our girls and boys at school, and improved the quality and safety of life of the Nigerian.

I hate seeing so-called Christian leaders mislead people in the name of "Christianity." The 2015 general election is not about the "future of Christian faith in Nigeria." It is about guaranteeing the fulfillment of section 14 of the 1999 constitution—security and welfare of the people, which is the primary responsibility of government, that the government of President Jonathan has failed in. Christians are pilgrims on this earth. Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we look for the Messiah Jesus Christ. And while we live on earth, we must not support a president that governs in impunity, disrespects the constitution, encourages and rewards graft, has divided the nation along ethnic and religious lines, and that has failed in his divine responsibility as minister of God, sword-bearer, and avenger for God (See Romans 13:3-4).

I am not particularly proud of my president’s performance. There are certain things he has failed, refused or neglected to do that have placed him at a serious disadvantage in the sight of Nigerians who are principled and addicted to the truth. Emphasis has been placed by the president’s minders on what he has done or will do. I think what he has neglected to do is his greatest undoing. For instance, he has failed to unite the country and motivate Nigerians towards building a united union. Instead, he has actively engaged in keeping in the consciousness of Nigerians the issues of religious and ethnic or regional differences. I find this disgusting. I used to write so strongly against the deprivations of the Niger Delta region or people. I passionately advocated for them in my writings (including in my book, From My Heart). But the refusal of President Jonathan to rein in people like his wife, Ankio Briggs, Asari Dokubo, Edwin Clark, and other Niger Deltan militants, activists and elders, who, since he assumed the office of President of Nigeria, have been making highly provocative, and divisive statements, made me to resolve not to do so anymore.   The public silence of the president on those offensive comments means he agrees with them. Recently, the first lady insulted mothers and fathers of Northern Nigeria, whom according to her, give birth to children and throw away to become ready recruits for terrorist groups such as Boko Haram. There have been no apologies from the president on this. And I fear. If, now that the president desperately needs the graces of Nigerians to win a second term in office, he so disrespects their feelings, opinions and sensitivities, how much more damage will he inflict on other less consequential Nigerians should he be supported by Nigerians for a second term of four years, knowing that then, he would not need their votes for the office anymore?   This is a foreboding proposition. Can it not be correctly conjectured that he would then emerge as a more confident and vindictive ruler?

Many principled Nigerians screamed against further soiling Nigeria’s image with the appointment of Mr. Obanikoro as Minister in Jonathan’s government. He, not only ignored them, but also appointed Obanikoro as the face of Nigeria abroad, as Minister of State for foreign affairs! Mr. President seems to have difficulty in moral and ethical judgment. A pattern has emerged. He pardoned a former governor of his home state, a convict and run-away felon from justice abroad, in spite public outcry. I find this sequence converging to a certain limit, an exposed mindset that for years was hidden from public scrutiny, but which has unraveled. There are certain principles I hold dear, and which determine who my close friends or moral examples should be. What a man has not said or done eloquently tell us about his identity. For example, the complicit silence of a man in the face of national disgrace, national deceit, and national destruction tells one of two things about him—either he is a coward or a betrayer.   

An unfortunate element of democracy is that, the minority must also suffer the wrong choices of the majority. I am crying out now because I do not want the suffering to continue for me. I did not make this choice in 2011, in fact, I warned against it about a year before Nigerians made it. If ethnicity or religion influences your choice on March 28, let me announce that you will have plunged a dagger into the soul of Nigeria. Nigeria is like a patient that is very ill, in need of a competent doctor, whose present doctor has failed to provide cure for more than five years of trial-and-error therapy. This doctor insists he would allow another doctor to offer therapy only if the patient would officially say so. If you were this patient what would be your choice? Let me make the choice a little bit complicated. Your doctor is from the same ethnic group as you, in fact, he is your brother, and has the same religious affiliation as you do, but has not been successful in providing a cure. This hypothesis is a reality for you. The ailment of Nigeria is yours. With your vote, you will either sign off on the discontinuance of your incompetent doctor or request for another doctor.  

I have heard of very inconsequential issues, for example, that Buhari cannot remember his phone number. I think the most important numbers anyone seeking to take over from a Nigerian president in an election should remember are the naira exchange rates, unemployment rate, poverty levels, illiteracy levels, infant and maternal mortality rates, human development indices, corruption perception indices, job creation numbers vis-à-vis foreign direct investment, levels of theft of our crude oil, unappropriated illegal expenditure on fuel subsidy, population growth rate, etc. These are more important in planning development programs than remembering phone numbers and names of people, which have nothing to do with reducing poverty through job creation, securing the country, and improving the welfare of the people and paying living wages.

Considering the very high stakes that this election has raised for Nigeria, I must appeal to intellectuals and my readers to call up their folks and gently guide them on how they should vote in order to rescue our nation, knowing fully well the dangers of making a sentimental choice without an informed and intelligent reason. Please, let your people in on what this election is all about before Nigerians vote on March 28, 2015. I will again address you after March 28. Good morning Nigeria!



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