The 2023 General elections are fast approaching. It has been the bane of our 2022 as Nigerians, but fortunately, with each passing day, more people are becoming less apathetic and getting more involved. The next few months will come with a lot of conversations and opinions as we move closer to September which marks the beginning of proper campaigns as stated by INEC. Due to the chokehold of fanaticism on Nigerians, talks of brainwashing of Muslims in the North, expectations of prophecies from different prophets and the recent backlash on the popular Catholic Priest, Father Mbaka, there have been different takes on the extent religion should go when it comes to elections or if it should even be involved at all.

There is no doubt that religious stances have an effect on people’s choices whether directly or otherwise. It, therefore, begs the question, should religious leaders or bodies have a role to play in elections? If not, why? If yes, why and how?

The Preclinical Press decided to ask some preclinical students to share their thoughts.

Yes, religious bodies can play a role by exercising their right to vote and by their prayers that the right leader be chosen. They can also urge members not to stay idle during elections, but to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Boluwatife Adenle, 2k23

No, I don’t think religious leaders should partake in elections because politics is different from religion. Religious leaders have a significant hold on the people they lead and their choices may be wrong or right. Let’s cite Islam. If your Imam says this is right, you have to follow him because we believe for someone to be an Imam in the first place, he has more knowledge and insight than the rest of us members and leads based on what God and the Prophet say. Again in Islam, you don’t protest against your leader. In politics, especially democracy, protest is a means for people’s voices to be heard. So, politics is already entirely different and separate from religion.

Azeez Khashia, 2k22

Yes. Men of God are citizens and they shouldn’t be denied their constitutional right because of their status. However, there should be limits. Men of God should be cautious and avoid preaching or trying to enforce their preference on followers. This is because their words can easily be misconstrued and in no time lead to religious conflict. If at all men of God want to have a say on elections, it should be in an interview where they will be able to back their choices with credible and rational points, and not in places of worship with the Scriptures in an attempt to entice and coerce people.

Men of God can play an important role by advising their followers to make the best choice, enlightening them on the consequences of making a bad choice, and encouraging them to get their PVCs and not engage in vote buying.”

Adebayo Rasaq Ayoade, 2k23

Well, If we’re looking at it from the angle of influencing their followers towards a particular candidate or party, I think it depends on the religious body or leader in question. The major goal of any religious body should be to bring people closer to God. Any other thing is just like an addition. So, if a religious leader has a candidate he’s really okay with and he feels would do the right thing, he can decide to tell his followers about the person and give them reasons. And if another leader doesn’t see the need to influence his followers to vote for his preferred candidate, then that’s his decision and I think that’s fine. And if we’re looking at it from the angle of influencing followers to vote, I feel leaders should vote because they’re citizens too and it’s our responsibility to vote. And about influencing their members to vote, I wouldn’t say it’s compulsory, but it will be really good if they can because, in one way or the other, the policies of political leaders affect religious bodies. Take the lockdown, for example, churches had to stop physical services because that was the government’s policy. So, if you have an opportunity to influence people to get involved in something that would affect you, your church and even your followers, why not use the opportunity well?”

Ifeoluwanifise Onofowokan, 2k22

Yes, they have a role to play.

My reason is that in Nigeria, majority of the uneducated masses believe their votes do not count. It’s good for religious leaders to educate their congregations, tell them that their votes truly count and encourage them to vote someone they can hold accountable into power. What I am against is when they use their influence to decide for their members who to vote and who not to vote.

Vincent Oshemi, 2k23
Credit: Shutterstock

Should religious bodies be involved in societal politics? No. Are religious bodies concerned about societal leadership? Yes.

Religious bodies or leaders should never endorse any political individual, although general guidance is necessary by highlighting to the congregations, the importance of good leadership and the need to be involved as an individual. Apathy should be shunned completely.

If a religious leader joins politics, it’s easy for him or her to sway and manipulate followers with a specific political ideology. It’s bad for a religious leader or body to be involved or openly show their political interest or ideologies because this will bring divisionism amongst their flock when religion is supposed to be a uniting factor in society.”

Mubarak Alimi, 2k23

Yes, I think religious leaders have a role to play in elections as their followers pay heed to what they say and usually follow their instructions. I think they should help enlighten their congregation during elections and also make efforts to ensure everyone can exercise their right to vote as many don’t. However, I do not think they should dictate who their congregation should vote for as every voter has the right to decide who their preferred candidate is.

Maryam Mudasiru, 2k22

“I’d like to quote a verse form the Bible, Romans 13:1-2, New living translation, ‘Everyone must submit to government authority for all authority comes from God and those in a position of authority have been placed there by God so anyone who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted and they shall be punished.’

It is the people who will elect those to serve them and who will either enjoy or reap the consequences of their selection. In a country like ours which is very religious, people tend to listen to what religious authorities say over any and everything and sometimes worship their Pastors instead of worshipping God. If a Pastor prophesies that someone will become President, about 90% of the congregation will vote for that person because they believe the Pastor has the final say. If the Pastor says he wouldn’t vote and partake in anything politics, the members will follow suit. I believe the Church should be involved in sensitizing its members on the importance of engaging in the election process and telling them how to go about it. A Pastor is not in any position to tell or convince the members on who to vote, but should let members know that if they don’t participate in elections to elect a good leader, they will bear the consequences of being under a bad one and that if a bad leader is elected, they have to refer back to Romans 13:1&2. It’s that simple.”

Theophilus Olayiwola, 2k22

The majority of the respondents opined that religious leaders should partake and be involved in the election process through exercising their right to vote, sensitization of their followers and prayers, but not by campaigning, imposing a candidate on their followers or influencing them towards a particular candidate. Followers also have a part to play in keeping fanaticism at bay at all costs.

The outcome of the elections will affect everyone, positively or negatively, so it is high time we all got involved, and in the right way. Your involvement is your choice, but it is also your right. The deadline for voters’ registration is now the 31st of July. Get your PVC now!

Osaretin Ehiorobo