By Gabriel Elozino, Asaba
Delta Governor, Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, has advised religious leaders in the country against being involved in partisan politics.
He also called on Nigerians, particularly Christians, to participate actively in the political process through voting at elections and in advocacy for good governance and credible leadership.
The governor gave the advise on Tuesday, in a Keynote Address titled “The Christian and Responsibility” which he delivered at the Standing Committee Meeting of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) held at All Saints Catheral, Rumuokwurusi, Port-Harcourt.
He said that as the conscience of the nation, religious leaders had a responsibility to maintain an independent, unbiased and non-partisan approach in matters of politics and governance.
His words, “When religious leaders publicly identify with a political party, they create problems for themselves and their ministry; they lose the right and ability to reach those in the other parties with the message of the gospel.”
Speaking further, Okowa pointed that it was doubtful if 50 per cent of eligible voters among Christians voted at elections, adding that Christians must exercise their right to vote and elect leaders that would govern them.
He urged Christians to prayerfully assess candidates and vote for those with demonstrable capacity to lead, proven record in leadership, probity and moral backbone to withstand temptation and shun corruption.
“We must not vote for a candidate along ethnic or sectional lines; we should not even vote on religious and denominational basis because there are hucksters who use religion for political gain.
“Faith-based NGOs must take the lead in the advocacy in fighting for social justice, advocate for the right persons to be elected to office and set agenda for governments at national and sub-national levels.
“And, Christians should desist from the habit of criticising and condemning political leaders, but should not be mute when they are violating the rights of the people, engaging in acts inimical to good governance, or impoverishing the people through unpopular policies.
“We must let our leaders and representatives know where we stand and hold them accountable to God’s standards of truth, righteousness and justice,” he stated.
Okowa pointed out that it would be uncharitable for any Nigerian, including Christians, to complain about political issues and bad governance when he or she did not participate in electoral processes.
“I say this because many Nigerians seem to have convinced themselves that votes do not count, but let me hasten to add that they are greatly mistaking.
“Votes count, and refusing to vote is what gives room for the bad guys to manipulate the process.
“I, therefore, call on every Bible-believing Christian to go and register to vote. I believe we can all afford to pay the price to elect the right people into office.
“If we fail in this civic responsibility, we lose our right to complain about bad governance or incompetent leadership,” he said.
He urged religious and political leaders to sharpen their spirit of discernment and ask God for wisdom in responding to public enquiries.
According to him, Christians must show good examples in their work places, and those who profess faith in Christ must honour and obey earthly governments to ensure law and order and promote good governance.
“Our first responsibility as citizens of an earthly nation is to respect and obey the laws of the land.”
Urging Christians to ensure that they paid tax, the governor said “governments all over the world need taxes to be able to fulfil the obligations of good governance, employment generation, effective transportation, quality education, decent housing, efficient justice system, public security and safety.
“It is an open secret that in Nigeria, only public sector workers and those in the organised private sector pay taxes and that is because it is deducted at source through the PAYE system.
“The rest of the population avoid paying tax and for the reason that governments are corrupt, wasteful and inefficient but the word of God does not excuse Christians from this responsibility under any circumstance.”
Primate of Church of All Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev’d Henry Ndukuba, commended Okowa for his people-oriented and sensitive leadership.
He said that the Church was honouring Governors Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Darius Ishaku (Taraba), Willie Obiano (Anambra), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Babagana Zulum (Borno) and Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, for courageous and purposeful leadership in challenging times.
Ndukuba added that the six leaders were chosen across religions and denominations in recognition of their huge sacrifices in providing good governance for the people.