Christians’ Participation In Politics: The Moral Perspective In Nigeria
1.1 Background of the Study
Religion and politics are two different institutions that exist in the state and contribute their quota in different capacities to better the life of citizens of the state and the sustenance of humanity. Nevertheless, there have been continuous romance between religion and politics, to the dismay of many especially who thinks it should not be so. This commonalities between the two concepts are unavoidable since participants in electoral or political activities are in themselves religious, particularly in Nigeria. Even in religious institutions, politics is in itself a necessity, for want of organization and responsible leadership.
Doubtlessly, there are varieties of religion in Nigeria, but the interest of this research is focused on the Christian Religion and its response to political affairs in the country. This research is set to unravel two apparent realities confronting Christianity and politics in Nigeria. First, that Christian denominations through literal interpretations of some biblical passages seek to exclude Christians from political participation, secondly, the fact of political misconducts, malpractices and faulty democratic leadership in a process many Christians are involved in, considering the moral Christian ideals.
The ideals of Christianity are good guides to better political conducts, but the practice of such ideals are usually influenced by the socio-cultural institutions in the society, including politics.1 this suggests that Christians have the moral norms needed to better a society, but if Christians do not participate in policy making, where politics is a mechanism needed to exercise that, then, these qualities are as good as nothing. Therefore, Christians from every walks of life should heighten their political participation with the view of ameliorating the political system in Nigeria from every corruption.
Again, many Nigerians have resorted to tag politics as a ‘dirty game’, owing to the misconducts prevailing in the political system. This is due to assumptions that people have lost confidence in the political class and on the electoral processes in the country, where votes cast by electorates are presumed not to count, where there is so much of political thuggery and ballot theft. Worst of all, these anomalies prevail amidst Christian presence in the process, the same people who are supposedly taught the ethics needed to build a morally viable world. In view of the above, this work seeks to restate those Christian ethical principles that is poised to better the society, as well as encourage Christians to participate in the electoral processes, party politics and other politically related activities, so that they could use their moral consciousness to improve and sanitize the political system and ensure sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Man they say is a ‘Political Animal’ suggesting that man has in his nature, inherent political motivation and impulse and thus partake in it, inevitably. Thus, problems accrues when society tries to determine who should or should not partake in political activities. In Nigeria, Christian denominations whose main sermons target low societal value system, political corruption and have a persistent approach to holiness have sought to condemn politics in its entirety, thereby discouraging its members from any form of participation whatsoever. Adetoyese, John traced this back to the inception of Christianity in Africa. He wrote that “the early missionaries distant Christianity from politics, especially in some African countries and this brings a significant forebear towards politics by Christians and they have transferred that to their children which brought about wrong impression that some Christians have about politics and its role in human existence.2
Many churches uses literal interpretations of some biblical passages to drive home their points on why Christians should not be politicians. Passage such as 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship has righteous with unrighteous? and what communion has light with darkness?”3 etc. have been instrumental to this Christians’ apathy to politics in Nigeria. The lack of effective Christians’ participation in politics have culminated to so many ill fates to the Christian faith in a multi-religious state like Nigeria. We now have Christian wailing here and there that they have been sidelined politically, that government pays deaf ears to their cries and that they are suffering unfavourable government policies which does not allow the church to thrive. These have been traced to the fact that the Nigerian church is unable to produce a political Christian leader, making it difficult to harmonize the various groups in the church into an effective political machinery.4
Addressing some basic problems in Christian political activism, Redekop, John queried “Politics press the Christian toward compromises, can a disciple keep his integrity there?”5 However, question such as this, throw Christians off balance and in many cases, harden their determinations to stay off politics. This is due to the way politics is practiced in Nigeria today, which has made it look dirty in the perception of committed Christians who have in turn seen the politicians as fraudulent people.
Despite the afore stated points, Christians have explicitly not opted out from politics. For instance a Christian dominated state like Akwa Ibom has her politicians and political leaders majorly from the christian stock. In fact all the state governors from her inception have been christians. Thus, political misconducts in a system controlled by Christian is also problematic and of course the researcher’s burden. This work therefore aims at encouraging christians to participate in political activities and in doing so, should bring Christian ideal necessary to better democratic experience in Nigeria into practice.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
(i) To examine the rate and levels of Christians’ participation in politics in Nigeria.
(ii) To investigate and examine the general opinions, Christians and the wider society holds about Christians who are deeply involved in the political terrain.
(iii) To examine if Christians’ participation in politics have sanitized the faulty political system, using Christian morality as a yardstick.
(iv) To examine the factors limiting Christians’ participation in politics in Nigeria.
(v) To determine the political future of Nigeria if Christian begin to get involved in active politics.
(vi) To examine how Christians can and have used their moral upbringing to sanitize the political system of Nigeria.
(vii) To determine how Christian organizations like CAN and PFN can influence politicians to make policies that improve the life of Nigeria’s citizens.
1.4 Significance of the Study
This research work will be of immense significance in the following ways:
(i) It will help christians and the general populace to do away with some stereotypical view of politics which have resulted in the lukewarm attitude towards political participation among christians.
(ii) It will bring to the spotlight, the need for christians to be involved in active politics, especially so they can use their morality to sanitize the system.
(iii) It will educate the general public on what true Christianity say about christians’ involvement in politics, using biblical passages in support as paradigms.
(iv) It will educate the general public on the level of christians’ participation in politics in Nigeria and also enlighten the people on how the teachings of Christianity can be used as a tool for national development and sustainable democracy through the eradication of corrupt practices in the political system.
(v) It will trigger self-examination among christians who in one way or the other contributes to the corrupt nature of the Nigeria’s political system, calling them to a redress.
(vi) This work will also serve as a resource material to other researchers who wishes to carryout research in this area or those related.
1.5 Scope of the Study
This research work discusses Nigeria’s political sphere with regards to christians’ participation in politics. It shall examine the nexus between religion and politics in a bid to justify Christian position on political participation. The work shall examine how christians participate in politics, especially within the context of Nigeria. In this, efforts will be exerted to decipher why some christians exclude themselves from political activities as well as examine how the ideals of Christianity have been used so far by the few Christians who have chosen vocations in politics to better and sanitize the system. The work shall also look at issues associated with christians’ participation in politics in Nigeria. Christian response to electoral fraud, political thuggery and other anomalies prevailing in the system. This is so that certainty could be drawn as to whether Christians in politics have been able to allow the moral teachings of their religion influence them, so they can effect the necessary changes envisaged in the political system.
To aid in the efficient carrying out of this research, works of other scholars as relate to the burden of the research shall be reviewed to reach a suitable research conclusion.
1.6 Research Methodology
The method adopted to aid in carrying out the research is the qualitative research method. This type of research method refers to the meanings, concepts, definitions, characteristics, metaphors, symbols and description of things and not to their count or measures.6 It involves obtaining data from published and unpublished books, journals, library, periodicals and materials from the internets. In the end, all the literatures used will be subjected to analysis and drawing of conclusion.
1.7 Delimitation of the Study
This research is not an empirical study since it does not deal with the collections of opinions from individual christians in Nigeria. The research is mainly based on theoretical findings, involving sampling the opinions of other authors and that of the researcher to draw conclusion and so, may not represent the opinion of every Christian in Nigeria.
The content of the work and the conclusions drawn shall base on the researcher’s experiences and on the materials on related areas at the disposal of the researcher, thus, lapse may ensue due to material constraint in such area whatsoever, however, subsequent researches in the area may fill such gaps.
1.8 Organization of the Study
The work is arranged in five chapters. Chapter one offers a general introduction of the work, chapter two undertakes the review of related literature to show that the work is grounded on previous related findings. Chapter three discusses the various issues associated with Christianity and politics in Nigeria. Chapter four seeks to encourage christians to participate in politics as well as admonish christians to allow the moral ideals of the religion influence their political conducts, to foster political decency and forestall further political ill practices in Nigeria’s democratic future. Chapter five gives the summary, concluding remains of the work, as well as offer working recommendations to appropriate quarters to ease implementation of the ideas provide hereof.
1.9 Definition of Terms
Christians: Refers to adherents of Christianity those who follow the teachings and ways of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, looking up to him as an example. The Bible informs that the disciples of Jesus Christ, were first called Christians in Antioch in Syria,7 because of how devoted and exemplary they were, in a morally incapacitated society, steadfastly doing the will of God.
Political participation: Political participation refers to those voluntary activities by which members of a society share in the selection of rulers and directly or indirectly in the formation of public policy.8 The voluntary activities are voting, seeking information, discussion and proselytizing, attending meetings, contributing financially and communicating with representatives. The more active forms of participation include formal enrollment in a party, canvassing and registering voters, speech writing and speech making, working in campaigns and competing for party and public offices.9
Morality: Morality is derived from the Latin word ‘Moralis’, literally translated as manner. Character or proper behaviour. It is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper.10 Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct, from a particular philosophy, religion or culture or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal. In the context of this work, the moral perspective of christians’ participation in politics would refer to proper actions and behaviours and political virtue, especially as stipulated in the codes that guide political activism.11 It also refers to allowing the moral ideals of the Christian religion to influence the participating Christian, so that he/she can participate in politics in the right way.
Political morality: This is the practice of making moral judgements about political actions and agents.12 Political morality concerns itself with two areas of political concerns. The first is ethics of office which deals with public officials and the methods they use and secondly, the ethics of public policy which concerns judgements about policies and laws.13 This concept seeks to provide a moral compass to political activities and as well as the conduct of those participating in politics.
What is Delimitation?
Delimitation pertains to setting or saying in clear terms, the limits of a particular thing or discourse.
1S. O. Abogunrin, “Towards Unifying Political Ideology and Peaceful Coexistence in Nigeria: A Christian View”, in Onaiyekan, J. O. (ed) Religion, Peace and Unity in Nigeria, (NACS, 1984), p.34.
2John O. Adetoyese, “The Challenges of Christians’ Participation in Politics”, The American Journal of Biblical Theology, Vol. III, No. II, 2016, pp.
3The Holy Bible, “2 Corinthians 6:14” in The Revised Standard Version, New York: (Harper Collins Publishers, 1971), p. 171.
4National Christian Elders Forum, The Imperative of Christian Participation in Governance, June 19, 2018. Retrieved from www.proshaveng.com/news/ politics on 10th March, 2019.
5John H. Redekop, “TAhe Christian in Politics: Some Basic Problems”, in Spring, Vol. 14, No.I, 1985, pp. 34-41.
6Earl Babbie, The Basics of Social Research (6th edition), Wardsworth: (Cengage, 2014), p.303.
7The Holy Bible, “Acts 11:26”, in The Revised Standard Version, New York: (Harper Collins Publishers, 1971), p. 124.
8Herbert, McClosky. Political Participation in David L. Sills (ed) International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Vol. 12 (New York: Macmillan Co. and Free Press, 1968), p. 252.
9McClosky (1968), 252f.
10A. A. Long, D. N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers: Translation of the Principal Sources with Philosophical Commentary. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 366-367.
11N. A. “The Definition of Morality” in Standard Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Standard University Press, 2011. Retrieved from https//:Plato-standford.edu.entries/morality on 10th March, 2019.
12Dennis F. Thompson. “Political Ethics”, International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Blackwell Publishing, 2012), p. 151.
13Stuart Hampshire (ed.) Public and Private Morality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), p.54.[email protected].[email protected].