Osinbajo: A Pastor’s Political Dilemma – By: Gimba Kakanda

The storm sweeping across Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s political camp has sparked a difficult conversation in which, as usual, there is no room for nuance. As the intellectual poster child of the executive branch of the federal government, the politician’s fashionable coloring in two scathing reviews by American writer and columnist Professor Farooq Kperogi has diminished his political appeal, especially in the North.

Kperogi’s ten-point case against Osinbajo, he claimed, would spark a “religious civil war” if ignored. Whether assessing the vice president’s affiliation with the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), arguing for the Christian candidacy and pathologizing the non-Christian agenda, the allegations compiled by the critic have sparked a fierce debate recalling the media crackdown on the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami, when his unflattering past as a preacher was exposed, triggering a cascade of reactions.

Osinbajo is to Pentecostal Christians what Pantami is to Sunni Muslims, and both rely on high-level academic figures who offer them an advantage within the political class and by pledging allegiance to two audiences, the secular and the religious. . The gospel burden on them therefore feeds on de-marketing belief systems other than their own, and such polarizations have become part of us. At least until they find themselves in the political spotlight and forced to tone down their otherings of “rival” religions and sects.

Raising a pulpit in a multicultural society is a tricky business, and our religious leaders have been reckless in delivering divisive sermons to sell divine images of the afterlife or meddling in politics. Our places of worship have become the engine rooms of incitement to mutual hatred and violence, and clerics have functioned as mouthpieces in such a dangerous fashion. Clerics can also escape scrutiny and backlash for their words, which in legal terms are pure hate speech.

The transition from pulpit to politics is a life that has not gone smoothly for so many clerics, especially those trying to join national politics. When, for example, Pantami was appointed minister, those who had no knowledge of his professional behavior assumed he was a chess piece in Buhari’s Islamization agenda. His doctoral certification had to be marketed fiercely to silence his critics. It wasn’t long before his name started to rise as a potential VP candidate and suddenly his past came to haunt him, and Kperogi led the charge by contextualizing and countering Pantami’s comments on sensitive global trends, particularly on the Taliban and al-Qaeda’s reign of terror in the Middle East, concluding that the preacher was unfit to hold sensitive public office in Nigeria.

Kperogi’s red card to Pantami, which he stripped naked to the point some would consider an obsession, is no different from the grenade thrown at Osinbajo’s political cart. It may take a miracle to piece together the carcass of the vice president’s political future, especially in the North where Kperogi’s allegations have been translated into various local languages ​​and passed from Facebook page to Facebook page. and from one WhatsApp account to another. The response from the vice president’s media team to this potential funeral of their director’s political career has been tragic, particularly their resort to calling it a hatchet job or attributing it to perceived rivals.

I like to follow the love-hate relationship between Kperogi and his fans on social media, especially one-dimensional thinkers who are quick to praise him for his unfavorable views on the affairs of a certain region or religion, but suddenly rush for the label and antagonize him when he displays a similar energy to criticize the things, issues, and places they too promote or revere. Those who praised him when he ripped Pantami, and even called him a ‘fraudster’ for his dubious appointment as professor of cybersecurity at the Federal University of Technology in Owerri, suddenly had doubts about his health. mental.

You don’t have to agree with everything Kperogi writes, being human with emotional vulnerabilities, but he is arguably the most independent-minded practicing social critic in our space today. He’s not necessarily the most objective commentator on Nigeria, but he’s a fearless writer who you can never consider a committed hack. Those who stutter in their attempts to profile him as a section ambassador, northern puritan or Muslim, obviously have no idea who he is – and that he is equally fierce in his deconstruction of the affairs of Muslims and northerners. than it is with Christians and southerners. He never minces his words.

I don’t know Osinbajo well enough to agree with the scathing profiling done by Kperogi beyond his eloquent public speeches and humanizing engagements with the masses, but to assert that Kperogi’s views were sponsored or made to support a political camp or an opponent must be the most idiotic critic of a critic who has brushed aside even the political options that Osinbajo himself must have considered threats.

Kperogi wrote that “(most) politicians exploit religion to gain political power, but Osinbajo wants to exploit political power to advance a narrow and divisive religious agenda”, listing the vice president’s political transgressions, and that it’s “a big difference, and it’s a potentially destabilizing difference. But the overt profiling of Osinbajo as a religious fanatic by a segment of northerners is no different from Buhari’s tragic public relations in the South from from when he embarked on his frustrated bid to run for president ahead of the 2003 presidential elections. He was criticized and portrayed as an ‘extremist’ obsessed with Sharia law and unfit to lead a secular country.

Yet the formula Buhari has applied to overcome his political disapproval in the South, which calls on the Muslim North to counter the insatiable South, is one that Osinbajo cannot risk adopting. Even though he does not worship Buhari, choosing the pulpit as his political base jeopardizes his ambition. The North is a voting bloc in which no politician can risk becoming an outcast, and Osinbajo may need more than fancy speeches and the pulpit to neutralize the danger of his portrayal as a clannish public officer. His image makers need to think beyond ‘divide and conquer’ tactics to show he’s not the man in Kperogi’s stories.

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