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2023: Dogara’s full speech on Muslim-Muslim ticket

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 2023 Dogara s full speech on Muslim Muslim ticket
Yakubu Dogara

TEXT OF A KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY RT HON. YAKUBU DOGARA AT THE MEET THE CHURCH SUMMIT ORGANIZED BY THE NIGERIAN NATIONAL CHRISTIAN COALITION (NNCC) AT ICC, ABUJA ON TUESDAY , 20TH SEPTEMBER, 2022

Protocol:

1. I wish to express my profound appreciation to the Nigerian National Christian Coalition (NNCC), the organizers of this, Meet the Church Summit, for affording me the opportunity of participation in the capacity of Keynote Speaker. May I also commend the organizers for their diligence in the choice of the theme; “The role of the Church in Nation Building”.

2. I need neither remind us that nation building is such a complex and complicated subject so much so that after 108 years of amalgamation and 62 years of independence, our attempt at nation building has been, to say the least, an unmitigated disaster. While this is a subject matter that should be on the lips of all Nigerians, embarrassingly we busy ourselves with winning elections at all cost after which the power elites deploy institutional prerogatives with reckless abandon as if leadership is a zero sum game. This of course, without any reference, let alone, commitment to nation building.

3. I m therefore comforted by the recognition by the NNCC that we interrogate at this summit, the role of the Church in Nation building. It is my considered opinion that it is important to address the fundamental thematic concepts briefly as we delve into the discuss.

4. CONCEPTUAL ISSUES:

a). The Church

I). By the church, I mean the body of believers United in Christ. This includes both the visible and local church as well as the invisible and universal church consisting of true believers not the buildings in which they gather. I must not also be misunderstood to be referring to any one denomination because as a Bible believer, I have read the Bible from cover to cover severally and disappointingly, I must admit, I am yet to locate where any of our denominations is mentioned in any verse of the scriptures. I am waiting and open for any Bible scholar to cure my ignorance in this regard.

II). Also when we talk about true believers, I mean those who as the theologian, James H Cone reminds us, know that the cross is not something that you wear. The cross is something that you carry while being acutely aware that what you carry is what you might ultimately die on. It is those who accept the fact that they are the light of the world, the salt of the earth and a city set on a hill that cannot be hid. Also those who know that they are are, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”.

b) Nation building

I). Nation-building is defined as, “the process whereby a society of people with diverse origins, histories, languages, cultures and religions come together within the boundaries of a sovereign state with a unified constitutional and legal dispensation, a national public education system, an integrated national economy, shared symbols and values, as equals, to work towards eradicating the divisions and injustices of the past; to foster unity; and promote a countrywide conscious sense of being proudly a nation, committed to the country and open to the continent and the world’’. Nation building is about forgoing a strong national identity.

II). In this era, nation building typically refers to the efforts of the independent states of Africa, as well as the recently curved out countries in the Balkans, including but not limited to : Serbia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia. In almost all cases, the countries under reference had been carved out by colonial powers with no regard to religious, ethnic or other fault lines thereby bringing together disparate nationalities into one country without any common sense of shared national identity.

III). It is said that, the goal of nation building is to unify the people within the country so that it remains politically viable and stable and prosperous over the long term. Japan and Germany are thought to be the best countries with strong national identity while countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, Korea and Israel are shinning examples of what nation building is all about

The role of the Church in Nation building

5. As stated earlier, nation building is a complicated subject and as such we do not have the time and luxury to interrogate the subject in detail. But the point has repeatedly been made that Nigeria is the “greatest Islamo-Christian nation on earth”. As a result, it is difficult if not impossible to find any other nation that aggregates so many Muslims and so many Christians within its borders. Some of us live in communities comprising of persons of different faiths. We equally have Muslim friends and confidants whom we can genuinely call brothers. Regardless of the tension that religion generates, resulting in occasional clashes and mayhem, we cannot deny the fact that there is an exceptional level of brotherhood and solidarity across people of all faiths in Nigeria.

6. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s history is marked by disturbing anecdotes of series of ethno-religious violence that have profoundly stymied nation building. The point must be made that Nigeria cannot survive half addicted to rage and the other half addicted to delirium. That underpins why the Church must not abdicate its divine responsibility to achieve a better and more fully integrated life for our citizens across religious boundaries. For progress to be made, the church must fight for justice for the Christian, for the Muslim, for persons of other faiths and even for those who choose not to believe at all. As christians, we don’t have to overemphasize the indivisibility of justice because what is justice for the Christian is justice for the Muslim and persons of other faiths.

7. To my mind prayer is the key because prayer is the only way we can get God to intervene in our affairs. The conditions to secure healing for our country is well laid out in the Constitution of our kingdom. In 2 Chronicles 7:13 &14 – when our nation is pushed to a precipice, God expects us, his ambassadors who are called by his name to : humble ourselves and pray, seek his face and turn from our wicked ways; then he will hear from heaven, forgive our sins and heal our land.

8. God does not expect others who do not bear his name to fulfill those conditions. The implication is that God squarely places the responsibility for the healing of our land on us, his people and not on others.

9. Therefore the problem with our nation cannot be those things we often talked about,namely: persecution, hate crimes, greed, corruption, nepotism, scenes of bedlam et al, which are only physical symptoms of the fact that we have abdicated our spiritual responsibility. If we fulfill the conditions stipulated in the above verse, God will have no option but to heal our land. I say this with all sense of responsibility as God is too holy to lie or be separated from his word. God cannot violate his word and still remain God.

10. The church must be eternally vigilant in order to protect constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. It was the Irish orator, politician, wit, lawyer and judge, John Philpot Curran who once said, “ it is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he breaks, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”

11. In order to be vigilant, we must utilize our skills to build networks. In this regard, efforts led for and by Christians will not be effective unless it is borderless and extends beyond ethnicity or particular faith. Inclusivity is key to advancing religious freedom for nation building. Our networks must include Muslims, other People of faith and even those who repudiate religion. Civil society leaders, representatives of Government institutions and credible international partners must also be brought into the loop.Through these networks, the church can deploy its skills in promoting constructive dialogue that targets eliminating prejudice and fear. This dialogue must engage allies and known oppressors as well.

12. Dialogue may result in getting religious leaders to teach and emphasize the ethical codes of their beliefs that make for peaceful co-existence in a plural society. Through dialogue, leaders can be encouraged to harness those innate virtues of religion for nation building and advancement. Also, the church must support capacity building to promote resilience in communities. These can be done by offering training in conflict resolution to Community leaders and activists with the sole aim of equipping them to detect red flags and respond to signs of incipient violence before they snowball. If the church toils hard in this endeavor, we can help build resilient, inclusive communities, in which equal rights of all people are recognized regardless of religion or belief.

13. The church’s role must entail that it stands with the oppressed regardless of what faith they profess. This is not a tea party as doing so requires that we accept the fact that when you stand with the oppressed you get treated like the oppressed. Our faith requires us to stand for others the way we want others to stand for us in tandem with the golden command to, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” given by Jesus Christ himself who is the author and finisher of our faith.

14. The church can do so much in nation building but only if it is United. By unity, I must not be misunderstood to be calling for uniformity which is utopian. The Apostle Paul asked the question, “is Christ divided”? This question still resonates today and you and I must answer it. Let me shock us a little. We all know that Jesus Christ did not create nor is a member of any denomination. Jesus Christ is not even a Christian that is why you can’t blame him for some of the evils perpetrated in the name of Christianity. A Christian is someone who is christlike and Jesus Christ cannot be Christlike: he is simply the Christ.

15. If unity is not important, why did Paul the Apostle charge us to, “make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace”? Remember the story of the the Tower of Babel in the book of Genesis. That is one instance I found in the Bible where God the Almighty showed some signs of being unsettled. Talking about the unity and oneness of the vision of the builders, he said if they are left alone,” nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them”. God had to confuse their language and scatter them over all the earth to stop them. Jesus was there and he knows the important of unity and hence his prayer for the church to unite. If you find a United Church, you have found an indomitable Church. If you ever found a United Church, you have found a Church for whom nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them because God said so and he is too holy to lie.

16. There are cases where the church must resist in order to preserve the common good. But because resistance entails suffering and sacrifice, the church has more often than not chosen to be complacent. Resistance is though because it is not about the pursuit of happiness, it is about the pursuit of freedom. That is why those of us who are still nostalgic about the smell of onions, garlic and cucumbers of Egypt cannot be part of this journey with.

17. Regrettably, Churches throughout the world began to address their failures after World War II. Confessions of guilt have been issued by Catholic Churches in France and Germany, and most major Protestant denominations, beginning with the German Evangelical Church’s Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt in August 1945 (three months after the war in Europe ended) about the Churches’ general lack of decisiveness in resisting Nazism. The list of the “complacent” – those who refused to resist the pogroms of the Nazis in any way is long and depressing.

18. During Apartheid, the church played a double role of influencing the ideological formation and justification of the Apartheid political system, while simultaneously serving as a primary source of strength for those involved in the struggle. In Rwanda, the church’s failures were staggering and amounted to near active complicity in a genocide in which a particular ethnic group was almost wiped out. Coming back home, what role did the church play in taming the events which snowballed into a civil war resulting into the death of millions of our people? The necessary questions that follows are; why were Churches passive while millions of innocent people were murdered? Why did the Churches responded as they did in all the above mentioned cases? How do we avoid such historical failures of the church?

19. I am so elated that today’s church in Nigeria has shaken off the beast of complacency of the past into fire by proactively speaking up and resisting measures adopted by some political platforms that will hamper nation building. In a manner that negated the the fundamentals of nation building, such as shared identity, values and visions, the APC adopted a same faith ticket in a country that has never attained nationhood. It must be noted that long before the adoption of the same faith ticket, the church had warned against it through CAN, Catholic Secretariat, ECWA and so many other Christian bodies. These warnings were not only ignored but dismissed in one fell swoop by the APC presidential candidate who strangely believes that he can build a strong, secure and viable nation-state without first forging a shared identity, vision and values for our people thereby enabling us transit from citizens of a country into a nation of people with strong shared identity and values.

20. In their convoluted posturing, they have placed state – building ahead of nation building; a task never before achieved in history and we need no seer to tell us that such endeavor is guaranteed to end in spectacular failure. No divided people have ever built any civilization. Just as no divided people have ever built a civilization, a divided Nigeria can never ever amount to much.

21. To demonstrate that the church is right, it is not alone in condemning the same faith ticket. Other prominent Islamic clerics and Muslim leaders have also spoken in the same light. It is a good omen that both Christian and Muslim elites are not complacent over this matter. To this end it will be easy to generate the needed elite consensus that is key to nation building. All nations are built by elite consensus while all countries that failed at nation building were destroyed by elite complacency.

The way forward

22. I had spoken about building networks consisting of peoples of all faith. Granted that the Christians and Muslims will always disagree on some issues, there are however, many things over which we are agreeable. It is enough to forge ahead with the task of nation building based on those common issues we agree on. It must be noted that just as Muslims alone cannot built a nation out of Nigeria so also Christians alone cannot. We have to work together on “nation formations”.

23. In working together with Muslims, the church must embrace wisdom. Knowledge is knowing the right things while wisdom is the application of the right things you know. Every christian knows that our God does not tolerate waste. Is is unchristian for the church to waste anything given to us from above as we own nothing except what is giving to us from above.

24. One of Jesus’ most significant parables in Matt. 25:14-30 regarding work, is set in the context of investments. A rich man delegated the management of his wealth to his servants, much as investors in today’s markets do. He gave five talents to the first servant, two talents to the second, and one talent to the third. Two of the servants earn 100 percent returns by trading with the funds, but the third servant hides the money in the ground and earns nothing. The rich man returns, rewards the two who made money, but severely punishes the servant who did nothing.

25. The severe consequences to the unproductive servant, far beyond anything triggered by mere business mediocrity, tell us that we are to invest everything God gives us, not waste them.

26. Just think about the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 hungry people in John 6. Once everyone was fed, it seemed the story would end, but Jesus had one more lesson to teach. He instructed the disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted”. Jesus didn’t even allow crumbs to waste. Is there any farmer out there who would rather sow his seed on hard or thorny ground as against fertile land?

27. I have gone to great lengths to demonstrate that the church must not waste it votes or sow same on unproductive grounds. Every Christian must see his vote as talents given to him by God to trade with and as seeds that must not be wasted. We do not even have the liberty to preserve our vote just like the wicked and lazy servant did to his talent, we must cast the vote in a fertile ground i.e the platform we know can win the election and nothing less or else. After all, is it in vain that it is said that Waste is worse than loss?

28. In closing let me remind us once more that the only way we can build a nation out of Nigeria is by doing the right things. A united, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria is possible if we go to work. We can start building that Nigeria of our dreams if we don’t waste our votes in the next election circle. Don’t be a wicked and worthless servant, invest the vote God has given you instead of wasting it.

29. Thank you for your kind attention. I wish you a fruitful deliberations. God bless you, and may God bless Nigeria.

Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara
20th September, 2022

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