The debate over the 2023 general elections seems to be gaining momentum daily. This is irrespective of the fact that the current administration has more than three years to end.
That talks over the next election cycle, is to say the least, becoming destructive.
Little wonder the National Leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, called for the jettisoning of the 2023 debate.
Tinubu, after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, said attention should be focused on good governance, not the zone to produce the presidency in 2023. This admonition like others before it does not seem to make any meaning to the pro-2023 campaigners.
One of the vehicles that seems to be gainining prominence in this debate is the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN, which appears to have the backing of a religious body to produce a presidential candidate in the 2023 election.
Sources said ANN is believed to have the backing of the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye on this.
According to sources, the party is believed to be a launching pad for a Christian presidential candidate, particularly of the Redeemed Church stock.
However, an informed source close to Pastor Adeboye pooh-poohed this, claiming this kite is being flown by fifth columnists close to the President, with the intention of de-marketing Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
According to this source, the main idea of flying this kite is to poison the mind of the President against Osinbajo. The plan, it was learned, is to portray him as being disloyal to the ruling APC and therefore make his chances of succeeding Buhari slim.
Another impeccable source told Vanguard that the plot ultimately seeks to discredit Osinbajo, after which he would be replaced with a top religious cleric from the Southwest.
It’s absolutely premature—Bewaji, CODER scribe
Expressing disappointment over the 2023 debate, a one-time member of the House of Representatives and Secretary of Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform, CODER, Dr. Wunmi Bewaji, said it will cause distraction.
Bewaji said: As regards preparation, I think it is absolutely premature for any political party or group to start heating up the polity. “We all know there will be elections in 2023, but the current government has not spent a year of its four years tenure.
For anybody to start the talk, it will make us lose focus which means, we are ridiculing the electoral process. “I think there should be something about performance, the fulfillment of mandate and evaluation of the works of the government that have been elected.
How do we achieve this, which is part of the responsible citizenship we are talking about?
“If we jump from one election and start talking on the next election, where is the mandate, assessment, performance, and evaluation, amongst others?
“If you allow this government to perform, or not to perform, you allow the party to perform, deliver or not to deliver, that will shape whatever political discussion we are going to be having on the 2023 polls.
On religious bodies supporting a political party, he called on the Corporate Affairs Commission or the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to sanction such a body.
He said: “If there is any such religious body doing so, it is very shameful. It is shameful, and I will expect the Corporate Affairs Commission or the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to take appropriate action.
Religious bodies are charity organisations, so they do not have the license to involve in politics. In our constitution, there is a clear separation of the state from the church. The church does not interfere in the state, and the state does not interfere in church activities. Nigeria is a democracy, not a theocracy.
A situation where we allow any religious bigots to impose any candidate on us, I think it will be taking us back to centuries.”
It is wrong — Okorie
Also speaking, the National Chairman of United Progressives Party, UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie, faulted the development.
He said: “First, it is against the constitution of Nigeria. I don’t know the religious body they are talking about, I am a member of the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church can never do it.
It is not in the character of the Catholic Church to be partisan anywhere in the world. If they are talking of Christian bodies, maybe they are talking about Pentecostal.
“To use a religious denomination to endorse a particular candidate is not only dangerous considering the nature of our country as a multi-ethnic and religious society but also unconstitutional.
It could lead the nation into religious politics that could snowball into a religious war. The issue of religion is a matter of the heart, not a matter of the head.
“So if Muslims say they are endorsing a party that party will fail 10 times over. The same applies to this one that one denomination is supporting.”
RCCG denies involvement
But dissociating itself from the speculations that it is planning to adopt a political party ahead of the 2023 general elections, the church said there is no truth in such a rumour.
Speaking with Vanguard, the church’s head of Media and Public Relations, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, said there is no truth in such a rumour.
Olubiyi, who is also the Managing Editor of the official magazine of the church, the Redemption Light, said RCCG is home to everybody including politicians from different persuasions and cannot possibly align itself to a particular political party.
His words: “Besides, RCCG, a church organisation destined by the Lord Himself to take the world for Him, is not a political association which can transmute from its divine responsibility to affiliate itself with any political party to the detriment of its numerous members who belong to several political associations in the country.
“So there is no truth in that rumour. The RCCG has no desire to align itself with any political party ahead of 2023 or at any time. Ours is a spiritual organisation with a mission to take as many people with us to make heaven.
We intend to pursue that objective until every nation in the world is reached for the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Bakare keeps mum
Efforts, however, to get Pastor Bakare proved abortive as his telephone line was not reachable.