Prof. Jacob Ayantayo of the University of Ibadan, has urged religious leaders in the country not to discourage their followers from participating in politics.
He also advised Nigerians to embrace religious neutrality and not to be sentimental on political issues.
Ayantayo, a Professor of Religious Ethics, Religion and Society, Religious Peace and Conflict Studies, said made the call on Thursday at a Konrad Adenauer Stifung Roundtable Interaction with Media and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Abuja.
“Religion is any system which relates with man to God or something else, and which embodies a creed, a code, a cult and a communion.
“Every religion possesses all the qualities so itemised, among other things and central to a religion, are beliefs about God or gods.’’
According to him, religion expresses itself in multifarious ways and forms; the theme of song makes topics ministering, finds vehicles in myths, folktales, proverbs and sayings and it is basis of philosophy.
He said that for this reason, politics and all its apparatus in the nation were understood and practised with reference to religion consciously and unconsciously.
Ayantayo said that to boost the vitality of religion towards successful 2019 elections, there was need to pray for good governance “in the now and future Nigeria’’.
He urged religious leaders to adopted methods such as persuasion, dissuasion, advocacy and moralising in attending to religious issues.
“Religious organisation can boost its vitality through debunking the thesis that politics is a dirty game and should not be played by religious leaders and followers.
“In the Old Testament, Joseph, Daniel and Nehemiah showed favourable disposition to the civil government of their time.
“For lslam, the traditional political concepts in lslam include leadership by elected or selected successors to the prophet known as Caliphs (Imamate for Shia).
“lslam does not make a line of demarcation between the profane and sacred,’’ he said.
The don said that there was a need for members of religious organisations to be part of formation of political parties.
“They should also be involved in the drafting of its manifestoes and behave responsibly to the extent that they would be qualified to be elected as executive members of parties or contest for public offices.’’
He, therefore, urged religious leaders to educate their followers that it was the constitutional right of every citizen, `including them`, to participate in political matters as provided in Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution.
“Religious leaders should have a directory of phone numbers and the WhatApp numbers of religious organisations through which valuable information about their expected roles in the election would be sent to them,’’ he said.
He urged religious leaders to discourage their members from engaging in electoral offences which were also contrary to their religious ethics.
Ayantayo, however, said that religious leaders should encourage judges handling election tribunals, whether Christians or Muslims, to make justice their watch-word.
“Media professionals dealing with elections and who are Christians or Muslims should also make justice their watch-word in dealing with electoral matters,’’ he stressed.