Since the assumption of power in May 1999, President Obasanjo has left nobody in doubt his self-declared status as a ‘born-again’ Christian, following his conversion at the Yola Prison. To underscore this, he built and commissioned a chapel in the Aso Villa and has a resident, ministering priest as part of the package. This is fair enough.
A notable practice of the different Heads of State, Governors, Ministers and other top government functionaries, who have ruled and in many cases, ruined our country, is how much effort these people have expended to underline their religious bona fide, through outward displays of religious zeal, and an unrivalled ability to manipulate the religious passion of the Nigerian people.
It follows, that the Nigerian ruling class makes very loud claims to religious piety, enjoy photo opportunities in mosques and churches, yet have always breached the basic doctrines of the great religions, where they speak about governing justly and shunning avarice and corruption.
It is part of our national legacy, that as the crises of the neo-colonial state have deepened, with the people finding escapist routes in fervent fundamentalist religious confessions, so has the proclivity of the ruling circles to exploit and manipulate religion reached new heights.
It seems to us, that no government in recent times has taken this cynical manipulation to the heights, which we have been witnessing under President Obasanjo. It has become de rigueur every week on public television, for the viewers to be inflicted with the spectacle of a live telecast of the Sunday Service at the Villa chapel, an event which is unprecedented in our national life, ostensibly to showcase how passionately religious our president is!
We are used to television clips recorded from mosques and churches, during the significant religious festivals such as Eid, Easter or Christmas showing the religious devotion of our leaders. But to have to endure a weekly barrage from the presidency is a new departure in our rulers’ political and manipulative use of religion on the nation’s leading public television medium, the NTA.
Knowing the way the minds of our rulers work, a new set, who are Muslims, might of cause take a cue from what Obasanjo and his overzealous Information Minister Jerry Gana, have commenced, by wishing that they also be broadcast live, from their Jumat service, every Friday. Thus further deepening mutual suspicion amongst adherents of the religious faiths in the country.
We believe that President Obasanjo, Prof. Jerry Gana and other habitués of the Villa Chapel, have the right to worship as fervently as they do each Sunday. However, they cannot continue to inflict their worship on us through the Nigerian Television Authority. The telecast should stop, unless there is evidence that it has been paid for just like other religious groups do. The medium of television is a national patrimony, which President Obasanio, Prof. Jerry Gana and the authorities of NTA have absolutely no right to use for a cynical manipulative and divisive religious agenda.
The religious worship of President Obasanjo is a communion between him and God, and should be left where it belongs, in the holy sanctuary of the Aso Villa Chapel. A weekly telecast on television is certainly an abuse of presidential privilege and it intrudes into the rights of Nigerians who are the collective owners of the Nigerian Television Authority over whose airwaves these religious services are broadcast weekly.