As the 2023 general elections draw closer, candidates of participating political parties have intensified campaigns. Among them are some clerics who are leaving their primary calling for the political arena. Daily Trust Saturday chronicles seven of these clergymen who have indicated interest for different political offices even though there are many others.
A Bishop as presidential running mate
Among clerics vying for elective positions in the forthcoming elections is Bishop Isaac Idahosa. He is the vice presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
Narrating how the party’s standard bearer, Rabiu Kwankwaso, chose him as his running mate, Idahosa, who spoke during a live appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, said he had no ambition to vie for a political office at the time he was unveiled as the NNPP vice presidential candidate in July.
“If you want me to give a little background about how I came in, during the Sallah break, he (Kwankwaso) called me, ‘Bishop, where are you?’ I said I was in Lagos. He said, ‘Could you come to Kano so we can have Sallah celebration together?’
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“I got into Kano and was greeted by a large crowd of people. He does this every Sallah, feeding people. He asked me to greet the people; and you know I speak Hausa very well. He said, ‘Bishop, how are you going to greet them, in Hausa or English?’ I said, ‘Hausa.’
“Then we went on and everyone was agog. He never had to tell me what was on his mind. About 12 midnight, he called me. That was about a week to the closure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) portal,” Idahosa said.
A sheikh in the Kano governorship race
Also vying for election in the forthcoming polls is Sheikh Malam Ibrahim Khaleel, an Islamic scholar based in Kano State, who has been in the centre of politics for long.
He was a member of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and contested for the governorship of the state in the 2011 elections. A renowned Islamic cleric and chairman of the Kano Council of Ulama, Sheikh Ibrahim Khalil recently decamped from the ruling party in the state, the APC and joined the African Democratic Congress (ADC).
He said he dumped the APC because of the crisis rocking the party in Kano. It could be recalled that there has been a feud between the cleric and the Kano State Government since he left his position as a special assistant to the governor, a move that led to an attempt to remove the cleric from his position as the chairman of the Council of Ulama. But the state government denied the allegations.
The sheikh emerged the party’s flag bearer as he was the only aspirant that obtained the gubernatorial aspiration form and accordingly emerged as consensus candidate.
Alia for Benue governorship
Among clerics seeking to be elected in the forthcoming polls is The Rev. Fr. Hycainth Iormem Alia, who is the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State.
He had spent at least 32 years on the pulpit of the Catholic Church before his entry into politics in 2022.
Before now, Alia’s name evoked the memories of healing mass sessions he conducted weekly at the Saint Thomas Parish Catholic Church in Anum, situated directly opposite the Benue State University (BSU) in Makurdi.
He was a well known crowd puller during those healing masses at the various parishes he shepherded before his sudden venture into politics a year ago.
Alia was born on May 14, 1966 in Mbangur, Mbadede in Vandeikya Local Government Area of Benue State, to the family of Mr and Mrs Thomas Katsina Alia. He has worked in God’s vineyard in many places, both at home and abroad. Many of his parishioners describe him as the “Father Mbaka” of Benue.
Until his entry into politics, Alia held sway as project director for the proposed Catholic University, Ankaa-Vandeikya, of the Catholic Diocese of Gboko. His name no doubt rings a bell as far as christianity is concerned in Benue.
Following his declaration to run for the office of the Benue State governor, the Catholic Church in Gboko Diocese of Benue State suspended him indefinitely.
The Bishop of Gboko Diocese, Bishop William Avenya, sent Alia a letter dated May 20, suspending him from public ministry “after a series of admonitions to him” were ignored.
“The Mother Church does not allow her clerics to get involved in partisan politics on their own.” Alia was, therefore, suspended because of “the spiritual and pastoral needs of the Church. This canonical suspension takes effect from the moment it is communicated to him and lasts until he ceases from contumacy,” the letter read.
Nonetheless, he paid the sum of N50 million and obtained the nomination form of the APC. After the screening process, he was cleared to participate in the party’s primary, alongside 11 other aspirants.
Cross River clergymen
Clergymen are not left out among the candidates vying for different positions in different political parties for governorship, state House of Assembly and House of Representatives.
One of them is a former minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani. He is a pastor in Liberty Church, Calabar. He is the governorship candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in the state.
He is not a fulltime pastor who presides over a branch of the church but has been more involved in politics since he left the teaching service to become a commissioner. He was a chairman of the APC in Cross River State before he was appointed as minister of Niger Delta Affairs.
Another cleric vying for a political office in Cross River is Essien Ayi, an apostle in a church he founded. The church, which is situated in Calabar, is not known to have branches.
Ayi is vying to return to the House of Representatives to represent the Akpabuyo/Bakassi/Calabar federal constituency. If successful, he would be spending over 25 years in that seat.
The third and the youngest of them all is Ogar Osim, the governorship candidate of the Labour Party. In his late 40s, Osim has been a fulltime priest who holds a senior rank at a church called Patriarch Christ Shepherd.
He has been posted to several stations of the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star in many states of Nigeria and African countries as station priest.
He spent nearly 10 years as a station priest in South Africa, during which he earned a journalism degree.
In Akwa Ibom State, the current Commissioner for Land and Water Resources, Pastor Umo Eno, has been ‘anointed’ by Governor Udom Emmanuel to succeed him as his preferred successor.
Governor Emmanuel, while justifying the choice of the pastor as his preferred successor said, “I mean well for this state, that is why I waited for God to show me the man who would continue with the pace of developmental strides we have started in the last six plus years and then move the needle even further.
“Pastor Umo Eno is a highly respected person. He has enormous capacity, he is an epitome of humility and is blessed with a common touch, a compelling story; and he is God-fearing.
“He is a successful entrepreneur who has employed our people, lifted thousands from poverty to prosperity. He will be coming to the office of governor with an economic blueprint that would further guarantee employment, development and economic prosperity for our people.
“He is a man of peace and will ensure that the peace and security of life we have enjoyed in the last six plus years will be maintained. His life story resonates with the story of most ordinary Akwa Ibom people.”
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