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Edo 2020: How race for governorship moves to churches

As electioneering campaigns for the September 19, 2020, governorship election in Edo State by political parties intensify, a religious dimension has been added to them.…

As electioneering campaigns for the September 19, 2020, governorship election in Edo State by political parties intensify, a religious dimension has been added to them.

Religious leaders have thrown caution to the wind by endorsing candidates of the various political parties, especially the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Fourteen political parties have registered for the election, but observers are of the view that the election is between the APC and the PDP; the two major parties in the country.

Recently, traditional rulers in the state threw caution to the wind and endorsed the candidates of the APC and the PDP during campaign rallies in their domains

Pundits condemned the development and argued that traditional rulers were supposed to be apolitical and fathers to all candidates.

But few weeks to the election, religious leaders have joined the traditional rulers by endorsing candidates for the election.

Interestingly, over 400 religious leaders were said to have endorsed Governor Obaseki and his Deputy, Philip Shaibu, of the PDP for a second term.

The religious leaders promised to mobilise thousands of their followers to vote for Gov. Obaseki’s PDP.

The religious leaders who are pastors in the Assemblies of God Church, said the governor’s re-election would enable the administration to consolidate on the successes recorded in the first term.

Endorsing the governor and his deputy in Benin, the Edo District Superintendent of the Assemblies of God Church, Rev. Dr. Joel Okogele, hinged their endorsement of the governor on his performance and outstanding achievements in the last three years and eight months.

Rev. Okogele said, “God gives power and power belongs to God. We are praying for the governor, his deputy, Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly and other government officials for the good work they are doing in the state.

“We are not prophets of doom, we are praying for him to be re-elected. Assemblies of God Church will support him and his administration. We will always go on our knees to pray for the success of the governor in the September 19, 2020, governorship election.”

Shortly after that, a coalition of Christian leaders in the state endorsed the APC candidate, Pastor Ize-Iyamu.

The coalition, comprising of church leaders cutting across various Christian denominations in the state, made the endorsement in a communique released at the end of its conference.

They said the endorsement was informed by various meetings in which the church leaders critically examined the interest of God in relation to the election and concluded that Ize-Iyamu’s SIMPLE agenda manifesto was a plan that would place Edo State and its citizens on the path of development.

The coalition encouraged Christians in the state, notwithstanding denomination, to vote massively for Pastor Ize-Iyamu and his running mate, Mallam Gani Audu.

The communique made available to journalists was signed by the Christian clerics, including Rev. Dr. Samson Igbinosa, Bishop Abraham Chigbundu, Bishop James Oriebama, Pastor Dele Balogun, Rev. Onyekachi Ogbaji, Rev. Dr. Joseph M. Okeleke, Bishop Iyobosa Atoe, Rev. Collins Okonofua, Apostle Emmanuel Igiehon, Bishop Dr. Osadolor Ochei, Rev. Osagie S., Bishop Osazuwa Eguavoen, Pastor Ikponmwosa Oiluke, and H.E. Rev. Dr. Peter Obadan.

Rev. Jeff Iyonawan said a politically disintegrated or disengaged church was a disservice to the kingdom of God as “you cannot influence a system from the outside.

“Before now, we had been told to stay away from politics and government because it is froth with corruption, whereas, a politically disintegrated or disengaged church is a disservice to the kingdom of God. You cannot influence a system from outside, you need to get involved.”

Meanwhile, some Muslims have also endorsed candidates.

Speaking on the development, Mr. John Isidaho, said the development called for concern because religious leaders were supposed to be fathers to all irrespective of political party.

Mr. Isidaho said, “It is not good for our politics, because their flocks are members of the different political parties and may not be happy with their pastors.

According to him, religious leaders are supposed to play fatherly and advisory roles to whoever that is seeking for election.

Another resident who only gave his as Osas sees nothing wrong in religious leaders endorsing candidates of political parties.

Osas said religious leadersd were members of political parties and as such they were free to endorse any candidate of their choice, but what I think is wrong is when such religious leaders are trying to force their choice on their followers.”

Pastor Solomon Nosa of Maximum Impact Ministry who spoke to Daily Trust, said endorsing politicians was a personal choice which everyone was entitled to.

Pastor Nosa said, “I have people in the church who are members of political parties, and I think Nigeria’s democracy should grow, even when we belong to different parties we should play and associate with one another.

“Even as a pastor, the fact that I am endorsing somebody doesn’t mean the other person is not good. It is a personal choice, I don’t believe that because I endorse somebody you should also follow. I tell my members that they have the free will to choose who they vote for.”

Nosa added that even if a religious leader endorsed a candidate, it did not mean the members would vote for such person because they would cast their votes alone.

For Rev. Sunny Akenbor of God’s Greater Grace General Assembly, religious leaders are not politicians; hence it is wrong to endorse any politician.

Rev. Akenbor said, “As religious leaders, if we have a candidate, we don’t have to come out and endorse such candidate, what we should do is to pray for them and that is the work of religious leaders and not endorsement.

“As the body of Christ, we need to pray for all the candidates, pray for peace and pray for God to choose the best candidate for us.”

According to him, in church, everybody cannot belong to one party, and that “if you endorse party A and some of your followers are in party B, then you have caused confusion in the church. I have never come out to say I belong to any candidate, but I have one.”

Martins Kola Edokpayi, a human rights activist, noted that the action of religious leaders endorsing candidates of political parties was not the way to go.

Kola who is the Speaker of Talakawa Parliament, said, “As religious leaders, you are supposed to be father to all the  candidates in terms of blessing and prayers, but in a situation where they endorse a particular candidate, it will discourage other candidates from visiting such leaders for prayers.

“We are fully aware of how religious leaders have endorsed both the candidates of the APC and the PDP without consulting their followers, not considering that their followers have right to vote candidates of their choice.”

He, therefore, appealed to religious leaders not to be partisan; by giving equal opportunities to the candidates whenever they chose to visit them and hear their manifestos.

He further said, “They are supposed to appeal to their followers to vote their conscience and should not sell their votes. And they are supposed to be neutral and bless all the candidates.”

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