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Playing The God Card


In oil-rich but poverty-stricken Nigeria, God, business and politics go hand in hand. Corrupt politicians often justify their actions by proclaiming God's support.


By Chippla Vandu


When Nigerian politicians want to lie or conceal the truth, they turn to a higher power. That is, they bring God into the issue.


While playing the God card isn't unique to Nigerian politicians, the brazen and shameless manner in which they do it perplexes one. Now, we cannot run away from the fact that multiethnic Nigeria is made up of people most of whom claim to be religious.


The Nigerian constitution affirms to a higher power and the second stanza of the Nigerian national anthem calls on this higher power to "direct" the "noble cause" of its people.

When the Nigerian president was
asked by the Washington Post whether he would be running for a third term in office, his reply was that "God would decide whether to extend his time as president."


Now, such a statement is not only careless but also insincere and deceitful. Replace the word "God" with "those I am currently relying on to get the constitution amended" and you begin to understand that when Nigerian politicians talk about God in public, they are hardly ever referring to a higher power but digressing from pressing issues.

The fact that Mr. Obasanjo went forward to say that he believes that "God is not a God of abandoned projects. If God has a project, He will not abandon it," just shows to what extent he is willing to go in playing the God card.


Such a statement could be mistaken as coming from some Pentecostal Christian preacher in Nigeria.


Increasingly, a growing number of Nigerian Pentecostal churches—which appear more as businesses these days—evoke titular references of God to get their congregations to donate money to the church. "Our God is a God of the rich, our God is a God of those that never want, our God is a God of this, a God of that, a God that never fails..."

In the opinion of this writer, the reference to God by Mr. Obasanjo was totally out of place. If the Nigerian president wants people to take him seriously when he speaks, he must stop playing the God card carelessly in public.


Not surprising is the fact that Mr. Obasanjo's spokesman, Femi Fani-Kayode defended the statement made by his boss by saying:

"What he [Mr Obasanjo] said is that God is not a God of abandoned projects. What he was referring to are the economic policies of this nation. What he's referring to are the economic reform programmes that this administration has set in place."


Mr. Kayode also described Nigeria as "nation of believers" in which "God rules in the affairs of men." One could only laugh off such a statement.


Mosques may be jam packed on Fridays, and churches brim full on Sundays, but these do not make Nigerian society one where God rules the affairs of men and women.


Expect to hear more God rhetoric as the battle continues on whether Mr. Obasanjo’s tenure of office should be extended. And each time you hear the word "God" publicly mentioned by a Nigerian politician, ignore it.


It is simply a way of deviating from the real issues.


Vandu is a Nigerian writer and academic based in Holland. He blogs as Chippla.


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God and Politics in Nigeria

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