By Very Rev Dr Okegbile
Twenty two years ago, I was sent by Methodist Church Nigeria to serve as Presiding Chaplain, Chapel of Christ the Light (Interdenominational), Alausa, and later at the State House Chapel, Marina, Lagos. My pastoral work at the chapel afforded me a close understanding and religious maturity of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate, of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), and a former governor of Lagos, a state that is a microcosm of Nigeria in terms of religious diversity.
His matured management of religion as a way of life, ensured inter-religious harmony in Nigeria’s most industrialised state. Asiwaju Tinubu’s composition of his state Executive Council was a model of religious harmony, trust and love in Lagos State. Nations fail not due to climate, geography or culture. In the words of leading academics Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson, nation fails due to lack of ‘sound institutions that allows virtuous circles of innovation, economic expansion, more widely-held wealth and peace.’
Asiwaju Tinubu’s ability to blend economics, politics and history as a powerful and persuasive way of understanding wealth and poverty has potentials to place Nigeria on the path to peace and prosperity.
Thanks to God for the conclusion of all the political parties primaries and selections of candidates for 2023 general election in Nigeria. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s ‘hard decision’ and choice of a Muslim-running mate is not about Nigeria’s Islamisation or a look down on Christianity in Nigeria. Just as it is understandable and right for the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to express our feelings and fears about the choice of Muslim-Muslim ticket, it is important to note that ‘when religion is used for political purposes, it empties religion of its eternal meaning and becomes just one more cynical method of acquiring power.’
One is very sad about the unabated killings and kidnappings especially against the Christians in Nigeria but we must be very watchful not to allow any blasphemous campaign aimed at provoking anger against the person and aspiration of Asiwaju Tinubu. With practical experiences and encounters with Asiwaju Tinubu and his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, human life is very sacred.
Asiwaju Tinubu’s leadership vision for a better Nigeria is able to provide an assurance and commitment for Christian safety and freedom of worship. As a former governor who laid the 24 years development plan for Lagos State, Asiwaju Tinubu and his wife also instituted and hosted Lagos State annual Christian Thanksgiving Service at Lagos House, Marina, always led by CAN leaders. It was during the tenure of Asiwaju Tinubu as governor of Lagos State that Lagos State Christian Pilgrim Board was given a lifting up and constituted with members drawn across all the blocs in CAN.
I think CAN should give Asiwaju Tinubu the benefit of the doubt. This is based on the consideration of his political manifestoes, personal testimonies as a husband to a Christian wife and a pastor, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, and his openness to Christian community and leaders across Nigeria. Asiwaju Tinubu while serving as a governor of Lagos State did not stop her daughter, now Iya Loja – Folasade Tinubu- Ojo from being a member of a Christian church in Lagos.
I was introduced to Asiwaju Tinubu by Rev J Abimbola Odunlami, a former Conference Public Relation Officer, Methodist Church Nigeria. Upon my appointment as conference editor, Methodist Church Nigeria in 1993, I was put under the mentoring of Rev Odunlami. It was during one of my visits to Rev Odunlami’s residence at Victoria Island, Lagos, that I first met Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
In 2000, under the leadership of Asiwaju Tinubu, Lagos State government sought the support of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Lagos State, to volunteer a Christian clergy for the pastoral oversight of the newly built Chapel of Christ the Light (Interdenominational), Alausa, Ikeja. Only two churches responded namely: Methodist Church Nigeria and Foursquare Gospel Church of Nigeria. I was sent by Methodist Church Nigeria and became the first presiding chaplain. Asiwaju Tinubu and his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu were very regular in the chapel worships at Alausa especially during state’s special functions.
Since the creation of Lagos State in 1967, there was no worship place built for Christian worship in the governor’s residence at Marina House except a mosque built by the past administrations. In 2003, under the leadership of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, for the first time, the State House Chapel, Marina was built and dedicated with all the CAN leadership in attendance. Asiwaju Tinubu’s support to his wife enabled her to pray and lead other Christian staffs and friends at the State House in the mid-week, Sunday worships, and monthly all-night vigil at the State House Chapel, Marina, Lagos.
Asiwaju Tinubu’s form of religiosity is filled with love and welfare of others, Christian or Muslim. Asiwaju Tinubu’s adherence to the tenets of religion is about the practice of equality that benefits ‘all because talent is no respecter of faith; intellect is not limited to one religion. Diversity enhances societies while insularity destroys it.’
Asiwaju Tinubu not only demonstrates religious tolerance, he accommodates and ‘believes in that cardinal principle of the Nigerian Constitution that no one should suffer discrimination on the basis of creed or opinion.’
Very Rev Dr Okegbile, is a former Presiding Chaplain, Chapel of Christ the Light, Alausa, and State House Chapel, Marina, Lagos.