When the decision was taken to gag religious preachers in Kaduna, one of the thirty-six states that make up Nigeria, the hue and cry was loud and clear; Governor El-Rufia stay clear off the religious path! Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and the most religious; the thread line between Christians and Moslems is very thin and often erupt in deadly clashes, especially, in Kaduna State located in Northern Nigeria. The unique position of Kaduna is in its religious composition – the Northern part of the State is dominated by Muslims, while the South is populated by Christians. The administrative composition is always a Muslim Governor and a Christian Deputy. So the decision of the Governor to push legislation that will require both Christians and Moslem preachers to apply and get a preaching license struck the wrong cord amongst the indigent population and Nigeria as a country.
Nigeria, as Africa’s largest democracy, must been seen by others to uphold the tenets of fundamental human rights, especially, the rights of worship and expression. If the Governor’s bill scales through the State Assembly, it could spell doom for preachers of the gospel, selling of religious books, messages and outreach evangelism. The penalty for operating without a preaching license could end one in jail. Fiery ministers of the gospel in the country have gone as far as pronouncing God’s wrath upon the Governor for his anti-Christ posture, if he does not recall the bill from the State Parliament.
Governor El-Rufia’s defence of the bill was that it will help curb fundamentalist preaching and hate messages from the altars of ministers. While his excuse may be flimsy when examined in the light of the Christian gospel, it will hold sway among the Moslems; as the religious crisis of the state is often triggered off by sectional Moslem groups. The latest was the direct confrontation by the Shiite Islamic group against the Nigerian Military that resulted in more than 350 deaths in the State. Rather than tackle the problem of fundamentalist among the Islamic community, which is his immediate constituency, his approach simply ropes all into one net. That is what the Christians are kicking against, our religion has always and will always preach peace and good neighbourliness. We are not a violent religion and should not be classified as such.
As all awaits the outcome of the Religious Bill of Governor El-Rafia, our prayers are that the governor should respect the fundamental rights of his citizens and pray to God to guide him in tackling the Islamic zealots causing problems in his state.
Phillips Eteng, Evangelist.