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Mr. Peter Obi, Labour Party (LP) Presidential Candidate

A matter of justice: Why voting Peter Obi makes Biblical sense By Isuwa Atsen, PhD

Mr. Peter Obi, Labour Party (LP) Presidential Candidate

In this short essay, I attempt an exercise in Christian political theology in the context of Nigeria’s 2023 Presidential Election. I write as a Christian theologian from Plateau State and make the case why voting for Peter Obi is the right thing to do.

Injustice against the Igbos

According to rough estimates, Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic groups across her six geopolitical zones: North West, North East, North Central, South West, South East, and South South. But way back in my primary school days, we were taught that there are three major ethnic groups in our country, namely: Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo.

While the other two major ethnic groups have governed the country at different times and for long stretches of time, the same cannot be said of the Igbos. The only time that an Igbo person served as the head of government in Nigeria was the six months (yes, NOT years, but six MONTHS) of Aguiyi-Ironsi’s military junta (Jan – July 1966). What this means is that an Igbo person has never governed the country as a democratically elected head of government since the nation’s Independence.

I do not want to go into the long history of what happened and who should be blamed for what because there is enough blame to go round. Instead, what I simply want to underscore is the fact that in our 62 years of being an independent nation, we have somehow succeeded in preventing one of our so-called major ethnic groups from governing the nation. I see a twofold consequence of this collective action (or inaction) on our part.

The first is that, if we continue to ignore the Igbo’s feeling and expression of marginalization, Nigeria as a nation will experience divine judgment. Scripture clearly shows us that our God is the God of justice who loves justice and punishes those who carry out any form of injustice. In 2 Samuel 21:1-14, we see that even when an injustice was carried out by his own people (Israelites) against those who were not his people (Gibeonites), God would not spare his own people. This is because “righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne” (Ps 89:14; 97:2).

It is in this sense that I see Nigeria standing in the way of divine justice. Unless we collectively decide to end our intentional national injustice against the Igbo people, Nigeria will experience some form of divine judgment sooner rather than later. I make this postulation not necessarily as prophecy, but as a kind of prophetic mimesis.

By prophetic mimesis, I mean an indirect application of the divine warnings and judgments of God against various nations as recorded for us in the OT prophetic books. The point is that anywhere injustice is found on earth, God sees it and sets a time for it. He then sends judgment unless the injustice is reversed before his set time. I have this sense that 2023 is Nigeria’s set time.

The second consequence besides divine judgment is a rather practical one. By keeping the Igbos out of the number one position in the country, Nigeria has only succeeded in hurting itself. The wise often say that you do not cut your nose to spite your face. That would be ridiculous. But it seems Nigeria has chosen to be ridiculous all these years. How so?

We all know that whatever else you may say about the Igbos, they are some of the most inventive, industrious, and ingenious set of people in Nigeria and Africa. They seem to me to be naturally gifted when it comes to the pursuit of enterprise and innovation, making a success story out of very challenging situations. So, when we refuse to let one of them lead us as a nation, we are effectively denying ourselves the common good that would result from their natural ingenuity. We cannot reject a gift God has given the nation and still expect the nation to progress at the same level with nations that are governed by their best.

Obi and Our Date with Destiny

From the foregoing, I have attempted to show that on the basis of righteousness and justice, Christians in Nigeria are obligated to vote for an Igbo presidential candidate. This is our path to healing the nation, averting divine judgment, and appropriating all of the diverse human resources and capacities available to us. In this section, I wish to go further and make the case that Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) presents us with an opportunity to do just that.

In fact, if Obi becomes the President of Nigeria, the nation will do very well. Since justice delights the Lord, instead of raising his hand of judgment against Nigeria, his hand of blessing will be upon her to prosper her. This is why every non-Igbo who tried to or is still trying to become Nigeria’s President in 2023 has actually put his or her personal ambition above the collective good and well-being of the nation.

It is true, Obi himself has said that no one should vote for him because he is Igbo. But I can say with a high sense of confidence that it is first and foremost because he is Igbo that every Nigerian should vote for Obi. This is because by the justice and righteousness of God, a non-Igbo President will greatly struggle to govern, and this will only bring more hardship to the whole nation.

However, even more than this crucial fact of coming from the right ethnic group at this moment in Nigeria’s history, Obi checks other important boxes for the kind of President that Nigeria needs right now. I do not intend to go over all of them, but I will highlight just two that I consider to be consistent with the biblical requirements of a good leader.

First, Obi is incorruptible. He is not a greedy man, or one given to avarice and waste. Scripture says, “Blessed is the land… whose princes eat at a proper time—for strength and not for drunkenness” (Eccl 10:17). Most of our political leaders are extremely wasteful of our commonwealth because they eat out of greed and for drunkenness. People like Obi, in the Nigerian political space, are probably less than ten. And given our present economic quagmire due mainly to corruption, mismanagement, and waste, Obi is exactly the kind of leader that Nigeria needs right now. Otherwise, Nigeria will most likely not survive her current fiscal and economic troubles.

Second, Obi is tolerant, respectful, and accommodating. He seems to be interested in the good of all parts of the nation rather than just his own part. This is an important quality because a good leader must pursue the common good for everyone in society, and not only the good of those from his ethnic group or religion (cf. Rom 13:3-4). In fact, anyone who uses government or public office to give Christianity some undue advantage over other religions is not doing the will of the God and Father of Jesus Christ. This is because Jesus himself told us that we should be perfect like God who causes rain to fall on both the righteous and the wicked (Matt 5:45).

As such, it is unchristian for Christian political leaders to imitate Muslim political office holders who use public office for the good of Islam only to the detriment of non-Muslims in their jurisdictions. When public office is used for public (or common) good, everyone in society enjoys equal benefits and thrives. This is righteousness and justice in leadership. Thus Proverbs 11:10 says, “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.”

Obi seems to be fair-minded and more interested in nation-building broadly speaking, rather than pursuing a narrow “Christian agenda” or working only for the interest of Christians and Christianity. So, Nigeria has a rare opportunity to experience nation-wide rejoicing and shouts of joy with Obi as her President.

Conclusion

Therefore, irrespective of political party affiliations, Christians have an obligation to enthrone justice in Nigeria. In this election cycle, we should participate with God in his work of dethroning the proud and their structures of injustice in Nigeria and enthroning the humble and marginalized to the place of power (Luke 1:51-52).

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