2023: Reasons Yemi Osinbajo Presidency Will Instigate A Religious Civil War In Nigeria — Farooq A. Kperogi
A Yemi Osinbajo presidency would, without a doubt, plunge Nigeria into the depths of a smoldering religious volcano that will hasten its self-immolation. This isn’t some idly churlish oracular indulgence. It’s based on an intimate familiarity with Osinbajo’s trajectory of religious bigotry, overpowering anti-Muslim prejudice, and irrevocable devotion to the materialization of a Pentecostal, specifically RCCG, capture of the Nigerian state. Here’re 10 reasons for my fears:
1. The RCCG memo that asked churches to actively support its members vying for political offices was inspired by Osinbajo and is consistent with his history of exclusivist religious politics. In 2013, for example, he formed the Christian Conscience Group—along with Enoch Ajiboso, Dele Sobowale, and Most Reverend Joseph Ajayi—to champion the cause of a Christian governor of Lagos State.
According to a September 27, 2013, Daily Post news report titled “It’s time for a Christian to govern Lagos – Group,” the group was led by “former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos, who is also a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, Professor Yemi Osibajo.”
Just like he has masterminded the religionization of the politics of 2023, in 2013, Osinbajo delivered a lecture titled “Christianity, Politics, Now and Beyond” that instigated Christians to deploy Christian religious blackmail to force Tinubu to endorse a Christian governor for Lagos in 2015—in a part of Nigeria that deafens the rest of the country with the tiresomely sterile mantra that “religion doesn’t matter in Yorubaland.”
2. Osinbajo’s advocacy for a Christian governor in Lagos wasn’t inspired by any desire for religious pluralism. A Muslim has never been elected governor of Ondo and Ekiti states. In Ogun State, his natal state, Ibikunle Amosun is the only Muslim governor the state has ever elected since 1979, even though Muslims are at least 50 percent of the state’s population. Osinbajo is fine with that.
3. The strategy Osinbajo used to incite religious fervor in Lagos prior to 2015 is the precise strategy he’s using now. The RCCG memo is just a small part of a bigger religious incitement strategy.
On Nov. 5, 2021, for example, the Guardian reported Bishop Wale Oke, President Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), of which Osinbajo is a pivotal member, to have said, “We do not want another Muslim president come 2023.”
In another Feb. 12, 2022, interview with the Guardian, Oke said, “Not only should the South produce the next President, the next president ought to be a Christian, not a Muslim. This is very important.”
And in a Feb. 20, 2022, lecture in Jos, according to the Sun , CAN president Rev. Samson Ayokunle said Christians must unite to elect a Christian president. He said this during a lecture disturbingly titled “Defeating Your Enemies through the Power of Unity,” which creates the impression in the minds of his Christian audience that Muslims are “enemies” of Christians who must be defeated in 2023.
“In the last election, [Buhari] had about 14 million votes and that is not more than a population of two denominations in Nigeria talk more of [sic] the entire Christian body,” the CAN president said during the lecture. “If we are united, I can see rightly in the spirit, God knows the person and we by the mind of the spirit, we can know the person God want [sic] to use. We have leadership in CAN, and if we listen to the leadership, it will be well with us.”
4. Osinbajo is a suave, charming but toxic Islamophobic bigot who clothes his bigotry with oratory. He is only associating with Muslims because of his political agenda. He visits mosques ( with his shoes on — in a betrayal of his ice-cold disdain for the religion) and awkwardly utters salaams only as a stoop-to-conquer strategy.
Osinbajo’s overt Christianization of the 2023 election has already caused the normally secular Bola Tinubu to, on March 19, appeal to the Supreme Council for Shari’ah in Nigeria in Osogbo to create a political wing to support Muslims running for political offices because “Other religious groups have commenced political sensitisation by creating political departments or directorate among themselves to promote their own.”
You see what I’m talking about? That’s a first in the Southwest. The stigma of being labeled a “Muslim fundamentalist,” a favorite, overused rhetorical cudgel used to silence Yoruba Muslims, used impel Yoruba Muslims to grin and bear their suppression.
Osinbajo’s overt bigotry is blunting that. Imagine what will happen in the Muslim North should Osinbajo by any chance become president.
5. Osinbajo sees Muslims not as fellow citizens who practice a different faith but as lost souls in need of salvation. If they can’t be salvaged, they should be inferiorized, victimized, and excluded.
For instance, on Feb. 22, 2020, according to the Sunshine Truth , an Ondo State newspaper, during the funeral of the mother of former Ondo State governor Olusegun Mimiko, Osinbajo intentionally went out of his way to hurt the sensibilities of Yoruba Muslims when he gloated that the woman, identified as Mama Muinat Mosekonla Mimiko, left Islam for Christianity toward the end of her life,
This was a touchy subject because although Mama Muinat’s two children—former Gov. Olusegun Rahman Mimiko and Prof. Femi Nazheem Mimiko— converted to Christianity, she’d resisted pressures to leave Islam. She had been sustained in her Muslim faith by her US-based third son, Abbas Mimiko.
Many Yoruba Muslims who’d hoped that she’d continue to be steadfast in her Muslim faith in spite of immense pressure to leave it felt gratuitously mocked by Osinbajo when he crowed with perverse joy over her late-life conversion to Christianity.
If Osinbajo was just a pastor, that wouldn’t be out of line. In fact, it would be perfectly legitimate. But when you’re president or vice president, you wield enormous symbolic and cultural power. When you use that power in the service of divisive religious politics, you inflame raw passions that can provoke communal convulsions.
Imagine Atiku Abubakar attending the funeral of a late-life Muslim convert in Adamawa State (which has a vast indigenous Christian population) and gloating over the person’s conversion from Christianity to Islam.
6. Yoruba Muslims say there’s a “standing rule” in Osinbajo’s law firm, Simmons Cooper Partners, that the employment of Muslims there must be regulated, which has ensured that “99%” of people who work there are Christians.
In fact, someone confided in me that Osinbajo once asked an employee with a Muslim last name, who’s actually a Christian, if he thought about how his name might “work against” him, subtly encouraging him to change it.
7. Political Pentecostals want Osinbajo to be president so they can say that the prophecy of Pastor Enoch Adeboye– that one of them would become a president in his lifetime– has come to pass, which would then be used as a recruiting tool, particularly in Yorubaland.
But this is a dangerous game because it will inspire a sustained pushback from other Christian sects and from the Muslim North. When Saudi-trained Muslim clerics start to run for elective offices as a strategy to counter political Pentecostals and to also swell their ranks, a religious civil war would be a question of “when,” not “if.”
8. Osinbajo’s religious bigotry and Pentecostal Christian particularism aren’t anything we’ve ever seen in Nigeria before. Most politicians exploit religion to gain political power, but Osinbajo wants to exploit political power to advance a narrow, divisive religious agenda. That’s a big difference, and it’s a potentially destabilizing difference.
Osinbajo isn’t the only religious bigot in high office in Nigeria. I spent the last seven years calling out the religious bigotry of fellow northern Muslims, including calling out the northern Nigerian Muslim clerical establishment for being in bed with the Buhari regime, at the expense of my ostracism not just in my region but even in my hometown where Imams recited maledictions against me, but Osinbajo’s is in a world of its own.
9. In a previous article , I called Osinbajo a “matchbox” that a collision with a Muslim matchstick would cause to ignite a religious conflagration. He’s actually worse than that. He’s a flame. Like flames, he is rhetorically attractive, and the politically naïve like to hover around him like moths to flames, which end up burning them alive.
In a Nov. 10, 2019, column titled “The trials of Brother Osinbajo,” Nigerian Tribunecolumnist Festus Adedayo revealed that while Buhari was sick and away in London, Osinbajo attended a Redeemed Christian Church of God prayer session in his home state of Ogun where the pastor prayed for Buhari to die so that Osinbajo would take over as president “with the VP shouting [a] thunderous ‘Amen’.”
Osinbajo was so rattled by this revelation that he urged his media aide to frantically issue an incoherent, unconvincing denial. Otto von Bismarck is often credited with saying, “Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.” Incidentally, just last week, a Southwest friend confirmed to me the authenticity of this incident.
10. Although he is married to Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s granddaughter and even shares the same hometown as him, Osinbajo doesn’t share the late sage’s wisdom that politics and religion shouldn’t be merged.
In a perceptive January 27, 1961, lecture titled “Politics and Religion,” Chief Awolowo advised against the religionization of politics and the politicization of religion. “A religious organization should never allow itself to be regarded as the mouthpiece and instrument of the powers-that-be,” he said. “If it did, it would sink or swim with the government concerned…and would no longer be well-placed to tell the truth as it knows it.”
After 2023, let Osinbajo retire to the church. He has no business being the president of a complex, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic country like Nigeria.
Osinbajo’s anti-Muslim bigotry is especially surprising because, politically, he rode on the coattails of Muslims to get to where he is today. Prince Bola Ajibola, a devout Muslim who established one of Nigeria’s first Islamic universities, gave him his first political break when he appointed him as his Legal Adviser when he was Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation during the IBB regime. He again took Osinbajo along to the International Court of Justice.
Osinbajo’s next major consequential appointment was his choice as Lagos State’s Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General. He was given that job by Bola Ahmed Tinubu whom he is now fighting using Christianity as a dagger.
Tinubu introduced Osinbajo to Buhari whose opportunistic love for pastors to help dim his image as a Muslim fanatic caused him to pick him as Vice President.
So, beneath his harmless, debonair, smooth-talking exterior, Osinbajo is a vile, hateful, intolerant, inveterate, and treacherous religious bigot who will incite a religious civil war if he becomes president.
Religious civil wars are messy and dangerous. Few countries survive them. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Journalism & Emerging Media at Kennesaw State University, Peoples Gazette columnist and author of Glocal English & Nigeria’s Digital -Diaspora.