Is Jonathan's Government for Christians only?

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The President and Vice President during 2013 Sallah celebration

Recently, there has become heightened propaganda as to whether the President prefers to hire only Christians. Of course, any reasonable person that looks at individuals in the civil service will disagree, based on the sometimes bloated nature of northern workers, especially in Abuja. As 2015 gets closer, it may no longer be North versus South, but Christians versus Muslims that will be touted by the negative politicians. Nonetheless, the following names were sent to one our correspondents with Christian heads of Parastatals, MDA's and MDGs. The list being circulated to buttress their argument includes.

1 NIMET Dr. Anthony Anuforom
2 NNPC Eng. Andrew Yakubu
3 NIMASA Patrick Apobolokemi
4 PENCOM Mrs. Chinelo Anohu Amazu
5 FERMA Engr. Chukwu Amuchi
6 DPR Mr. George Osahon
7 Bank of Industry Ms. Evelyn Oputu
8 Nigerian Content Dev. Agency Ernest Nwanpa
9 Consumer Protection Agency Mrs Dupe Atoki
10 NCC Engr. Eugene Juwa
11 NAMA Engr. Nnamdi Udoh
12 NCAA Engr. Akikuotu
13 FAAN George Uriesi
14 NCAT Capt. Chinere Kalu
15 SEC Aruma Otteh
16 Sovereign Wealth Fund Uche Orji
17 NAFDAC Dr Paul Orhil
18 FIIRO Dr. Mrs. G. N Elemo
19 Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron Joshua Okpo
20 Railway Corporation Eng. Seyi Sijuwade
21 Nigerian Tourism Dev. Corporation Mrs. Sally Mbanefoh
22 Budget Office of The Federation Dr Bright Okogwu
23 NERDC Prof. Godswill Obioma
24 NEXIM Mr R. R Orya
25 Standard Organization Of Nigeria Dr Joseph Odumodu
26 Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation Emeka Nkem Mba
27 Industrial Training Fund Prof. Longmas Wapmuk
28 National University Commission Prof. Okojie
29 NESREA Mrs. N.S Benebo
30 MDG Office Dr. Precious Gbenio
31 Surveyor General Of The Federation Peter Chigozie
32 Statistician General Of The Federation Dr. Yemi Kale
33 Accountant General Of The Federation Mr. Jonah Otunla
34 Auditor General Of The Federation Samuel Yonongo Ukura
35. National Orientation Agency Mike Omieri
36. News Agency Of Nigeria Oluremi Oyo
37. NEPC E/S David I Adulugba
38. NEPZA Mr. Olugbenga Kuye
39. BPP Engr Emeka

Is President Goodluck Jonathan running a Christian government?
Of those listed, only Dr. Bright Okogwu, is an Urhobo. This issue of religion was almost heightened in the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) election, but was thankfully doused. Some people tried to taint a candidate by claiming he practiced igbe, while his opponent was a “Christian.” Everyone knows that the Vice President Architect Mohammed Namadi Sambo is a Muslim, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria Justice Mariam Aloma Muhktar, is a Muslim, and the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar is also a Muslim, along with the Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.

Why is it that we as a nation cannot jettison ethno-religious sentiments? When you go to most offices, you easily know where the appointee is from, or his religious predilection? Of the four ministers that left office recently, all appear to be Christians. Are we saying they must be replaced by Christians? Generally, when a Minister from a State is sacked or resigns, the governor of that state will nominate a replacement. Some states historically have larger number of its population embracing a religion. Nonetheless, if a candidate from a minority religion is qualified, that person should not be excluded.

I guess the military framers of our constitution knew that religion will be a problem. That is why the 1999 constitution is replete with cautionary references to religion. From Section 10 Prohibition of State Religion, Section 38 Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and Section 15(2) which states “Accordingly, national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.”

Other provisions preclude political parties based on religion (Section 222). Section 42 is also important. The point is that if this country should move forward, the ethno-religion card should not be played.

In January, Muslim Media Watch Group commended the President for signing the anti-same sex marriage law. Also, the president has always joined Muslims in their celebrations and last month was quoted as saying “As Muslims in the country join believers in other parts of the world in celebrating the Prophet's birth, President Jonathan urges them to offer special prayers during the Eid-el-Maulud for greater peace, unity and progress in Nigeria.”

Of course, the President is cognizant of Section 14(3) of the constitution which states that “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.” This by implication will mean that there should be a religious balance as some ethnic groups in Nigeria predominantly practice a particular religion.

The powers that be changed our national anthem in 1978 from “Nigeria We Hail Thee” to the current “Arise O Compatriot.” Nonetheless a lyric from the old anthem is worth repeating, especially as we celebrate our centenary. “Though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand.”

No one in their right mind can accuse the President of running a Christian government. The facts clearly state otherwise or as the book states for us lawyers, “the evidence demands a verdict” to the contrary.

*Akpodiete is an author, Computer Scientist, Educator, Consultant, lawyer, Political Analyst & Social commentator. He has a Doctorate degree in Jurisprudence from the US. He has lectured Law, Ethics and Security & Intelligence Studies at the University level here in Nigeria and US. He also writes for a state daily newspaper & national monthly journal. He currently divides his time between Nigeria and USA where he runs an international capacity building firm. Contact him on 08138391661 or [email protected]

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Articles by Prof. Alex O. Atawa Akpodiete, Esq.