The year 2022 has ushered in active political moves and activities ahead of the 2023 general elections. Prior to the election, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has conducted its convention and now has a formidable leadership in its National Working Committee (NWC) to lead the party into the elections and clinch the presidency from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
On the other hand, the APC is yet to settle on when and how its convention would hold. After the inglorious exit of its former national Chairman, Adams Oshiomole in 2020, the party has been managed by Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Committee led by the governor of Yobe state, Mai Bala Buni. Although the convention have been scheduled to hold on 26th February, there are indications that the Buni-lead CECC would prefer to sit tight. These are some of the factors and variables that would shape the elections in 2023.
However, while party politics and affiliation are determining factor in winning elections in Nigeria, amongst Christians, denominational leaning and background is a critical factor in politics in Christian dominated states especially in the southeast of the country. In the southwest due to the mixed population of Christians and Muslims denomination factor may not come to play in politics of the zone. In 2014, during the build up to the governorship election in Enugu state, Anglican Bishops in the state threatened to resist any attempt by the PDP to field Roman Catholics as both governorship and deputy governorship candidates in the 2015 election.
The clerics insisted that since Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the PDP candidate in the state is a Roman Catholic by faith, there is need for his running mate to be an Anglican, so as to give them a sense of belonging in the state.
The Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Most Rev Emmanuel Chukwuma, alleged that despite the huge population and contribution of Anglicans in the development of the state, Gov. Chime’s government marginalized them in areas of lands, schools and political appointments.
The Bishop said that the Anglican clerics were not against Ugwuanyi, “we wholeheartedly support his candidature because we believe that as it is now, there is no other candidate that is more credible than Ugwuanyi, but Ugwuanyi should not succumb to the pressure of selfish People who wants to perpetrate their sister or their brother as his deputy.
“We Anglicans say no to that kind of arrangement. We are not in minority in Enugu state and we totally reject that intention and we are warning that if they them to enjoy our cooperation, it should not be Roman Catholic/ Roman Catholic ticket.
“You can say these Anglicans like Jim Nwobodo, C.C Onoh were governors, but after that time all those who have been governors, they cannot prove to us that Anglicans have been governor or Deputy Governor. When Chimaroke Nnamani, a Methodist took over from Navy Capt Agbaje, he made Okechukwu Itanyi, a Roman Catholic his Deputy. After that, he handed over to Sullivan Chime who is a Catholic and Sullivan chose Onyebuchi, who is a Methodist as his Deputy.
“Now, he is going away again, Ugwuanyi Ifeanyi, we don’t have anything against his candidature, but we are saying give us an Anglican Deputy, otherwise you are looking for our trouble. If you look at Enugu state right now; if you talk about governor, not Anglican; deputy, not Anglican; Speaker not Anglican; SSG, not Anglican; Chief of Staff, not Anglican; where are we?
“Commissioners, we are marginalized, we don’t have good number, they are not more than three or four,’ the Bishop said.
A onetime governor of Anambra State, Chinwoke Mbadinuju said he was denied a second term ticket in 2003 because he was a Pentecostal and the people wanted a Catholic. “There are plenty of religious sentiments in Anambra politics. In the whole of Nigeria, it is ethnic sentiments and religious too, but in Anambra State, it en Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Pentecostals. It was much of that reason I was not allowed to contest second term. The Catholics believed it was their time and Peter Obi was chosen…”
In fact, since 2003, governors in the state, Chris Ngige, Peter Obi and Willy Obiano have been Catholics with the exemption of Anglicans like Senator Andy Uba and Virgi Etiaba, who had brief tenures.
In Imo state, the emergence of fierce catholic priest, Father Ejike Mbaka into the political space of the southeast created more deepened denominational politics. In the wake of a rumoured whip of a Catholic priest, the then governor of the state, Ikedi Ohakim became victim of denominational politics. Since then denomination has been a tool in the politics of the state.
Father Mbaka, who is of Enugu Diocese, joined in fuelling the rumour of the whipping off the Catholic priests. This led to the victory of Rochas Okorocha, a Catholic.
In Abia state, although the state is not fully dominated by any denomination, that politics reared its head in 1999 when Catholics were urged to vote the then All Peoples Party (APP) candidate, Vincent Ogbulafor, because he was a papal knight. However, electorates did not fall for the bait and this led to PDP’s Orji Uzor Kalu trouncing him clearly. Since then, denomination has never been an issue in the state. Since then, denomination has never been an issue in the state.
While ethnicity and religious affiliation influence politics success at the polls at the federal level, in the southeast zone, denomination is of critical importance. Critics are however weary that the denominational politics should in no matter affect the spiritual well being of faithful.