By Yakubu Lamai
Recently a video clip surfaced on the internet where Bishop David Abioye delivered a clarion call for Christians to vote ONLY for Christians in Nigerias election, as he stated verbatim:
By admonishing Christians to vote for only Christians in the elections, Bishop Abioye willfully put a wedge to interfaith dialogue that has kept the fragile peace for years in Nasarawa State.
The man of God also unwittingly sowed the seed of conflict in the hearts of cross-religious married couples and close-knit families which God Almighty had joined together despite that members of the same family may profess different religions.
Abioye deliberately ignited mutual suspicion between impressionable youths and village peasants of different religions who had hitherto lived peacefully together for years in small communities of Nasarawa state.
And at the national level by stoking the embers of religion, Bishop David Abioye also put at risk the potential for social change and national transformation within the Nigerian political space—where men of goodwill and sincere patriots have begun to advocate the notion that political office holders should henceforth be voted for on the basis of competence, character, vision and evidenced-based records of candidates, rather than the religion politicians profess!
In this last week since the online video sermon of Bishop David Abioye surfaced; the coloration of the entire political campaign in Nasarawa State has taken a turn for the worse as brothers have turned against their own relatives with hateful messages and threats of religious superiority have rented social media just as sentiments, angry words, retorts and insults have beclouded civic discourse in Nasarawa State.
So, who is Bishop Olatunji Abioye and what does he stand to gain by turning Nasarawa State into another volatile Plateau or combustible Kaduna State? The answer is not farfetched.
David Abioye is a firebrand minister who was consecrated Bishop in June 1993 at the young age of 32 years, making him one of the two youngest Pentecostal Bishops ever consecrated in the history of Living Faith Church in Nigeria.
Abioye speaks without any modicum of restraint especially on issues of national import, and he is the Senior Pastor of the Living Faith Church, Goshen City which has over 30,000 worshippers.
If you look at the political geography of Abioyes worldview, and why he will dabble into the local politics of Nasarawa State; you will see that although Goshen City is ‘deliberately’ referred to online as being ‘the Abuja Living Faith Church’; the reality is that Goshen City is located in Nasarawa State (and not the FCT-Abuja), between Masaka and Uke, at Kilometer 26 Keffi-Abuja Road.
This means that the land upon which Goshen City is built; and all other land in the territory of Nasarawa State is vested solely in the Governor of the State, who holds such land in trust for the people of Nasarawa State and who by law, is responsible for the allocation of land to individuals and to organizations like Living Faith for the religious purpose of building Goshen City, etc.!
In the Bible, the word “Goshen” represents a “land of plenty and comfort and in the Bible, the Land of Goshen refers to an area in ancient Egypt east of the Nile delta that the king of Egypt gave to Jacob and his descendants; and the Israelites resided in Goshen until the Exodus from Egypt, and we know that the Egyptians were not Christians.
So, while to Christians, “Goshen” has a supernatural provision from God that promises His people prosperity in the midst of crisis; one is forced to wonder if a Pastor of long-standing experience like Bishop David O. Abioye also sees the unique significance of his dwelling in Goshen City between Masaka and Uke, as his spiritual fortress of war from where he can decide who becomes governor of Nasarawa State?
Meanwhile before he came to Goshen City, Abioye was the senior pastor of Garden of Faith in Kaduna, which was the former national headquarters of Living Faith Church, from where Bishop Oyedepo left for Lagos. And Kaduna as we all know, remains the hotbed of Nigerias religious crises with its own invisible Berlin Wall that ‘permanently’ separates the Muslim Kaduna North from the Christian Kaduna South.
Nigerians will recall that a few years ago, there was a prognosis widely propagated by foreign intellectuals and policy analysts that Nigeria will finally break up by 2015 on the basis of fault lines of religious, economic and social imbalance. This is 2023 and somehow God has continued to keep Nigeria from disintegrating.
A close look at Plateau and Kaduna States however, shows that religion continues to build a wall against national unity and cohesion because these two states have experienced internecine violence resulting in the loss of at least 7,000 lives in interreligious violence since 2001.
Bishop David Abioye left the religious battle field of Kaduna State and was posted to Goshen City in Nasarawa State, which is why he came with the mental fixation that (in his own words) . “CHRISTIANS are … “BEING TRAMPLED UNDER THE FEET, and Christians are . “CALLED MINORITY GROUPS WHEN THEY ARE NOT!”
It is evident from his inciting sermon that Bishop David Abioye does not know or understand that Nasarawa State is at peace with itself and as in the words of the Nasarawa State anthem: though we differ in tribe, we are undivided and steadfast!”
The people of Nasarawa State are not naïve or unaware that the political elite have concentrated on igniting religious differences to gain greater leverage in the fierce competition to win the 2023 elections because of the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kashim Shettima.
But while going into the 2023 campaigns, the President-Elect himself, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu had explained that some people counselled him to select a Christian running mate, so as to garner support of the Christians; while others said he should select a Muslim running mate to create the semblance of religious parity.
However Tinubu on his part, restated his position on mixing religion with politics when he affirmed that: “I will select the best people for the right jobs so that we can construct a better Nigeria now and for generations yet to come”because all my life, the decisions regarding the team supporting me (in politics) have always been guided by the principles of competence, innovation, compassion, integrity, fairness, and adherence to excellence and in this crucial moment, where so much is at stake, we must prioritize leadership, competence, and the ability to work as a team over other (religious) considerations!”
Tinubus candid reasoning however has not stopped the religious bias and preconceived prejudices of people like Bishop David Abioye who is supposed to be a man of God filled with grace and caution as he carries forth the messages from God and delivers them to the people.
According to the Merriam-webster dictionary, a sermon is defined as a public speech usually by a priest, minister or rabbi for the purpose of giving religious instruction” which invariably implies that a sermon should focus on bringing people the full truth of God’s word and not the political view or opinion of the Pastor.
While a preacher can “preach with action in mind, his goal should not be to instigate religious division, but to impart faith into adherents so that they can listen, hear, read, learn and inwardly digest Gods Holy Word, such that they can embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life in the daily conduct of their lives.
In Christendom, preachers and men of God are admonished in Colossians 4:6 as to how they should speak when delivering a sermon: Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man, and Ephesians 4:29 says Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. “
But alas that is not the case, as we see have seen how Bishop Abioye has read the riot act and instigated his Christian followers with his inflammatory rhetoric and inciting sermon.
While it is acceptable for a preacher like Pastor David Abioye to champion the growing interest in minority groups and the political rights and entitlements, they are due, or even call his flock to an actionable challenge when he says: “Do not vote for corrupt politicians”; but it becomes reprehensible for renown pastor of global standing to say to his congregation; VOTE ONLY FOR YOUR FAITH!”
Because when a Pastor says to his followers VOTE FOR YOUR FAITH! and campaigns on the basis of religiosity in a secular society, such a preacher immediately turns one religion against the other religion.
We live in a world of point and click intelligence today, where the people are bombarded by countless conflicting messages on the internet, but on examination of these fault lines illustrates that ethnicity and religion are not the driving force behind Nigerias conflicts but rather narratives politicized to mobilize support for economic, regional, and political goals. Clement Mweyang Aapengnuo observes, People do not kill each other because of ethnic differences; they kill each other when these differences are promoted as the barrier to advancement and opportunity. “
Finally, as Bishop David Abioye has unsuccessfully tried to push Nasarawa State to the brink of religious intolerance, I feel it is necessary to educate him the quiet character of Governor Abdullahi A. Sule.
A.A. Sule is a man of prayer, a man of honesty and a man for whom integrity has ceased to be an option, but a way of life. In Nigeria’s political history, Engr Abdullahi A. Sule is the only sitting Governor who has proclaimed many times that in everything he does, that he fears the day that he will stand before God Almighty and give account of his stewardship. So clearly, as a state and a government, we have a leader who does not support anyone, of whatever religion who will threaten the peace through inciting or inflammatory public statements!
Engr Abdullahi A. Sule came into office on May 29th 2019 having conceived a living document called “NEDS”, (the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy), whose objective is to unlock the inflow of investments and propel Nasarawa State to become one of the top three most competitive states in Nigeria by 2023, which will mark the end of his first tenure in office.
To God be the glory, the target set by Engr A. A. Sule for his first term in office has already been achieved and under Sule’s watch, the World Bank has rated Nasarawa State three times as the most transparent state in Nigeria and the most improved in IGR: internally generated revenue.
We in Nasarawa State are proud and blessed to have a Governor in the person of Engr Abdullahi A. Sule, for whom piety is a way of life and one whose style of leadership is anchored on peacebuilding, inclusion and institutionalizing open governance and prudent management of scarce resources.
Bishop David Abioye has the right to campaign for any candidate of his choice, but on election day; the good people of Nasarawa State will show the world that God does not reside in a particular religion over the other. If God wanted us to all belong to one religion, the Almighty will have ordained it as such.
Governor Abdullahi A. Sule is a political leader who is at peace with being a man of God, who accepts all religions and ethnic groups of Nasarawa State which is why he visibly exemplifies the moral etiquette of a humble, inclusive and committed Godly life, and he remains a spark, an inspiration and candle to what worthy political leadership is meant to be and can become in Nigeria.
So, no matter the outcome of the election, we are comfortable with the verdict of God Almighty on March 11th 2023 and our people shall neither vote nor fight over religion.
Yakubu Lamai is Director General: Strategic Communication to H.E. Engr Abdullahi A. Sule-Governor of Nasarawa State.

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