Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has declared that as long as Nigeria continues to mismanage its plurality, the country may not make progress.
He also said he knew many Nigerians that wanted to move out of the country because they could not get what they wanted.
Obasanjo said this on Monday at the 9th Toyin Falola Annual International Conference held at Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State.
The ex-military ruler, who was flanked by the Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Prof Is-haq Oloyede, who representated Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; and Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, said there was no Nigerian that did not wish the country well .
He said most Nigerians were not happy because they could not get their heart desires, hence they wanted to leave the country.
The theme of the conference was ‘Religion, the State and Global Politics.’
Obasanjo, in a paper titled, ‘Towards a re-unification of the sacred and secular: Religious interventions in politics’, submitted that religion and politics could not be separated.
He said, “You can’t take one and leave the other. You can’t take politics and leave religion, and you can’t take religion and leave politics; they are together; they both affect the welfare and the well-being of all of us as we live.
“As far as religion is concerned, there are two issues — diversity and identity.
“We are so badly handling our diversity that we are losing our identity. As long as we are doing that, we are going nowhere.
“The management of diversity must be right, religion, politics and ethnicity are part of our diversity which must be well managed.
“When you mismanage diversity with impunity, it is particularly annoying. It can lead to what we may not want it to lead to.
“I don’t know of any Nigerian who doesn’t wish Nigeria well, but, I know many Nigerians who are unhappy and want to leave Nigeria. Our issue is so because what they expect from Nigeria they are not getting.”
Obasanjo said the role of religious leaders was to lead.
He added, “God is a Nigerian because what we have gone through in Nigeria and what we are going through, probably, Nigeria should not be on the map of the world. That’s why I say God is a Nigerian.”
Delivering the keynote address, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Kukah, said Nigeria would continue to perform below expectations if the country continued to mismanage its plurality.
He said religion had failed in Africa.
The cleric said, “We are carrying Western identity, whether it is Christianity or Islam. This identity has continued to play out in our daily lives.
“Only in Nigeria we can go to war because of religion. We are not going to go to war because of no water; we are not going to go to war because we don’t have roads.
“We are not going to go to war because we don’t have decent housing; we are not going to go to war because of a lack of salary; we are not going to go to war because of injustice; but we can go to war in the name of God.”
According to Kukah, most countries with substantial Muslims and Christians population have not known peace .
He said, “Nigeria seems to be like a polygamist, who is married with two wives. Somehow, Christians are complaining that they are treating Muslims better, Muslims are complaining that they are treating Christians better.
“But nobody is complaining whether religion is getting its due. But my argument is that unless religion through some of us who are leaders and practitioners find itself rescued from the clutches of politics and politicians, the wrong notion will continue as it is in Nigeria. Somehow, religion will be a problem.”
Osinbajo said religion in Nigeria had not been properly understood.
The VP, who described the theme of the conference as relevant to the situation of the country, said, “The interface between religion and the state was limited to issues of secularism, secularisation and separation of powers between state and religion.
“Contemporary scholarships have however noted that religion covertly or otherwise places more role in human and societal lives than previously acknowledged. Religion is a veritable tool for national and global development. On the other hand, religion has often been used or implicated as a divisive factor often employed as an instrument to spread hate and unleash violence over one another.”
Osinbajo said the Federal Government would continue to strive to utilise the mandate of the people to promote the best interest of all citizens and all humanity in general.
While declaring the conference open, Abiodun lamented that religion in the country had become a dividing factor, regretting that it should have been a unifying factor.
The governor said, “In the past, we had always assumed that religion and the state were two different entities. But recent events have continued to lay bare the fact that the connections between religion and the state are increasingly relevant.
“We have continued to see demonstrations that most of peoples’ actions and commitments are derivable from their religious beliefs.
“If we have to talk about security, peace, co-existence and even socio-economic development, we cannot divorce religion.”