Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu: Political landscape tainted by hate rhetorics

Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, the first lady of Lagos State, has stated that hate speech is poisoning the political scene, urging participants in the democratic process to respect different viewpoints.

Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, the first lady of Lagos State, has stated that hate speech is poisoning the political scene, urging participants in the democratic process to respect different viewpoints.

She said this in her goodwill message at the 2022 International Day for Tolerance, which had the theme “The role of religion in democratic governance in Nigeria.”

Sanwo-Olu urged leaders to preach not only tolerance but also practice it.

“As a result of the heightened political campaigns in line with the mood of the nation as we prepare for the general elections next year, the Nigerian political landscape has been sharply polarized along political inclinations, and this, to me, is not out of place since the hallmark of democracy is the freedom of choice and speech.

“However, it has also been sadly observed that the political landscape is becoming toxic with hate speech, fake news, and outright disinformation being employed. This has resulted in name-calling, mudslinging, and all sorts of dangerous tactics and antics.

“For me, even as we call on political leaders to be tolerant of views that are considered to be at variance with their beliefs and socio-political leanings, all stakeholders must learn to respect such opposing views.

“To this end, religious leaders have an important role to play to deploy the Pulpit in our Churches and the Minbar in our Mosques to deliver sermons that lay emphasis on peace, love, and tolerance.

“Intolerance can trigger crises of monumental proportion; hate speech, fake news, and disinformation can activate violence and war, and the truth is no meaningful development can occur in an atmosphere devoid of peace and harmonious relationship among the diverse groups that make up the society.”

 Dr. Saheed Ahmad, the Chief Imam of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), has cautioned religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, against seeing visions or making predictions that a candidate will win the upcoming election, as it has the potential to incite violence, particularly if the candidate loses.

He stated that they should not organize specific prayers for politicians to win elections since religious leaders would lose their respect, as politicians who win believe they paid for it, while those who lose believe the religious leader is not morally sound.

Ahmad also urged religious leaders not to solicit gifts or help from politicians in order to construct churches and mosques during election periods, as doing so tends to corrupt politicians who view the Greek gift as mobilization fees.

According to him, Muslims must vote according to their faith, which requires them to make just, fair, and equitable choices, regardless of race or ethnicity.

On the other hand, the former vice chancellor of Ajayi Crowther University, Professor Dapo Asaju, remarked that Nigerians are suffering now because they have chosen politicians based on religious sentiment rather than quality.

He argued that Nigerians must avoid religious and ethnic warfare at all costs since they are detrimental to the country and its residents, causing additional hardship.

He noted that religious leaders are watchdogs who must help political leaders govern properly by reprimanding them when they transgress and providing sound counsel.

Asaju stated that Nigerians should not use religion to influence the political process but that it should positively affect their actions as leaders.

The Commissioner for Home Affairs, Prince Lanre Elegushi, stated that it is essential to educate the public about the significance of tolerance in society, especially when different religions and beliefs urge tolerance toward one another.

Our religious organizations play a significant role in educating and informing the population about their civic responsibilities and duties to national survival.