The Northern Elders Forum has said ordinary Nigerians do not care about religion.
It only becomes a factor during elections, the group added.
The spokesperson for the NEF, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed during an interview on Channels TV on Tuesday, monitored by SaharaReporters, accused politicians of playing games with the faith of the people.
Who emerges the running mate to the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, has been a major subject of discourse in the country.
There have been arguments and counterarguments over whether Tinubu, a Muslim, can pick another Muslim as his running mate, especially as the party has zoned its vice-presidential ticket to the Muslim-dominated North.
“Ordinary Nigerians don’t care. The politicians are playing a game with the faith, intelligence and future of our people.
“It becomes a factor only during elections,” Baba-Ahmed said.
He said most of the attacks happening in Nigeria have nothing to do with religion.
“We have had situations where people have been vulnerable and they have been attacked; all those have nothing to do with faith. Will those attacks seize because somebody of a particular faith is the Vice President or President?” he asked.
“This is a game that’s being played by an elite that has to identify faith as a decisive weapon for fighting each other. The pregnant lady who died with four children in the South-East, who was slaughtered, she didn’t die because (President Muhammadu) Buhari is the president. Maybe the people who killed her then just killed her.”
Baba-Ahmed said if religion is a dominant factor in the country, adherents of the two prominent religions – Christians and Muslims – will be fighting each other every day.
He said, “If religion was such a dominant factor in terms of how Muslims and Christians live all the time, we will be fighting each other every single day. We will be fighting over ‘I didn’t get anything because I’m a Muslim.’”
He said the clashes that happen in the country are sometimes “between communities that are entirely Christians or sometimes Muslims”.
“Sometimes in a few instances, like we have seen in the last few years in Adamawa, Gombe and Bauchi, they involve Muslims and Christians. If you go down to the bottom of it, there’s nothing to do with the church or the mosque; it has to do with some communal issues,” he said.
According to him, Nigerians are wiser now “as they have learnt terrible lessons from recent leaders who might have benefited from religious politics”.
He said, “I’m telling you, ordinary Nigerians do not consider the faith of leaders now as central to the way they exist. We have been taught some terrible lessons from recent leaders who may have benefitted from religious politics but have abandoned the people with who they share the same faith, I think people are wiser now.
“The north doesn’t belong to Muslims, it belongs to Muslims and Christians and if a political party is willing to field a northerner because he believes he’s the most competent person to get a ticket, then why not.
“In Kaduna state, which had a governor who won and the Christian population is in the minority. Late (Patrick Ibrahim) Yakowa, he was voted as a governor, he was from Southern Kaduna, he became a governor, he died in a plane accident and Kaduna is the frontline for all, no religious conflict that we had.”
“I haven’t seen anybody that said I got an advantage as a Christian because I have a senior pastor in the Redeemed Church who’s a Vice President of Nigeria,” he added.