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By Cosmos-Damian Obinwa Nwoke

Nigerian Politicians are the best Political/Religious mixologists in the world. That is, they have mastered the art of mixing religion with Politics, a dangerous combination used by politicians to stay relevant in this clime where the effects of religion on the poor masses can be compared with that of opium.

Barrister Solomon Dalung, the Honorable Minister of Sports has been trending on the internet recently over his utterances/posts on Sheikh Dr. Isa Ali Pantami’s quest to convert him to Islam. The Honorable Minister had gone to Anur Jummat Mosque Wuse, Zone 2 Abuja for the daily Ramadan Tafseer where Sheikh Pantami politely requested him to convert to Islam.

Solomon Dalung in Al-Nur Mosque, Abuja

Now, this is a simple request that ordinarily shouldn’t be a subject of debate. The Honorable Minister is at liberty to accept Islam or decline. But trust our politicians. The Minister was out of control, churning out several updates, calling out Sheikh Pantami on his page

This wouldn’t have bothered me, but for the audacious display of hypocrisy by the Honorable Minister. Since becoming the Minister of Sports, pictures of Solomon Dalung appearing in Mosques, Turbaned, reciting salat or warming himself to the Muslim Ummah has become common place. In fact, until this recent brouhaha involving him and Sheikh Pantami, Solomon Dalung hardly post pictures of himself in Churches, but with the rumor of his conversion to Islam, the Honorable Minister ensured he was in Church yesterday and released pictures to the public to attest to fact that he’s still a Christian after all. To douse the rumor, the Minister posted pictures of himself in church and wrote “I appreciate God’s immense love and grace as I commune with my fellow brethren at today’s church service in Jos Plateau state. May our prayers and supplication be accepted unto God through Christ Jesus. Amen”.

Some of us, who knew Dalung way back from Unijos, knew him not as a Born again Christian. Dalung is someone who always presents himself as a hard-core Traditionalist, always carrying a native bag typical of Tarok traditionalist. In Jos, we all know him as the Igbarman. The Thunder of Tarok Nation! He was unapologetic about his love for his roots.

Now, why is Dalung angry over Sheikh Pantami’s innocent invitation to convert to Islam?

According to Dalung “The method employed by Sheikh Pantami was cheap black mail because if he sincerely believed in converting me to Islam he should have demonstrated commitments, not to take advantage of my visit. He knew my office or he should have adopted the traditions of the Prophet by writing me a letter of invitation but choosing the part of ambush was to say the least embarrassing but certainly not love at all. As a cleric, he should have weighed the implications of his actions”.

And I asked what implication? Dalung is very angry because the invitation to convert to Islam was extended to him publicly. This will blow his ambivalent religious cover, thus his political style, which is usually laced with religiosity will suffer!

I really do not understand Dalung’s anger and vituperations the whole of today in the social media. On the last count, he has posted over 3 updates on this issue this morning alone. Dalung has demonstrated his closeness to Muslims Ummah a number of times by visiting Mosques and attending Tafseers. I see nothing wrong in Sheikh Pantami preaching to someone who has shown such a great affability to the Muslim world to join Islam.

As a Pastor, if a Muslim persistently comes to my church, especially during Communion/Prayer service, deliverance service or night vigil service, I will not hesitate to convert him to Christianity for that is my first job as a man of God, to win souls for Christ. That is exactly what Sheikh Pantami did, Dalung has shown great disposition to always attend Muslim gatherings and mosques. Dalung himself confessed to attending the Tafseer Turbaned on his own volition without invitation from Sheikh Pantami and he has been to two different mosques this Ramadan season.

Peacefully preaching to someone to convert to Islam or Christianity without compulsion shouldn’t cause anger, it is a matter of YES or NO. So why all the brouhaha by the Honorable Minister? The answer is the kind of politics we play in this country. The Minister wants to remain congenially acceptable to the Muslim ummah, while maintaining his Christian faith and being likeable by the traditionalists. This combo, is a lethal dose for political machination.

Dalung should remain silent on this matter and stop brothering us with religious talk. If he insists he doesn’t want to be a Muslim, he should stop going to their Mosque, especially uninvited. If his intention is to support our Muslim brothers this Ramadan season, he should take food to the poor IDP’s or initiate interreligious dialogue to further the discourse on religious tolerance in Nigeria. God will reward him greatly. But to continue to manipulate our sensibility with an ambivalent religious life style for political gains is a calculation that will surely back fire. Whatever his religion inclination, should be his wahala alone.

The Honorable Minister should concrete his time and energy to the job he is assigned to do. He should instead tell us how this administration has fared in taking care of youth restiveness by engaging them in sports? He should post more updates with convincing statistics on his achievement in the area of sport development in Nigeria. He should state his plans to discourage the manipulation of youths into taking arms during election and religious riots and reengage them in a more rewarding sporting enterprise. That is the core of his job.

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