Before religion derails Nigeria

What could compel students in a great school as OAU to sally out against others in the name of religion? These defenders of “our faith” are always the victims and never the agents.

The Editorial, ‘Before religion derails OAU,’ in The Guardian of June 18, 2017, is a sad commentary indeed.Observers have hazarded that young people today lack the capacity and capability for greatness, and it is not hard to see. What could compel students in a great school as OAU to sally out against others in the name of religion? These defenders of “our faith” are always the victims and never the agents. They claim not to have what it takes to be agents even when they take up arms. This is off-putting especially as it occurs in places where the flame for habitual humanity should never diminish. A place where people are trained to bow to cultural sensitivities.

What are the compelling reasons that will help us understand why any man or woman would engage in zealotry in a university environment? Firstly, we are a poorly educated people in Nigeria. Ignorance is a breeding ground for fear. A lack of knowledge can trigger misunderstandings between religions leading to prejudice, suspicion and aggressive reaction. Discrimination against people in any setting is generally spread through ignorance. Religious tolerance may seem to be an impossible dream based on delusional fantasies. Understanding and acceptance can begin with basic practicalities such as education and our own willingness to learn about each other with an open mind.

Secondly, with respect, what happens in the name of religion in Nigeria typifies once again the blackman’s frontal lobe deficiency of acting before thinking things through. Is the whole of life not premised on inter-dependency?  When you “butcher” others in the name of religion, how do you draw on the goodwill of inter-dependency to survive?

After graduation, these punks don’t settle to do any cerebral work but simply rely on ‘God will do it” The Guardian editorial on religion is apt and incisive. Religion has become a tool of disintegration rather than integration in Nigeria. In the words of a renowned author, Dr. Deepak Chopra, “religion was created by God, but the devil now said, “let me organize it.” The devil and not God is responsible for organizing religion in Nigeria. Clerics from both sides of the divide, allow the burden of the Nigerian environment which appreciates and places value on the inconsequential (such as  role models that youths are made to see as money bags, people with private jets), make them associate overwhelmingly with people who ‘have made it” and reduce in importance,  those who ‘have not made it.’

Most deceased people in our time aren’t given the final burial rites and prayers because “the departed did not pay yearly dues to the village church,” and thus is unfit for the benedictions and holy rites reserved for those who pass on to the land of permanent silence from where none can return. What kind of religion settles accounts with the dead? From where this religion came from, there are no invented walls but there seems to be an impenetrable wall in Nigeria. They hardly work with the command, “feed my flock,” The reason that there aren’t many people capable of saying, “Rise up and walk” to the disabled honestly, is because of the overreliance by Presbyters on the flock to feed the shepherd instead of the other way round and to the continuing contemplation on the gold in the strong-room instead of on the flock.

It is time clerics began to teach followers to query the existence of the whole shebang and to all diktats decreed by spiritual trouble-shooters. It is in not asking and out of blind loyalty that people kill for a Supernatural being that loves; in not asking that people are fleeced out of their hard-earned resources and don’t have enough for their children and others after them, it is not asking that all religious people in our day have not been credited with something special save for luxurious ways of life. While people take to spiritual homes in Nigeria, many who do not believe in a Supernatural Being are more humanitarian than the so-called virtuous faithful, and give people more optimism for life than the religious. They do not love for its sake but raise the spirits of most people in positive ways without partialities and the removal of man-made borders and contribute to solving the world’s problems more than these so-called pious faithful.

Kindness, mercy and justice are missing in our country because there are no more Martin Luther King’s and the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Nigeria to walk for kindness, mercy and justice. Whilst politicians loot the treasury blind, there are no clerics to call them a stiff-necked people like Moses did. They give politicians special seats in the front pews, they allow their vehicles to be parked in forbidden spaces for all non-politicians, they recognize them by announcing their presence in The Lord’s house and ask that we pray for them always even when they bedizen themselves with wealth gotten from the state’s purse thereby leaving us hungry.

Now you see why we don’t have national charities, social services to offer support to the Stella Monye’s whose children and many others whose loved ones suffer in the face of illness, disability or injury and Jude Ikegwuonu, a broadcaster with Nigeriainfo FM whose appeal for help I hear on the air wave owing to a ghastly motor accident which deprived him of the use of all four limbs. How much does he need to go to India? N25 million. How much is that to the Pastors and Imams who love to preach about restructuring as the answer to Nigeria’s problems?

There is no national conversation about these sufferers in the Holy Temples. I have never seen a headline raising these issues or the ways to help address them. The religious needs to set the pace for government, members and society to show compassion to people who are objects of social pity. The blind, poor, physically challenged and the less privileged.‬ A cup of garri which sold for N20 now sells for NGN100 in Port Harcourt yet it is hunky-dory with ministers of The Lord, both divides.

I avoid being starry-eyed and love to work with realities. Jallaludin Rumi, a Sufi-Muslim mystic succinctly stated, “…in the religion of love, there are no believers and unbelievers. Love embraces all.”Until we imbibe and live this great statement we’ll continue to grant unfettered access to the devil to organise our religion and we’d continue to play the game of ‘US’ verses ‘Them’

• Abah wrote from Port Harcourt.

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