Opinion: Isn’t Our Religiosity As Nigerians A Scam After All?

Just as vultures would feast on putrefying carcasses with loud shrieks, some critics of the re-elected president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari have been having a field day criticizing him yet again just as he was being sworn in for the second term.

His misfortune this time around, in a manner of speaking, was his decision to kick-starts his second term in office by jetting off to Saudi Arabia to participate in a conference of the Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC).

Critics see it as an act of presidential irresponsibility which is an offshoot of his already bloated bag of un-presidential antecedents. So, to these people, he hasn’t learned from his past mistakes.

Why would he choose to travel out of the country on the morning of his second term inauguration and to a conference with an Islamic link, when there’re mounting challenges at home begging for his attention, many who are Christians among them have queried?

It is indicative, they further argued, of his secret plans to Islamize the country. Of course, that’s an allegation that refused to go away since the days of his many botched presidential aspirations.

Many also argue it is in furtherance of his Fulanization or Herdernization agenda. And again, what has also helped to fuel these narratives was a recent announcement by the federal government that broadcast license has been obtained for the establishment of a radio station that will broadcast in Fulfulde to the nomadic Fulani all over Nigeria.

*President Muhammadu Buhari pictured at the commissioning of a terminus in Lagos (AFP)

Lending their voice, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), also questioned the rationale behind the president’s trip and the radio license thing likening them to a brazen attempt to portray Nigeria as an Islamic nation and a Fulani colony.

I’m a Christian, you know, but I must confess I always have a problem with this religious association simply because of its penchant to give every action of the Muslims an Islamization twist as if there’s nothing like Christianization too.

The fact is both religions are constantly trying to make proselytize of the people at every opportunity with different modus Operandi. From history, the Muslims can be described as being aggressive about it; while Christians, on the other hand, are subtle and persuasive. 

There’s, however, no denying that the pair are eternal rivals and the fallout at every point has not been good for many countries Nigeria inclusive.

The sectarian crisis here and then is all we get because of such. Today, the country is battling an insurgent group called Boko Haram in the North-east.

And to imagine all these conversations are happening, almost coincidentally, just days after the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo raised an alarm about what he called the Fulanization agenda of the Buhari’s administration.

Then, the question that readily comes to mind is ‘is this not a case of the 'witch crying yesterday and the baby dying the morning after’, like the Yoruba would say? My answer would be a deafening No!

But the more you listen to the raucous conversations around these issues, the more you’re tempted to think the president has just smuggled the country into the OIC through the back door on the morning of his inauguration.

Meanwhile, history tells me that Nigeria became a Bonafide member of the OIC in the 80s precisely during the administration of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. If you remember, it was an acrimonious affair back then too.

Interestingly also, it was widely seen as the Muslims’ response to a similar action by a Christian former president of the country a decade or so earlier. Recall that the government of former head of state Gen. Yakubu Gowon had enlisted Nigeria as a member of the World Christian Association sometimes in the early 70s.

But first, who says Nigeria is a predominantly Muslims country because I’m aware that the OIC is an association of countries with predominantly Muslim population?

In a similar vein, who says Nigeria is a predominantly Christians country because that must have been the criteria for becoming eligible for membership of the WCA?

Or is it a case of Nigeria being a random religious pawn in the hands of its leaders for they have overtime clearly acted in contrary to its constitution which in clear terms designated her as a secular state?    

Obviously, while the wailing was going on, many of those who were vigorously knocking the Buhari’s Islamization and Fulanization agenda didn’t know that the Christian former president Goodluck Jonathan once attended a similar conference in the company of his wife and top government officials at Egypt in 2013.

Is it not instructive that he didn’t become a Muslim for keeping company with Muslims from around the world at the conference?

The next poser for all of us would be how come our leaders have continued to attend the respective conferences of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and not of the World Christian Association (WCA)?

Clearly, one thing is obvious. It is either our membership of the WCA is dormant or the association itself is inactive and of no effect in the affairs of member nations.

And I stand to be corrected if a Nigeria past president dead or alive post-Gowon era did ever attended a conference that was organized by the WCA, that’s if there was any conference by it during this same period.

That being the case, therefore, no one should complain or raise an eyebrow over the continued participation in the OIC conferences by our leaders in view of its relevance and commitment to the developmental challenges facing member nations. 

It is on record that the OIC has always given monies and other supports to countries facing all manners of existential challenges of which insurgency is today tops. I’m aware counter-terrorism measures top the agenda at the recent Saudi meeting.

You know what, I’m not here to hold brief for any of the dominant faiths in Nigeria. Rather, I want to genuinely labor to point out my concerns with faith issues in Nigeria and the mileage we need to go to truly become a nation of Godly and not just religious people.

From the happenings in the country, it won’t be totally out of place to say being religious has been more of a curse than blessing for Nigeria?

Being religious cannot be said to be bad in itself; but what about being Godly which should be the other side of the same spirituality coin.

Yes, Nigerians, as we speak, are arguably the most religious people in the world with a religious facility conspicuously located within a kilometer or less of streets in our major cities. 

One would expect that to affect the totality of who we are and what we do especially in government and in other areas of our life. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

While Nigeria is outrightly not a theocratic state, but the loud signals you get across the length and breadth of the country every now and then is an attempt to make it looked like one.
Both the leaders and followers act it.

And as you go through the roll call of theocratic countries in the world Nigeria happens to be the only one with it humungous human and natural resources that have performed below par.

Even in the northern part of the country which pride itself an Islamic enclave of sort, there is nothing that’s reflective of such progressive realities comparable to what obtained in places like Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait name it.

The number of out-of-school children is growing. Child marriage is the norm. Ignorance is a way of life. It is not uncommon to hear an average Northern youth declare with pride ‘Ba Turensi’, meaning he or she can’t speak or hear English.

Since education is being subtly de-emphasized ostensibly by the Northern religious oligarchs, teenagers up North can be seen roaming the streets looking for menial jobs instead of staying back in their so-called tuition-free schools despite also the federal government’s recent foodie incentive. Armed Banditry, Kidnapping, Cattle rustling and other act of criminality is on the rise.    

And in the south which proudly prides itself as a Christianity bastion, the narratives are only slightly different in terms of the social impact of religion compared to what was witnessed even during the colonial era.

The proliferation of churches to a large extent is now a matter of economic necessity and not of spiritual enrichment of congregants and the larger society. Ownership of worship centers has often become subject to serious litigation.

Altars are being raised on false calls, and false visions and prophecies are being reeled out with reckless abandon. Deadly fetish competition has become a hobby. Scriptural passages are twisted to suit the comforts of the founders spiritual or material.

Those whom some clergies should have rescued from the roaming foxes; they have instead been pushed to the mouth of hungry roaring lions.

There’re reported cases of clergies impregnating female members of their fold and in their numbers, getting involved in ritual killings, money laundering, and other social vices.

Unlike before, the schools established with the church's monies are now a no go area for not only the poor members of the society but also members of the same church who are joint-contributors to the project becoming a reality.

And people think there is nothing wrong with that forgetting that, once upon a time in this country, children of both the rich and the poor attended the same missionary schools where quality in terms of morals, standard, and spirituality were the watchword.

Now the new slogan, regrettably, is ‘if you think education is expensive, try ignorance’. Even recently, Oby Ezekwesili, a former minister of education and a presidential aspirant in the last general election was reported to have echoed the same noxious sentiments.

Somehow, educationists and critical stakeholders in this sector have come to equate quality education with charging insane fees. 

Put all of these together, you cannot but want to conclude that our religiosity as Nigerians is nothing but a SCAM. It has not significantly rubbed off on our fumbling and wobbling humanity. 

Of course, to every rule, you might say there is an exception, but with Nigeria and Nigerians I dare say they come in insignificant numbers. And that’s the saddest part of all.

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