The contents of this piece are bound to elicit plethora of harsh reactions from some holier-than-though ones among us; the highly religious, but less spiritual, fanatical adherents of the several religious bodies in Nigeria, most especially some know-it-all arrowheads of the two major religions – Christianity and Islam – and their largely ignorant disciples. Be that as it may, I would like to remind anybody reading this piece that it is better to please God than to massage the cathedral-like egos of mere mortals, by refraining from telling the truth as I see it.
In the following lines, I examine the complicity of religion in the traditional order of politics in Nigeria, which has created and sustained an unjust system of social relations where a minute fraction of the population continually lord’s it over the larger body politic – a refined form of Apartheid that has overseen the citizens of one of the naturally richest countries in the world, living like Serfs in the land of their fathers; of how religion has abdicated from its role as an agent of social justice, and has unwittingly become an accomplice in the systematic decapitation of the people by the cruel drivers of the Nigerian state. I will not bore you with stories about the evolution of the largely adversarial relationship that has existed between the members of the Nigerian ruling class and the masses since the lowering of the Union Jack and the hoisting of the Green-White-Green in 1960 – lots of literature already exist on this subject – but will proceed to state my candid views, without fear of contradiction, on how the ongoing messy state of affairs in our worship centers has helped sustain the war of attrition being waged by the haves against the have-nots.
When Karl Max, in his Magnum Opus, Das Kapital, referred to religion as the “opium of the masses that serves the political end of suppressing mass revolution”, most of the extremists’ of his generation did not take kindly to this assertion. In his view – later known as Historical Materialism – “the history of society is a history of class struggle in which the ruling class uses religion and other traditions and institutions, as well as its economic power, to reinforce its domination over the working classes”. While some commentators at the time saw Max as a bland Satanist, others saw him as a confused idealist. But sharp as the salvos of his critics were, they were uttered from highly sentimental standpoints. They were parochial and unjust censorships of Karl’s objective view of human history that was both profoundly pessimistic and deeply optimistic; a view of the evolution of an evil political order that thrived on the exploitation of the labours and resources of the masses by a bunch of greedy political entrepreneurs.
The contemporary Nigerian political system is a mirror image of the conflict-ridden society depicted by Marx in his masterpiece – a political order that is built on mass deceit, uncensored exploitation, and the cloaked use of force by the lords of the Manor against the larger body politic. Since 1960, when the country formally achieved independent status, a class war has been raging between the ruling political elites and the largely impoverished masses – an asymmetrical affair in which the wielders of political power have had the upper hand. Nigeria is a largely stratified society that is constituted by two separate and completely unequal classes of individuals – the Lords and the Vassals. The Lords possess absolute political and economic powers – powers they usurped by subterfuge and force. The Vassals possess nothing in the material sense of the word – pitiable conditions that have been festooned on them by the obduracy of the ruling political elites. The conditions of the Vassals are very deplorable; more deplorable than those of the Serfs during Feudal times. They are born into their poor stations and are expected to subsist and die in these pitiable stations.
In Nigeria, the Lords decide what is to be produced, who should produce, and to whom what is produced should be distributed: they formulate and execute all public policies, which are rammed down the throats of the Vassals. The Vassals have no say whatsoever in the scheme of things. They are expected to swallow all the hellish prescriptions of the lords with no questions asked. It is a highly segregated and class-conscious system – a preposterous arrangement that is a throwback to pre-enlightenment times; an atavistic and asinine state of nature where dogs eat dogs; a state corresponding to William Shakespeare’s “rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended the nostrils”; a stinking, disheveled, decapitated carcass of a state.
To maintain this absolute state of inequality and check any possible challenge to this imperial establishment, several overt and covert means are deployed. From closing off the political space so that only select members of the politburo can access it; making restrictive laws to keep economic opportunities in the hands of the few powerful; deliberately weakening the institutions of the state – executive, legislature, and judiciary – from performing their input and output functions; deliberately instigating political crisis’ to create an air of insecurity, then step in to restore order, in order to justify its continued stay in power; dishing out deliberate falsehood, through its powerful propaganda machine, to mobilize the masses behind its several murderous decrees, which they call policies; to several other measures that are meant to maintain the status quo ante, the illegitimate owners of Nigeria have had a field day bludgeoning the general will to coma. Of all these strategies, the role of religious institutions, which is the focus of this piece, is the most effective.
Nigeria’s ruling class capitalizes on the seductiveness of religion to pacify the masses and prevent them from revolting against the unjust socio-economic order in which they have been forced to subsist since the birth of this comatose project. Religion has become an elixir that the obdurate ruling elites leverage on to weaken the people’s will to rise up and fight for their rights. What many Nigerians are ignorant of is the fact that the heads of most of the organized religious bodies – the clergy, Imams, traditional priests, priestesses’ et al – in Nigeria, together constitute a very important segment of the Nigerian establishment. They are willing accomplices in this system of falsehood; black tyrants hiding behind masks of righteousness to stoke the fire of injustice. These unholy men – and women – abdicate their functions as moral agents to adopt the driving philosophy of the ruling elite: exploitation through deceit. These unrepentant whores condone anathemas of the most extreme kinds in order to keep themselves in the good books of the Ogres of Aso Rock and other citadels of power – their chief benefactors. They refrain from correcting the several vicious policies that have turned most Nigerians into scarecrows, rather than risk the ire of the tin gods of Nigeria, preferring to massage the egos of these prickly pick-pockets instead.
Nigeria is said to be a praying country; a very religious country. If one takes a casual walk along any of the streets in any part of this country, you are bound to come across several churches, temples, mosques’, shrines et al; coupled with the numerous sponsored religious programmes on our TVs, radios, the internet and every other available medium. We are, indeed, a praying nation. In our places of worship, we are daily inundated with the need to respect the authorities and wait for God’s time; to tolerate all infringements on our rights by turning the other cheek; that God will “one day” overthrow all erring leaders and usher in that era of justice, equity and fair play we all crave for; that he who lives by the sword dies by the sword; that the
prophets did not resist the authorities during their days on earth, but gave unto Caesar what belonged to Caesar, and to God what was His; and a variety of other feeble reasons given as to why we need not make trouble with the government, but must cooperate with it and live judgment to the almighty. To ensure adherence to these injunctions, the consequences of disobedience are stated. This is meant to create fear in the minds of believers and deter them from reacting to any infringements on their rights from the operators of the leviathan. Texts from holy books are copiously used in buttressing the need for obedience to the state, patience with its policies, subservience and reverence for its institutions.
Damola Awoyokun (The Guardian Newspaper, Thursday, May 22, 2008:97) musing on the hypocritical stance of religion and the stupidity it breeds in the mind of Nigerians, stated concisely in these mordant words that:
In the North, a shepherd boy with a small stick (Saanda) can order around thousands of cows with big-horns on their heads with PhDs. In the expressway churches, anybody with a pocket-size Gideon bible in the hand can tell tens of thousands of “educated” people that 2+2=13 has been revealed as the truth, they will jump up and shout Ameeen and begin to dance around! That is the depth to which we have sunk.
The political elite knowing how fickle-minded the flock is capitalize on this most potent weapon of mass control to further stupefy the “block heads”. To this end, government supports religious bodies overtly and covertly, despite our Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999; Chapter 1, Part 1, Section 10) stating expressly that Nigeria is a secular state, by allocating large portions of tax payers money running into the billions on a yearly basis to sponsoring pilgrimages to the various holy lands by religious adherents, including some of our rulers. The ones, whose religions don’t have holy lands abroad, pay their homage to their own gods in their local Holy of Holies: local shrines, spending hugely in the process too. But these blasphemers’ support for religion does not stem from their concern for its adherents or reverential love for God; it is all part of their satanic attempts at furthering their indecencies and justifying their detestable crimes against the people. Thus, the worship of God becomes mired in the intoxicating cocktail of politics with all its crazy superfluities. This last sin is the greatest and most absurd sacrilege against the most high and His perfect standards.
Today, when you go to any of our worship centers, you will be appalled at the shameless manner confirmed thieves, who have robbed this country blind are venerated with titles and other privileges. This is very appalling, for when the supposed agents of God on earth, the shepherds of His flock, who are supposed to speak out against all shades of injustice in the society, abandon their divine callings to pursue personal benefits, no one is safe anymore; when religious leaders begin to hunger for political appointments instead of concentrating on performing their primary tasks, it lives much to be imagined; when respected guardians of the faith begin to speak from both sides of their mouths; when they begin to murmur what Frantz Fanon refers to as, “shrill litanies and nauseating mimicries”, something must be seriously wrong somewhere.
Had they been physically present today, the likes of Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohamed and other avatars of old – who some of these false prophets impudently claim to be patterning their lives after – wouldn’t have tolerated the scandalous hypocrisies … the absolute nonsense currently going on in this country, for these renowned men of faith were radical revolutionaries who attacked the prevalent malpractices of their times. They were agents of change who did not compromise on their high moral standards, but spoke out boldly, bluntly against corruption, maladministration, poverty, intolerance, greed, inequality, violence and other social vices; progressive mavericks who stood for the truth and nothing but the truth. Unlike the modern money mongers whose sacrileges have tainted the spotless stewardships of these pioneers, these mighty men of faith stood against all the systemic incongruities that afflicted their societies, putting their lives on the line for their flocks, risking the ire of the secular authorities.
Some “preachers” among us might glibly interject at this point that since Jesus Christ was not a politician, I should keep Christianity as far away from politics as possible; likewise Islam, since Mohamed was not a politician either; not to mention adherents of other religions that claim to be secular in orientation. But with particular reference to Christianity and Islam, the chief religions in Nigeria, I would like to state categorically that the origins and evolutions of both religions have had far reaching political consequences for the whole world since their inception, as they still have today. Both Christ and Mohamed were accused of fuelling rebellions against both the political and religious authorities of their individual societies because of their no-nonsense stands against the several debilitating injustices that the people were subjected to, which they saw as affronts to the loving wishes of the almighty creator; they were persecuted for objectively speaking their minds on the issues of those times; condemned for calling spades, spades and campaigning for paradigm shifts in the customary order of things.
Whether anybody wants to accept the truth or not, I want to categorically state here that by failing to discharge their sacred duties as God’s servants, to His children, choosing rather to toe the lines of infamy and take sides with Lucifer and his itinerant lieutenants – the desperately wicked members of the political establishment – our religious leaders stand condemned by their actions and inactions, which constitutes pure consent to the several sins of this shylock state against its people; guilty of complicity in the mass murder of Nigerians, and the several other depraved crimes against humanity that have been systematically executed against Nigerians by the demoniacs in our midst. They have stained their hands with blood and will never go unpunished.
Our God is a God of love and justice; a God whose love for his children is boundless. Therefore, any religion that claims to be a path to this God of justice must act as an agent of social change in any society within which it operates. The heads of the several religious bodies in Nigeria must do an immediate u-turn from the current ignominious roles they are currently playing in Nigeria, by beginning to demand for improvements in the deplorable living conditions of Nigerian citizens from the drivers of the vehicle of state. They must withdraw all their covert and overt support for the political establishment and come to the side of the people. Religious bodies are supposed to be non-governmental organizations committed to the wellbeing of their members – in this case, the citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In their general pronouncements and conduct, religious institutions must begin to show Nigerians that it is no longer business as usual; that they are now ready to begin to play their roles as true agents of social justice; not parties to the war of attrition that is being waged by the few powerful against the many powerless. It is not late to do a detour, switch lanes, and start walking on the path of truth. God is watching you.
Praise the lord, Hallelujah!