Not too long ago, some religious zealots went on a killing rampage. They killed. They maimed the innocents. They destroyed properties. They rained carnage on the country in reaction to an innocuous article by Miss Isioma Daniels. The loss of lives aside; the saddest part was that they committed these atrocities in the name of God. What did she do wrong, anyway?
Miss Isioma Daniels did not send innocent people to the penitentiary; she did not steal millions of naira from the public treasury and stash it in European and American banks; she did not arrest innocent people and summarily sentence them to die; she did not close the Alaba or the Mile 2 markets – thereby depriving the poor of their livelihood. She is not an Abacha, a Babangida, or a 419er — just a journalist; a member of the press in pursuit of her journalistic career. For that they rained destruction on her and on the nation? Damn! What people do in the name of God and in the name of religion!
As Nigerians, we do things — shamelessly — in the name of God: we steal, cheat and lie in the name of God. We oppress, exploit and subjugate fellow citizens in the name of God. We “command” people’s loyalty in the name of God; and if we fail to get the respect and loyalty we think we deserve – we kill the offenders in the name of God. Not to be outdone by our politicians and public servants, some armed-robbers have been known to pray before going out to rob and kill. And if they are too busy to pray, they simply pay top-dollars for prayers. As if that is not heretical, there are “men of God” who fornicate and commit adultery in the name of God.
In the United States, when I am really bored, I have been known to get a kick out of listening to Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Creflo Dollar, TD Jakes, Jack van Impe, and the most comical of all — Benny Hinn. And on my periodic trips to Nigeria, when I am bored rigid, I listen to Nigeria’s “men of God.” All these men have something in common with the Nigerian politicians: the use of religion as an instrument of servitude and subjugation. They all use God and religion to evoke fears in the hearts of ordinary folks. These people use God and religion to justify their failings and shortcomings; they use God to excuse their incompetence and lack of vision. Everything is done in the name of God and in the name of religion.
What did President Obasanjo tell the nation (a while back) as to whether he was going to contest the next election? “The decision will be made by God” he said, and “Whatever God decides, you can be assured that I will abide by him.” He has yet to tell us how he received his directives and divination now that he is a candidate for the next general election. Did God speak to him in the middle of the night, or during one of his incessant trips abroad? As if that wasn’t preposterous and nonsensical, Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have declared “We are on the move because nobody can stop us except God.” And Jim Nwobodo recently declared that his defection from the ruling PDP to UNPP “was an act of God.” An act of God indeed. Silly!
The gullibility of the Nigerian electorate can be annoying and incomprehensible. Some of us voted for, and are set to vote for Olusegun Obasanjo — the same Obasanjo that truncated our human rights and help set the country on the road to perdition in the 1970s? And there are those who believe Buhari is the messiah and therefore deserve our votes. Isn’t this the same Buhari – along with Idiagbon – who presided over the country as though the country was their personal property? Suddenly, he claims to be a changed man with whom Allah converses. And what’s the name of the other two khaki fellows? Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, and Ike Nwachukwu?
The rabble-rouser, that gadfly, that conscience-of-the-nation, that fellow who ruffles complacency, that dude who brings about sleepless nights and restless days on enemies of the nation – that man called Fawehinmi, him I can stand. He seems to me the kind of man that would be good for the nation. Gani and men like him is the one that can save Nigeria from self-destructing.
Ordinarily, any Nigerian should be allowed to vote and be voted for so long as they meet the constitutional requirements. However, there are instances when certain people should be barred from participating in democratic exercises. Miscreants should be barred. Criminals should be barred. Coup planners, coup executioners and those who were in power through military coups d’etat should be barred. “Yes men” and “boy-boys” should be barred. Men and women in the same league as Jim Nwobodo, Tinubu, Atiku, and those “Sharia boys” should be barred.
Moreover, those who fail to meet the moral and ethical standards of the country should be excluded; but then, what are the ethical and moral standards of Nigeria and Nigerians? Do we have a benchmark for leadership? To be a born-again Christian, or be pro-Sharia should not be a yardstick for leadership positions. Unfortunately, that’s the standard we currently employ. How sickening!
Nigerian politicians are using God and religion as a ruse to misrule and swindle. These same politicians who place their hands on the Bible or on the Koran would be the first in line to take bribes, inflate contracts, and ignore the most qualified job-applicant in favor of someone from their ethnic group. These “children of God” are adept at colluding with foreign nationals in bilking the public purse. In so many ways, the current pack of politicians remind me of the early missionaries (to Africa) who came with gun on one hand and the Bible on the other hand.
Does God truly listen to our prayers? I mean: does God really listen to Nigerians? I wonder. I wonder because if he truly does listen – how did we end up with Abacha, Akinjide, Umaru Dikko, Obasanjo, Babangida, and a host of others? What’s the matter with God? Maybe God do listen to our private supplications; but does he have any business with politics and political affairs? Perhaps it is because of the need for a clear separation of Church and State that countries like Canada, the USA, France, Italy, and Singapore, Germany, China and others did not resign their fate to providence and other supernatural powers. Instead, they devised ways to make their countries prosperous.
So, instead of “God said,” and “according to Allah,” Nigerians should worry about earthly ways to formulate and implement policies. We should worry about important things like our lowly educational system, national security and foreign policy, economic policy and stagnant economy, and the sky rocketing unemployment, NEPA, the Niger Delta imbroglio, the next and future elections, military coups, and the need to foster democracy.
While some regions of Africa and the Global South are gradually developing and “moving on,” Nigeria and Nigerians are waiting for divine interventions. Sorry folks, that’s not the way of this world. When it comes to the affairs of men and of the nation-state – men and women makes all the decisions. If God ruled the affairs of men and of the state, then Nigeria would have been the most economically, politically and technologically advanced of all nations – considering the number of Churches and Mosques that litters that land. It is in us to create our collective destiny.