There will always be a time in a man’s life when he will stand for his convictions. Every man (women inclusive) will eschew fear and act of cowardice and assert his/her beliefs regardless of the consequence of such action. Such will be the time of decision,and sitting on the fence will not be an option.
The “word smith” and Nobel Laurette, Professor Akinwole Soyinka put it succinctly in his book The Man Died, when he said : “…and the man died in him who keep mute in the face of tyranny”. The literary giant by this token submitted that people should necessarily stand up for their rights and defend their integrity without compromise or complacence. A man should not hesitate to fight for whatever that is legally belongs to him, or speak the word of truth to their oppressors, even in the face of discrimination, harassment, segregation, suppression or death. Any man who shackle this responsibility necessarily make mockery of his manhood.
In 1985, as the Deputy Secretary General of the University of Ibadan Students Union, I was invited alongside other people to participate in a political debate that was organized by the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) Ibadan. The Political Debate was part of the BCOS contributing efforts to the FGN set up Political Bureau whose goal was to fashion out a congruent political direction and ideology for the country.
Other discussants are Babs Tunde Oduyoye – President of the University of Ibadan Students Union 1985/86 (Ex Honorable member of the Federal House of Representative), Chief Afe Babalola SAN (not a SAN at the time), Comrade Kanmi – Oyo State NUJ Chairman 1985, Dr. Yemi Farombi (not a doctor at the time yet a renown Media Consultant), and couple of other people whose names I could no longer recollect. However, I remember very clearly that Babs and I were the only students, and the youngest of the discussants both in status and in stature. But we fearlessly articulated and posited our views to the listeners. Our submission was in favor of Two Party Political System with Pseudo-Capital but Welfare centered ideology.
At the close of the debate while we were been treated to light refreshments at the Ile-Akede Cafeteria, some individuals contacted us (Babs and I) and applauded our arguments and courage to stand for our beliefs, while few other people perceived us as a bunch of radical students with socialist orientation. Anyway, that is not the reason for this information. Its essence is that at that crucial time in Nigeria history under a despot (General Ibrahim Babangida), as young as we were, we stood for a belief of our conviction, and put it to the power that be even at the instance of a possible rustication from the University of Ibadan; then under a pro-establishment Vice Chancellor – Professor Ayo Banjo.
The prevailing religious problem in Nigeria triggers a remembrance and a reflection on such time. Align with the tradition of speaking the words of truth, every right thinking and peace loving Nigerian should stand and speak with one voice against religion intolerance and ethno-religious crisis. Nigeria’s enviable history of unity in diversity should not be soiled by unwarranted religious conflict. The multi ethnic nation should be able to live in peace with love, respect and tolerance of each others religion.
I marvel at the Nigeria traditional religions. Its practitioners seldom (if at all) conflict with one another; though the spiritual biases and commitments differs from one tribe to another. For example, The Yoruba mythology indicated that there are about four hundred and one gods and goddesses. The Ibos’ were also reportedly worshiping umpteen local gods and goddesses; yet they seldom ( if at all) confront or have crisis with one another. Their misunderstanding and differences are usually resolved in good faith devoid impulse or bad emotions. Theirs is a demonstration of love, respect and tolerance.
The Christians whose religion centers on humility, patience and love often exhibits impulsive furry with limited patience and tolerance. Though history revealed that usually they do not initiate fight or cause crisis but will defend themselves in case of any inter religion incursion. Even at the instance of intra Christian religion crisis, usually triggered by denominational differences and polarized by “born again” concept; such conflict does not degenerate to blood bath, loss of life or property destruction. This however does not suggest or imply that all Christians are peace loving and innocent of causing religious crisis.
The Muslims whose religion is Islam ironically sings different tune. Islam, an Arabic word that depicts peace is so much wrapped up in violence. Its history of jihad as a tool of propagation did not help the matter. Some Muslims, especially those of them who are fanatics have redefined Islam and fabricated jihad. They would do anything (even kill) to enforce and impose Islamic religion on their target who are usually tagged infidel. To them, Islam is the ultimate and Sharia law is the will of Allah which must not be compromise.
Taking premise from this simple deductive logic; Islam is a religion of peace; Allah is the God of Islam; Therefore Allah is God of peace. If Allah is or means peace, what is the rational explanation for the violence that characterizes Islamic religion? Most especially in the course of their expansionist agenda and involvement in terrorism. A religion that truly encompasses peace will not have or absorb followers who are blood thirsty or thrives in violence.
The contradictions of Islamic religion is rooted in the violence of some of its followers. The history of some Muslims the world over is that of impulsiveness, intolerance and poor judgment. Both Shiite and Sonni descents are committed to the propagation of Islam and frequently resorts to killing and maiming of their target especially if they are Christians or traditional religion worshipers. The eccentric concept of jihad has deluded many of them into believing that if they die in the course of jihad (fighting holy war), they will go to heaven (Al-jaana). This disorientation has created groups of Muslims who are dogmatic and fanatical. They live their lives as insurgents. They are intolerant of anything outside of Islam.
The incessant violence that is orchestrated by Islamic fanatics who rationalizes their action as a visa to eternity (Al-jaana) further revealed the asymmetric relationship that expose Islam as a paradox of its claim. Otherwise how can a religion of peace be so much rooted in force and wrapped-up in violence. When it is a known fact that violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature.
Faith is born of the soul, not of the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly without violence and threats. To convince or convert a soul, one does not need a strong arm or weapon of any kind, or any other means of threating a person with death or conversion by coercion.
To castigate all Muslims as fundamentalists and erratic is to be biased and depart from the truth. There are some good Muslims who clearly understood the tenet of Islam and practices same with the fear of and total submission to Allah. They are scanty and scattered across the nation. Those of them who are extremists are known to based in the Northern part of the country; and in close proximity to Niger Republic, Republic of Chad, Mali and other insurgent ridden countries. They have turned the Northern states to a volatile region that is rich in crisis and thrives in dysfunctions. For instance Maitasine riot in Maiduguri between 1980-1982, Kano riots 2001 and 2004, Kaduna riots 2000 and 2002, Bauchi riot (Boko Harram) 2009, and the recen
t Jos crisis of November 2008 are few examples of their mischiefs.
The fanatical religious leaders who usually champion this unholy and ignoble cause have something in common. They did not have western education. Their assimilation of Arab cultural values including education has disoriented and significantly impaired their ability to discern between the true Allah (the God of peace) and a one time Saudi Arabia strong war lord named Allah – who was accorded the status of god as a result of his extra and supper human strength and qualities. Arguably, one can juxtapose that it is this identical and confusing names, more than anything else, that influences the behavior and attitudes of these religious riot champions.
In an effort to confront and possibly liquidate this ignoble and debilitating religious intolerance that has bedeviled Nigeria nation and threatens the continue cohesion of its unity in diversity, the Federal Government of Nigeria set up a committee to work on religious harmony. The committee was co-chaired by the fearless cleric Dr. Sunday Mbang – the immediate past president of Christian Association of Nigeria (C.A.N) and Methodist Prelate; and Alhaj Muhammadu Macido- the Sultan of Sokoto and spiritual head of Nigeria Muslims. Both stalwarts had decried the use of religion as a tool for violence. In fact, the Sultan of Sokoto was reported to have said that “no religion will support violence, harassment, victimization and all vices, let alone murdering of innocent people”. This word of wisdom must necessarily be backed with action. Therefore, the committee should move beyond rhetorics and set up structures (backed by the FGN) that will promote peaceful co-existence of all religions. Such structure should include but not limited to arbitration and prosecution of any person, group of persons or organizations that triggers or cause religious violence in the country. At this time of delicate democratic sojourn; or it trial?, neither the government of the federation nor its people deserve any distraction of extraneous religious agenda. Therefore:
The Federal Government of Nigeria should be decisive in defending the constitution of the Federal Republic that guarantee Nigeria as a secular state. Any attempt by any individual, tribe or region to impose their religion’s values on the other should be opposed and prosecuted as a direct affront to the contitution of Nigeria.
The government should promote inter-religious faith meetings and programs to foster understanding of God , Religion, Eternity and Humanity. The mutuality of their inclusiveness, complimentary roles and expectations should be the focal point. Organizations with this goals should be set up and encouraged in tertiary institutions of learning and the communities in general to dispel all religious misinformation.
The FGN should develop a policy of zero tolerance on religious violence. Such policy should be made into Treaty and should be sponsor at all international organizations such as but not limited to ECOWAS and AU. This will prevent or at least discourage those neighboring countries whose inhabitants have been unscrupulously promoting and exporting religious discord and violence across their boarder.
Islam, a religion of peace should not be allowed to be stain or redefine by ignorant fanatics who are bent on achieving their selfish agenda at the detriment of innocent souls. Islam is a religion of peace. It should be seen and practice as such. Anything outside a peace centered Islam is counterfeit and the promoters and protagonists of such agenda are not true Muslims. They should be arrested and prosecuted. Nigeria deserves a lasting and permanent peace, not a temporal peace that is punctuated by momentary violence and terror.