Tuesday, November 29, 2016

RELIGION À LA NIGERIA

I found myself in a situation last week, when my insomnia kicked in a great deal and I yearned to swipe over qwerty my thoughts, but was in a quandary over what to write, or recycle. To my aid came Philip Ip Lyricx and Snagga Mwangi, of Nigerian and Kenyan descent respectively. Ip wanted my view on how Islam and Christianity came into Nigeria despite protestations from me of not been a student of history, at least of the academic type, as well as what differences are there between the old and new testament, while Snagga advised that I start to run a review of the New Testament alongside the Old, seeing that at the snail speed I was going with the old, I'd be very advanced in age, probably list some cognitive skills by the time I'd get to the new. They both steered me in the direction of religion, and indeed very controversial aspects of it. This will be the first of two posts that will address the issues both of them raised.


Google is anyone's best bet when it comes to history these days, hence I won't even make any attempt to try to compete with the masters on any subject related to history. My intention here is to draw attention to how the past of the advents of these religions have led us to where we are in Nigeria today. While serving (NYSC) in the northwest about a decade ago, my direct boss startled me, when during a discussion, he said the religion of his people had always been Islam, and though he was much older than me, I wondered how much of history he knew to make such an assertion, when it is widely known that Islam came to those parts (not homegrown) from North Africa, even from the Arabs in the middle-east, and to the untiring effort of spreading the religion attributable to the jihad by the revered Sultan, Uthman Dan Fodio, who established a sultanate in Sokoto, from where he installed his kin as Emirs over conquered swathes of northern Nigeria, even as far as some parts of the west.


On the other hand, Christianity made inroads mainly in the south via the sea of European traders, first the Portuguese then much later the British as they traded with the peoples of those regions. By the time they got to the north, there was already a dominant Islamic culture, that could account for the posture which I stated earlier that my former boss took, concerning Islam as being his and his people's religion. The Christian missionaries didn't let that deter them but forayed further inland, and backed by the subtle coercive powers of colonialism much later, planted seeds of Christianity even in the most uttermost Muslim areas in the north, bringing with them schools, hospitals and churches, though not as widespread and vigorously as they did in and with the south, in order not to rock the boat of an institution they met on ground, that helped them keep the north in check and pliant to their overall rule.


The northern oligarchy and the extent of the caliphate in Sokoto was allowed to maintain and keep the power they had over their people and vassals, because that helped the British colonialists by way of reducing efforts channeled into governance seeing that a de facto  government was already in place. The tiny pockets of several governments and rulership and no governments/"republicanness" in many places in the south, meant that the British must intervene directly and forcefully, and their instruments of coercion extended from the mild and subtle in the many churches, schools and hospitals, to the brutal in police stations, prisons and the likes. They succeeded in even making some of the natives in the south forget and turn their backs on their culture, religion and the likes, replacing such with western ideas, where they could.


Today, the dichotomy in the manner in which Islam and Christianity came into Nigeria, appear to continue to determine how both are being propagated, as well as how they go about their business. The European missionaries passed their Christian message across using schools and hospitals as their main tools, especially in the South, these were mainly free (where fees were charged, there was also scholarships by the church, community or government to aid indigent students), while the community in most cases also contributed human and material resources to see to the successes of such institutions situated within their locality. Today schools and hospitals owned by the big Pentecostal as well as orthodox churches charge fees that are far beyond the capabilities of tithe-paying members whose contributions in the first instance enabled the much, if not all that went into the construction of the edifices that house the institutions, in fact in some cases, these offerings in church continue to fund the running of such institutions as going concerns, while the profit would usually go to owners or so called General Overseers of such churches, who live larger than life existences with the humongous proceeds, literally turning from Men of God to "Gods of Men".

GOD OF MEN, PREACH SPIRITUAL SECURITY TO THEIR FOLLOWERS, BUT ENGAGE PHYSICAL SECURITY FOR THEMSELVES. 

On the other side of things, there seem to be a resurgence in Jihadist tendencies amongst certain extremist Sunni Islamic groups in Nigeria's north, with the aim not only of ridding the north of Christians, animists, and most recently of Shiites, but also of not relenting until the Qur'an is dipped into the Atlantic Ocean in the South. While Boko Haram, like Maitatsine before it are the major anti-Nigerian Islamic insurgencies, more profound are the state sponsored, enabled, encouraged most times, activities of intolerance that bares it's fangs in the north, in the name of operation of the Shari'a law (seen in such parts as superior to the Nigerian constitution), attacks and lynchings of Nigerian, mainly non-Muslims accused of blasphemy, abduction and forced marriages to Emirs and Muslims of Christian underaged girls without the consent of their parents, amongst the general intolerance of people of a different opinion either politically or religiously, but have harm even death visited upon them under the guise of religion. Even more dangerous is the lack of will to prosecute and bring to justice perpetrators of hate crimes upon Nigerian citizens in the north because of differences in religious beliefs, coupled with outright genocide currently ongoing in the north-central region, and of late spilling into some parts of the south, which many suspect is in continuance of the agenda to dip the Qur'an in the Atlantic, using the excuse of herdsmen/farmers clashes, when most of the victims were murdered while unarmed in their sleep in their homes, while at work in the farms, or just being about in their location, by marauding so called Fulani herdsmen. Unfortunately, some of the funding of acts of terrorism within Nigeria and out of it, come from simple donations made in mosques even by moderate Muslims who think only to do some acts of piety in the name of Zakat.  A few even make donations on TV, on some Muslim shows that may look peaceful in outlook, till they start talking about the sufferings of Muslim Ummah in places like Somalia, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, even Nigeria, then ask for donations or those willing to help to call certain numbers via which aid can be pledged, when obviously aid organizations working in many of these places are Christian or western, with a sprinkling of Muslim organizations, some of which face investigations by international financial authorities for money laundering, especially on behalf of international terrorist organizations.

RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE IS BECOMING RULE RATHER THAN EXCEPTION IN NIGERIA'S NORTH. 

It's how we have found ourselves in a so called secular state that's no more than a religious state in actual fact, at war with itself. Recently I drew the attention of a colleague to how the two weeks of Christmas and New Year will gravely impact our business because of Christmas and New Year falling on consecutive Sundays respectively, and how Christians would insist on at least two working days after the appointed days, especially in a year when the sultanate wrongly predicted the appearance of the moon, which should signal the beginning of a Muslim festival that normally lasts two days in Nigeria, leading to a situation where it now lasted three days. It is that attitude that makes Nigerian Christians the only of their kind worldwide that go on pilgrimage, even when it isn't a stipulated "pillar" of their religion, which brought about an unfortunate situation recently where in the face of the dwindling fortunes of the Naira before the Dollar, yet it was heavily subsidized initially for Christian pilgrims, then much later for their Muslim counterparts, while Nigeria's foremost tomato puree company teetered on the verge of collapse, as the government continually turned a deaf ear to the pleas of its owner for foreign exchange relief to enable him meet his local and international obligations, amongst several such companies which had laid off staff severally, even shut down operations as Nigeria's economic woes deepens.


When I think about religion in the Nigerian context it's only aches and pains at the hurtful things it's done us than the good it's brought our society that readily comes to mind. The so called good is even such as bordering on selfishness and self preservation, "God-be-with-me-while-others-can-go-to-hell" mentality pervades the land. When the minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola delivered a speech at the convocation ceremony of the University of Benin last week, he recounted a story about a professor who knew well to separate church/mosque from state in his mind, and in outlook, and how he as well has managed to do likewise, and though you could fault Fashola, a Muslim on many grounds, as former governor and now minister, you cannot deny the fact that his very cerebral personality, and his accompanying work ethic. Unfortunately, the larger population are still in the darkness imposed on us by religion, that's why metropolitan Lagos is littered, not only with churches and mosques, as against edifice and infrastructure that speak to growth and development, but also (especially at the crossroads) with earthen bowls of sacrificial food, fruit and barley offerings to gods and spirits, so strategically placed by some Lagosians, in the thick of night invoking such "powers" to intervene in trivia that the west have learnt to solve with logic, science and technology. The west having become their own gods, to the abandonment of the ones they sold us in their land, have variously converted the worship places of their gods to museums somewhat, or civic centres, some of which they use as voting centres, as I observed in the last presidential elections in the USA. Abeg, I don taya jare!


'kovich


PICTURE CREDIT:
- https://www.naij.com/1059328-see-number-security-men-follow-pastor-ayo-oritsejafor-wife-around-photos.html 

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