Monday, October 15, 2007

Religion, Politics & Nigeria's National Unity

Tuesday, 19 June 2007
Religion, Politics & Nigeria’s National Unity
By Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States

All human lives are sacred. Nigerian lives, are especially sacred to me.

This means that the taking of a life, a Nigerian life, by anyone, is the ultimate heresy, the ultimate blasphemy and the most egregious sacrilege! A Nigerian taking the live of another Nigerian, is the most unpardonable blasphemy, heresy and most damnable sacrilege!

What then could possess any Nigerian to kill another Nigerian? Why do we kill ourselves in the name of any religions? Or in the name of cults or shrines? Speaking for myself, personally, I find the fact that I am a Nigerian worth all the celebrations in the world! I am bashful in my Nigerian-ness, it is for me, actually stronger than any form of organized religions, or any of the usual formal religions. It is stronger than any faiths, cults or shrines!

Nigerians have been proclaimed as the most religious people on earth! But what is Nigeria’s benefit in this? How be it that Nigerians are feverishly religious, some Nigerians are quick to display their passion, their fervor, emotional and emotive reactions to religious issues and debates? Some Nigerians are even known to display such emotive expressions and tones, about religious matters, bearing on the irrational and fanatical.

Some Nigerians are known to gyrate so ferociously about religious matters, and yet, they would not do the same for Nigeria’s national interests? They would not show similar or identical fervors and passions regarding the protection and preservation of Nigeria’s national unity! But why?

Nigeria is unarguably permeated with high rate of crime and insecurity, there are reports of armed robberies, there are these cases of intractable corruption phenomenon, there are cases of 419ers that have given Nigeria a public relations black eye on the world stage.
Where then, are the majority of Nigerians who are very deeply religious people? Where then is their positive influences on public morality and public policies?

Are some of them faithless in their ostentatious claims of religiosities and moral certitudes? Is what we have then, merely, proclamations without practice of norms?

Some Nigerians kill other Nigerians because of religious fervor and religious fanaticism? And, I surely have no patience for any Nigerian that would kill another Nigerian, for religious "reasons" more like religious unreason!

How can anyone or I, reconcile religious fervors and passions that are frequently on display by Nigerians, with unthinking killing or murder of fellow Nigerians in the name of any religion? Isn’t that like loudly proclaiming your virginity, while carrying visible pregnancy?

I do not know of any holy book, that encourages crime or immorality. All religions seem to have obvious auto response in the advocacies of moral and ethical life styles for its adherents. So, one may rightly ask, from which populace do corrupt Nigerians come? Would a good Christian, a good Muslim, give a wink and a nod to crook? 419er or looter?
I would hope not! How then does any true Christian, true Muslim, explain our malaises?

Nigeria’s national unity is crucial for our national development. Just as crucial as the elimination of corruption. I constantly therefore get very impatient with issues that separate us as a people of one national citizenship.

I have always wondered, what it would take to create a stronger and indivisible bond between all citizens of Nigeria. Would a foreign war do the trick? During the schism between Nigeria and Cameroon over Bakassi Peninsula, I wanted Nigeria to prevail in the dispute with Cameroon over that territory. At some point, I wondered whether a war, as undesirable as wars are, I wondered whether a war by Nigeria with Cameroon over Bakkassi Peninsula would have spurred Nigerians to love Nigeria and each other more?

My rationale or reasoning was that, Nigerians and Nigeria, faced with an external enemy, may actually, forget and jettison petty squabbling between Nigerians, based on the politics of religion, region and ethnicities. I have always wondered, whether facing a national catastrophe, national disaster or cataclysm of immense proportions, could stimulate our sense of oneness, nationalism and patriotism.

Nigerians in my experience, have in the past been united by grief, tragedies and catastrophes. I remember how Nigerians from every conceivable religion, region and ethnic backgrounds, rallied and united in sympathies and commiserations with fellow Nigerians in Bakolori, Sokoto State, as Bakolori farmers, during President Shagari’s administration, had become victims of government’s forceful actions, against these Nigerian farmers who had resisted the confiscation of their lands for a federal project

It will also be recalled, how our nation rallied in sympathies and mournfulness, in support of victims of Ogunpa River, when it had overflowed and breached its banks, killing scores, and damaging properties extensively. Nigerians mourned as Ogunpa River breached it and flooded communities, killing many Nigerians in scores, Nigerians were united.

The same can be said of Nigerians reaction recently, during the President Obasanjo administration, when the federal government exercised it’s strong arm and might, in dealing with situations in Odi, then Zaki Biam etc, the government received robust criticisms from a welter of Nigerian critics, who rallied to support, the recipients of government tough stance policies.

National unity, has also been exemplified and replayed, after every successive air disasters and successive defeats at international soccer games, even though is dirges, but united, nevertheless!

These assertions that I make, are not so, because I want to be flippant or careless. Instead, these assertions arises from my keen observations of Nigerians over an extended period of time. I have for instance observed that Nigerians tend to bandy together when there are crises, crises that affect us Nigerians as a collective in interests and aspirations.

Imagine the wonderful Nigeria that would result, if Nigerians, all focus on a common purpose? As opposed, to, parochial, limited and shortsighted divisive purposes?

These observations that I have made, have led me to conclude that a great number of Nigerians seem to owe unflinching and unalloyed allegiance to their religion, and then ethnicity, and region, in that order.

I have observed how frequently, Nigerians have reacted with extraordinary strong emotions and opinions, to matters Nigerian, in particular, issues that have religious undertones and flavor. But why does parochial matter have the advantage, over national issues and national interests?

Similarly, Nigerians are quick to jump and leap, in defense of their ethnicity or region, when matters affecting such geographical affinity, to some Nigerians, you would see ferocity, vehemence and audacious reactions in defense of, in retaliations against perceived targets or opponents or proponents.

If a Nigerian writes an article, for instance, about how Nigeria can harness the immense benefits of modern technology and its information superhighways, or how Nigeria could place Nigerian scientists on the surface of the moon, in say, ten years, or if anyone bash Nigeria, the response would be assuredly, tepid and terse, spiced with snickers of laughter and jest, at the writer’s dare at such positive audacities!

Conversely, if anyone writes about a particular religion, or shrine in the East-North-West-Central and in-between of Nigeria’s geographical land-space, or if anyone writes about the Christianity or Islam, assuredly too, there will most probably be, a ferocities of flurry of responses. There will be a deluge of attacks. As well as a flood of threats of sanctions and harms to the writer.

Before I became a semi retired Catholic, I left the Catholic church and joined a semi Catholic church, Marble Collegiate church in midtown Manhattan in New York City. This church is where the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the author of the famous book, "The Power of Positive Thinking" He held court as an all inclusive congregation preacher reverend, he preached as the resident Bishop for over fifty years, until his death at 93 years of age as the head of this Dutch-Reformed, Catholic without the guilt-church.

At Marble Collegiate church, the practice of religion is liberal, very liberally inclusive. It regularly, invited Imams of Islam, Rabbis of Judaism, animated Pastors of Pentecostal, as well as Baptist churches, and, Gay and Lesbian ministers to preach regularly, at Marble!

Marble Collegiate church in my view therefore, practice tolerance, practice diversities par excellence, in doing so, it weaved a true unity of fabrics of its congregants into a spiritual cloth for members of the congregation, irrespective of their race, nationalities, religious backgrounds and leanings, and sexual orientation. The choir leader of Marble at a time, was a hired Jewish female Rabbi equivalent.

This Marble Collegiate analogy, is just the same way, in my opinion at least, that Nigerians can weave the different and very wondrously diverse fabrics of our Nigerian-ness, into a national unity cloth, for the benefits of all Nigerians

If I have my way, I would convince Nigerians to reverse the order above, in which religion, region and ethnicities, as parochial as they are, are however put over and above, as priority, against Nigeria‘s national interests! Nigerians should love Nigeria first and foremost, then love hometowns and region, then religion and other things. But Nigeria first and foremost and all other things, as the biblical injunctions say, all other things will be added to Nigerians and Nigeria.

I was opposed to sovereign national conference, I remain opposed.
I have been called various unflattering names for believing unflinchingly, in one, indivisible Nigeria.

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