A full grown adult man decides to park his truck right in the middle of a busy express road, not minding the several other people who are also legitimate users of the federal road embarking on a trip through the same route, because…wait for it – he needs to say his prayers. This man could have veered off the highway, parked his truck properly to enable others continue on their journey without any unnecessary delay, but he chose to do otherwise. I think the most shocking and annoying part for me in all of these was how people around him, and even law enforcement officers found the whole episode amusing and opted to take pictures instead of calling this individual to order, and possibly getting him arrested for obstructing free flow of traffic. A few days ago, I stumbled on the story of a pastor in the eastern part of the country who allegedly raped a 13-year old boy in order to cure his homosexuality. While yet another another “Man of God” was in the news for allegedly flogging two teenagers for fornicating, only to be arrested for fraud the following week. Again and again, we hear and read stories of clerics who commit the vilest of crimes against humanity, and one is wont to wonder if there’s some sort of award for the cleric who can manage to pull off the most jaw-dropping transgression.
Aside the shenanigans of our politicians and the endemic corruption that has plunged us into the recession that we have found ourselves, religion is one issue that is fast becoming more of a curse than a blessing in Nigeria. Hardly a week goes by without a report in the media about some crime committed in the name religion. While many were still reeling from the shock induced by the gruesome killing of Bridget Agbahime and Eunice Olawale by alleged Muslim extremists, the news filtered in that a nine-year old boy had been found in chains, and locked up in a room as punishment for incessant stealing by his own biological father, who is ironically a pastor.
Only last month, the plan to establish a film village in Kano State was abandoned when some Islamic clerics kicked against it, vowing to mobilize Muslims against the project if the federal government went ahead with it. Their reason – “The project is a plot to undermine Muslims and their religion by creating a hub for immorality.” Apparently, the threats worked. It hardly mattered that the establishment would have provided employment for hundreds of Kano residents and opened the area to trade and investment. In this recession, in these hard times, an initiative that would have kept many off the streets and provided a stable income was canceled because religion had to be appeased.
Over the last decade, thousands have lost their lives as an aftermath of the Boko Haram onslaught. The Fulani herdsmen who have been on a killing spree have gone about their dastardly acts hardly disturbed. Almost every day, crimes are committed in the name of the religion. A pastor decides to enjoy the pleasure of another man’s wife’s body in a bid to “help” her intercede for a child because of religion. Another buries a human head in the premises of a worship center in order to gain more worshipers in the name of religion.
As much we are quick to chant “One Nigeria” and affirm the sanctity of a country which should remain one indivisible entity, it’s difficult to visualize the veracity of that belief when current happenings in the nation clearly contradict it. Religious intolerance is gaining grounds by the day. Or how else does one explain the killing of a 74-year old woman by a mob simply because she had an altercation with a neighbour over a praying space? How does one wrap their mind around the incident involving a carpenter who was thoroughly beaten and almost killed because he was seen having a meal during Ramadan when he practices another faith?
According to a research carried out by the Pew Research Center and shared by the World Economic Forum, Nigeria is ranked the 9th most religious country in the world. We are a highly religious people. Most of us don’t joke with our faith. We wear our religious hearts on every part of our body, and not just on our sleeves. In this part of the world, religion seems to be more about acting as though one is pious and infinitely better than the other person. It reeks of hypocrisy. The most developed countries in the world aren’t so big on religion, and that should tell us something. Frankly speaking, religion has done more harm than good for us.
Religion is the reason we stomach all the inanities thrown at us by a section of the populace who hide under its guise to perpetrate atrocities that even the devil would marvel at. Religion is the opium that draws us back as a people when we decide to leave everything to “God” after we have been blatantly abused in the church or mosque.
Religion is responsible for the mediocrity that has come to define many in their individual lives since they believe that the god they serve will sort them out whether they work or not. It’s why you would find almost every abandoned warehouse or garage has been converted into another church. Ubiquitous churches where the pastor’s every utterance is law. There are several acclaimed men of god who are perpetrating evil left, right and center, leaving harm and destruction in their wake.
The United Kingdom which is one of the least religious countries in the world is one of the most visited by middle and upper Nigerians and Africans general. Their relative indifference to religion has not stopped them from being one of the biggest economies of the world. A recent poll by Gallup International and the Worldwide Independent Network of Market Research ranks China as the least religious country in the world. Yet, it remains one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies, and the world’s largest exporter of goods. Their aversion to religion has apparently done them little harm.
Nigerians are innately good people. The average Nigerian is benevolent and compassionate. This was once again affirmed when millions of naira was raised within a couple of days by sympathetic members of the public to fund the medical treatment of the now deceased Mayowa Ahmed, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in spite of the economic situation in the country. Imagine how far we would have gone if we didn’t have the burden of religion weighing us down.
The potential this country has is one that would literally live us awestruck (even though by now, many of us of tired of this line which has refused to translate to reality) if many of us had an idea of it, but religion continues to stifle our potential greatness.
I am not oblivious of the fact that corruption and incessant looting of the treasury over the years is the major problem which has gotten us where we are today, but right now religion trumps everything. Religion is the devil.
If religion doesn’t kill us nothing else will.