By Ahmed Yahaya Joe (edited)
My thoughts start with the notion that the western world’s first day of the week (Sunday) is always the most segregated in Nigeria due to the number of ethnic and tribal association meetings that take place. No nation is built that way.
The attached picture is that of Morgan Freeman the host of The Story of God, a documentary of unforgetable 15 episodes asking very tough questions across the religious divide. Mr. Freeman also engages those that argue that there is no God. One thing that is obvious from that program is that there is a direct link between religious intolerance and ignorance.
Secularism, is defined as “indifference to, or rejection or exclusion of, religion and religious considerations” It also the “desire to exclude religion from social activities or civic affairs, banishment of religious symbols from the public sphere, state neutrality toward religion and the separation of religion from state”
According to a 2016 report in the National Geographical “The religiously unaffiliated, called “nones,” are growing significantly. They’re the second largest religious group in North America and most of Europe. In the United States, nones make up almost a quarter of the population. In the past decade, U.S. nones have overtaken Catholics, mainline protestants, and all followers of non-Christian faiths.”
So why are the numbers of those subscribing to no religion increasing by the day? It is chiefly due to increased economic prosperity, advances in medical sciences, improved standard of living and a man known as Christopher Hitchens that wrote a 2007 book entitled God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
In it Mr. Hitchens argues that organized religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children” A review of the book puts it that Hitchens “supports his position with a mixture of personal stories, documented historical anecdotes and critical analysis of religious texts. His commentary focuses mainly on the Abrahamic religions, although it also touches on other religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism.”
It is significant to note that the increase in the number of those that subscribe to no religion is in the US, Canada and Europe. While China remains majority atheist parts of Asia, Middle East and Africa are still very religious. The case of Nigeria is toxic. We breathe religion like oxygen yet every aspect of our national life is characterized by corrupt practices from top to bottom.
In his book Hitchens addresses a hypothetical question: if he were alone in an unfamiliar city at night, and a group of strangers began to approach him, would he feel safer, or less safe, knowing that these men had just come from a prayer meeting? Hitchens answers:
“Just to stay within the letter ‘B’, I have actually had that experience in Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, Belgrade, Bethlehem and Baghdad. In each case … I would feel immediately threatened if I thought that the group of men approaching me in the dusk were coming from a religious observance”
He gives detailed descriptions of the tense social and political situations within these cities, which he personally experienced and attributes to religion.
Will no religion reach Nigeria? It is inevitable due to the way and manner we distort and manipulate religion for our personal agenda, economic gain and political purposes besides one day economic prosperity and improved standard of living will finally arrive in Nigeria!
It is obvious this ‘No Religion’ talk will deeply worry some of my close friends and even relatives who took time to personally reach out to me with their concerns. I thank you all. Like I emphasized during your various visits, I am still on course but nevertheless entrenched in Thomas Jefferson’s dictum of:
“Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life: if it has been honest and dutiful to society the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.”
Against that background may you find the following excerpts written by Festus Adedayo further instructive on my position. Have a great week ahead!
In Kano State, a highly populated & politically influential historical region in Northern Nigeria, the Umar Ganduje government announced a ban on street begging by Almajiris. Spokesperson to Ganduje, said:
“If Almijiri teacher thinks he cannot accept the new policy, he has to leave the state. When Almijiri are caught begging, it is not only that beggar (who) is caught, but his parents or guardians. Such parents or guardians would be taken to court to face the wrath of the law.”
However, in flagrant disdain of these emerging Northern mindsets against centuries of decadence in the North, the Kano State Council of Ulama deplored this move. Similar to this warped thinking was that of Lagos beggars. They were reported to have stormed Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s office in ten buses and seven tricycles. Reports also had it that they barricaded the entrance to the State House of Assembly, demanding audience with the Governor. One would have thought the best persons to barricade their offices and homes were the hundreds of Northern leaders since independence who had abetted that decadent system of begging.
The above puts Madame Aminata Fall Sow, a Senegalese novelist’s The Beggars’ Strike at the centre of consideration. Like the beggars’ issue, which has been engaging the minds of perceptive northerners in recent time, issues like begging, polygamy, inordinate political ambition, superstition and strength in unity also engaged Sow Fall while writing the book, originally published in French, in Dakar in 1979, with the title, La Greve des Battu. Aminata, with her gripping, fast-paced satire, tells the story of the hypocrisy of society.
A variant of the imprisonment of the Northern Ulamas’ minds and indeed, their hypocrisy, can be found in Southern Nigerian rigidity to a divorce between it and unscientific reasoning. Recently, a 22-year-old female student of the Lagos State University, Favour Seun Daley-Oladele, was killed and dismembered somewhere in Ikire, Osun State by her boyfriend, Owolabi and her body parts made into pepper soup by a Cherubim and Seraphim prophet, Segun Philips Adeeko. The boyfriend was said to have contracted one Prophet Adeeko to do this, so that he and his mother could get rich quick. Similar methodology to this today in Southern Nigeria is how churches and mosques are besieged by aimless young men and women who believe that inside those places lie their monetary and indeed, existential redemption.
What links the Northern Ulamas’ and their Southern accomplices’ minds is an unscientific reasoning. Born in 544 BC, Heraclitus had been quoted to have said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” In the same vein, some precepts in the the Holy Bible, written for a people alien to Africa centuries ago, have to bow to a modern age if we are serious of being players in modernity’s roulette game. Or else, we will continue to encounter contradictions like our youth believing that if they sacrifice human parts, they would become millionaires or that if they stew in churches/mosques, God would make them rich like Mike Adenuga.
The truth is that, money-making is more of science than metaphysics. It is a deceivable opinion to believe that anything apart from mental exertion and careful planning, with a dosage of prayer, can bring wealth. The richest people in the world can articulate how they make their money scientifically. American business magazine, Forbes compiles world billionaires’ names periodically and I cannot see anyone of them who arrived at being wealthiest billionaires in the globe on account of their being embroiled in human rituals. I cannot see among those wealthiest people anyone who sleeps in church or mosques. Even Aliko Dangote or Mike Adenuga’s religious colour is at best opaque.
In 2018, 2,208 people made the Forbes list and that included 259 newcomers. Most of them were from China and the US. Sixty-three of them were under 40, with a record number of 256 women. The average net worth of the people on that list was said to be US $4.1 billion, up US$350 million from 2017. The 2018 wealthiest human alive, Jeff Bezos, with an estimated wealth of $131 billion, and his billionaire ilk, are not reported to sleep in any mosque or church or fiddling with human entrails to make money. The un-science mind infiltrates virtually every aspect of our lives. This is why we are under-developed.”