The Garden of Eden

“God did not make all men in his image. He made just one couple in his likeness and gave them the ability to procreate. It is this couple that brought forth other people and all sorts of people tend to mess up a good thing.

“I’m making a case for why good Christian folks turn out to be mean to people in need of assistance at their door steps.”

Just maybe…

“The garden of Eden and the forbidden fruit in the middle of it, in the story of Adam and Eve, is really just the bushy forest between Eve’s legs and her vagina right at the center of it.

“Satan told Eve about her vagina, which she had no clue existed before he told her about it. Then Eve revealed its bounties to Adam, who naturally allowed her to lead him against the wishes of the almighty.

“All that talk of fruit and trees is quite nonsensical and was crafted to hide the true identity of the very first crime of sexual intercourse.

“That may sound like the most absurd interpretation you have ever heard. It will like feel you with rage or amusement with the crafty twist in the interpretation of the tale of Adam and Eve’s disobedience.

“On the contrary, it is quite logical. How else would anyone explain the sudden need for the first couple to cover their nakedness?”

The Siddis: Lost Africans of India

By Ahmed Yahaya JoeAccording to Winston Hubert McIntosh the founder of The Wailers; He sings :“Don’t care where you come from,🎵
As long as you’re a black man,🎶 You’re an African🎵
No mind your nationality,🎶
You have got the identity of an African” 🎵The Bush Doctor otherwise known as Stepping Razor but more popularly as Peter Tosh nailed it in his Equal Rights album of 1977The Siddis or Habshi are fellow Africans inhabiting India and Pakistan known as Afro-Asians; “They are descended from the Bantu peoples of the East African region. Some were merchants, sailors, indentured servants, slaves and mercenaries. The Siddi population is currently estimated at around 270,000–350,000 individuals, with Karnataka, Gujarat and Hyderabad in India and Makran and Karachi in Pakistan as the main population centres. Siddis are primarily Muslims, although some are Hindus and others are Christians”Similarly; “another term for Siddis – Habshi, is held to be derived from the common name for the captains of the Abyssinian ships that also first delivered Siddi slaves to the subcontinent. The first Siddis are thought to have arrived in India in 628 AD at the Bharuch port.”To escape discrimination and racial profiling many Siddis have inter – married to dilute their identity. However, the Siddis should not be mistaken for the dark skinned Indians known as Dalits that mostly inhabit Tamil Nadu. I have visited their capital Madras now called Chennai
The caste system in India is chiefly based on birth and color – The darker the lower. The Brahmins (the priestly people) are the highest then the Kshatriyas (also called Rajanyas, who were rulers, administrators and warriors), followed by the Vaishyas (artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers), and Shudras (the labourer class) of which the dark Dalits known as “Untouchables” are on the lowest rungs“What is Wrong With Being Black?” is the title of Matthew Ashimolowo’s well researched and extensively referenced 2007 book that traces the history of racial discrimination with the economic rise of Europe through the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade replicated in the Indian Ocean with Arabs.Truth is discrimination of whatever kind is a strategic weapon to gain undue advantage over others. That is why within the same race there is a caste system or class structure, within the same religion denominational differences and even within the same family siblings are positioned by age or gender and so on.Hierarchy is an entirely human creation. All men were created equal but nobody in history has ever had the capacity to enforce that inconvenient truth thereby validating the ancient axiom; “I, against my brothers. I and my brothers against my cousins. I and my brothers and my cousins against the world”It is against this background that identity politics was invented and conflict entrepreneurs arose. Since then we have all been sucked into an endless vortex of hitting each other with ethnicity, religion and other means we find necessary to take advantage over each other

“Don’t go looking for fights – but if you’re hit, deck the bastard” – Roger Ailes

Forgotten Covenant; between Muslims & Christians

By Ahmed Yahaya Joe

There is an overwhelming need to improve inter-communal harmony that has become so toxic in our dear nation. Religious hatred is a mainly product of ignorance and mischief. Both sides of the divide are very much guilty particularly against the background of political grandstanding. We currently live in tumultuous times. The ravages of the Coronavirus pandemic is no respecter for religious difference. Its economic fallout will not spare anyone while the political will be all encompassing irrespective. We therefore need a bird’s eye view on issues to pull through.

I asked the first Israeli I ever met, why the dickens Jews and Arabs in that highly combustible nation haven’t been able to work out an acceptable peace agreement between them for decades? She replied that the problem wasn’t actually religious as I had presumed but more about international power play, control and manipulation of spheres of influence as such it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to resolve the fundamental issues between them due to the various conflicting interests beyond their borders.

I still find my conversation with that secular Jewess in far away Singapore 31 years ago instructive as far as Nigeria is concerned Najran is the capital of the a southern administrative division of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of the same name. Before 1902 there were 4 monarchical Sheikhs of 4 regions which Abdulaziz Al Saud of Nejd emerged superior and became overall King in 1932 up to 1953. All subsequent monarchs in Saudi Arabia to date are among his 36 sons that survived him based on seniority.

I first heard about the Pact of Najran through my good friend Ahmad Ramadan, a extremely brilliant legal mind who back in the mid 1990s was a practitioner at the chambers of Aliyu Umar Esq, later Aliyu Umar SAN now of blessed memory.

On the al-Masīḥiyyūn al-ʿArab in the historical Arabian Peninsula the background narrative is; “The visit of the Christians of Najran to the city of Medina in 631 is perhaps the most important noted interfaith interaction between Christians and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). At this time Muhammad (pbuh) had sent letters to different communities and their leaders, encouraging them to embrace Islam. In the case of the Najran, who lived near Yemen, about 450 miles south of Medina, the Prophet sent Khaled ibn al-Walid and Ali ibn Abi Talib to deliver the letter.

At the time of this diplomatic endeavor, Najran Christians had a highly organized religious system. As such, after considering Muhammad’s (pbuh) letter, it is unsurprising that few Christians embraced Islam. In reaction to this “failed attempt” of conversion, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) sent another representative to Najran, Mughira Ibn Shu’ba, who was meant to elaborate on this new religion called Islam. Intrigued by Ibn Shu’ba’s message, the Najran Christians sent a delegation of sixty people to visit the Prophet in Medina. The delegation consisted of about forty-five scholars and fifteen assistants.

When the Christians of Najran arrived to Medina, Muhammad allowed them to pray in Nabawi mosque where the Muslims also prayed. This invitation was not only the first example of Christian-Muslim dialogue, but it was the first time that Christians prayed in a mosque. While Prophet Muhammad and the Najrans were not able to reach common ground on all theological issues, he nonetheless gave them a place to stay near his home, and even ordered Muslims to pitch their tent.
Upon leaving Medina, the Najran Christian leaders told Muhammad (pbuh):

“O, Abu al-Qasim, we decided to leave you as you are and you leave us as we are”. But the Christians nevertheless left Medina with a pact (written guarantee) that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would protect their lives, property, and freedom to practice Christianity.”
No doubt the visit of Najran Christians to Medina is an example of religious pluralism. If so why are Al – Mu’minin (Muslims) and Ahl – al – Kitab (Christians) so historically daggers drawn? There is need to highlight the Pact of Najran;
“I hereby declare that my horsemen, my foot-soldiers, my armies, my resources, and my Muslim partisans will protect the Christians as far away as they may be located, whether they inhabit the lands which border my state, in any region, close or far, in times of peace as much as in times of war. I commit myself to support them, to place their persons under my protection, as well as their churches, chapels, oratories, the monasteries of their monks, the residences of their anchorites wherever they are found, be they in the mountains or the valleys, caves or inhabited regions, in the plains or in the desert.
I will protect their religion and their Church wherever they are found, be it on earth or at sea, in the West or in the East, with utmost vigilance on my part, the People of my House, and the Muslims as a whole.
I place them under my protection. I make a pact with them. I commit myself to protect them from any harm or damage; to exempt them for any requisitions or any onerous obligations and to protect them myself, by means of my assistants, my followers and my nation against every enemy who targets me and them”

Agreed there is controversy over the applicability of the he Pact of Najran beyond that specific Christian community the treaty was sealed with. Understandably, through the eras of the Abbasids, Fatimids, Ayyubids, Mamluks, Safavids, and so on Ottomans right down to the Maliki revival of Sheikh Othman Dan Fodio a lot of water has passed under the bridge, lest I forget the intervening Crusades that spanned 175 years from 1096 – 1271.

We however have a monumental reference point in our own clime in the groundbreaking letter written by Shehu al- Hajj Muhammad al – Amin al – Kanemi (1776 -1837) on the 23rd day of Rabee-ul-thani, 1238 AH to the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Bello (1781 – 1837) who was Amir al – Mu’minin, Commander of the Faithful from 1814 -1836. After the usual polite and often flowering greetings, felicitations and best wishes the Shehu of Borno that was born in Murzuk, in present day Libya stated;

“Hence, the cause of writing this letter and the purpose of its lines, is to acquaint you that the bearers are English travelers; whose nation, out of all the other Christians, has maintained with the Mooslemeen uninterrupted treaties of religious amity and friendship, established since ancient periods, which they inherited from their forefathers and ancestors; and on this account, they penetrate into Mooslemeen countries whenever they please, and traverse all provinces and lands in confidence and trust, without fear. They came to our country, sent to us by our virtuous and accomplished friend, the Lord Yousuf Pasha, master of Tripoli, to see and delight themselves with the wonders of the Land of Soodan, and to become acquainted with its rarities, as lakes, rivers, and forests (or gardens) ; equal to which are seldom seen in other countries.”
The accomplished cleric and sovereign of the Borno empire that was of Kanembu ancestry of present day Tchad who upstaged the Sefuwa dynasty with its former capital in today’s Yobe state, ruled from Kukawa which he founded in 1814. Maiduguri was later established around Yerwa by the Ngadda River in 1907 after a treaty with the Germans, French and British.

He continued;
“You are well aware of what is stated in Alcoraanic sayings upon the subject of the observance of honour, dictated by our Lord, the Apostle of God; and that the true Mooslemeen have always avoided shedding the blood of Christians, and assisted and protected them with their honour. Be then attentive to these travelers, and cast them not into the corners of neglect; let no one hurt them, either by words or deeds, nor interrupt them with any injurious behavior: but let them return to us, safe, and may the high God bestow upon you the best reward for your treatment to them, and insure to us and to you the path of righteousness for conduct in this life.”

For me this iconic attestation that accompanied the English explorers Major Dixon Denham and Royal Navy Commander Hugh Clapperton from Kukawa to Sokoto in January, 1824 is sufficient proof of the historical covenant between Muslims and Christians before even Nigeria was crafted into being a nation. It is on that foundation laid 196 years ago we must build a new Nigeria!

In any case the conclusion of the Pact of Najran emphasized;
“Christians must not be subjected to suffer, by abuse, on the subject of marriages which they do not desire. Muslims should not take Christian girls in marriage against the will of their parents nor should they oppress their families in the event that they refused their offers of engagement and marriage. Such marriages should not take place without their desire and agreement and without their approval and consent. If a Muslim takes a Christian woman as a wife, he must respect her Christian beliefs. He will give her freedom to listen to her [clerical] superiors as she desires and to follow the path of her own religion.”

In conclusion; You don’t have to be Hindu to enjoy Indian films or an Inca to watch Telenovelas or indeed worship Shinto to drive a Honda or Toyota neither have no religion to patronize any Chinese product nor be a Korean Buddhist to use any Samsung or be an agnostic to admire Nelson Mandela. Must you own an iPhone or any Apple product if like Steve Jobs that produced them you don’t subscribe to any particular religion?

Less 48 hours or so ago America despite its present health pandemic and economic woes launched a space mission called Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover; “That will search for signs of ancient microbial life, which will advance the quest to explore the past habitability of Mars. The rover has a drill to collect core samples of Martian rock and soil, then store them in sealed tubes for pickup by a future mission that would ferry them back to Earth for detailed analysis. Perseverance will also test technologies to help pave the way for future human exploration of Mars” – yet here we are in Nigeria still dividing ourselves over religion!

God is Not a Christian

By Ahmed Yahaya Joe

The construction of Hagia Sophia church with its characteristic pendative dome was completed in the year 537. The project started in the year 360. Hagia Sophia which means – Holy Wisdom in Greek was the Constantinople seat of Byzantine Orthodoxy which had severed relationship with Roman Catholicism. When the ancient city where Hagia Sophia is located was captured by the Papacy during the Fourth Crusade in 1204 the church was converted to Rome.

In 1261, the Byzantines recaptured their city and church. Constantinople was named after Constantine the Great (227-337 AD) the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. However by 1453 the city became Istanbul and Hagia Sophia, a mosque under the Ottoman Turk, Mehmed the Conqueror. That was when its minarets were added and the crosses, icons removed with the images within plastered over with various Arabesque features.

In 1923, the historic edifice was converted into a secular museum by the founder of modern Turkey, General Kemal Atatürk. Most of its original imagery were then restored. The United Nations would eventually declare it as a World Heritage Site.
By July 24, 2020, Hagia Sophia would revert back to a mosque again. The Turkish presidential order has already been signed. Many in Christendom are worried, others concerned. I am neither for 2 main reasons. First,

I totally subscribe to the Solomonic axiom – “The race is not for the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to the men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all” Second, I remain an acolyte of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who told the story n 1989; “of a drunk who crossed the street and accosted a pedestrian, asking him, “I shay, which ish the other shide of the shtreet?” The pedestrian, somewhat nonplussed, replied, “That side, of course!” The drunk said, “Shtrange. When I wash on that shide, they shaid it wash thish shide.”

His Grace Tutu went on; “Where the other side of the street is depends on where we are. Our perspective differs with our context, the things that have helped to form us; and religion is one of the most potent of these formative influences, helping to determine how and what we apprehend of reality and how we operate in our own specific context.” The Nobel laureate eventually rested his argument; “My first point seems overwhelmingly simple: that the accidents of birth and geography determine to a very large extent to what faith we belong. The chances are very great that if you were born in Pakistan you are a Muslim, or a Hindu if you happened to be born in India, or a Shintoist if it is Japan, and a Christian if you were born in Italy. I don’t know what significant fact can be drawn from this — perhaps that we should not succumb too easily to the temptation to exclusiveness and dogmatic claims to a monopoly of the truth of our particular faith. You could so easily have been an adherent of the faith that you are now denigrating, but for the fact that you were born here rather than there.

My second point is this: not to insult the adherents of other faiths by suggesting, as sometimes has happened, that for instance when you are a Christian the adherents of other faiths are really Christians without knowing it. We must acknowledge them for who they are in all their integrity, with their conscientiously held beliefs; we must welcome them and respect them as who they are and walk reverently on what is their holy ground, taking off our shoes, metaphorically and literally. We must hold to our particular and peculiar beliefs tenaciously, not pretending that all religions are the same, for they are patently not the same. We must be ready to learn from one another, not claiming that we alone possess all truth and that somehow we have a corner on God.”

Tutu concluded; “God is not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu…: God Dwells with Us, in Us, Around Us, as Us”

In the 1567 year history of the existence of Hagia Sophia it has withstood massive earthquakes in years 553, 558, 869 and 1344. This UN World Heritage Site has outlived wars, famines, plagues and indeed dictators, emperors and kings including presidents. It has been a constantly recurring decimal in the politicization of religion in Constantinople, now Istanbul at that crucial junction in modern-day Turkey where Europe meets the Middle East. Simply put the issue is beyond religion, it is another chess game in the “Clash of Civilizations”
Hagia Sophia will therefore outlive President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and return to its origin status as a church one day. Whether or not it happens during our lifetime is beside the point. So why bother? As the ancients wisely put it; “Only 3 things cannot remain hidden for long, the Sun, the Moon and the Truth”

Tick, tock, tick, tock…………

DOWN BUT NOT OUT

By Ahmed Yahaya Joe

1. “Abraham Lincoln. Honest Abe Lincoln. Possibly the most successful politician in American history – abolished slavery, united the country after the Civil War to preserve the union, modernised the economy and put America on a path to greatness. But Lincoln was not always a raging success.
In 1831 at the age of 23, he owned a general store in New Salem, Illinois. The town was booming. However, his choice of business partners wasn’t great, and the business was run into the ground. Abe then ran for the Illinois General Assembly. He lost. Lincoln then bought a half a share in another General store. This store also went bust, his business partner died, and Abe – who borrowed money to invest – was broke. He spent several years paying off the debt.

Lincoln ran for US Senate in 1854, but was defeated. In 1858, he ran for the Senate again and won the popular vote. But through a quirk of the electoral process at that time, the Illinois State Legislature chose Lincoln’s rival anyway. This guy could not catch a break. However, he managed to come back from all this and was elected President in 1860. He is generally considered to be the greatest American president in history. He was perhaps, too good a president. His achievements inspired a wing-nut – who hated Lincoln for abolishing slavery – to shoot him in the back of the head while at the theatre. A tragic for America.”

2. “In a boxing match, you can lose the first 14 rounds. All you have to do is nail your opponent in the last 10 seconds of the 15th round and you’re the world’s heavyweight champion” – Ross Perot.

3. “At the start of the Munich Games in August 1972, Lasse Viren, a 23-year-old Finnish policeman from the small village of Myrskyla, was not widely known. Indeed, the heats of the 10,000 metres were his Olympic debut. But when he stumbled and fell just before the halfway mark in the final his chance of victory seemed to have gone.

The Tunisian Mohamed Gammoudi (who had won the 5,000 metres at the 1968 Olympics) tripped over Viren and gave up two laps later. But the Finnish runner calmly got to his feet and chased his way back into contention, overtaking Britain’s David Bedford, the long-time leader, to not only win the gold medal, but set a world record of 27min 38.4sec. Ten days later, he also won the 5,000m (in an Olympic record time) – a double that he repeated in Montreal in 1976”

LAGOS BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN

By Ahmed Yahaya Joe

LAGOS MARINA BEFORE
LAGOS MARINA AFTER

The best way to contextualize the growth and transformation of Lagos is by looking at the same southeastern view of the Marina towards the Lagos Yacht Club across the strait separating Lagos and Victoria Islands centuries apart up to Wilmot Point and beyond.

I am surprised and disappointed that Lagosians have also been caught up in the crossfire of identity politics in Nigeria. I have always assumed the “Center of Excellence” was immune to the kind of xenophobic indigenes-settler dichotomy that has bedeviled the rest of our nation, Nigeria. This post is therefore inspired by the recent intervention of Omo Eko Pataki, a forum for “Original Lagosians” entitled; Lagos – The Imperative of Cultural Renaissance. I thankfully became aware of it courtesy of the esteemed Taiwo Ogunbote of Center for Human Capital and Democratic Development, an old Gregorian of Obalende and former officer of the New York Police Department (NYPD).

Anybody who is familiar with the history of Lagos would admit that the entrepôt has always been a culmination of external factors revolving around trade and commerce from its obscure days as an Awori fishing settlement to its hostile takeover by the forces of Oba of Benin that named it Eko (which means war camp), which the Portuguese seafarer renamed Lago de Curamo in 1472.

However, it was not until Royal Navy officer, John Beecroft in 1849 who became the British consul to the Bights of Benin and Biafra based in what was now anglicanized to Lagos; which became a major hub for the present South West hinterland, which had to bombarded to military submission by Her Majesty’s warships in 1851.

For Lagos to stabilize itself amidst the incessant crisis between the Akitoye and Kosoko ruling houses and transform the strategically located “swamps and lakes” port to the Atlantic into a commercial hub order had to be restored and a semblance of authority must be established. Simply put the Union Jack had to be hoisted. To pull that off 2 persons were crucial – Samuel Ajayi Crowther, who took up the matter at the British parliament through his fellow Anglican bishops and abolitionists at the House of Lords and Madam Tinubu who impressed upon the local elite the need to transit from slave trading to a more lucrative and less hazardous legitimate trade.

Bishop Crowther was from Osoogun in present-day Oyo state and Madam Tinubu actually Efunporoye Osuntinubu, an Egba of Owu ancestry from Ojokodo in present-day Ogun state. Arguably, without their intervention we probably wouldn’t know Lagos as it is today.

What has also been perhaps deliberately neglected in the history of the evolution of Lagos is the role of the amalgam of Hausa speaking people. The Male Revolt was a slave rebellion that took place in January 1835 during Ramadan in the city of Salvador da Bahia in Brazil. In Bahia, the Hausas were primarily identified with practicing Islam because they adopted the religion before coming over to Brazil. Over time however, with the Nago slaves they united to revolt. Some of the key figures important in planning the uprising were: Ahuna, Pacífico, and Manoel Calafate.

“The word Nago derives from the word Anago, a term that the Fon-speaking people used to describe Yoruba-speaking people residing in the kingdom of Ketu now in the present-day Benin Republic.”

The aftermath of the Male Revolt led to emancipation of slaves in Brazil many of which opted to return to Africa. In 1851, a pioneer group of 60 freed slaves chartered a ship for the then equivalent of $4000 to return to Badagry. These returnees became known as Aguda which by the 1880s constituted almost 10% of the population of Lagos. Others eventually joined the return to Lagos; the Amaro from Cuba and Saro from the Caribbean via Sierra Leone.

“On 21 April 1863, John Hawley Glover was appointed administrator of the government of Lagos Colony, he remained there till 1872. Glover formed the nucleus of present-day Nigeria’s Army and Police with 10 Hausa runaway slaves on 1 June 1863. The group was known as Glover’s Hausas or ‘Glover’s Forty Thieves’. Glover went to great lengths to develop bonds of personal loyalty with the Armed Hausas. He personally trained, commanded, and chose his successors, ensuring their loyalty. In return for their loyalty, Glover rewarded his troops with land and dwellings. He raised their pay and provided them with smart uniforms that broadcast their status of free men and agents of the British colonial government.”

Who are then the original Lagosians?

The Aworis or Binis or even the descendants of Glover’s Hausas, Agudas, Amaros or even Saros?

How do we situate the millions of Igbos in Lagos that arguably constitute one third of the population of Lagos? What about the Ago Awusa that were located between Epe and Itokin from where Madam Tinubu’s fifth husband Momoh Bukar hailed from before that Hausa camp was resettled in Alausa in present-day Ikeja?

Anyway the main grouse of Omo Eko Pataki is that; “the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu; his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, and many top political office holders in the state are not natives of Lagos State”.

They further contend that ”the senators representing the state at the National Assembly – Oluremi Tinubu and Solomon Adeola; Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa; the Secretary to the State Government, Mrs Folasade Jaji; and the Head of Service, Hakeem Muri-Okunola, are also not from the state” also that the “legendary accommodating openness” that Lagos State is known for was becoming a curse, noting however that they would no longer watch the state become “a no-man’s-land” The forum also claims “Lagosians are now reduced to almost “second-class citizens on their native soil”
For me the fundamental issue at stake is; The Tragedy of the Commons which is described by Garrett Hardin in 1968 as “All human relationships involve give and take, all such relationships breakdown when one or more parties do too much taking and not giving” Apologies to the Gbaygi of FCT.

“Isale Eko translates to ‘bottom of Eko’, was so named because of its location south of the area called ‘Eko’ (later called Lagos). Isale Eko started as the home of Aromire, a pepper farmer who was one of the sons of Olofin, an Awori settler, who was the chief of Iddo Island and the first Idejo (landowner) of Lagos Island. Aromire’s farm settlement, which was the first home of the inhabitants of Isale Eko, is today known as ‘Iga Idunganran’ (The Pepper Palace), the palace of the Oba of Lagos.” It was from this palatial surroundings the Oba of Lagos in 2015 threatened to sink the Igbo if they voted contrary to his political preference.

Unfortunately the joke is now on him as the Omo Eko Pataki under his royal nose are today poking their fingers at “the abberation which emerged since 1999”

In conclusion; Who build this Gada (Bridge)? This for me is a fitting metaphor for who built Lagos, a question asked by “Acksion Governor” Brigadier General Raji Alagbe Rasaki, the military administrator in Lagos 1988-1991 while inspecting a poorly constructed culvert over a flood channel. The Omo Eko Pataki needs to understand politics is a numbers game and must therefore skillfully negotiate their relevance even in their own domain by way of an issues based engagement. The 1999 Constitution is clear and unequivocal on the eligibility for public office and the right to residency anywhere in Nigeria. “Indigene-ship” is a colonial legacy for divide and rule.

Come October 1, it will be 60 years after national independence, so we shouldn’t be having this kind of conversation in our nation.

Eko o ni baje o!

On Religious Tolerance: From the Archive

By Abba Kyari: 12 January 2014.

(Sent: Sunday, January 12, 2014, 9:29:03 AM GMT+1)

Subject: Re: Religious Tolerance:

The centrality of religious identity in our society in the last two decades or so, fills me with grief, in a society where people lived together and socialised together.

Two Friday’s ago, I was in Wusasa for the funeral service of late Mrs Yarbaba Baikie, wife of Prof Adamu Baikie. The service was attended by both Christians and Muslims.Mrs Baikie, a Hausa from Kano was the only Christian in her family. Every Easter and every Christmas, her Muslim relatives will come to Zaria and join in the celebrations. Every Eid–twice a year too– she and her family will travel to Kano for the celebrations. That has been the practise until she died.

If you visited the Baikie household during the period of mourning, you will not fail to notice the age old practice of living together and socialising together. Not even Jerry Gana could tell who is a Christian and who is a Muslim, apart from the people he knows.

I attended St Paul’s College, Wusasa. It was an Anglican Mission secondary school but was 75% grant aided by the Northern Nigerian government without any interference in its running. It was an Anglican school.

Although the majority of the students were Christians, there were a few Muslims too. That was never an issue, we were all students, majority of us never knew who came from where. It was only last year when I went to Lokoja for the funeral service of a classmate’s mother that I discovered one of our classmates is from Edo state-47 years later.

In form one, when I chose to take Bible knowledge, I was denied, because it would not look like my voluntary choice. It was only in form three that i was allowed. Every morning, all the Muslims stayed out in an adjacent classroom during the morning mass before we were allowed into to the hall for general assembly. Every Sunday during service all the Muslim students must attend Muslim students meeting. Every Friday all the Muslims students are gathered and put in the the school van and driven to the juma’a mosque in Zaria City.

Every Ramadan Muslim students were woken at 3 am for sahur, for a freshly cooked meal and not leftovers. In my five years, we had two Head Boys who were Muslims. In all our social activities religion was NEVER an issue. It is only against the backdrop of what is happening today that one is recounting these examples, then they meant nothing.

About 22 years ago, I was the best man at a wedding in Owo between an Ibo catholic and Yoruba Anglican. It was not an issue. I am the godfather to the first son of that union.

The religion that is ‘dividing’ our communities, is not the religion of God, it is the religion of Nigerians, it is the religion mammon. It is all about fight for political and economic space by a very few people,creating chaos and bloodshed.

©Abba Kyari: 2014

Sunday of Palms and Qualms

Matthew 21:1-17World wide today is Palm Sunday. “In the biblical text above, Jesus sent his disciples to get a colt (donkey) for him, telling them to repeat His instructions if confronted when untying the colt. The next scene described Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. As the colt was untied and decorated to carry the Master. The colt was released from bondage to carry the Christ. We must note that the main purpose of our release from bondage is to carry the Master – an instrument to accomplish His mission.” This is the quote from ‘The Daily Fountain’; daily devotional guide of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)The timing of this year’s Palm Sunday is instructive in a number of respects. Most of the world is in lock down. Christians join the world is shutting themselves away from churches and congregational worship on a day that is most significant for communal worship.The hassles of daily life has been conditionally reduced to the bare necessities of live, namely;Life, Safety & Family.
The entire world has, without warning, withdrawn inside, together and it almost complete unison.As we wait for the coming release from this pandemic and it’s accompanying discomforts, are going to make the lessons worthwhile?Is the world using this moment to reboot it’s sense of priority?This spiritual anniversary of sober reflection coincides with a time of conscious assessment of what matters the most.Definitely this Sunday of Palms comes around with bouts of doubts and concerns. But for any attentive person of whatever orientation, creed & calling, this is a time for reconsidering what matters the most. Indeed this Sunday of Palms comes with it’s Qualms.Though we’re not in complete disarray but we will all concur that it could have been a whole lot worse.We will beat this as we did most others before it. This is a wake up call, we all know this. But have we all reassessed?

Nigeria Losing Her Religion: A Nation’s Faith Unveiled in the Face of Covid 19

By Evon Benson Idahosa

I remember falling asleep at a Tuesday evening church service as a 9 year old child. I had a tambourine on my lap and as I fell to the floor, it reverberated thunderously throughout the hall, drawing the attention of everyone who had been attentively listening to the dynamic preacher-man.

I awakened to piercing stares and side eyes- particularly from my father- whose message I had disrupted. Every Nigerian child knows that stare, that glare that silently speaks a thousand words, cloaks you in debilitating fear and assures your quivering being that there will be consequences.

Needless to say, it was a quiet ride home and for the rest of the revival week, I was ushered to the front row where I forced my eyes open, humming tunes to myself to stay awake.

Saying that I literally grew up in church would be an understatement. Week long revival services, such as the one I reference above, were customary. I was also in the choir, went to Sunday school before church services on Sunday, Agape Force Children’s meetings on Saturdays, mid-week services and the occasional 6:30 am morning prayer services, followed by our home bible study with Auntie B. And because my father was Archbishop Benson Idahosa, there were no negotiations. It just was.

At the age of 10, shortly after the infamous “tambourine experience,” the truth of those messages became real and I earnestly became a follower of The Way. And so, as news began to sweep the globe of the novel Corona virus and its import, I found myself immediately turning to my faith as a source of comfort and peace. I also called my mother, who now heads CGMI, the global ministry my father left when he passed away 22 years ago. Her words of encouragement and the tone of her voice assured me that, as we like to say in Nigeria, ‘it is well.’ And it will be!

But for now, the pandemic continues to rage, as thousands succumb to its will. First China. Then South Korea. Japan. An epidemic. Then Italy, the UK, the US. Thousands upon thousands of cases were being reported and every day brought the reality closer to home. Then it became a global pandemic and as it stands, the WHO estimates that there are 719,700 confirmed cases globally, with almost 34,000 deaths.
On February 28th, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, confirmed its index case of the Corona virus which arrived the country via an Italian businessman.

As I write, Nigeria’s centre for Disease Control is reporting a total of 135 confirmed cases and two deaths, having conducted just several hundred tests, even though thousands of passengers have arrived from varying countries since the index. Self isolation has been deemed an advisory, not mandatory.

Nigeria has taken what some would consider drastic, yet in this writer’s opinion, insufficient and strikingly Western style measures to address what is likely to come in the absence of a miracle. In addition to finally closing her borders from international travelers, including Nigerians, schools have been shut down, civil servants are being asked to work from home, “social distancing” policies are being enacted and several states, including my home state of Edo, have prohibited religious, social and public gatherings of more than 20 persons.

In a country where over 90% of her citizens profess to be religious, most Nigerians are accustomed to turning to their faith in times of crisis. The corona virus pandemic is no exception. Many who had strayed from God are now repenting of their sins and brandishing the sign of the cross as they leave their homes. Others are praying for a “Passover,” as CNN and other news outlets flood us with “end of the world,” doomsday messaging. As a result, many of us are yearning to collectively gather to pray.

Whether the desire to collectively gather is buttressed by denial (“coronavirus is not here” — “the spirit of corona virus is dead in Nigeria”) or stems from a deep seeded longing for God to show mercy to a healthcare system that is wholly unprepared to handle the worst case scenario, the fact remains that Nigeria’s religious faithfuls are unaccustomed to missing gatherings for anything. Services are considered sacred times to commune with God and to be encouraged by the brethren. Others hang on to every word of their clerics who, in some cases, insist on serving as a religious crutch- intermediaries between their congregants and God.

Many believers who engage with God on a transactional basis come bearing tithes and/or offerings in the hopes that God will hear their prayers. (He hears them regardless).

As such, the prohibition on religious gatherings of more than 20 (which essentially translates to a prohibition of services in general) has resulted in many Nigerian believers losing their ‘religion,’ i.e., left bewildered as to how to make the adjustment to a God who potentially exists outside the four walls of their churches; to a God who speaks directly to them in God’s long forgotten voice. Who, precisely, are Nigerian believers without our religions and religious houses of worship?

Could it be that for the first time in a long time, Nigerian believers are being presented with a church-less opportunity to develop even more meaningful personal relationships with their God; to ‘lay hands’ on themselves and speak words of healing into their children from a God who has always heard them? Could this pandemic serve as an opportunity for believers to be what Murray Bowen describes as a ‘non-anxious presence’ to those who may be paralyzed by fear?

To this end, some larger churches are offering their services online. However, for the working poor who faithfully make up the backbone of most Nigerian churches, internet connectivity and/or live streaming of an entire service make that option impractical and/or unaffordable. They are the ones, who because they live day to day, cannot afford to practice social distancing, “stay at home” and for some, even “wash your hands,” because soap becomes a luxury when one’s ‘daily bread’ is devoid of the ‘daily.’ If our government does not step up to courageously seek support that is tailored to our unique realities and then provide that support to those on the margins, the import of the corona virus in our beloved Nigeria could be felt by generations to come.

As such, could this pandemic present an opportunity for churches to fill the glaring gaps and practically serve the last and the least in a manner that reveals who we profess to be as followers of The Way? Might this be an opportunity for the church to put our egos aside and creatively heed Jesus’ instructions to ‘feed my sheep’, to apply the Balm of Gilead, by serving those who will be most physically, mentally and economically impacted?

Practically speaking, could we convert our sanctuaries to temporary hospitals or food pantries where those in need can obtain essentials? Can we use the funds of those who have faithfully donated over the years to buy ventilators and personal protective gear for our hospitals and health workers on the front lines? Can we purchase hygiene products and distribute them to those who may be confined to their homes? This, I believe, is our mandate.

At the end of the day, my faith in God runs deep. It has guided my life since I was 10 and I prayerfully trust that we will get through this. But as the Nigerian Church temporarily loses her ‘religion’ and her faith is unveiled in the face of COVID-19, she is presented with an opportunity to reverberate thunderously and rise up to be who she professes for such a novel time as this. After all, in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘the church is the church only when it exists for others…not dominating, but helping and serving’.

Courtesy Ahmed Yahaya Joe

No Religion – The World’s Latest Religion

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.”