By Douglas Anele
In fact, despite the hysterical shibboleths of sycophants, broad sections of Nigerians believe, correctly, I am afraid, that President Jonathan’s administration is among the most corrupt since independence. If religion were a force in fostering good leadership, Nigeria would have been the greatest country in the world, even surpassing the United States, given her incredible human and material resources and clement weather conditions.
Accordingly, outward show of religiosity by our leaders does not have appreciable positive impact – probably they are pretending in order to deceive gullible Nigerians. I am not surprised that President Jonathan’s religious devotedness has not really helped him fight corruption and indiscipline effectively, because reliance on supernatural assistance for exemplary leadership tends to discourage critical and creative thinking that can generate valid solutions to the problem of haphazard development. That said, the Islamic and Christian clergy currently hobnobbing with Mr. President, governors and so on are mostly cash-and-carry “men of God” only interested in boosting their bank accounts and prestige. Prominent imams and pastors supported the odious regimes of military dictators, just as President Jonathan is receiving unalloyed backing from prominent pastors. Considering the closeness of our failed leaders to sycophantic pastors and imams, the latter appear to have connived with the former to impoverish the people more and more since they do not want to lose the benefits and privileges they enjoy being close to the corridors of power.
Ideally, religious leaders should be bold in speaking out against injustice, corruption, and impunity in government. In our own case, fawning members of the clergy are pusillanimous; they pretend that “it is well,” and continuously ask Nigerians to pray for their leaders. The only prayer our leaders deserve, if indeed there is a God that answers prayers, is the request that those guilty of corruption and incompetent leadership should be afflicted with protracted terrible and incurable diseases that will prevent them from enjoying their ill-gotten wealth. Looking at the main theme from a different angle, on the strength of Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution which prohibits adoption of a state religion, Nigeria is often referred to as a secular state. But it is more accurate to describe the country as a multi religious society, judging by the overarching influence of religion in all aspects of our national life.
People hardly realise that the billions of naira flowing out of the country for government-sponsored pilgrimages and religious tourism could have been put to better use in education, health and general infrastructural development. If Nigeria were indeed a secular society, why should the federal and state governments be involved in financing and organising pilgrimages to purported holy lands outside Nigeria? What is the benefit of wasting public resources in a matter that should be more appropriately handled by the intending pilgrims and private organisations? The way I see it, going to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Mecca for religious purposes is a waste of energy and resources. For, assuming that Jehovah or Allah is omnipresent as the faithful claim, what is the point in spending vast sums of money in holy pilgrimages, with the risks associated with air travel, since the supreme being can be worshipped anywhere? If God can answer a sincere believer in my village, Ishi-Owerri, what is the need for travelling to the Middle East? Another issue to consider is the debilitating effects of Christian and Islamic doctrines on the intellect, especially on children and the youth generally. The scriptures of both religions contain numerous absurd propositions that can only be accepted with blind faith. Unquestioned belief in virgin birth, resurrection, existence of angels, hell fire and paradise, for example, is based solely on faith, not on scientific evidence. Thus, it is regarded as a sign of piety for believers to be indifferent to the question of truth concerning these articles of faith. The negative consequence of this attitude is that believers hardly try to justify their religious doctrines with sound argument; the more violent ones among them readily resort to violence against those who refuse to believe what believers believe dogmatically.
The best one gets from most religious devotees is the sanctimonious fallacious argument that one ought to believe everything in The Holy Bible or The Holy Koran because doing so is socially useful or encourages ethical conduct. It must be remarked that oftentimes people have already accepted the fundamental principles of morality on purely mundane grounds before citing relevant religious texts as justification. That is to say, they have a theology based on their conception of what is right and what is wrong, and not the other way round.
Dogmatic assurance of the truth of Christianity and Islam has done incalculable harm to the cognitive and affective faculties of Nigerian youths. Think of all the hocus pocus about sin, miracles and supernatural interventions preached several days in a week from different pulpits in all the churches nationwide; consider the fiery admonitions of fanatic imams to the faithful on the need for martyrdom in the cause of Allah. It is almost impossible to discuss rationally the difficult challenges of contemporary Nigeria with the average Nigerian without the latter expressing total reliance on the inexorability of divine intervention in the fullness of time.
A generation fed continuously with the diet of religious superstition, as is the case presently, can hardly incubate the critical mass of creative and bold minds capable of generating imaginative ideas and implementing them for positive social transformation. Devotion to the teachings of Islam and Christianity, usually distorted by power-hungry, sexually perverted materialistic preachers and evangelists, leads to cognitive dissonance and all sorts of mental disorientation. Pentecostal churches are the biggest culprits in this respect, because the general overseers, by relentlessly regurgitating falsehoods and uncorroborated accounts of miracles that never took place, disconnect millions of their followers from the real world, many of whom suffer severe mental torture bordering on insanity as a result.
Moreover, there is compelling evidence that many pastors and imams use diabolical means to strengthen and consolidate their entrapment of prominent church members. Thousands of gullible Nigerians have given away billions in cash and property to wily demagogues and criminals masquerading as men and women of God. Countless others have been rendered useless by greedy and wicked religious preachers who readily exploit the existential fears and gullibility of people to extort money and property from them. It is impossible to forget those that lost their means of livelihood and whose families are destroyed simply because they succumbed completely to the sugary banalities of lunatic demagogues in religious garments. What about sincere worshippers who died while under the illusion that they are doing God’s work, and believers that refused to seek medical help on time or take their medication due to unshakable trust in God’s alleged miraculous healing powers?
To be continued.