By Muyiwa Adetiba
Last Tuesday’s Sallah would have been celebrated by all — Christians, Muslims and Ifa worshipers—in the Yoruba kingdom. That is how it had always been done. And that is how, if our politicians don’t mess things up, it should always be done.
You see, the Yoruba race has never allowed religious differences to divide it. Its forefathers had the foresight — and grace— not to allow any foreign religion to cut the ties that bound its people. Thus, inter-religious marriages were not frowned upon.
Up till today, I know families where the wives go to church at least twice a week, while the husbands remain devout Muslims.
I know many Christian wives who dutifully wake up every 4am to prepare breakfast for their husbands during Ramadan and even partake in the 30day fast. I also have friends who observe both the Muslim Ramadan and the Christian lent.
I grew up looking forward to four important festivities — Easter, Ileya, Xmas and New Year. These were public holidays with a difference, because they meant we could expect rice with chicken/ turkey/ meat depending on the festivity. They were also the times we were ‘allowed’ to visit and be visited by friendly neighbours at meal times.
Till today, there are many Christians from Islamic backgrounds, who still buy rams to send to extended families. Till today, I still do the rounds of my Muslim friends when its time for Sallah.
So why do some people want to spoil a good thing by making themselves champions of things that divide rather than unite? Why do they want to retrogress?
Last month, a distant, but ‘highly connected’ friend showed me a list of top officials in a SouthWesternState. My jaw dropped when I saw the percentage of Muslims over Christians in top political and executive positions.
Was it a deliberate policy of the powers that be in that state to promote a religious card or an inadvertent, albeit dangerous development? My ‘contact’ went further to hint that some of our ‘progressive’ leaders were determined that certain States would never be governed by Christians in the South West.
Now, I cant believe that anybody with a Yoruba blood will play a religious card against a fellow Yoruba given what their progenitors bequeathed them.
Did Awolowo whom they all respect ever use religion to pick his lieutenants? Was Jakande chosen over Adeniran Ogunsanya by Lagosians because he is a Muslim? Did Yoruba vote massively for Abiola because he was a Muslim?
I also hear certain moves are going on to make sure ‘Christians are no longer swept aside in the scheme of things’ by people who are planning to massively campaign for any party that brings up Christian candidates in 2015.
This is a backward step that does not, and should not have the blessing of poverty stricken masses who just want good governance.
Those who are warming up to champion the ascendancy of their faith should look across the Niger and see what religious cleavages have done to the social and economic fabric of some states.
Some of these latter-day religious promoters grew up like you and I in that they had their early education through schools that opened their doors to them irrespective of religious faith. They fell in love and married whomever irrespective of religious faith.
They were probably led up the ladder of success by people of a different faith. They in fairness probably also helped people of a different faith up the ladder at one time or the other. So why the change? Why the sudden realisation that their religion, like their Mercedes, is better than others? Why promote a religious card in states that had never had religious issues?
Why poison the waters of religious harmony from which all Yoruba had safely drunk over the years? Why start actions that will definitely have reactions? In my book, only insecure people hide under religion, tribe, race or colour.
It is in this light that I want to beg Ogbeni Aregbesola of Osun State — a state where I grew up incidentally— that we have never had religious issues in the State and he —or CAN —should not invent one. In my days, Christians attended Muslim schools and vice versa.
It was implicit that you abided with whatever the schools stood for. Beyond that, nobody wore religion on his head. Also, in making fundamental changes, you must be conscious of the culture and character of the schools in question because we are all very sentimental about our alma mater.
It seems religion is also playing some ungodly roles in the propping up of an ailing governor in TarabaState where some are reluctant to let a Muslim deputy take over.
The question any right thinking person should ask is whether the state will be better governed by an ailing Christian than by a healthy Muslim. Besides, hasn’t fiscal rascality been found to be common to most of our leaders irrespective of religion?
One would expect that President Jonathan who was a victim of these insidious religious moves, to intervene decisively on the path of Justice and fair play. I am not saying he is encouraging the goings on in TarabaState. But I can’t see how he is discouraging it either. After all, Taraba is a PDPState.
Let me conclude by saying that I do not think any competent ‘progressive’ leader who truly means well for his people will promote ethnic and religious colourations in seeking the progress and welfare of the same people. Bringing religion to the fray is not only retrogressive, it is dangerous.
Especially given that the motives might be twisted and distorted by their largely poor and uneducated followers. It is therefore a dangerous game that will yield nothing but casualties and regrets.