By Douglas Anele

Before commencing discussion on the topic for this week, it is expedient to summarise the concluding part of our analysis last Sunday the amiable hardworking editor left out for obvious reasons but which I consider pertinent given the perilous state of the country at this time.

The point I made there was that most times when a northern Fulani Muslim (except in the case of Gowon, who is a Christian) and a southerner with higher mental magnitude and better educational qualifications are available for the topmost political position in Nigeria, the outcome always favours the northerner.

For example, in the First Republic Tafawa Balewa became Prime Minister instead of Dr. Azikiwe or Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The same travesty occurred when Gowon, not Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe or Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, succeeded late Maj. Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, the first military head of state. About thirteen years later Alhaji Shehu Shagari not only defeated the two most prominent southern politicians from different parties to become president, he initially beat Dr. Alex Ekwueme to emerge as the presidential candidate of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Again in 2015 Buhari defeated Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to become president.

The only exception which occurred in 2011 when Jonathan triumphed over Buhari was partly due to the fact that the momentum of sympathy for the death of President Musa Yar’Ardua favoured Jonathan. Of course, there is no guarantee that Dr. Azikiwe, Chief Awolowo and others would have performed magic if they were allowed to lead. However, consistent emergence of mediocre leaders from the north at the centre aided and abetted by “useful idiots” from the south has been a recurring decimal which has crippled the so-called giant of Africa.

Anyone who claims that Nigerian unity is non-negotiable and sacrosanct is either ignorant of how nations emerge, evolve, decline and disappear over time, or is benefiting unjustly from the extremely flawed system which rewards extremely lazy but clever parasites in or close to the corridors of power. In addition, she or he must be a hypocrite probably suffering from poverty of imagination.

Given that Nigeria is hanging on an existential cliff-hanger, the time is ripe for radical reconstruction of her geopolitical architectonic. The best option, in my opinion, is confederation followed very closely by peaceful dismemberment. Any other option is merely an aberration, a meaningless waste of time and lessons from history.

Having accomplished what I stated at the beginning, we can now look at the phenomenon of religion and how it negatively impacts our lives in all its diverse ramifications. But what is religion? This question is pertinent because, aside from the definitional difficulties connected with every word or expression that designates a complex entity, activity, feeling or idea, Christians in particular often deceptively claim that Christianity is not a religion “but a way of life.”

Certainly, every religion entails or, more precisely prescribes, “a way of life,” which means that Christianity like other religions recommends the faithful to live in a certain way. Now, it is true that ‘religion’ means different things to the philosopher, theologian, psychologist, anthropologist, and so on.

Moreover, many people seem to think that religion is whatever anyone believes in strongly, which suggests that if someone believes strongly in or has a tight emotional attachment to science, secular humanism, Marxism or money-making, then science, secular humanism, Marxism and obsession for riches, as the case may be, is that person’s religion. This reductionist conception of ‘religion’ is untenable since it removes from the word specific features or attributes that distinguish it from other kinds of belief. Belief, (in majority of cases very strong or dogmatic belief) is part of religion.

However, religion is neither synonymous with belief nor does it begin or end with belief. Religion is a special kind of belief which differs from other modes of believing or emotional responses to things. Another reason for rejecting the reductionist view is its patently absurd implication that for atheists or agnostics atheism or agnosticism is their religion. Atheism is definitely a negation of religious belief, and to say it is a religion commits what the bohemian Austrian philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, called a category mistake.

To get a proper handle or perspective on what ‘religion’ really is, one should look at the etymology of that word. In his book A Philosophical Look at Religion, J. I. Omoregbe affirms that ‘religion’ is derived from three Latin expressions, namely, ligare (to bind), relegere (to unite or link) and religio (relationship). Thus, etymologically speaking religion essentially connotes a relationship or link between at least two persons, the human person and the divine person believed to exist.

It is something that unites or connects a human being or believer to a deity or transcendental being believed to be real and who ought to be worshipped by human beings. It follows that religion is a bipolar phenomenon consisting of the believer or religious person at one end and the God, deity or transcendental being believed to exist at the other end.

Whether the transcendental being actually exists or is simply a figment of human fertile imagination as Ludwig Feuerbach, Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell and other scholars have compellingly argued is not important to the concept of religion as long as the religious person believes that such a being really exists and worships it. The notion of a God (or Gods before the invention of monotheism) is fundamental to the concept of religion.

Consequently, without the idea of a deity and belief that such a being is real, the ultimate reality, there is no religion since, as stated earlier, religion is essentially a relationship established between a human being and a supernatural transcendent person believed to exist. Logically, as I stated earlier, as long as the religious person has faith and believes (often without question) the actuality of the deity as a very unique personand worships it, that woman or man is practicing religion.

Moreover, the connection or relationship between the religionist and the deity being worshipped is obviously a relationship of dependence because the former sees herself or himself as inferior to, and dependent on, the deity of that very religion. In fact, some theologians such as St Augustine of Hippo and Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher maintain that religion is a feeling of absolute dependence on God.

This definition, irrespective of how deferential to the deity it might sound to some people, is unsatisfactory given that it portrays human beings or believers as playing a passive role in religion and reducing it to a matter of feeling. Omoregbe aptly remarks that “although it includes feelings, religion is much more than feeling, nor is man’s role in religion a passive one…On the contrary, in the relationship that links man with the deity he worships, man plays an active role.”

Most people use the word ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’ interchangeably. Clearly, that is a mistake. Although they are not diametrically opposed to each other and no razor-sharp distinction can be made between the two, religion and spirituality are not identical or synonymous. In addition to what has been said earlier about religion, it represents an institutionalised system of beliefs and practices all geared towards the service and worship of a supernatural being or beings believed to exist.

Each religion is closely connected to the specific socio-cultural, economic and political conditions from which it originated, as well as to the personal character and idiosyncrasies of the individual or individuals that founded it. On the other hand, spirituality is more personalised and inward looking than religion. It connotes the quest for self-knowledge or self-discovery encapsulated in the famous Socratic injunction, “Man, know thyself.” It follows that spirituality refers to the manner individuals express meaning and purpose in life and reflexively conceptualise their connection to the present, to others, to the natural world and to whatever they consider sacred.

To be continued…

Vanguard News Nigeria


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