Sunday, January 08, 2012

Niyi Osundare on religion and politics in Nigeria

In the past five years or so, I have been reconsidering my long-held opinion about the relation between leadership and followership. Time there was when I laid all the blame on leadership. Now I’m beginning to say that the followership should also take their fate in their own hands. This is what I see most of the time, for example, in the plays of Femi Osofisan, one of our top writers. Play after play after play; the leaders are there doing things. But the address is to the people. Why must you continue to be ridden like a donkey? Why can’t you, too, get up in the saddle? Nigerians are too docile, too forgiving of bad leadership.

Why are they this way? A number of reasons. The first one is religion. The kind of religion we have in Nigeria is one that puts you to sleep, and after that, puts you to death. It’s not the kind of religion that’s after social justice; it’s not the kind of religion that is after the welfare of the people and the independence of their existence.

Particularly guilty in this regard are the Prosperity Gospellers of the Pentecostal variety who hawk faith on the air and convert religion into superstition. If you have no job, we are told, it must be because of your sin. Your poverty (or pauperization) is a result of the offence you have committed against God. Blissfully indemnified are the rogue-rulers whose greed has corrupted and ruined our social estate; those whose policies or lack of them have made job creation impossible by sabotaging our productive capacity? So, if you have no job, blame your sins; if you wallow in poverty, you only have yourself to blame.

In the thinking and preaching of many of these latter-day evangelists, every scoundrel in power in Nigeria is “God-chosen” and must be treated as such. Religion in this country is a dangerous opium; really dangerous opium. And that is why our rulers are encouraging the building of churches and mosques all over the place.

When in December last year the newspapers carried the picture of a kneeling President Jonathan with a ministering Pastor towering above him in prayerful supremacy, we were presented with an image so symbolic of the relationship between the state and religion in Nigeria. No picture could have been more emblematic!

Religion has killed rational thinking in this country. I say this all the time, our country is still in a pre-scientific era. That is why things are like this. We don’t think logically; that is why any ruler, any fool would seize the reins and rule us, because we would always find an excuse for being ruled or being led by the nose. Not long ago a pastor said he was between two cities and he discovered that the fuel in his car had run out. He actually checked and saw the fuel in the car was completely gone. But because of his act of faith and on the strength of his prayers, he was able to do two hundred miles on an empty tank! When he declared this testimony, people clapped and shouted “ Hallelujah!” I never heard anybody say how can?

Nigerians don’t ask questions; that is why the imams and the pastors lead them by the nose, and the politicians also complete their humiliation and disempowerment. And between the clerics and the political functionaries, there is a very close liaison. It’s a kind of power structure; one controls the political, social realm, the other controls the spiritual, metaphysical realm and they are together. Many Nigerians are not rational, interrogative people. In fact, in this country today, if you are the interrogative type you are easily labelled, branded, and condemned. People even wonder: why are you always asking questions?’

When the blessed Tai Solarin was alive, he agonised and agonised over this issue. The way he was misunderstood, the way he was misinterpreted and his anger at the way many of our people were going - that we should be up in the streets. Another problem: well, our people are docile and the reason why they take all kinds of cheating is that many of them envisage themselves in the position of power someday, too. If I am X and the oppressor is Y, and the oppressor is oppressing me, stealing all the money, and making life difficult for me and my children, I am not likely to attack him. I’ll pray to God to let my own “miracle” happen so that someday, he will go and I will be in his place. No; I am praying for him to go but for the structure to remain.

This is the social psychology of Nigerian politics. So many people don’t see it as wrong. When they see it as wrong, it’s because it is putting them at a disadvantage; they are not really concerned with the social order or the commonweal. That’s a very important issue. If our rulers were people with a sense of shame, they wouldn’t be talking about subsidy at all. They should cover their faces in shame and apologize to the Nigerian people; for if anything, it is the Nigerian people that need some form of hardship allowance from their incorrigibly incompetent government. And our President and his officials have been going from church to church (have they called at the mosques yet?), asking for God’s blessing for the kind of socio-economic mayhem they are about to unleash on the Nigerian people through the removal of the so-called subsidy; asking the pastors to pray to God to make Nigerians compliant to and accepting of their impoverished situation, begging Almighty God to soften the minds of Nigerians.

But no one entered a plea for God to smash the incubus of corruption and mismanagement that has brought this country to its knees. Our President never asked God to grant him the courage and candour to make a public declaration of his assets as required by the constitution of the country he rules...

P.S:If you are still wondering why that private jet-flying,crucifix-hanging,Aso Rock-dining,tongue-blasting god of men has refused to speak out against the issue of the callous fuel subsidy removal, there you have it!


Terry Norrington 10:54 pm  

Interesting thoughts but how about reading

Prism of an immigrant 11:39 pm  

He echoed my exact sentiments, which I wrote about in this post on my blog

I also think our sense of humor is also problematic

Anonymous,  4:33 am  

You are right. However, what solution do you proffer? Is the fuel subsidy removal worse than the people who Boko Haram are slaugtering in the North? Oil is the albatross hanging around Nigeria's communal neck; it prevents us from speaking the truth. We don't understand that we are currently walking the edge of the precipice, what with the President's shocking and tragic admission today that Boko Haram has infiltrated all arms of his government. A man whose house is on fire should leave off chasing rats and cockroaches. Nigerian's shine your eyes o! There is fire on the mountain!

Anonymous,  8:51 am  

Don't know what this man ȋ̝̊̅ڪ talking about,christianity is been threatened in d nation, should we all divert our efforts only to fuel subsidy, why christians are murdered? Fuel subsidy is more political and it well come and go, insecurity religious violence threatens our existence more than FS.

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nurul 3:51 am  

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