opinionBy Tope Fasua
Nigeria is a paradox in many ways. But of one thing we now stand out in the world. We, as a people, have become an embarrassment - to religion, to civilization, to humanity, to ourselves.
A country where 80 per cent wallow in poverty, where government assists the private sector to steal from the poorest in the most blatant fashion, where children are dropping out of school and the future is even more uncertain, where hospitals stink even worse than sewer systems, where people die cheaply everyday - in hospitals, on the roads, in air crashes - is also a country where the most ostentation is on display, and one where they now export 'holiness' to other parts of a thinking world!
The embarrassment being caused to the name of Jesus Christ is what made me settle for this title. Many writers and commentators have expressed their frustration with what is going on in Nigeria today and been rebuffed. The criminals - for that is what they are - who are riding roughshod on the psyche of the poor people of this country, and even exporting their brand of fraud to other countries in Africa and beyond, don't give a hoot what we think! They are on a roll, and there's no stopping them. To their advantage, they have our president, and every other person who matters in society, in their pockets - psychologically and economically - and so nothing can touch them.
I had written a few months ago, an article on this page entitled 'Regulate Religion, For Societal Sanity'. I admonished then that religion should not be above the State, that religious bodies should be properly registered in order for society not to lose its direction totally. Many have written as much, but our governments - buffered by marabouts, jujumen, and magic-wielding, fire-spitting, fraudulent pastors - continue to ignore words of wisdom. The result is a society riddled with accidents, massacres, murders, fear, corruption, selfishness, deceit, disdain, ridicule, hate, disease, poverty and diseases of the mind, despondency, hopelessness, regret, greed, avarice, gluttony, shameless display of ostentation and many more vices. Ordinarily, these problems should not be associated with our country if things were done properly.
I have come to the conclusion that Nigeria is EXACTLY as the leaders, elites, politicians and religious leaders want it to be. The political leaders love the filth and hopelessness. They wallow in the corruption. They adore the stealing of the Commonwealth. They prefer that the vast majority remain poor. They love the shame that they bring on us all. They have opportunities to enact and enforce change - daily - but they don't bother lifting a finger. Other countries less endowed have stamped their feet on the ground and remade themselves. Today, Brazil, India, South Africa are up there, but believe it or not, countries like Vietnam (rising from the ashes of what the USA did to them decades ago), Sri Lanka, and even Cambodia (remember Pol Pot), are rising from the ashes and remaking themselves. Even Myanmar is moving along (Obama visited recently), and North Korea will soon reveal itself as towing the renaissance trail of China! Let's not even talk about the great Bolivarian countries of South America, led by Venezuela - a country that ensures it exports only REFINED OIL to the USA, and directly dispenses through its own filling stations in the USA, despite Hugo Chavez being much hated in the USA!
But Nigeria - a country ridden by billionaires aplenty - where private jets are becoming as many as bicycles - prefers to lead the rest of sub-Saharan Africa deeper into the tunnel of shame, and opprobrium. Nigerian leadership - religious, economic, political - have shown that the psychoanalysis of Africans by those we prefer to call racist is correct, after all.
They have shown that 'black' people think in 'black' ways - retrogressive, visionless, narrow-minded, leaders in conspicuous consumption! Nigerian billionaires who now feature prominently in the Forbes list - with many even ready to kill their mothers to get on that list - prefer to make money off the vast poor people without lifting a finger to give some dignity back to those people.
The political leaders prefer to keep the vast majority of the people in absolute ignorance - and so, leveraging on the insecurity in the land (which they cause themselves), prefer to use 30 per cent of the country's annual budget to buy arms and ammunition, while education and health suffer.
Ha! The religious leaders! Those ones prefer to do even worse. Since the political leaders have ensured that the minds of the vast majority are kept primitive and manipulable, the religious leaders move in with FORCE, and usurp hundreds of millions of minds in Africa. Muslim elites would rather build mosques as their best contributions to their societies - not as if the Qur'an makes it a must for a Muslim to pray in a mosque (you can pray in the open and your prayers will still be answered if your heart is pure) - but this they do even if no clinic or school exists in a 100 miles radius! Some Muslim preachers also infuse the minds of their adherents with hate and disdain for others, leading today into a situation where Nigeria has played into the hands of global terrorists who are making mincemeat of our best people everyday! Oops! I forget, that is even more opportunity to buy more ammunition and sign huge security contracts with all sorts of foreigners!
But the Christian leaders are worse. One would be tempted to think that Christianity is going through a period of prosperity in Nigeria. After all, its leader here, the Most Reverend Bishop Oritsejafor, has chosen this auspicious time to launch a private jet. It does not matter that today poor Christians are majorly bearing the brunt of the unleashing of terror on the land; there is no time that is wrong for purchasing the chattel that glorifies the self and boosts the ego! In justifying his latest acquisition, Oritsejafor reveals the real problem with religion in Nigeria.
He talks about chartering jets for N3.5million a pop just to attend someone's mother's burial, and a helicopter for N2million to attend some church opening! He complained about waiting for three hours in Dubai Airport en route Malaysia where he 'preached for two hours'. How dare they ask him to wait! He reveals that the Nigerian pastor, today sees himself as GOD! I believe they have fooled Nigerians, and the world, for so long, and got away with it, so why not? People now worship them, and their heads are swollen!
Say, must a pastor go to everywhere he is invited?
Does a president or state governor attend every burial/wedding/birthday/launching/ housewarming /bachelor's eve/house party he is invited to?
What makes pastors think they have to attend all, and so justify ostentation in the middle of crass poverty by acquiring all the expensive gadgets that man can make. Is it not instructive that Africa - Nigeria - does not produce anything but its pastors justify our binging on those things that others produce? Do these pastors have any shame at all? But I blame them not. I blame the many PHD holders who attend their churches, seeking miracles, looking to leap beyond their capabilities even if unjustifiably, rather than digging in to work even harder and smarter. I blame those who are leading our children astray - making them believe that it's all about luck and miracles, when children in other climes are now performing wonders.
NB - I lost my SIM card during my trip to Singapore but I've now replaced it. Anyone who has teMxted me during the past two weeks should kindly re-text.