opinionBy Adeolu Ademoyo
"Therefore putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger...The thief must no longer steal, but rather labor, doing honest work with his (own) hands, so that he may have something to share with one in need..."(Ephesians 4: 25)
"He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised..." (2 Corinthians 5: 15)
In this refutation of the leadership (not members of CAN) of the Christian Association of Nigeria's deliberate and unchristian misrepresentation of a citizen's act in making available for public consumption a moral critique of the direction of our nation is taking, I wish to once again make the following public disclosure. First, I have never met Mr. El-Rufai in my life. I do not know him beyond being a fellow citizen. Second, I am a Christian and a Catholic. Here in the US, in the small town we live, my family and I take our Christian faith seriously. Third, I come from a Christian family whose roots in my original country date back to the centuries old Anglican Christian tradition in Nigeria. My parents are Anglican, but they never compelled any of us children to profess any Christian denomination or particular religion even when they faithfully and rationally reject Godlessness. I recall two things my parents did for me on the eve of my departure of Nigeria. First, they gave me a bible. Second, they told me gently and lovingly: "whenever you get to where you are going look for a church, any church and worship there. Do not lose your Christian faith. Transmit it to my grandchildren God will bless you." I did that exactly. I am an African and Christian.
So while some of my siblings are Pentecostal, Anglican, I consciously chose Catholicism. In choosing Catholicism, I accept the divinity of Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. My acceptance of Mary is not only and primarily Christian but it is helped and sealed culturally by my critical African tradition which puts critical motherhood as and at the primary and organizing center of the family. After my faith in the living God made flesh through the divinity of Mary, the sanctity and unbroken unity of the family institution comes next. And African critical motherhood is at the center of that unity. Finally, here in our little town where the mother of our home and I nurse and raise our children, we practice our Christian faith, we pray to Jesus, and we pray through Mary and we have seen her help and results of her intercession in the lives of our family. This faith is personal, private and positively intense. It is not prosperity religion. It is not a show. It is a simple faith in our Lord Jesus Christ for who He is, and not for what he has done. We do not parrot it. We are called to live it practically because we are a mere dot out of the countless number of witnesses to the faith and truth around the globe and us.
I am doing this deliberate public disclosure for a gloom is gradually enveloping our nation due to the acts of the leadership of CAN under Mr. Oritsejafor and Mr. Musa Asake. As Christians we are called to witness our faith in truth and with our neighbours and citizens.
Having publicly disclosed this, I note that Mr. Oritsejafor is the president of Christian Association of Nigeria. So when his Christian Association of Nigeria (again not members of Christian Association of Nigeria), literally threatened the life of a citizen-Mr. El-Rufai- for his re-tweet of the representation of evil in the political leadership of our country and the moral absurdity the leadership of our country is sinking us into, one must wonder if Mr. Oritsejafor is not beginning to take on a role beyond a faith role. In the midst of a deliberate misrepresentation of the moral critique of the presidency's response to another citizen's (Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili) critique of the state of our nation's finances under President Jonathan.
I wish to restate the circumstance of Mr. El-Rufai's re-tweet. Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, our country's former minister of education under General Obasanjo's government, raised a legitimate moral critique and challenge about the state of our nation's finances under President Jonathan. President Jonathan did not ask and has not asked the relevant ministerial team under whose watch the moral challenge is being raised to inform the nation. Rather President Jonathan's media men-Messers Labaran Maku, Doyin Okupe and Reuben Abati gave responses which are completely out of sync with and irrelevant to the seriousness of the issue. In their responses, they questioned the motives behind Mrs. Ezekwesili's critique. In other words, President Jonathan did not answer the questions raised by a citizen-Mrs. Ezekwesili. He did not ask the relevant ministerial team led by the coordinating minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to inform the nation. Strangely, the president's media men diverted the issue. They questioned Mrs. Ezekwesili's motive. Another citizen -Ogunyemi Bukola-must have been morally shocked at the diversion of the issue by the president's media men and he tweeted: "If Jesus criticizes Jonathan's government, Maku/Abati/Okupe will say he slept with Mary Magdalene."
Mr. El-Rufai is not the AUTHOR of the tweet. Mr. El Rufai re-tweeted the original tweet.
The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria under Mr. Oritsejafor (president) and Mr. Musa Asake (secretary) has asked that Mr. El-Rufai be brought to "justice on account of his incitement and insult against the Christian faith."
I am Christian and Catholic, and my understanding of my faith is that we are called to witness the truth in our faith to the world. So my question is: what is Mr. Rufai's offense? Is he the author of the tweet? The answer is no. So his "offense" according to CAN leadership must be that he re-tweeted an original tweet. If this is Mr. El-Rufai's "offense", I think the CAN leadership is mistaken. And there is a serious faith and ethical issue in that mistake because if it is indeed true (for the sake of clarification only) that the tweet is against the Christian faith, the right person to go after is the author of the original tweet, Ogunyemi Bukola, and not Mr. El-Rufai. But that CAN, under Mr. Oritsejafor's watch, will do this by engaging in an immoral scapegoating is understandable. This is because Mr. Oritsejafor does not hide his service to the questionable ethics under the present administration. I challenge fellow citizens to take me up on this. But let us do this on rational grounds. So even if for the purpose of clarification (I do not agree that it is against the Christian faith), we assume that the original tweet is anti-faith, we must inform ourselves whether it is morally legitimate to ignore the source and author of the original tweet - as the CAN leadership has done - and go after the source of the re-tweet as the CAN leadership is doing. And if it is not morally legitimate to go after the author of the re-tweet, rather than the author of the tweet, then, we must ask if it is Christian for the CAN leadership under Mr. Oritsejafor and Mr. Musa Asake to have done this i.e. engage in an act that has raised serious moral and ethical questions. This is important to me and the children we raise because the body of our Christian faith is not only spiritual, it is primarily ethical and moral or at least ought to be.
Furthermore, I have searched for Mr. El-Rufai's offense against my Christian faith. I have not seen one. I am persuaded that the original tweet does not offend our faith. And if the original tweet does not offend Christian faith, then the re-tweet cannot and should not be portrayed to offend. I maintain this position for the following reasons. In the history of ethics-including its conscious and unconscious discourse, attempts have been made to inform about evil and represent evil. The Ogunyemi Bukola reference to our Lord Jesus Christ and Divine Mary is an intuitive attempt to show the extremity of evil that is unfolding in our nation under the present administration. And in a situation of complete collapse of ethics, citizens grope for words to externalize their deeply felt moral intuition. In this regard, language is often the first casualty in a state of evil for we lose language in our attempt to represent evil. Evil becomes something we humans cannot find words to represent. For example, while Hannah Arendt, the German-American political theorist who is also Jewish will say "evil is banal" i.e. its naming is unavailable to language, the African Yoruba moral philosophy and language have a slight advantage over the English language. It will say "á»Ârá»Â pesi já»Â" -in other words "this passeth any moral comprehension". This is precisely what Ogunyemi Bukola's Jesus tweet means morally. That is the act of the president's media men in deliberately diverting from Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili's moral challenge is an absurdity that "passeth" languaging.
But the Yoruba moral language still manages to name evil. Philosophically it is eemá»Â, it is eewá»Â. Eemá»Â and eewá»Â are expressions of the barbarity and extremity of evil, a complete violation of our moral perceptual space. This moral intuition of eemá»Â and eewá»Â i.e., the extremity of evil is what citizen Ogunyemi Bukola was groping to represent in the original tweet, which is about the unethical and immoral way President Jonathan's media men have responded to Mrs. Ezekwesili's moral challenge to the present administration.
In making this clear, I note that there is nothing morally savoury in Jesus sleeping with Mary. It must be an eemá»Â, an eewá»Â the total and complete moral collapse of our humanity, our being. Hence, the moral and faith content of citizen Ogunyemi Bukola's tweet is not about Jesus our Lord, and neither is it about the divine Mary, the mother of our Lord through whom God became flesh for our sake. The barbarity of evil, the eemá»Â, and eewá»Â in the original tweet are all about the evil being daily perpetrated under this administration against we the people of Nigeria. Physical space does not permit us to re-itemize these serial evil acts.
Based on this, the response of the leadership of CAN under Messers Oritsejafor and Musa Asake, who have literally issued a "Christian" "fatwa" on Mr. El-Rufai, is morally tragic and sad for us Christians, and for all of us as citizens. A "Christian" "fatwa" is unchristian. Therefore, Messers Oritsejafor and Asake's 'fatwa" reminds me of a sad event in December 1994 in our troubled nation. One day as the day rose sluggishly and reluctantly as if it had a moral premonition of a looming tragedy on the moral conscience of our dear nation, a group of "Muslims" in the city of Kano beheaded a citizen's head. That citizen was Mr. Gideon Akaluka. His alleged offense was that he desecrated the Holy Book of Koran. The murderers of Citizen Gideon Akaluka on that sad day in Kano in 1994 could not be true Muslims for their act was unislamic. They could not be acting in the name of Islam. The action of a group of criminals cannot be used to define a religion. Thus the beheading of Mr. Gideon Akaluka was evil, it was eemá»Â. It was banal. It was eewá»Â. It was the extremity of evil. Tragically, I do not see a moral difference between the sad process the CAN leadership under Mr. Oritsejafor and Mr. Asake are building up and the barbaric and evil killing of Mr. Akaluka. If the killers of Mr. Akaluka were unislamic (as I believe that they were), the build up of Mr. Asake and Mr. Oritsejafor on Mr. El-Rufai is unchristian (as I believe it is)
Therefore, the positions of Mr. Asake and Mr. Oritsejafor's CAN cannot describe the position and faith of Christians. The leadership of CAN under Mr. Oritsejafor and Mr. Asake needs a moral and faith re-think. We should remember Gideon Akaluka. Remember him in your prayers. Do not Akaluka El-Rufai for El-Rufai has done nothing unfaithful or immoral. It is unethical to build up a sad and tragic process. We must not live for ourselves but for HIM who made us and to who we shall return.
Adeolu Ademoyo is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.