Nigeria: 'Role' of Religion in Our Democratic Transition

10 December 2018

Abuja — If anyone ever tells you that in this very modern era of human development - the 21st century - you would find a very endowed country like Nigeria battling and grappling with common basic stuff like roads, electricity, water and sanitation, you wouldn't believe them. But it is precisely the truth.

Nigeria is the biggest and largest country in Africa besides its title of being the largest black nation on earth, yet it symbolizes everything that is wrong with the black race on earth. Rich yet poor. Educated yet backwards. Boastful yet empty. Civilized yet primitive. Creative yet destructive. Resourceful yet greedy. United yet hateful of one another. Able yet disabled. And religious but yet empty of religious virtues and values!

Better still, why are we so religious yet very backwards in almost all the indices of human development? Or are we deliberately trying to de-market religion by showcasing it as a handy tool that promotes backwardness and stagnation? And are we not making the job of atheists and other haters of organized religion very easy by the lack of peace and backwardness that our empty religiosity has brought on our country?

We promote corrupt politicians because of religion just as much as we hate incorruptible politicians because of religion, and in doing so we ended up stagnating our own development and prosperity because of religion. Ours is an excellent example of loving religion without loving its virtues, its tasking demands, and its universal values of compassion and benevolence!

We have so many churches and pastors that preach and teach only prosperity every week in 12 months every year to millions of church goers, yet India with over 1 billion people recently walked out of poverty leaving Nigeria that has less than 180 million people becoming the world's headquarters of poverty, which leaves one wondering whether the Hindu priests of India are better teachers and preachers of prosperity to their Hindu devotees than our own jet flying pastors that preach and teach prosperity every week in every month and in every year?

Oh please, it's none of that. Fact is, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, China, South Korea, Japan and other Asian tigers don't have any jet flying prosperity preachers. Rather, what they have used to break the mound of poverty into prosperity is the deployment of their God given talent, wisdom and knowledge into tools of human development, which subsequently turned them into global economic power houses. Besides that, they have been able to build and sustain for themselves a lifestyle of discipline, which helps them to shun greed and covetousness. In other words, no one sees public service or any other service as an avenue to covet and steal what belongs to everyone but rather sees service as a means of enriching the whole society!

Contrast that with what we have here. Our religiosity has not brought us prosperity, peace and national development because we practice religion without discipline. Instead of using it as a tool for the cultivation and sustenance of love, service and discipline, we turned it into a tool for hatred, hate speeches and service of greediness. When we are greedy we only think more of ourselves than more of others, which is a complete negation of what the Lord said that it is more blessed to serve others than to serve oneself!

And if that's the type and quality of our religiosity, it makes our religiosity empty and useless as can be easily seen on the streets of Nigeria and the social media pages of Nigerians.

It is remarkable that at the time India was busy planning and implementing policies and programmes that finally pulled them out of poverty, our large churches here in Nigeria were busy acting as spokespersons and campaign managers for a notoriously corrupt political party that looted, crippled and stagnated our country for 16 long years. Therefore, while India was busy completely overhauling their railway infrastructure during those 16 years to open up cheaper means of transportation for farm produce and other goods, we were here cavorting with those who couldn't even complete the Abuja 23 kilometres metro rail project in 16 years!

During those same 16 years, India rebuilt and expanded their entire electricity and energy sectors, which boosted local industrial performance and enhanced productivity in all sectors of their economy, while here in Nigeria, our pastors' favourite politicians inherited about 2,700 MW of electricity from the military in 1999 and left it at about that same level when God sent them packing in May 2015 after just a single regime of their genre spent about $16 billion on it. We were only recently told that the $16 billion electricity is in a book!

And while India was busy promoting integrity and accountability in governance, our large church owners were busy strengthening the arms and positions of rogue politicians who stole everything within their sight because they saw stealing as not corruption, and while India was busy promoting national integration for better harnessing of resources, our large church owners were (and still are) actively conniving with thieving, criminal politicians to divide Nigerians along ethno-religious lines just for the sustenance of the corrupt, renter regimes that benefit only the corrupt politicians and their conniving corrupt priests! In fact, everything that India and other progressive countries did to break out of poverty into prosperity and development are the very things we are using ethno-religious bigotry to fight, and it's a shame!

But then, we must thank God for His great mercies. God has a mysterious way of uniting us here in Nigeria for our own good. You see, while some pastors are very busy doing all they can to make records of building the largest church buildings in the world, someone like Alhaji Aliko Dangote, a Muslim, is also very busy building the largest oil refinery in the world here in Nigeria as well as a lot of other factories, so that when you fast and pray for a job in any of the largest church buildings in the world you can possibly get a job with any of Dangote's factories! You see how Christians and Muslims unite for each other?

Or, when Christian Pastors use "their" wealth to buy private jets, choice cars and choice houses across the world to "demonstrate prosperity", Muslim Imams on the other hand help in raising a Sukuk bond of 100 billion naira to assist the Nigerian government in building roads across the country for the use of people without private jets - including even the roads to those pastors' towns and villages!

Cham wrote this piece from Abuja.

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