] Olaoye] Wole Religious but ungodly
“Religion Tears Delegates Apart!” screamed newspaper headlines all over the country. Nigerians are exhibiting their propensity to self-destruct once again. Religion continues to occupy its pride of place as one of our major fault lines. Nowhere was this better underlined than at the ongoing national conference where delegates have openly been venting narrow religious sentiments.
If God had wanted the whole world to subscribe to only one religion He could have done it because it is within His power. But God chose to allow us seek the Truth through various channels. The hood certainly does not make the monk, nor is religion a guarantee against all vices. There are probably more honest people in ‘godless’ China than there are in ‘godly’ America.
One often runs the risk of sounding like a broken record in this country of multi-layered and recurring déjà vu. I have therefore decided to reproduce for our conference delegates a piece I did in 2012 on our hypocritical flaunting of religion to score political points. Please read on.
Nigerians are the most prayerful people on earth. We wear our religion on our forehead. We make a show of what in saner climes would be a private devotion. We intersperse every sentence with “By God’s grace” or “Insha Allah” but what we actually mean is “By my grace” or “insha myself”. We think that we are holy because we spend long hours in mosque and church; but as Garrison Keillor has humorously noted, you can sit in the garage all your life; you’ll never become a car.
We carry on state affairs with pious dishonesty convinced that it is enough for the outside world to see us as beautiful marble tombs whereas inside we are full of unmitigated putrefaction.
The second stanza of the National Anthem goes as follows: Oh God of creation. Direct our noble course. Guide our leaders right.
Help our youths the truth to know.
In love and honesty to grow and living just and true. Great lofty heights attain. To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.
I have no quarrel with using the above stanza to fulfil all righteousness; but then it is still rife with our usual appeal to God to do for us what we have refused to do for ourselves. Don’t get me wrong. God is Omnipotent. But God will not descend to the level of man. When you are anything but noble and you ask God to direct your noble cause then your prayer is fraudulent ab initio. It is the same mindset some of us have when we make huge donations out of our stolen wealth to places of worship in the hope that God will look with favour on everything else that we do. But God does not take bribe.
I challenge anyone interested in the subject to conduct a survey of pilgrims to Jerusalem and Saudi Arabia each year. Nigerians would number among the highest. Our outward sanctimoniousness ought to translate into better human relationship and good governance; but because it is all contrived – all for appearances – our actions are always at variance with our preachments.
Other nations plan their spending and infrastructural development – and conquer their environment; we cobble up ill-digested programmes and steal the money – and then call on God to help us build a nation where peace and justice shall reign. The way our people drop God’s name into every conversation you would think He was a minister plenipotentiary in the federal cabinet.
We are a nation governed by hypocrites. I must borrow Abraham Lincoln’s definition of the hypocrite: “the man who murdered both his parents and then pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan”. We steal the treasury blind and call on God to prosper our land. We bend the rules in aviation and then call on God to stop plane crashes. We neglect the highways and call on God to prevent accidents. We refuse to generate employment and call on God to provide jobs for our teeming unemployed graduates. We export our worst elements to other countries and call on God to make the world respect us.
Cast your mind back to the 2012 Olympics; the countries that prepared their athletes properly for the games reaped the reward in gold, silver and bronze while our officials were beseeching us to pray for our athletes. God will always be on the side of the prepared, otherwise he wouldn’t be a just God – and injustice is antithetical to the notion of God. When a well prepared nation prays, it has a chance of winning; but an unprepared nation has no business asking God to intervene because the Olympics are not about miracles. It’s all about how well you prepare, not how well you pray.
Is it any surprise that two of the suspects arraigned for obtaining oil subsidy funds under false pretences are children of potentates of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party? I am not one to visit the sins of the sons on the father, but I suspect that the fathers want to be described as “God-fearing people”. Which God are all these people serving?
Let’s face it; we are a nation of religious but godless leaders. That is why religion has become so combustible because it has become a tool for attaining political power rather than a means through which man worships his maker. Hypocrisy has become the religion of the conscienceless elite holding the people down. They offer religion to a hungry and hopeless people in total contempt for Mahatma Gandhi’s contention that “there are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
In the final analysis we, the people, are not the only losers as Hannah Arendt observes in her seminal work, On Revolution: “The hypocrite’s crime is that he bears false witness against himself. What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one... only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.”
Are the conferees at the Abuja conference listening?