] Olaoye] Wole Re­li­gious but un­godly

Daily Trust - - VIEWS OPINION -

“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?

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