WHILE on a courtesy visit to the Presidency the other day, leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) justifiably urged the Federal Government to pull Nigeria out of some international religious bodies or organisations, which tend to suggest that the nation officially endorses a particular religion.
Going further, they referenced the Nigerian Constitution, which states clearly that Nigeria is a secular State. Specific reference was also made to the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the Sukuk bond currently being managed by the Federal Government.
For the umpteenth time, it is important to state that religion is a personal and private affair. Whether by design or default, therefore, no religion should be promoted at the expense of the sensibilities of the other citizens of the country.
Three religions: Christianity, Islam, and indigenous Traditions, dominate the land. Millions of citizens adhere to the teachings and philosophies of these religions. It is their way of life. It helps to organise their private lives.
However, the state as an entity should steer clear of religion. It is common knowledge that adherents are usually passionate about their religion.
Sometimes it blinds people to the strengths of the other point of view. It is for this reason that religious wars are often very difficult to control or conclude. There is need, therefore, for caution in discussing or handling religious affairs in any country. As earlier stated, the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and all must continue to respect all provisions of the Constitution.
Having said this, it must be noted that the problem of the Nigerian nation is not religion. The problem is with the people’s perception and practice of the tenets of religion. Pseudo-practitioners of the different religions have often dragged the nation into conflicts arising from their own greed and self-interest.
Instructively, there have been few cases of state officials who have kept their integrity and stuck to the oath of office as a result of their religious persuasion. Some of the indicted officials who have looted the nation dry are persons who had made the cathedral or mosques their second home in a sanctimonious manner. It is also true that yet some others had made huge donations to religious organisations out of the takings they made from the nation’s coffers. The implication is that the dominant religions have not prevented Nigerian officials from doing the devil’s bidding in matters of filthy lucre. Although they hold the sacred books while taking the oath of office, the books are consigned to the dustbin when they device devious means to steal humongous amounts of money from the people.
In an obvious reference to the fears of some, no less a person than the Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo asserted recently that nobody can Islamise the nation. He was certainly reacting to a dubious narrative, which some persons had thrown into the public space. It must indeed be noted that no nation extricates itself from poverty and under-development through the instrumentality of one religion or the other. Providence has given man the opportunity to harness nature’s resources for the benefit of mankind. Significantly, all religions stress good work ethic and good behaviour in public office.
The same cannot be said for the prime movers of religions in the country. And their adherents in offices are often worse than the devil. Sadly, some prominent religious leaders were part and would seem to have remained part of the culture of impunity, which has become government in the land. It is such tragic sense of misplaced priority that makes states sponsor citizens on pilgrimage to the iconic homes of Christianity and Islam. The time to stop this travesty has come. Nigerian leaders should face the challenges of good governance and transform the land into a place where charity will not be needed for individuals to thrive or find fulfillment in life. What would be needed is personal commitment to the ideals of justice, fair-play, and hard work.
The culture of using the Almighty God to achieve personal ambition while pretending to serve the people must stop. The nations, which have achieved their peak in development, did not achieve same through espousing the superiority of one religion, which has remained a private affair. Nigeria should not be different. No impunity should be committed by leaders, in and out of government, using religion as smokescreen.