Religious matrix of a corrupt society such as Nigeria

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When President Muhammadu Buhari contested the presidential election of 2003, crooks and rogues rose in unison to thwart his effort for fear of the obvious. They preferred Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to retain power than a ‘ruthless anti-corruption czar’ that Buhari was from his past antecedent as Military Head of State.

Not deterred, in 2007, he made another bold attempt to possibly salvage Nigeria from the hands of the corrupt. Again, he was said to have been defeated. In 2011, Buhari was still determined to fight corruption through the office of the president. The rogues could not allow him through. In 2015, he made the last and most successful attempt to the exalted office and through a well-coordinated Commonsense Revolution for Change piloted by a courageous generalissimo, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Ameachi, Buhari defeated a, sitting president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. That victory has gone down in history that ushered in a new starting point for an expected better Nigeria anchored on the tenets of probity and transparency.

In these days of infrastructural decay, insecurity and political turmoil, how can Nigerians that pride themselves adherents of Islam and Christianity summon the required energy to be signs of contradiction in the society and to announce the beginning of a new dawn with courage, conviction and credibility? How can Nigerians reflect the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and Jesus Christ in their lives, communities, country and the world?

A lot of what is considered as normal today in Nigeria is a direct affront to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and Jesus Christ and the values of the kingdom: the widespread indiscipline traversing the land, the corrupt practices in all sectors, the level of deceit and falsehood from leaders, the degree of violence threatening peaceful co-existence, the rising epidemic of greed and avarice, the bickering, squabbles and wrangling among people who call themselves subscribers to the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and Jesus Christ, the preponderance of fornication and adultery, the abuse of power and privilege and the scandalous gap between the rich and the poor. The craze for materialism bedevilling the society has led many adherents to the doorsteps of occultism, kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry and witchcraft. There is widespread advertisement of miracles, signs and wonders, and less and less attention accorded to preaching on living authentic and wholesome religious lives.

Religion features at the very beginning of Nigeria’s constitution. In the preamble to the 1999 Constitution, it is affirmed that we intend to live together as one united country under God. Indeed the overwhelming majority of Nigerians claim to be religious. They claim to believe in the supremacy of God. They believe that God is the very basis of our individual lives and our corporate existence. They strive to relate with supernatural realities through prayers and supplications. Places of worship are scattered all over the land indiscriminately. Nigerians so much love taking part in religious crusades, worship sessions and vigils. They love to offer sacrifices and observe fasting and religious holidays; and troop in large uncontrolled number to Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem for pilgrimage, taking the pride in being called Alhaji or Jerusalem Pilgrim (JP).

While there is noticeable decline in religious fervour in many parts of the world, the religious enterprise company warehouses and private buildings including uncompleted ones are rented and converted to either prayer houses or Churches, and our sports facilities all over the country are used more for religious crusades than what they were established for.

Streets within towns and villages, as well as interstate highways are often blocked by enthusiastic worshippers who flock to Friday prayer and Sunday service in Mosques, Churches and camp meetings. In several urban and semi-urban areas, there are as many Churches and Mosques as there are streets or foot-paths! Religion in Nigeria has become a lucrative unregulated business that has caused several unpleasant security challenges.
Within the religious firmament, Imams, Priests, Pastors and self-appointed Prophets as well as Sheikhs and Sat Guru Maharaji of all sorts are swelling in number and having pleasant days. In the last few years, a new dimension was also added to the thriving religious enterprise. It is the increased patronage of high ranking public officials who not only openly call for and sponsor regular prayer sessions in different prayer houses, but have themselves become born again Christians and prayer merchants, often appearing at Church crusades and prayer vigils with all the paraphernalia of public office, and sometimes grabbing the microphone to deliver sanctimonious homilies and earth-shaking prayers in pretence.

Yes, these days, prayer and preaching sessions are no longer limited to Churches, Mosques and homes. They are held at corporate boardrooms, in government offices, in commercial buses and in open markets. Nigerians going about their daily businesses can be seen brandishing the Holy Bible and rosary or the Holy Qur’an and beads. The largest billboards in towns and cities are those advertising upcoming religious events which in most cases are for extortion. Religious exclamations such as “to God be the Glory”, “Praise the Lord,” and “Allahu Akbar” are often on the lips of most Nigerians, at work or at play. Thus, from all outward indications, Nigerians are a chronically religious pretending people. There is perhaps no other nation in modern world with as much claim of religiosity as contemporary Nigeria.

With all the show of religiosity or outward display of piety, one expects to see a very high degree of social morality in Nigeria, since all world religions generally promote truth, justice, honesty and probity. But this is not the case with Nigerians. The brand of Christianity and Islam that are experiencing the fastest growth in Nigeria today does not seem to have a place for the notion of the cross/crescent or for sacrifice which constitute the centre of traditional Muslim and Christian doctrines and lives. At a time when Muslim/Christian leaders and groups should use the messages of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and Jesus Christ and a modest and austere lifestyle to contradict the crass materialism and extreme economic liberalism of our age that are daily crushing the poor, we are confronted with scandalously expensive Churches, harbouring stinkingly rich priests, Imams and nauseatingly flashy pastors, whose mark of success include palatial mansions, state of the art cars, aircraft and customized designer dresses and shoes.

There is an embarrassing contradiction between the high ethical demands of Islam and Christianity and the actual lives that several Muslims and Christians live.

Fraud, thievery and roguery have been the order of the day, even as our environment is awash with prayers and ritual sacrifices to the Almighty God of truth, justice and righteousness. It doesn’t seem to be a matter of contradictions for many highly placed Nigerians that they embezzle or misappropriate stupendous amounts of public and company (or even Mosque and Church) funds at the same time struggling to occupy front seats or take religious titles and honours in their Churches and Mosques.

Many Nigerians often fraudulently procure medical certificates of fitness from hospitals without undergoing any medical tests. They obtain sick leave permits from doctors, when they are hale and hearty. They falsify the ages of their children to obtain fake birth certificates to get them into nursery or primary schools earlier than the stipulated age. Holding the Holy Bible or the Holy Qur’an, vowing to tell the truth and nothing but the truth in court or at the swearing-in ceremony, but only to tell bundle of lies in return. They routinely swear to false affidavits for undeserved benefits, and make false age declaration when seeking employment or admission into institutions of learning. All those practices are so common and widespread that many young Nigerians are today unable to distinguish between good and evil or between right and wrong.

Many Nigerians who engage in those sharp practices would like to be seen as good and religious people. But in truth are they? Do they really know, fear and respect the Almighty Creator as prescribed in the Holy Books? As a Muslim, let me quote from the Holy Bible, do they really know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? The God of holiness and righteousness who in Leviticus 19:2 says, “Be holy for I the Lord am holy?” Do they really know the God of Moses and Joshua who on Mount Sinai presented the 10 Commandments as the terms of His contract with His people, insisting that fidelity to this ethical code is what will distinguish His people from all others? Do Nigerians who claim to worship God, but at the same time offer and take bribe, defraud, evade tax and circumvent just laws in numerous ways, really know the God of Moses who in Exodus 22:8 says, ”You will accept no bribes, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and is the cause of the ruin of the upright.”
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and Jesus Christ had denounced the kind of religious practice that is not matched by high moral and ethical standards in private and social life. These standards include a high level of truth and honesty in interpersonal and social relationships, a high sense of purity, modesty and humility, a profound sense of self-sacrifice, a readiness to forgive as often as one is offended and a disposition towards peace and non-violence.

They made their disciples realized that not all who claim to be their followers will end in the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of the Almighty Creator. Nigerians should either embrace the truth or be prepared for the worst! No two way; about that. We are passing through trying times as a nation; we are faced with threats of disintegration, we are now forced to sleep with our two eyes opened for poor security network. The economy is in shambles and we are still pretending to be religious. One is forced by circumstances to if those Pagans and Atheists that we condemn are not more honest and sincere in deeds than those that claim to be adherents of respected religions but practice the religions upside down. Christians and Muslims seem to be the problems of Nigeria’s unity and progress. It is in Nigeria that public funds are stolen to build places of worship for ego. It is in Nigeria that government sponsors of Muslims and Christians to perform Holy rites in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem gulps more of public funds than the provision of infrastructures to benefit all.

If one may again ask, of what benefit is government sponsorship of pilgrims to the welfare of all? After all, is religion not a personal commitment of the adherent? Is Nigeria not a secular state as spelt out in the 1999 Constitution (as amended)? Why are Pagans and Atheists not sponsored for their brands of rites? In which of the Holy Books was it stated that public funds should be diverted to sponsorship of pilgrimage? Our leaders are not the leaders we deserve. Our leadership space is saturated with hypocrites with blind followers that sound encouraging words for continuation of doing the opposite to corporate development. Nigerians offend God believing that He is a living God and Merciful God.

Agreed, but it is the same God that said we should be upright to access His Kingdom (Paradise). The Almighty can forgive those sins committed against Him but what of those ‘sins’ willfully committed against us by our leaders that God is even against? Let the truth be told!

Muhammad is a commentator on national issues

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