Zaria killings: Time to bury religion

The Kaduna-based Islamic sect, Shiite’s clash with the Nigerian military which allegedly ended with hundreds of the sect members killed, is quickly receding into the groove now, away from mention, as usual. Typical of every calamity that befalls us as a people, hardly are lessons ever learnt and seldom do we as Nigerians come out of our bloodied experiences with clear wisdom or vision of how to navigate the mines of the future.

Peter Mclntosh, the late Jamaican reggae musician it was, in one of his early songs entitled Same Dog, said it would be foolhardy of a man whom a dog bit in the morning and then bites again in the evening, counselling that you should be once bitten and twice shy. It shows careless and tardiness on the part of such a man. For us as a nation, it simply indicates our inability to appropriate the lessons of today for a greater tomorrow.

Since the gravitation from the 1980 Maitatsine crisis which left many people killed, to the Muhammed Yusuff episode in Maiduguri which is the midwife of the Boko Haram insurgency that has grown so much to be a great boil on the Nigerian buttocks, we as Nigerians (both government and the governed) hardly ever subject our grief to intellectual analysis. That is why the recurrence rate of our griefs is really very high and we repeat fatalities periodically.

The story of what led to the spat between the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai’s convoy and the Shi’ite sect in Kaduna has been told over and over again that it does not bear retelling again at this forum. From the video of the clash posted on the social media to clandestine lobbying by some apparently pro-Buratai group desirous of making the world see issues from the perspective of the army, which jammed the information highway immediately the clash became news, the social portrayal of the reality of the attack has been achieved and even overflogged. So, aside seeking scapegoats to be held up for attacks, what lesson has been learnt from this unfortunate episode? In what way does it feed into the global picture of Nigerians being generally captives to religion, with an overt failure to make religion work for the social necessity of their existence?

Many have thought that the power in that Marxian submission that religion is the opium of the masses died with the collapse of communism. How wrong they are. Nigerians seem ready to interrogate every other received knowledge about society, politics and economy but religion. Perhaps because every other issue in those earlier categories are physical, we do not have any inhibition at discussing them but when it comes to religion, wary of veering into a topography that is not visible but largely made up of conjectures, we leave religion to swim alone in its ocean of assumptions. It is no wonder why charlatans who seek to make a living from the people’s fear and circumspection have been having a field day in the realm of religion. No one is asking, for instance, what if, at the end of the day, Shi’ite or Sunnis are the sects recognised by the Almighty God? What if neither of them? What if the Catholicism of Apostle Paul or the Pentecostalism of latter-day Christianity is the official sect that Jesus Christ endorses? What if none is? The inability to make our thoughts elastic and capable of receiving ideas that are not native to individual minds brews timidity at critiquing reality, thereby allowing evil to fester.

Those who own the religions which we have acquired and selfishly appropriated subject them to rigorous mental exercises and that has not destroyed their faiths. What they come out with is a stronger religion that is removed from myths and superstition. Christianity and the man Jesus, for instance, were subjected to very rigorous scan by Jewish scholars like 6th century Jewish scholar, Flavius Josephus and Roman historian senator Tacitus. Even though both scholars were very skeptical about the existence of Jesus, stating that they had no archaeological evidence of his existence, they agreed that evidences of baptism of Jesus by John the baptizer and His crucifixion, which they confirmed through multiple attestations and the criterion of embarrassment (which relates to the embarrassment that Jesus’ disciples would ordinarily have felt at the fact of John, baptizer of sinners, baptizing Jesus and the shame of His crucifixion, an execution which was meant for criminals, both of which would ordinarily have made them uncomfortable with retelling the stories) pointed at the fact that He existed.

Religion has got away with a lot of infractions on our society. Meanwhile, religion it is, of all the indices of development and civilisation, which has refused to subject itself to the change of the world. Only a few days ago, we were told of how the Shi’ites were a law unto themselves in Kaduna and environs. Same happens in this part of the world. This is why Smart Alecs who want to come to the pinnacle of religious recognition pervert the norms of physical existence to arrest our minds and paint the picture that they have the metaphysical in their palms. Some years ago in Ibadan, two episodes happened. One was a man who jumped into the lion zoo like the biblical Daniel. Humanity was spared of the tragedy he would have become because, if the lions had already been overfed and refused to do justice to his flesh, he would have become a religious terror to us all, preening himself as Daniel reincarnate and tethering thousands of naïve, solution-seeking people to his groove. Second was the man on late broadcaster, Kolawole Olawuyi’s programme who claimed to possess the power of the supernatural and had black eggs in his possession.

Shi’ite, Sunnis and all other religious bigots will flee off us the moment we begin to be critical of their overtures. Religion was made for man and not the reverse.

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