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Thursday, 23 July 2015

I begin

Nigerians are one people you would find in virtually every country of the world. You would also find them excelling in nearly every human endeavour. In a gathering of Nigerians at home and abroad, one would not be surprised to hear that the topic of discussion is the litany of woes bedevilling this country with obvious world superpower potentials. Our government has simply failed us, and the late Chinua Achebe put it succinctly when he said that "the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership." This failure has pushed Nigerians elsewhere - into the grubby hands of those who make a living selling the supernatural.
These peddlers of the miraculous come in every shade and promise everything from instant wealth to securing lucrative government contracts, good jobs, a dream life partner, the cure for any and all ailments (both physical and 'spiritual'), protection from real and imaginary enemies, and literally any other thing that pops into their heads. They have become the new government - the government of our minds. They are more or less beyond reproach and can do no wrong in the eyes of their followers. A preacher on death row still has his church packed full every Sunday, seven years after he was sentenced to death for the murder of one of his congregants.
Nigerians have lost the ability to think critically and ask their politicians hard questions. The fear of being seen as anti religious by Nigerians has now become a tool in the hands of those who should govern us by looking out for our best interests.
When Lucius Annaeus Seneca said that "religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful", he may as well have had Nigeria and Nigerians in mind. There is literally no resistance to religious dogma in Nigeria. Every voice against it is seen as a direct affront to the supernatural or to the deities of that religion, and the person is immediately branded as the devil's own. Religion in Nigeria drains scarce public funds, divides the country along its lines, causes serious conflicts and encourages poor policy decisions. Religion refuses to allow us to hold our leaders accountable for their mismanagement of our economy and the lives of over 170 million Nigerians. Since the government keeps us impoverished, uneducated, and unempowered, Nigerians have turned to what they see as the next best thing. But the sad truth is that religion only offers false hope. It cannot, and will not, do for  us what our governments have failed to do. Most religions offer the promise of an eternal afterlife - either in suffering or in paradise - depending on how one has lived, or died. This promise of an eternal paradise was given a boost by a new set of christian leaders who, sensing dwindling church attendances and a simultaneous reduction in their income, came up with the promise of a glimpse of that eternal paradise here on earth. The era of prosperity preaching was born. These new christian leaders became overnight celebrities. They took up slots in television and radio, dressed expensively and lived lavishly; owning mansions, palatial homes, exotic cars and private jets. They also wrote and published their own books, churned out tapes, CD's and DVD's, and many of them have television and radio stations dedicated to broadcasting church activities, promoting their books and audio-visual materials, and also websites which include live streaming of Sunday services and miracle crusades. These things are not cheap. Apart from the income generated from their published works and sales of audio-visual materials, these money hungry charlatans have devised ingenious and shameless ways of extorting money, even form the poorest of people.
We need to end this excursive intrusion of religion into our lives. The government exists to cater to the needs of the people. Governments in Nigeria have abdicated this responsibility and it is time to make them start living up to it. Religion has become more than unhealthy to Nigerians. It has become terminal. The Boko Haram menace is a very unfortunate evidence of this. And the sooner we excise this cancer which has afflicted every organ of Nigerian life, the sooner we shall get on the path to realizing the truly amazing potential of Nigeria.