…now in conclusion,
WEB OF CONFUSION
Religion is such a controversial subject that its meaning and etymology in this modern time and age of electronic encyclopedias and lightning-fast word searches, is still in contention. “The etymology of ‘religion’ is indeed disputed. This is not, of course, the case when it comes to English, which clearly inherited the word from Latin religio. Rather it applies to Latin itself, in which it is not clear what the component parts of the noun religio are or mean” (The Jewish Daily Forward, 2007). Dr. Nonyerem Davidson of the Openmind Foundation (UK/Nigeria) however attempted a definition from a collaboration of the myriad of definitions available for the word ‘religion’. And I find his definition satisfactory:
“A strongly held organized system of belief about a superior, sacred, divine and unseen being (God); and obedience to the superior, sacred, divine and unseen God through abiding by uncompromising moral codes, practices, values, traditions and rituals associated with the belief system”.
Going by this, one realizes that religion is such a multi-limbed subject that confusion is not only very possible but apparently aided. This proves, I daresay, that Christianity, for instance, is not one unique religion but an umbrella for different religions; yes, the different churches and ideologies many term as ‘denominations’ could very well be religions of their own because “…practices, values, traditions and rituals…” differ among them. In the same vein, it is quite possible – and this is only a postulation – that some of the different beliefs and practices of the Shia Islam set them apart as a different religion from the Sunni Islam. It is frightening to imagine what other declassifications could arise under the traditional religion considering the plethora of deities worshipped in the over 700 ethnic groups of Nigeria.
Religion is undoubtedly, a humongous institution by itself, a thick web which stretches wider and stronger with time. The same goes for government, some parts of whose complexity are still mysterious with miles of dizzying labyrinths. Why then…HOW then would any society with a healthy sense of self-preservation venture to fuse both entities?
Chuba Okadigbo while arguing against mixing religion and governance once said, “Religion being a matter of individual choice and faith, must be left where it is, such that our clerics can take care of our souls and religious persuasions, while elected civilians take care of the businesses of governance”. But Jeanne Shaheen believes that “Religion and morality are critical to how students think about politics and form opinions on political issues”.
Some people would have that mixing religion and government be likened to mixing water and oil – the liquids never mix and make a sloppy mess, while others recommend that the state cannot exist without active religious involvement. However differing our stances are on this issue, there are a couple of things which I believe we all can agree on. First is the fact that religion cannot be totally separated from politics and governance in Nigeria. We are a sentimental people who preach and defend relentlessly our beliefs or lack thereof in a supreme being; and as a mark of principle and self-righteous morality, we generally prefer to ‘leave everything to God’. It is justifiably hard to imagine a Nigeria without a spiritual presence. The second very agreeable point is that this fixation of ours with the blind practice of religion has done us much more harm than good. Nigerians vote based on religious preferences (refer to Anambra state gubernatorial elections 2013); fight and kill each other due to (concocted or genuine) religious convictions (refer to Boko Haram, now a globally recognized terrorist organization); and make laws along the lines of religious precepts and values (refer to the Anti-gay law passed in January, 2014).
A leader is first and foremost, a man, many will argue, and he is therefore justified to make state decisions guided by his religious principles. But I disagree; a man upon taking up the mantle of leadership of fellow men physically remains a man but psychologically transforms into MEN. This is not about whether or not a president of Muslim heritage will take off his headgear or stand or clap along with the congregation when in a Christian assembly. The issue doesn’t concern itself with a governor who takes out of his personal funds and donates to renovate the local parish in his hometown. Neither does it bother about whether or not the president says a catholic prayer before commencing his GEC meetings. All of these are within the leader’s right to a freedom of choice.
But that right stops at exactly the same point where the rights of his followers to their own choices of religion begin. Where matters of state are concerned, where decisions which will affect the entire people – godly and godless – of a nation are concerned and especially where religion clashes with the law and its duty to protect its charges, the leader should have the mental consciousness to separate his person into two selves – the ‘man of a religion’ self and the ‘man of the people’ self. At such times, he must draw a line between the state and religion and for the love of God, he had better straddle it firmly.
“For only a godly man can rule a state best, a godly man who knows the godless”