BOKO HARAM: a ‘Thou Shalt NOT’ list

Boko Haram

Sometime between the night of April 14 and the morning of April 15, terrorists invaded Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno state, Northeastern Nigeria; they were clad in military uniforms, armed and in trucks. When they left the school, they reportedly carted away 234 teenage girls (roughly between 16 and 18 years old) who were then in the school to write a paper in the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination. Most schools in Bornu and other states of Northeastern Nigeria had been forced close before this time due to the recurrence of such attacks which often left students and teachers dead and kidnapped; these attacks were claimed by Boko Haram, a terrorist group. The group traces its inception to 2002 and has officially adopted the name “the Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad”, which is an English translation of Arabic, Jamā’at ahl as-sunnah li-d-da’wa wa-l-jihād. It is known in Hausa as Boko Haram which by semantic extension of Hausa words, loosely translates to ‘Western Education is sinful’.

By name and actions, this terrorist group has made it clear that theirs is a fight against rationale and logic; surely, battle against education and all forms of new-age development while existing within the new age can only qualify as irrational, and by their manner of execution, evil. The kidnap of the school girls provoked outrage which has, thanks to technological perks of the new age, quickly become global as #BringBackOurGirls campaigns continue to trend all over the world.

A lot of speculations, suggestions, orders and cries have been issued as regards what ought to be done by the government of Nigeria, families of the kidnapped students, citizens, the world and even Boko Haram. This essay will not belabor that already thoroughly hassled subject matter, instead it will focus on what Nigerians ought NOT to do in this fight to stop the terrorism.

 

THE NOT-DO LIST

If we must rescue these Nigerian daughters from their captors, Nigerians must NOT:

  1. Stop Asking Questions.

After nearly three weeks since the incident happened, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, bowed to global pressure and held a media chat on Sunday, the 4th of May in which he took questions on among other pressing issues, the Chibok mishap. I was unable to watch the session but I read the transcripts and while a number of good questions were raised, the president’s answers were – apologies to Hon Obahiagbon – higihaga and lacked vital power of conviction. Two days later on Tuesday, the 6th, CNN reporter Isha Sesay held live interviews in Abuja with Messrs. Doyin Okupe and Labaran Maku, the Senior Special Assistant to the president on Public Affairs and Minister of Information respectively. I watched the live broadcast and in the few minutes it lasted, I learnt – and I am sure, most of the world too – for the first time about actions the government had taken to salvage the situation; most worthy of mention among these was the set up, according to the report, of an information centre not only to answer questions but also to issue frequent updates to the public on the matter of the girls’ kidnap.

 

The difference between the two live broadcasts, apart from the latter being significantly shorter and ironically, in even less conducive setting, is that the interviewer asked the right questions and insisted on concrete answers. Nigerians must emulate that; we must NOT stop asking questions, the right questions and having asked them, we must then insist on somewhat concrete answers.

 

 

  1. Value fear of foolery over human life.

Apart from the many questions begging the government’s handling of the disaster, there are many other questions which have arisen and been circulating social media. These questions, by their structure, relay the suspicions of a certain group of people that the entire kidnap debacle is a sham; this group hinges these suspicions on the premise that the kidnap has some undertones of political sabotage and general foul-play. Some of the questions are captured below in the forms they originated with very minor restructuring:

“Why aren’t the names and pictures of the kidnapped girls published by the school, state government, WAEC or mass media?

Why aren’t the names and pictures of their parents circulating as well?

How come the escapees (some of the girls had reportedly escaped while being hurled away by the insurgents) have not appeared on television for interviews?

How come all 234 students are in SS3 when the entire school has a population of 1200 students?

Did the Bornu state government really give N1m each to parents of the missing girls and if yes, was the money mere compensation for their loss or something more?”

 

While some of these questions are easily answerable by hitting Google, others such as the reason behind the dearth of visual information on the identities of the kidnapped girls remain unanswered. And suspicions have thrived on this; Nigerians are wary that the entire kidnap saga is a premeditated, even farcical drama orchestrated by the opposition to make the Jonathan-led government appear even more inept.

 

These suspicions have even carried over to cast wary eyes on the recent offer of military and logistical help to Nigeria from the United States; the doubters have cited instances of post-US involvement in violence-torn countries viz Syria, Liberia, Afghanistan, et al and they ask, “what will the United States want in return?”

 

While some might and have indeed voiced that – find these suspicions paranoiac and even outrageous, I believe that their existence is proof that Nigerians are paying attention and are thinking. This is good and must not stop because as the Igbos say, onye ajuju anaghi efu uzo. He who asks questions never loses his way. At the same time, the doubters and all Nigerians must realize that if indeed this kidnap is a staged make-up by the opposition and we are all going to look like fools when it is blown open, I daresay that this is one foolery worth practicing.

 

There are a number of things that could be done to defuse the possibilities of this ‘scam’ turning fatal for us as a country – for example, our local media could sit up to ask more questions even of the US-led aid, demand for information on the identities of the kidnapped girls and their families and promptly return feedback to the listening public regardless of the response to the demand, etc – but there are no other options to save the #ChibokGirls besides whatever little action can be mustered by an unarmed public in raising awareness and crying out for help. Assume for an incredulous minute that the kidnap is fake and the bragging video recently distributed by Shekau was a product of technological tweaking, the myriad of attacks, latest among which are the Nyanya bombings, have been real enough – we scraped real Nigerians’ razed flesh and bones off the floor and donated real blood to the injured; the Monday massacre of over a hundred people in Gamboru Ngala of the same Borno state seems real enough too.

 

If there is even the slightest chance that even one girl has been kidnapped and is right now being fattened for the sex-slave market in Sambisa, Nigerians must NOT stop crying foul. If the only price we have to pay, in the event of this truly turning out to be a hoax, is carrying the tag of fools, Nigerians must NOT be afraid to look foolish – it wouldn’t be the first time.

 

 

  1. Make this into a regional or religious matter.

A man residing in Southern Nigeria with his family is watching the news and the Nyanya bomb or kidnap of girls from Chibok breaks. He watches until the news presenter completes her report then he says, “Nawa oh, these Hausa people sef! God help them oh” and he retires to bed for a good night’s rest. This scenario is mirrored in many families in all parts of Nigeria except for parts of the Northeast and federal capital territory that have been affected by the terrorist attacks. It is an inclination by the ‘unaffected’ Nigerian to stereotype every Boko Haram insurgent as hausa or northern, and so long as they restrict their terror to the northern states – their ‘home states’ – it is okay. This thinking is not just wrong but potentially fatal.

 

Researching the uprising of Boko Haram, the distasteful but glaring truth is that Nigeria bred Boko Haram; first by leaving a vast amount of uneducated youths unaccounted and uncared for; second by ignoring the ‘minor’ violent operations of the group in the few years after its emergence under Ustaz Yusuf in 2002; and finally, by turning a blind eye to the cultivation of the idle youth into mercenaries and foot soldiers of the sect. Nigeria is responsible for the growth of this terrorist sect into a large debilitating and malignant global tumor. We did this collectively, as a whole nation of South, North, East, West, Central, Christians and Muslims. And in its bestial attacks, the sect has not spared any sections.

 

I am aware that some supposedly holy men of God, especially affiliated to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) hold a different opinion. They theorize that the bombings and kidnap are all anti-Christian; an Evangelist Owojaiye published a list of 180 of the abductees to prove his claim that 90% of the girls are Christian and so – he affirmed – it was targeted at Christians. This is misleading and a cheap strategy to continue to live in self-denial while profiting from a pitiable situation.

 

Boko Haram has made it very clear that their enemy is westernization and anyone who is in support of it. Also on many occasions, elite Islam scholars have arisen to condemn the sect as a misrepresentation of the ideals of Islam which is primarily a peace-seeking religion. Anyone who is aware of Nigeria’s perilous history with religious crises and yet chooses to ignore facts in favor of this fanatic charade is either blind or thoroughly biased or both. And must NOT be heeded.

 

 

  1. Perpetuate a proven fruitless blame game.

On the morning of April 14, a few hours before the Chibok kidnap, a bomb explosion in a bus park in Nyanya claimed over a hundred lives. The president visited the scene of the blast later that day but was sighted the next day first in Kano for a political rally and then in Ibadan at the celebration of the centenary birth anniversary of the Olubadan of Ibadan. News of these actions sparked a lot of dissent among the Nigeria public who quickly launched into tidal wave upon wave of blames. People attacked Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s family, his university degree in Zoology and even his hometown of Otuoke in Bayelsa state. How could he have been so insensitive?

 

In all of these however, no one thought about the Olubadan who along with his chiefs and people, welcomed the president to his party barely 24 hours after the explosion and fewer hours after news of the kidnap started to trickle in. Nor did anybody consider the hundreds of Nigerians who turned up at the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rally at Kano on that day, cheering and waving flags. How could they have been so insensitive?

 

The blame game was vituperative, biased, painfully tangential to the issue at hand, and overwhelmingly ineffective. As is characteristic with the art of pointing a finger, all other fingers pointed back at the pointers – Nigerians, until people decided it was time to really act rather than continue to ply the art. People took up the #BringBackOurGirls campaign on different levels, in different places, to different places, and in a few days, the world couldn’t help but notice. The entire globe has seen people in uniform colors, rallying with placards and songs for the return of the #ChibokGirls and the international news media are camped at our doorsteps. Because of the intense pressure generated by this campaign, we’re seeing action or at least, a very striking semblance of it from the president and his government.

 

An adage goes thus, “the lizard who sits in bed, blaming the sun for blazing too hot or the rain for pouring too heavy will die of hunger” Clearly, blames get no one anywhere and must NOT be continued, especially when they only serve to assuage one’s need to vent in a situation that requires much more than mere venting.

 

 

  1. Get distracted by the First Lady.

After having vowed to lead a protest to Borno state even at mortal risk to her person, the first lady of Nigeria, Dame Patience Jonathan convened another high-powered meeting in Abuja with concerned parties on Sunday, the 5th of April. She reportedly burst into tears in a video that has gone viral since then, tagged ‘Chai…there is God o!’ The first lady was also linked with ordering the arrest in Abuja of Naomi Mutah, a lead protester for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. While the charge has been denied by her aides, the comments and actions of Dame Patience Jonathan in the face of this crisis have been summarily embarrassing.

 

The #ChibokGirls case is one which cries for a mother’s voice and a feminine touch, and in a world that is quickly awakening to the power of womanhood, one can only muse over what significantly commendable differences a more articulated, less compromised, less unwittingly jocular first lady would have made. Dame Jonathan’s peculiarities are not strange to Nigerians but in the face of a crisis whose magnitude has bared us all to the eyes of the world, we must not get distracted by her.

 

If you’re reading this and thinking “Didn’t he just say we mustn’t throw blames?” then please read again. The Nigerian focus cannot afford to be dislodged from the search for these children especially considering recent developments; not even for the first lady, it can’t.

 

CONCLUSION

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”

#BringBackOurGirls

 

Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

NYANYA BOMB BLAST

Nyanyabomb03

Fellow Nigerians,

The Boko boys hit again, early this morning while men, women and children milled around the bus park in Nyanya, eyes still gritty from sleep. What can I say?

Eternal rest grant them, O Lord.

And for us who watch from the sidelines,

shamelessly commenting and taking pictures

writing poems and being grateful ‘they’ are not our family or friends

yet…

Please, have mercy.

Nyanyabomb02

Nyanyabomb01

Signed,

Chisom Ojukwu,

shameless Nigerian.

P.S: I hope you enjoy the poem or maybe the pictures enough to drop a comment. The more infuriated it sounds, the better…we’re really good at that stuff.

 

 

ON TOP D MATTER: WEEK 2 of the NATIONAL CONFAB

Still on the matter…

A number of issues have come up in the ongoing conference of delegates nominated from different factions of the Nigerian populace. See the list of delegates here, by the way. The issues which I find most interesting are these:

  1. The country, the people and dual-citizenship:

A contribution to the debate by the revered Lamido of Adamawa, Alh. Muhammadu Barkindo Mustapha, left many delegates in disbelief as the traditional ruler digressed from sounding a note of warning to ethnic jingoists in the hallowed chamber to boasting of where to run to if the country eventually disintegrates,” news reports indicated.

Alhaji Mustapha did not mince words in stating that whoever thought his people in Adamawa state would be worse off should Nigeria divide was wrong. Apart from being Nigerian, he was equally a citizen of another Adamawa state in Cameroon. He wouldn’t hesitate to exodus to Cameroon’s Adamawa “if anything happens” in Nigeria, he boasted, and since the Cameroonian state in question was “part of (my) kingdom” it is safe to assume that he would automatically assume the position of Lamido there as well.

This proclamation by the purported 5th most powerful Emir of Northern Nigeria has led many to ask the questions: Did the Lamido speak his mind or that of his fellow Northerners? Does the North have a hidden agenda for this conference? Do other ethnic groups also have hidden agenda? Are these agendas open to compromises which MUST be made for the conference to be a success, or are they ‘ALL OR NOTHING’ terms?

One point that is worthy of note though is that distaste at the Lamido’s words was also registered by some of his fellow northern delegates.

  1. The sleeping, the sick and the dead:

Speculation rocked social media when the picture below of former Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, spread. Akunyili who is one of the delegates representing Anambra state at the conference dismissed media speculations that she’s currently battling with a strange ailment. In her reaction via a Facebook post on Tuesday, she did admit that she had suffered “a major sickness”, but she also went on to state that “there is nothing to worry about either my health or my present stature.” According to her, her clearly evident loss of weight “is normal” considering the mysterious sickness.

Prof DoraProf. Dora delegate

 

 

 

Prof. Akunyili however, is fortunate to be able to defend herself. Retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, and a Bauchi State delegate to the ongoing national conference, Alhaji Mohammed Hamma Misau is not so fortunate because he is dead.

late Hamma Misau

He died last night (Thursday) at the National Hospital, Abuja where he was admitted for treatment of undisclosed ailments.

The 67-year old retired AIG became popular across the country when a national newspaper published the photograph above in which he was caught sleeping during proceedings at the National Conference.His was one of the photographs of elderly delegates at the Conference who have been caught sleeping during proceedings of the National Conference, a development which sparked a debate about whether the media should be restricted from publishing photos of delegates caught sleeping at the conference venue. The debate was eventually thrown out as the delegates seemed to agree that “we haven’t come here to sleep, so if the media catches anybody sleeping let them report it”

My questions:

Shouldn’t it be one of the criteria for nominating a delegate that he/she be certified healthy by a medical practitioner?

I have sampled opinions on the issue: while some people believe the fault is on the part of the country’s leadership for not properly monitoring the nomination processes, the rest believe the concerned delegates are guilty of greed for money and power which blinded them to their health needs. Or just plain jobless. I will assume that the late Alhaji Hamma Misau, God rest his soul, was aware of his sick status before either volunteering or being nominated and eventually accepting a position as a delegate to the conference.

So what was his motivation for taking on this huge task in spite of his health situation? Did he assume the conference was just another one of those time-wasting affairs the government often subscribed to occasionally to create the illusion of keeping busy? Was he fired up by the daily allowance of a NGN 100,000 (which he shouldn’t have being a retired AIG)? Or was he a zealous patriot who weighed his duty to his country as more important that his ailing health?

  1. Referendum…Memorandum?:

It is no news to us how the issue of what would be done with the adopted results of the National Conference after it ended heated up. Eventually, the president quelled (or it seems he did) all worries when he announced as the induction ceremony of all delegates, that the results would be subjected to a referendum to be voted on by all Nigerians before going on to the National Assembly for passing into law.

Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, the Conference Chairman raised a debate on Thursday as to whether the Conference should invite memoranda from the public outside issues to be presented by delegates. While some delegates were of the opinion that much time would be wasted in seeking memoranda from members of the public in view of the deadline given the Conference to conduct its deliberations, others said the Conference was not in a better position to speak for the generality of Nigerians.

My questions:

Are these delegates, by nature of their moniker, not representing the opinions and views of the entire Nigerian public already summarized into groups of various interests? Do they not have the ideologies and agendas of their groups lurking in their suitcases and folders? Why then are they intent on wasting precious time? OR, and this is the scariest of all, is this an indication of cluelessness on the part of our delegates? 

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD: The Nigerian State and Religion (2)

…now in conclusion,

WEB OF CONFUSION

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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?

 

RESOLVED

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”

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FOR THE LOVE OF GOD: The Nigerian State and Religion (1)

Rel&Pol

“Religious law is like the grammar of a language. Any language is governed by such rules; otherwise it ceases to be a language” were the words of British rabbi Jonathan Sacks. If one were to piece apart this statement in an extrapolated effort to understand it better, it would be saying that “Religious law is to religion what grammar is to language. Any religion is governed by its laws; otherwise it ceases to be a religion”. This of course, is true. In Nigeria however, religious laws do not just govern religion alone, they permeate marriage, life, birth, society, the law and every other conceivable part of the Nigerian environment. So much so that in order to capture the exact status quo in terms akin to the quote above, “Religious law is to Nigerians what grammar is to language”.

This essay does not suggest the erection of a wall between the state and religion – an attempt at such would be akin to drawing blood from an elephant with a toothpick – we must rather, draw a clearly visible line of distinction between them. Because – not regardless – of the fact that religion is an integral part of the lives of all Nigerians, it is critical that we keep it separate from our law and government. This will be proven with the points below.

 

HISTORY:

“Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. Governmental and legal systems are based on the Sharia, the sacred law of Islam, which is interpreted according to the strict Hanbali rite by the learned religious elders, or ulama. Beginning in March 1992, the king issued several decrees that established new political structures and promulgated procedures for government. Known as the Basic Law of Government, the decrees defined Saudi Arabia as a sovereign Arab, Islamic state whose constitution is the Qur’an and the Sunna (traditions) of the prophet Muhammad” (Microsoft Encarta).

While digesting this, it is important to consider just how effective or not it would be to replicate such a stance as is obtainable in Saudi Arabia in a more multifarious society. The following answers the question:

A controversial article published on June 17, 1963 in the St. Louis Dispatch had its introductory comment reading thus: “The 1963 United States Supreme Court decision declaring the public school practice of Bible reading and reciting the Lord’s Prayer unconstitutional was a major turning point in the history of civil liberties in the United State”. It is logical to term illegal, any promotion of the practice of prayers and/or rituals of any particular religion among children of a country whose laws take a neutral stance on the matter of religion. We can agree that the 1963 turning point reported in this article was the beginning of many good things for the civil rights struggle in America, with Martin Luther King Jr’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech coming only a few months after the publication.

The Nigerian ‘religiosphere’, many will agree, is shared among the Christian, Islam and Traditional religions, a fact which is well enunciated in the Constitution. Therefore, an alignment of government and legal systems with one religion is not only unconstitutional but impractical in Nigeria.

Section 10 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution clearly states, “The Government of the Federation or of any State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion”. The reason for this stance is embedded in the instances sampled above and in the ever-broadening pages of history. History holds the reports of how badly Christianity fared in trying to take charge of Rome, Western Europe and Greece; also of how Islam failed in trying to take legislative charge of Tunisia, Indonesia and Egypt, among others. All of these reports show that so far as a society is multicultural and inherently diverse, any attempt by any religion to get into bed with the state and its legal systems results in chaos and an eventually defunct system.

 

DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD:

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Chief Ikedi Ohakim, erstwhile governor of Imo state is one man who can bear witness to the strength of the romance between the Nigerian people and their religion. In 2010 while still sitting as governor, Chief Ohakim was accused of arresting and physically abusing a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. All sorts of campaigns were hosted to revamp the governor’s image but he had committed THE evil and the people of Imo would never forgive. Less than a year later, Chief Ikedi Ohakim lost the gubernatorial elections – a record for a sitting governor.

While this may have played out as a favorable scenario for most proponents of a state-cum-religion government, further analysis proves otherwise. Imagine for a while that the Roman Catholic Church was the designated religion for Imo state at the time of Chief Ohakim’s alleged abuse of the catholic priest. If that had been the case, I propose that one of the following two things might have happened: One, the governor since he was running a joint-government with the church, might have pulled a few strings here and there and would have succeeded in quelling the brouhaha that arose from the incident. He would have gone on to win the May elections in 2011, he and the church. Two, the church might have played the incident up and instigated a revolution which would have ousted the governor; provisions for a replacement might have come attached to this revolution, or might never have been mentioned. This would have sounded a lesson to all politicians: Don’t mess with the ruling church.

More recently in Osun state, Governor Rauf Aregbesola came under heat for proposing to build an interdenominational Christian worship centre. The ‘Opon Imo’ governor had earlier instituted some changes in the state’s educational policies which sprouted allegations that he – a devout Muslim – was trying to Islamize the state. The proposed Open Heaven Worship Centre, many analysts believe, is an attempt by the Ogbeni Rauf to pacify the Christian faithful of a state which is too multifaceted to be tagged either Christian or Islam.

Imagine for a second that we are a year into the future, Governor Aregbesola has won his re-election and the Open Heaven Worship Centre (OHWC for the purposes of brevity) is ‘in business’. Members of the state civil service who double as pastors in their individual lives will send in applications to be transferred from the Ministries of Health or Sports or Education to the Ministry of Religion so they could serve at the OHWC secretariat. The senior pastor spot would be for a level 12 civil servant, pastor – level 11, deacon – level 9 and so on, perhaps leaving the Choirmaster and Ushers spots for youths employed under the governor’s O’YES scheme. The church would raise money through offerings, tithes, launching and bazaars, all of which would be remitted into the state government’s coffers. Soon enough, OHWC would be THE church where struggling youths wore their best outfits on Sundays to vie for the attention of Christian top government officials and personalities and for which adverts and calls for sponsoring would run unchecked in the state’s communication media organizations. The mosques and more traditional churches like the Roman Catholic Church would all but find themselves squashed against the unyielding fringes of the state of Osun. And peace and harmony will reign?!

I am Roman Catholic and Christian enough to know that both situations envisaged above are in direct obviation of the basic Roman Catholic and Christian statutes. I am also Nigerian enough to know that they spell doom for the overall sanctity of the state and national government. Deducing from these illustrations, the involvement of the government in religion is a double-edged sword which strikes deathly blows to both the legal state and the ‘chosen’ religion. It is a mutually fatal arrangement for both parties.

 

to be continued