Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Where Lies The Problem?

The search for where lies the truth in the divine books revealed to mankind has been an everlasting discourse in religious studies. The debate had always yield a commendable result in terms of getting new converts, understanding our differences, developing awareness among the devotees, mutual understanding, and peaceful co-existence, which translate into tranquil atmosphere for the people of different faith. The more the debate, the more the understanding of the lapses, rifts, lacuna, controversies and contradictions (if any) in our faith. This intellectual write-up is meant for the consumption of learned authorities in the business, while the open-air and house-to-house preaching consolidate ordinary followers to the doctrine…

Where Lies The Problem?

Aliyu Muhammadu Bunza
Department Of Nigerian Languages
Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto
Phone: 08034316508

Being text of a paper presented at the launching of a book titled: “Where Lies the Truth?” By Shehu Abubakar Uthman of Kebbi State University of Science and Technology, Aliero, on Saturday, 9th February 2013 at Presidential Lodge, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, Chaired by His Royal Highness, The Emir of  Argungu Alhaji, Sama’ila Muhammadu Mera, CON.

          The search for where lies the truth in the divine books revealed to mankind has been an everlasting discourse in religious studies. The debate had always yield a commendable result in terms of getting new converts, understanding our differences, developing awareness among the devotees, mutual understanding, and peaceful co-existence, which translate into tranquil atmosphere for the people of different faith. The more the debate, the more the understanding of the lapses, rifts, lacuna, controversies and contradictions (if any) in our faith. This intellectual write-up is meant for the consumption of learned authorities in the business, while the open-air and house-to-house preaching consolidate ordinary followers to the doctrine in question. In this opinion, I foresee the logic to peep through, where lies the problem to the persisting inter-religious conflicts between Nigerian Muslims and their fellow Christians: as I have observed, this might be a right forum to address the issue for a possible antidote. I therefore pray to the almighty to guide us through.

          In the history of mankind, from time immemorial to the present global village, there had never been a continent, or a region, or a country, or a state, or an empire completely controlled by a single religion. This is a pointer that there is no compulsion in worship, freedom of religion is a historical fact. Certainly, Muslim and Christian faiths are the most widely spread and the popularly pronounced faiths in the modern world. To date, there had never been a single Christian or Muslim state without a mix of one or two religions. It is worth noting to all of us that, in the context of human culture, it is completely impossible to have a conflict free society. However, as human beings, ideological conflicts, class struggle, protest and propaganda for the anomalies done are unavoidable. What is happening in Nigeria today is far beyond human imagination. Historically, we have different faiths and cultures before the colonial epoch, then the differences were properly managed and things were never out of hand as in today’s situation. Why? We may ask ourselves, is everything yesterday pleasing, while all things today are displeasing? Why did our ancestors and fore-fathers leave together as friends with hundreds of gods in different communities and tribes, and today, with only one God we are always at war? My dear audience, these issues must be faithfully addressed for the Nigerian communities to be in peace and the country to continue as one.
          Islam and Christianity are not the only religious faiths of the Nigerian people. We have Traditionist, Pagans and Atheists. To date, we have never experienced any religious conflict involving either of the three, and indeed there was never a clash between Muslims or Christians with any of the three groups. Surprisingly, none of the three groups had a Prophet or a revealed book to guide their rituals and religious activities. Yet, their dogma remains uninterrupted with politics of bloodshed in the name of religion. This is a good point to demonstrate that the communal clashes between the Nigerian Muslims and Christians, has nothing to do with God and religion in the true teachings of the Quran and the Bible. To spell it out correctly, it is nothing but an ethno-regional conflict translated into Jihad and Crusade. To elaborate this opinion, I have the following points.

          The Nigerian religious atmosphere in the pre-colonial era was very calm and friendly. The colonial culture and religion in addition to the brutal colonial style in handling religious matters created a room for a terror tactics in the name of self-defence and reprisals by the aggrieved individuals or groups. The colonial efforts at trying to uproot the Islamic system in the established Islamic empires in the northern region of the country laid down the foundation to this obnoxious conflict. The deceit of divide-and-rule as a colonial policy created serious religious and regional gaps between Muslims and Christians in colonial Nigeria. The graduates of this wicked training succeeded their masters by occupying influential positions in post-colonial Nigeria, and hence ensured the continuation of the disruptive policy. This is the historical original of the religious conflagration as we are witnessing today.
          The regime after the first republic was bloodily interrupted in the name of Islam and Christianity. The trend continued to flourish at the early hours of the immediate military regimes. The defunct Biafaran dream was a reaction to the massacre of the first republic leaders. The aborted coup by the so-called young officers of the Nigerian military led by Okar was a loud expression of this policy. It is unfortunate that, the security circles of the country split along religious and regional camps. The looming danger to this episode is that, the loyalty to the supremacy of the country as one nation by our service security chiefs and officials is absolutely in doubt. The attention of the national security outfits is no longer in the national interest. Thus, a Muslim or a Christian would expect no protection from a security officer or a state of different faith. The earlier this problem is addressed the better for the security of the nation and for the prevalence of peaceful religious atmosphere in the country.
          In addition, our expectations of the present democratic dispensation is being polluted by some of our dubious political policies. Power sharing is adding more fuel to the existing flame of religious disputes between Muslims and Christians. Recruitment into Federal and State Civil Services is now a game of faith. Promotion to senior cadre in the federal sector is politicized along religious afflictions. Political parties and political flag bearers are at war between the the forces of Islamization and Christianization. Political appointments are being decided in our mosques and churches. The worst of all, is the active participation of our spiritual leaders in the dirty game, not in the name of God, but in the hope of having access to the national cake. Our churches and mosques are now the most peaceful centers for political propaganda and campaign, and the innocent believers are being deceived to fight each other for no cause. To put a stop to all these unlawful acts is a collective responsibility of all of us for our country to resume its former status of a peaceful home.

          In normal circumstances, one would expect the consequences of the evil acts to swallow its promoters. Alas! It is never the case as per Christian-Muslim conflict in Nigeria. The perpetrators are always at large at the eve of the commotion leaving behind the innocent believers to face the music. The senior Pastors and Imams who named their victims martyrs are always in good terms with the established authorities, while the ordinary adherents of both faiths will be at war front with the authority. At any time the signal of insecurity is received, the junior security officers would be given command to handle the crisis. At the end of the day, the casualties at both sides would be the promising young men and women of the country, the senior citizens and well-to-do persons in the country would be watching the scene from a far distance and would have nothing to lose at all. These so-called men of God in churches and mosques are using the adherents to strike their desired target in the name of God for an ungodly purpose.
           In a nutshell, the masses would always be at the receiving end in all crises. If destruction, trouble making, man slaughter, etc are ordained by God in His Bible or His Quran, the ordinary adherents should not be the only causalities in the long run. The Nigerian Muslim and Christian youths should study the records of all the crises in the name of religion and come out with a statistical analysis of all the victims therein to see the reality in its true picture. We are tied down to a war within, and therefore no longer loyal to any invitation in the struggle to divide and rule. It is high time for the beneficiaries of the booty to receive their reward hand-to-hand and not by proxy.

          The failure of the authority to erase pre-mature intra-religious crises opened-up a gap for inter-religious conflict between Muslims and Christians. The style with which the religious conflicts and attacks are organized is indicative of the involvement of external forces. Nigerians should not ignore the so-called experts’ prediction that our country would come apart by the year 2015. In an effort to make the ‘prophecy’ come to pass, religious conflicts and crises are being put to test and found to be workable tools towards achieving their diabolical plan. The sponsored fanatics of both faiths targeted their attacks on mosques, churches and sensitive public places in a particular region of the country in an apocalyptic manner. In no time, the tag BOKO HARAM was coined specifically referring to a particular faith in a particular region of the country. The said region attracts the security attention of the nation and hence becomes the dumping ground for heavy arms under the guise of “war against terrorism”. The fire brigade approach by the security forces of the opposite faith resulted in the extra-judicial killings and pre-planned destructions that added fuel to the existing blazing flame.
          By this trend, the UN and NATO are given open invitation to come in. The attack on the Nigerian UN office at Abuja and the rumour of launching the attack to the UK and US embassies changed the tag name to Alqa’ida group, the group alleged to be responsible for the 9/11 attack. Gradually, our home affairs are attracting external attention, thereby internationalizing the crisis to enforce the American prophecy of the year 2015 as it is very much unlikely for the political, sectarian, and inter-religious conflicts to transform Nigerian situation into the war within. The BOKO HARAM insurgents are said to be receiving their training in Mali and Niger Republics a distance of a few kilometers from our borders, just to put Nigeria in the next line of UN military action. I pray, the right thinking Muslims and Christians of this great country would not allow this proposal to break through.

          The immediate solution is being provided by our able colleague in the book, Where Lies The Truth? The central point of the publication is to urge Muslims and Christians to resort to a rigorous academic study of their Holy Books. The research technicalities and the eloquence in dispensing the words of God are the basic requirements for one to be a good and true follower of the said faiths. The language style in our write-up and preaching should be soft and free of insults and instigations for the message to be swallowed and digested by all. We really need a joint training or institute for training our preachers and religious authors to work toward restoring the peaceful religious atmosphere in our country. A close observation of religious intolerance in Nigeria shows that seventy percent of the crises was masterminded by half-literate preachers surrounded by the hardened illiterates in the community. In view of this, religious studies in our public and private schools and institutions of higher learning should incorporate the message of peace as a compulsory course at all levels of the studies.
          In a more serious note, the three tiers of the government should pay heed to the problem of unemployed graduates and other youths in the country. The delay in paying pension and the reluctance to pay death benefits are part of the forces escalating religious crisis in Nigeria. The youth wings of all our registered political parties should be properly monitored and controlled to curtail violence. Regional politics, corruption, nepotism and tribalism must be squarely addressed by our laws by all the three tiers of government. These neglected but serious issues are the building bricks of the ethno-religious conflict in Nigeria. The insurgents, fanatics, intruders, fundamentalist, area boys, area men and women, gunmen, suicide bombers, Alqa’ida, BOKO HARAM, and whatever name, you may wish to give them, are the products of our unhealthy acts and scandals in our official dealings. Thus, our prayer for peace is unlikely to be heard and answered by God when we fail to be Godly in our religious and related commitments.

The words: peace and peaceful coexistence are available in the dictionaries of all the world languages and cultures. Nigeria is not the number one most religious country in the world. It is not the only most multi-religious community in the world. It is not the only God fearing community in Africa, let alone the world as a whole. The original birthplaces of Christianity and Islam, have other faiths in their midst leaving peacefully as citizens of one country. Are we having different God with them or different Holy books or different Prophets? If we believe in peace to be the umbilical code of our faiths, Mr. Violence should not be entertained at all cost. In God’s name, if things fall apart are we to use wrong procedure to normalize them? Can two wrongs make a right? With corrupt religious adherents, pretenders and half literate admonishers, wrongly imposed leadership the mood of the nation must be dusty and chaotic. Let us thank our brother Shehu Uthman Abubakar for using the right procedure to peep through the issues with the right lenses affordable by all. May He by His Glory send back the bad postdated prayer of 2015 to the sender with minimum delay. Ameen! In God we trust.

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