(By Dr. Bishop O. Ovwigho)
“Loud speakers are placed facing neighbour’s houses and roads instead of the congregation within the church. A popular song by one of the traditional religions says,’ the church is cursing our religion for nothing sake, I have nothing against them, that I have my reasons for choosing this religion, mind your own and I will mind my own’. The admonition, ‘mind your own’, is plausible for peaceful co-existence in a religiously pluralised society.“
THE youths are worried about the increasing religious militancy and moral decadence in spite of the burgeoning population of Christians and Moslems in the country. The focus on these two major religions is exigent on the fact that they constitute the bulk of the population. More so, there appears to be a total derogation of the Ten Commandments contained in both the Holy Books. The Ten Commandments are the bedrock of all religions even though they were later compartmentalised by some avatars as ‘love your neighbour as yourself, and do unto others as you would want them do unto you’.
Today, the more worrisome moral perversions are the psycho-social problems of stealing and killing of a fellow man. The day-to-day preachments in Churches and Mosques abhor stealing yet stealing has remained the order of the day. At the national level the worst culprits of stealing are the older members of the society holding political offices, civil servants and few misguided youths. It should be noted that stealing of our public wealth is not rampant among the youths because they are not often given the pride of place in government establishments and political positions.
Forms of stealing among others include inflated contracts, unaccounted budgetary allocation, diversion of public fund, 10 per cent kick-back, pick pocket, trickster (419), election rigging, false declaration, robbery, sea piracy, armed robbery and kidnapping. These forms of stealing are intrinsically related but differ in gravity hence a thief could pursue another thief. In some churches, the biggest thieves are escorted to take the front rows because of the financial expectation by the Clergy.
Closely related to stealing is the killing of a fellow man by sword, torture, words and thoughts. The argument that the killers and their perpetrators are not true Christians and Moslems does not preclude them from membership or pseudo-membership of the two religions in question. The Boko Haram sect per se has killed thousands of persons since its advent in the last four years. Some Christian sects kill by vocalised prayers and thoughts instead of physical means. We blame Boko Haram because they kill by physical means. Besides, it is highly irrational to kill fellow humans by sword simply on grounds of religious differences and abhorrence to Western education.
In the same vein, it is a case of religious intoxication and mesmerism when some Christians go to the extent of praying, ‘let my enemies die, die, and die’. ‘Let the unbelievers die and perish in hell fire’. Most often, we denigrate the effects of our thoughts and power of the spoken word in reaching out to people and places. We have seen some Christians and Moslems cursing non-members just because of differences in religion.
Loud speakers are placed facing neighbour’s houses and roads instead of the congregation within the church. A popular song by one of the traditional religions says,’ the church is cursing our religion for nothing sake, I have nothing against them, that I have my reasons for choosing this religion, mind your own and I will mind my own’. The admonition, ‘mind your own’, is plausible for peaceful co-existence in a religiously pluralised society.
Before we allow the deleterious effects of religion to plunder us as a people let us reflect on the poem and song written by a Primary four pupil in 1914. It goes thus:
On levitate at confluence of River Niger. We turn to the North; saw peace, a people, Hausas, Fulani, Nupes, Gwaris, dwelling on the farm, caring flocks, and mentor by merchandise, under the blue sky, nurtured by love, unseen Goodness, tendered by the green river and trees.
We turn to the East; saw peace, a people, Ibos, dwelling on the farm, and mentor by merchandise, under the blue sky, nurtured by love, unseen Goodness, tendered by the green river and trees.
We turn to the South; saw peace, a people, Efik, Ibibios, Anang, Izons, Okrikas, Urhobos, Binis, Itsekiris, dwelling on the farm, fishing and mentor by merchandise, under the blue sky, nurtured by love, unseen Goodness, tendered by the green river and trees.
We turn to the West; saw peace, a people, Yorubas, dwelling on the farm, and mentor by merchandise, under the blue sky, nurtured by love, unseen Goodness, tendered by the green river and trees.
Back to the centre, the confluence, facing the east, source of all light, the cradle, the Eagle landed and flew to the four corners and there was the song: God Bless Nigeria!! With love, peace and harmony!!! AMEN!!
The socket of that poem actually exemplified the socio-political conviviality and pristine harmony, which existed among the tribes of Nigeria until the civil war. This was later amplified by the post civil war reconstruction slogan, ‘One Nigeria’, initiated by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon. The present day discrimination, killing, stealing, adultery, intolerance and greed are attributable to wrong precepts. Karl Max hypothesis that, ‘religion was the opium of the masses’, cannot be upheld if we apply the golden rule of all religions, ’love your neighbour as yourself’. We practise only the outward aspect of the song,’ hold somebody, tell him that you love him keep your hands together and praise thy Lord.’
The outward approach instead of the inward way of seeking the Lord’s intervention is apparently the bane of peace and progress in the country. The outward way involves seeking help from the Clergy who in most cases needs more help than the seeker. Agreeably a good number of them need help of the members to build mansions, buy expensive cars and private jets. The song by the social crusader and musician, the late Fela Anikulakpo Kuti, that, ‘Pastor house na him they fine pass’, is a reality against the backdrop of the inordinate drive for wealth among a majority of the present day men of God.
The inward way involves meditation and seeking direct intervention of Almighty God in our affairs. The great avatars made use of the inward way of going to the mountain to solve the afflictions of their followers as well as problems of human emancipation. A popular folktale says, ‘at the beginning God Almighty was very close to earth but man’s wickedness made Him to depart far into the sky’. In essence man’s wickedness has continued to attenuate our chances of reaching God Almighty for help.
Through meditation on the mountain Moses had the illumination of the Ten Commandments. The pure at heart usually receive answers for solving the problems of their followers after meditation. Philosophers and leaders such as Pythagoras, Socrates, Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Henry Car, Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Budha, Nelson Mandela and Archimedes made use of the inward way for achieving good leadership, peace and invention of technologies in their times.
The reward of the inward way of seeking the intervention of the Creator in our affairs is intuition. For more exactitude without intuition, we cannot solve the problems of human advancement on mother earth. The intuitive flash, which Archimedes received made him to run out of the bathroom shouting, ‘Eureka, Eureka, and Eureka’, ‘I have found it’. He found the principles of flotation. Masters and philosophers such as Pythagoras, Copernicus and Isaac Newton found various principles, which are being used today in the pure and applied sciences. Michael Faraday was able to tap into the spiritual reservoir to discover electricity.
The protagonists of the inward way believe that the inner self controls the outer self hence the need for the spiritual food of going to the mountain at intervals. The inward way teaches that humanity is one body, and that an injury inflicted on one part of the body by an individual would later affect that individual directly or indirectly. The song by the legendary Bob Marley that,’ you cannot run away from yourself’ is true to the extent that the inner self is the real self. Williams Shakespeare’s deep understanding of natural laws made him to proclaim that,’ the evil that men do lives after them’, ‘He who kills by the sword shall also die by the sword’. Recently, an Okada rider bemoaning the state of a road remarked that both those who confiscated the money meant for repair of the road and those who did not were equally suffering the difficulties of passing the road.
Generally, religion cannot be divorced from man no matter the debate. It began with creation of the planet earth. It was established by the Divine order as an immutable institution for the refinement of man’s crude character. To a large extent, only the negative aspects of religion have continued to dominate our behaviour in the country. This can be attributed to our myopic understanding of the Creator and the created. Poor knowledge of the Creator often gives rise to selfishness and other anti-social behaviour such as indecent dressing, ostentation and primitive acquisition of wealth, stealing in high places, prostitution and pornography.
The poor socialisation in our educational institutions is another major clog to moral rearmament in the country. The poor socialisation process starts at infancy like this,’ this is my eye, this is my nose, this is my chest, this is my bag, these are my sandals and so on without reference to the inner power which gives manifestation to all things. Discrimination in human societies starts with the inherent problem of personalising things. The hands of other workers and the Omniscience are in that property you call your own. It is not too late for us to start the process of teaching our children and youths that what belongs to one person also belong to the next person. Though, it is difficult to teach an old dog a new trick the elders can still learn because no knowledge is wasted. There is a common name in my local dialect when translated would mean, ‘who calls this life my own’.
From all indications, not until we can grasp a true understanding of the Creator and the created as well as the purpose of existence, the prevailing problems of religious discrimination and antagonism will continue to persist. The task of re-directing and teaching the masses the true nature of man and correct tenets of Christianity and Islam rests squarely on our religious leaders and older members of the society. By this approach, we shall gradually exterminate from our country moral decadence, discrimination, plundering of collective wealth and man’s inhumanity to man.
•Dr. Ovwigho lectures at the Delta State University, Asaba campus.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”