RELIGION VERSUS REALISM: THE OPIUM OF OUR PEOPLE

Sometime last week, on my way to Abuja,  I met this middle aged vibrant pastor, who has really travelled vast globally and locally.  We discussed at length about the problems of Nigeria.  During our conversation, he mentioned that during his stay in China that he discovered that they are not religious.  I objected to that fact saying that they are majorly Buddhists. Obviously, I was arguing based on what we see in Chinese movies.  The pastor told me that a large proportion of Chinese  people (about 74%) doesn’t subscribe to any deity. Infact the few churches there have their bishops chosen by the government. I couldn’t take this fiction anymore so I rolled out my phone and “asked google”. To my greatest dismay,  the pastor was right.  CHINA IS A QUASI ATHEIST STATE. China has the highest population of irreligious people in the world.

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Let’s move a step away from religion. China is the highest exporting country in the world. Most big companies in the world have their production plants in China.  Labour is very cheap in China because of the large population of skilled labour available (and affordable)there. This large population of skilled labour  is a huge plus to China with respect to their contributions to the growth of China. These people are not exactly irreligious as people say.  They have a religion. They believe in REALITY.  It requires a huge devotion to academic research and development to be at the level Chinese economy is at the moment.  They didn’t spend billions going to pilgrimage at mecca or Jerusalem neither did they get there by playing ethnic cards over national issues. They got there by investing in that which has finally changed the face of the globe and that’s academics (research and development) .Realism is the driving force of Chinese economic growth.  They understoood that they needed to work towards growth if they really needed it.  Am not talking about the Chinese government now but the populace (because the people only get the kind of government they deserve and preserve) . They understood that prayers and pilgrimage is not the ticket to prosperity. China is a multi ethnic state yet they found a way to cooperate and grow their economy. Do you want to know how they did it???  They did it by giving religion a less dominant role in the society.  That way,  they had lesser factors dividing them. The Chinese population is not just innovative, they are very intelligent and they have a highly competitive work force,  which explains why skilled labour is cheapest in China than any other part of the world.  This population is the real driving force of the economy.

Now let’s bring it to Nigeria. Religion has eaten deep into our society.  Infact the Nigerian government spend huge amounts to fund pilgrimage for both Christians and Muslims.  The government even goes as far as subsidizing exchange rate through central bank for pilgrims. I am yet to understand what economic effect pilgrimage  has on our economy as an underdeveloped nation to deserve such judicious investment!!!

This is where illiteracy come into play.  How else can one explain the fact that poor countries spend millions of dollars to travel to rich countries to pray to God and in the process enriching the richer countries further.

Ethnicity has already divided us,  I wonder why we let religion wreck us further.  This factor killed the remaining spirit of oneness left in us,  thereby putting a huge question mark on the “one” in “one Nigeria”. How exactly are we suppose to move forward when Christians only support Christians and Muslims support Muslims.  How can we move forward when a muslim president won’t employ a professional Christian economist that can help pilot the economy.  How exactly are we supposed to move forward when we shamelessly buried “meritocracy” on the alter of religion and ethnicity.  How far have we gotten hating and dividing ourselves.

Religion has formed a vital part of Nigerian political activities.  We have had political aspirants moving from one house of worship to the other.  At some point,  a sitting president was caught on camera kneeling and receiving blessings from bunch of old men; an act that looks like some kind of occultism. We have had regions in this country rally behind a presidential candidate who has no qualifications whatsoever that proves that he can improve lives of the people. The only presidential quality they see in him is his religion and ethnic inclination.

Africans from time immemorial practice African religion. The intrusion of foreigners into our communities ushered in new religions.  Brute force and acute cohesion was employed in entrenching these religons into our communities. Out of intimidation and calculated manipulations,  african traditional religion was trivialized and these foreign religions took a dominant role in our sociopolitical environment.

In Africa of today,  religion and political crisis have remained a huge challenge. This is not just a Nigerian issue, It’s an African problem but if we are actually the giants of Africa,  we should show other African countries that it can be done. Even if inwardly we detest one another, let’s do it for Nigeria.  Let’s unite to push Nigeria forward.  Let’s relegate religion to the back seat.  Let’s pelt any politician than brings campaign to worship house.  Let any preacher that talk about politics be jailed be him an imam or a pastor. Government must dissociate itself from any religious activity. Let us fight “religion” in Nigeria. Let’s reduce the influence of religion in our economic and political activities.

As a Christian,  I salute EL rufai for regulating religious activities in Kaduna state.  It’s a highly welcomed development and any christian condemning this policy is an enemy of the state.  As a matter of urgency,  other states should adopt this policy.  If we can’t stand together as a people, then Nigeria will likely never achieve its full potentials. Religion in its own is not bad but it’s effect on Nigeria is disastrous.  Religion has terrorized Nigeria enough. It’s time to move forward.

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