Nigerian Religious Leaders, Their Ways And Their Cocoons By Japheth Omojuwa
Nigeria probably has the world’s highest number of places of worship per capita. We are without a doubt one of the world’s most religious countries. In Nigeria, you are likely to cause more stare saying you don’t believe in God than you would, saying you are corrupt. Hey, I believe in God myself because I can already feel the stares from people for just making this point alone. Whether we like it or not though, there is something wrong with our religiosity because despite its ubiquity, we are more than ever an immoral society. Don’t take my words for it, let us reason together.
Forget the fact that we are a regular feature on several global league tables on corruption; just remember the last time you tried to get something done in a government office? Just remember when you had issues with the police on the road or with men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority. Don’t we all see corruption play out before our eyes every other day? We are of course quick to knock grand scale corruption reports like the Nigerian corruption record that happened through the Jonathan administration-supervised fuel subsidy scam. Those will always get more attention but realities like the fuel subsidy scam are only outliers in terms of scale, they are the norm in terms of principles. Let us also remember that some of us subconsciously wait for the day when we, or someone in our social circle, get a chance to run Nigeria or any government office where money is made available to get things done. How many times have we heard ourselves or those close to us say things like, “Me, if I get the chance, I go chop small money but I go do plenty work”? It is what it is, ours is a grossly corrupt society yet we are very religious. Something is wrong somewhere.
Should we take a look at those who teach us in these religious houses? We’d need to because if students keep failing at what they are taught every Friday and Sunday and days in between, a time has to come when the teacher should be called into question. How moral are our religious leaders? How much of what is wrong in our society can be traced to them? When people make huge donations in church and naturally become favourites of pastors, are there efforts to know the sources of such money? The politicians that church leaders reserve special seats for, are they more equal than the other members of the church or need we read George Orwell’s Animal Farm again to see that even the church has bowed to the forces of inequality running the world? I am not a Muslim so I cannot dwell too much on Islamic clerics but a Muslim friend told me it has since become the norm for politicians to sponsor clerics to perform Hajj in exchange for prayers for such politicians. If this is true, how are we able to question the ways of such politicians when they go wrong? How can we look them in the face and tell them to change from their corrupt ways when we are prime beneficiaries of their corrupt tendencies and actions? How can we correct a system that favours us to the disadvantage of the majority? Is it okay for politicians to bend the rules to favour us but never bend the rules to favour themselves? Aha! When we collect a kobo from thieving politicians, we have justified their stealing of billions.
The most fundamental part of the damage of religion on our country is in the capture of the minds of otherwise free bodies. Weekly attendance at places of worship and daily listening to supposed messengers of God have rather than subject people to the word and ways of God have subjected people’s wills to the whims and wiles of religious leaders who have perfected the art of mind manipulation. As if this is not bad enough, we then control these minds to vote for the politicians that then end up making a mess of the little that is left of our society’s commonwealth. Religious leaders are increasingly abandoning their calling for the lure of political power. If they directly declared as politicians there’d be nothing wrong with it as it is within their rights as citizens; some of them are doing worse things. Have you not noticed for instance that the Christian Association of Nigeria has appeared in the news recently mostly for political reasons that have to do with standing for President Goodluck Jonathan than it does to do with the welfare and well-being of Nigerian Christians? What about those religious leaders who can afford billions to buy private jets and hundreds of millions to maintain same? What are they producing to warrant such P-Diddy-esque ways of living in the midst of poverty even within their own religious organisations?
You see, we can ride in those stretch Limos, flash the blinding blings on our necks and continue to subject the minds of our followers to our remote but to what end? We all die anyway!
How can we gather people in places, speak to them in the name of God, naturally earn their trust and then go behind their back to negotiate their future with politicians? If we have not been doing this, why is it so difficult for many religious leaders to direct messages to the failure of governance in our country? Are we saying it is none of our business? The monies that our members pay to our organisations come from businesses that are affected by government policies and politics, so to say speaking truth to power is not the business of religious organisations would sound like a scam.
We can’t pretend all is well and good with our society because let us face it, our religious leaders live in a different world from ours. They ride in bulletproof vehicles and go around with mobile police personnel and in the case of some privileged ones, soldiers. Some fly in private jets and live in estates even government officials dare not make any appearance. We reached out to the people in the name of God, earned their trust and money, left most of them as they were and then built a cocoon around ourselves. They could reach us in the early days, now they’d have to reach our guards before they can access the Personal Assistants of our Special Assistants who manage the office of our secretaries. In the case of Christianity, if Jesus Christ had built these sorts of cocoons around himself, blind Bartimaeus would certainly have remained blind and the woman with the issue of blood would have had to touch one of the disciples because then Jesus would be so out of reach.
At the end of the day, those who subject their minds to the control of fellow men have themselves to blame. Ironically, like people under a spell, they are the ones to send emails to attack this writer and others who question the order of disorder in our society. I’d say this again; it is better to have your body imprisoned than to have your mind. With the body at least you know you are in jail, with the mind you are not free but you don’t even know. Are you free?
•Omojuwa, Editor, AfricanLiberty.org, wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org
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