The true, the false in Rev. Oladimeji’s mantra
Although this piece is somewhat belated because the gravity in the indirectly sentimentalized opprobrium by “a man of God” against an internationally accepted way of life needed an immediate rejoinder, it is often the wiser to argue with the best reasoning especially at the inordinate refusal of an opponent to understand. But it is better late than never.
I read the interview granted the Vanguard Newspapers in mid September, 2011 by the founder and Senior Pastor of Lagos-based Living Waters Unlimited Church, Reverend Oladimeji (Ladi) P. Thompson titled “Jonathan may be Nigeria's last president”, and partly concluded that some enemies of the Nigerian nation are coming from diverse directions to cause more disunity, rancor and faithlessness in the country. Yet, at the end of the heavily laden assertions of vague truth, there was no better relief than to recline on the fact that freedom of speech has been guaranteed and every Nigerian could express very uniquely personal opinions.
Uniquely personal opinion it is because there are assurances that many Pastors and Christian religious leaders would vehemently attest to the opposite of some of the assertions of this man of man, just not close to God.
However, a commentator who merely identified himself as Nasiru went to the extreme to sum up the piece saying, “The pastor's revelations contained distortion of facts, misinformation and blatant lies. But to be fair to him they could not all be deliberate…In a nutshell this so-called man of ''God''' is suffering from Islamophobia.
First, he is a founder and senior Pastor of a Church. Secondly, he is the international coordinator of Macedonian Initiative, said to be a non-governmental, non-denominational organization established to provide succour to Christians persecuted because of their belief in Jesus Christ. These two positions would have qualified this man to be a model for peace and unity which Christ himself ultimately preached and practically represented. But worldly chase! O war on terror! O war on humanity! O war on divine religion!
As a human being, the good, the bad and the mediocre are intertwined. Truth and falsehood have often been mixed up or each confusedly referred to the other. It is reasonably hard to discard all what a man can maliciously say or even fabricate. A sane man can often comfortably make out sense in the speeches of even a man psychologically lowered by nature. So, I can concede to the following assertions.
One, it is true that Boko Haram is a western press creation of Muhammad Yusufua's theodiversity specifically in Maiduguri. Yusufua, he acknowledged, was just one out of 26 radical groups that are operating within Nigeria. Yes, radical groups are found in all parts of the country, not only in the north. He continued, “Haram means forbidden and Boko is corruption of book. They have not burnt any university. They have not killed any professor, nor harassed any institution of higher learning.”
Two, the Reverend could agree that a Muslim called El Kanemi from Borno during the Usman Dan Fodio time declared, “I am a Muslim but I don't understand this religion that involves killing of Muslims as well”. This can be thrown at par that Islam is practised by some Muslims according to their individual understanding especially in the non-fundamental issues. There is a demarcation in the import between Islam and Muslims. Killing in Islam is one of the greatest sins. The Holy Qur'an equals the killing of a single soul unjustly to the killing of a whole man race.
Three, the British system of indirect rule which they introduced at their handover of power to Nigerians remains the disturbing bug in the political configuration of the nation. Nothing is worse than dependence on foreign powers in the administration of a sovereign nation.
Four, the northerners seem to be losing out from the political machine of Nigeria due to the bedeviling factor that used to plague the Southern part of the country in the past. They are experiencing the disagreements that were often identified with the political blocs of the South. Whether or not this development is good for Nigeria's democracy is to be released by time. But definitely for Nigeria to achieve its developmental cum democratic goals as a united entity, equity, fairness and justice must be paramount in the distribution of the political portfolios.
Five, the international press are much more interested in the negative reports about Nigeria. They often contribute to crisis by magnifying events or adopting lopsided reportage. A living example is the Jos crisis. Jos used to be one of the most peaceful cities in Nigeria in the past.
Six, the truth is that Nigerian leadership has unfortunately lost the moral courage to face up to the fact that from the police force to intelligence services, to education, to sports, the institutions are filled with many people who are quietly or secretly fighting against the interests of a united Nigeria.
Therefore, the leadership must first of all find the moral courage to understand the reason why the nation prone to civil disturbances more than many other countries. They should face the problem, diagnose it and call it by its real name so it can treat it. One of Nigeria's big problems is lack of a consensus. The Chinese Constitution is about 2,000 words; the American is about 4,400 words but the Nigeria Constitution is in excesses of 74,000 words. Nigeria has never had a real constitution that is representative of the Nigerian people. There is no common agreement. The best country that Nigeria aligns with is USA – the only country that has had the same kind of history and experience and was successful to a point. They were also colonized by the British. Every offer that was given to Nigeria as we transited to independence was also offered the Americans but they rejected all.
Seven, it could be accepted that the reason why Uthman dan Fodio was able to overthrow Hausa kings was because there was a lot of corruption in the Hausa Kingdoms. There was a lot of oppression and poverty. There was few or no home for the majority. There was uncertain hope for the future. Has anything changed in these aspects?
Eight, there is even vague hope for the future with the impoverishment of the Nigerian people. Life is getting tougher. Many Nigerians youths are foot-marching across African desserts to escape harsh life in the country.
Nine, it was not right for Nigeria to cede its authority at the bomb explosion at the UN House in Abuja. Quite recently, a lot of countries have similar problems and many of them look up to Nigeria's solution to such problems in order to seek aid from Nigeria. It is not a wise intelligent strategy to employ the services of our respected soldiers to destroy our towns.
However, despite the inadequate facilities for our security outfits, Nigeria should never yield to foreign government. Foreign assistance on national security can be counterproductive because Nigeria can be worst hit if caution and constraint are not employed. The nation's security apparatus should not be infiltrated. Wise planning and intelligent thinking are needed. We should not put the security in a situation where the Inspector General of Police himself is more or less a junior to some of the Commissioners of Police serving under him, because the moment security matters are politicized, the chain of command would be fractured.
Ten, in all indices by which a successful state can be measured, Nigeria can hardly, in its present conditions, escape being in the fold of failed states. Human life value is very low. The youths, almost 75 or 80 per cent of the country, are impoverished; they are disenfranchised, and they have no inheritance. The people who stole their inheritance, their great grand fathers are still alive arguing against each other. They stole the monies their grandchildren would have spent.
In Nigeria there is scarcely any such document that practically guarantees equality to each and every Nigerian citizen. There are discrimination, marginalization, disenfranchisement and even frustration in the country. There can be a similitude of the Animal Farm.
Eleven, the number of Nigerians who lost their lives during the last presidential election is maximum casualty figure Nigeria had never witnessed before during elections. Measures must be taken to prevent recurrences in future general polls.
But there were worthless assertions that I strongly contest. Few are: One, Nigeria must not adopt America system or over-depend on it for development.
Two, the claim that there are Islamic camps in South South and South East is a very bad assumption and malicious hallucination intended to instigate wickedness, implant rancor in the minds of the people of the regions and suppress freedom. Imagine this statement for a man of God, “Whether you like it or not, there are camps and places where people are being trained in the South South and we now have more Igbo Muslims in Nigeria than we have ever had in this country. Why? They have quietly entered through sponsorships, spending money. There is one school in Afikpo where people are offered scholarships and given free food. As soon as you adopt the Islamic religion, you will be sent out of the country to radicalize you more. In the South South, there are militants milling around in the name of petty traders.”
Three, I think this man should be picked up to go and show the Nigerian security men the camps and places where Muslims are being trained to be radicals in the Southsouth and Igboland. Sweeping this insinuation or instigation under the carpet will not be of any good to the image of the country.
As for Islamic Centre in Afikpo which I attended and was educationally drilled to be what I am proud of being today, it is a school which has not only benefitted the Muslims of the place but also the Christians and pagans. The school was once seriously attacked by hoodlums surely because of this kind of instigations.
Yes, the school used to offer scholarships to students in the past. The school offers Arabic, Islamic and all secular subjects. I wrote my first novel while in JSS 2 in the school. But there is no link between it and any university outside the shores of Nigeria. Graduating students of the school are today flourishing lawyers, engineers, bankers and what else in diverse professions. Ex-students who studied abroad achieved that on individual efforts. In short, out of the total number of ex-students, not more than 5 percent have succeeded to study abroad. 95 percent had and are studying in different Nigerian universities, Polytechnics and Federal Colleges of Education with their parents' or guardians' supports and not on scholarships as claimed by Oladimeji. In Ebonyi State, the school is rated as one of the best. Its students have represented and won prizes in the name of Ebonyi in national educational competitions.
Four, it is definitely not true that Igbo Muslims are radicals or that Islam is newly spreading in Igboland. Islam is believed to have entered the Igbo land far earlier than 1957. How many Igbo Muslims have caused any local or national disturbances? I read both national and international news papers and magazines, physically and electronically. I have not heard any Igbo Muslim seeking trouble either with his or her brethren or with the Christians around him. I am from a multi-religious family. My late father was a Muslim who underwent harsh persecution under the hands of his people before the civil war because of his acceptance of the Islamic faith. But that did not deter him. It did not stop him from husbanding my lovely mother who alive till today has not accepted Islam.
Out of my mother's offspring, only three of us accepted Islam. Others belong to different denominations of the Christendom. All of us are married and are quite excelling in life. We hold family meetings, discuss our family lives and share ideas. We have NEVER had a tiff on religious matters. What matters is understanding and respecting the belief and thoughts of one another. My mother always tells us all, “worship the God above us”
Five, on a former governor in Nigeria marrying a 13-year- old girl, it was a politically motivated news hunting that ordinarily should have made a good headline. For God sake, have there not been many cases publicly reported of old men and youths raping under-aged girls for different purposes across the country? Is it not commonplace that politicians and moneybags use their influences to sexually abuse Nigerian teenagers and pay them peanuts or even threaten them with death if they exposed their experiences?
The level of moral decadence in the country has made many somewhat faithful people to run to their villages to look for young very wives. Although our villages are not as decent as before, many feel to catch them young is safer. Even in the villages to today, do old but wealthy men not marry young damsels?
Six, the media often harp on the marginalization of Christian minority in the north but negligibly play down on the equal in the South. Who is responsible in this madness of dividing Nigeria into Muslim North and Christian South? Investigations have shown that some Christians under disguise become Muslims (not really accepting Islam) to learn what they regard as disagreements amongst Muslims. One or two Christians confessed to have been in the fold of a Muslim community merely to learn the bad aspects of Islam, according to their assumptions. But it is difficult to hear that a Muslim joined Christianity with malicious aims.
Seven, so is religion is a personal conviction and Christianity is spreading in the north, why is it always a common debate of the existence of Igbo Muslims. Are the Igbo people not humans? Were the Igbo originally Christians? Can the number of Churches in the north be compared with the number of mosques in the South?
Eight and finally, pastors should endeavour to desist from the habit of disillusioning their followers. They should not exert much more of their energies imbibing antagonism in their followers against Islam and Muslims. They should rather concentrate on the teachings of the Bible which is their divine Holy Book. The same should be done by Imams. But unless proved wrong, I have not seen or heard a respected Imam preach against Christianity, nay Christians.
However, we are in a world where any event is significant to a new world formation. Today's world is quite significant to tomorrow's world and it can happen that an insignificant event in the conception of many may lead to the reshaping of this confused piece of land which man aimlessly struggle to control.
Muhammad Ajah is a poet, writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]