SERMON ON THE MOUNT TO NIGERIA'S WRETCHED OF THE EARTH
If awards were to be given for spirituality and holiness the Pharisees of Jesus’ day would be candidates for spiritual greatness and hall of fame.
They easily met and even surpassed the criteria for such an award: they paid tithe on their income and on everything including the herbs in their gardens (Luke 11:42). They fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12).
Looking at externals, they were models of holy fire. But really they were like “whitewashed tombs - beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones.”
It’s not enough to assuage or assure Nigeria’s poor with promises and hopes couched in liturgical rhetorics and drama that tomorrow Nigeria will be great and all the needs of poor among us will be met. All that is required of them is to have faith and hope.
Prayer without action is like a person who desires a house except in the Arabian Nights where mere wish results into a mansion. In the real world, time and labor must be expended before his wish can be granted.
Religion has become a disease in Nigeria.
Nigerians are the most church goers in the world that I know of. They attend church 24/7 round the clock: night vigil, afternoon vigil, and evening vigil. The Muslims are not left out in the worship madness.
Nigerians enjoy the comforts of religious myths because they enjoy extended vacation from evidence and reality. The preachers and pastors have readymade cash cows – Nigerian worshippers.
Professor Obelsky captures the necessity for the opium called religion with an observation worth quoting: “If scarcity were absent, there would be no need for economic theory.”
Well, in the Nigerian context one is right to conclude that religion would die out if we’re not faced with socio-economic problems.
As at my last visit to Lagos this past July, I painstakingly took my time when going through the neighborhoods to take a census ratio of buildings that are used as churches. I found that every other building on the streets that I passed is a church.
Nigerians are told to pray for uninterrupted supply of electricity, for the flow of water, for the provision of hospitals and other basic necessities of life.
Directly or indirectly Nigerians hold God responsible for the greed, corruption, and looting of their commonwealth by their elected officials.
One of the recent sermon articles in Nigerian newspapers and online portals from a ‘prince’ to the paupers that I find interesting was the one written by the former Nigerian aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode.
Femi Fani-Kayode’s article titled “Joy Comes in the Morning” published in The Guardian, Sunday December 9, and elsewhere reads like the Sermon on the Mount to Nigeria’s wretched of the earth.
“Today, our nation stands at a crossroad,” Fani-Kayode opens his sermon, “and it is left for us to decide which path we choose to take.” “Do we take the path of despair and dishonour and give up on our country?” Fani-Kayode asks Nigerians.
Like a stranger on a strange territory, he wonders how things got so bad. He launches on a long diatribes of diagnosis of Nigeria: “With biting poverty, mounting hopelessness, a bleeding economy, youth restiveness, unprecedented violence, brazen acts of terror and all manner of vices and evil thriving in the land.”
Fani-Kayode for reasons best known to him conspicuously left out corruption- the number one cancer that is eating away the country and its poor natives- among the vices plaguing Nigeria.
As if in utter mesmerism, he bellowed out: “We were plagued with leaders who lacked vision, who lacked intellect, who lacked sincerity of purpose and who were antagonistic to those that dared to challenge their visionless and purposeless politics.”
Now in full prophetic throttle-body injection, Fani-Kayode declared: “The Bible says though the night might be dark yet “joy comes in the morning.”
With the righteousness of the Old Testament Prophets and their uncanny reliability of their prophecies, he assured Nigerians: We know that the Lord will fix it (Nigeria)!
“We know that He is “more than able.” “We know that He is a man of war whom none can resist and we know that He restores, redeems and rebuilds even the most broken and wretched walls.”
“…Out of Nigeria’s “tests” shall surely come her “testimony.” “We have been to the “bottom of the valley” and therefore, we shall get to the “top of the mountain.”
“…I refuse to give up because I know that the God that I serve never fails.” “We can be great and, by the grace of God, we shall be great.” As if Fani-Kayode doubts the faith and hope of his audience, he cautioned them: “And believe me when I tell you that it is prophetic…”
Like he’s digging himself up from the “bottom of the valley” to the “top of the mountain,” he recites his dream of a new Nigeria. Listen to him:
“A Nigeria where every man and woman, regardless of faith, ethnicity, status or political persuasion finds a common cause and relishes in our collective humanity.”
“A Nigeria where the rich have conscience and the poor have hope… where joy and peace reign supreme and where bombings and killings are a thing of the past…”
“…where everyman is his brother’s keeper, where leaders show compassion to those that they lead, where justice is done to all and where political persecution has no place…”
“…where decency is rewarded, where dissent is tolerated, where non-conformity is encouraged and where equity is enthroned…
“…where youth unemployment is low and where individual no matter how high or low, can aspire to any position and live his or her dream. That is the Nigeria of my dream.”
Since the creation of the world, religion in different forms has dominated man’s conscious efforts to make sense of the confusion in the adventures of the “unknown.”
Religion from its inception is not free from dangerous elements of suspicion, fear, and hate. Today in Nigeria, religion is operated with the active involvement of these dangerous elements leading to a planned escalation of organized persecution.
Nigerians like other humans will never grow beyond four fundamentals of human needs:
A sense of worth – if missing, we feel inferior. A sense of belonging – if missing, we feel insecure. A sense of purpose – if missing, we feel illegitimate. And a sense of competence – if missing, we feel inadequate.
In the present economic, social, and political context of Nigeria all the four basic human needs are patently missing. All independent studies, reliable stats and surveys from world’s respected and regarded organizations portend ominous signs for Nigeria.
The news from this part of the world is frightening, is nauseating, and it makes one restless, sleepless, and helpless.
By now after 52 years groping in the dark as it were, Nigerians are sick and tired of sermons, preaching, exhortations, and vanity edifications that lead nowhere.
Where is the flicker of light in the tunnel? Where is the flicker of hope?
Time and time again, with cold rationalism the preachers have boxed in Nigerians with fenced-in dogmatic creed that mistake lead for gold.
Nigerians are the worst pathetic victims of religion. Religion is a tool used psychologically and physically as a means of persecuting opponents, citizens, congregants in propagating myths that aid and abet control, exploitation, and subjugation of the poor.
The preachers have used religion to manipulate Nigerians using “faith” to substitute emotion for evidence. They’re told to hope against hope, attend endless night vigils, observe white or black fasting, and other nonsensical spiritual rituals.
Prayers, night vigils, and fasting without action – the necessary component – will not change the old order of things. One can dream as many dreams as he wants, with no work they’ll only amount to nightmares and mirages.
Nigerians must be prepared to seize the momentum of the dire situation to effect a lasting solution to the toilet life they’re consigned to by overthrow the native oppressors by any means necessary.
Fani-Kayode’s sermon sounds more like imaginary supports. We can no longer pitch our tents with the invented allies in the sky – the Jet Pastors or better still, Jest Pastors.
Rather, we need to rise up, shape up, shout out, and chase the money changers and gamblers from Aso Rock and the National Assembly. And for once, make Nigeria a fit place to live for humans.
Then poor and the marginalized among us are perched on the peripheral of the economic totem pole. They’re hurting, hungry, sick, homeless, jobless, hopeless, and lost in the maze. They’re completely enveloped in the dark terrors and misfortunes of the times.
I do not believe that 52 years of decay of dogmatic belief can do anything but good.
Hear me out: A student who dreams of passing his exams with his arms folded and a party animal and spend no time on his studies will never make it. No amount of prayers and fasting will wrought miracle for him!
The idea of throwing away our life blindly to gospel comedians is a disease which belongs to the infancy of human reason. It’s time to outgrow this spiritual nonsense!
***We cannot drive a car forward by looking at the rear view mirror. We cannot use shoes as hammers, newspapers for umbrellas, and finger nail to tight a screw!
Written By Bayo Oluwasanmi