NIGERIA: LEAVING IT TO GOD SINCE 1960
It was October 1st, and trust me, many parts of Nigeria was green and white, some parents went the extra mile, painting their kids' hair in the national colour. My own kids went to a party and came back with green and white faces.
In Abuja, the nation's capital, very many cars had flags flying, whether at full or half-mast, it was inconsequential.
Activists, unionists and leaders of all shades had a word or two to say; radio and television had Independence Day-tailored programmes and newspapers had commentaries from my comrades in pen arm.
The message was basically of two kinds–Hope and Despair: For the hopeful, you could not discount their pride in the Nigerian spirit. And for those that despaired, the tales of woes where inevitable, and you dare add true.
Many compared the nation to the 54-year-old crawling man, others said; the fact that we are still a nation is a miracle and a plus.
And prompt, talking about miracles, my eyes caught the attention of a friend's comment, “just leave am for god.” Amadi Ora said “the damage this singular statement has done us in this country is immeasurable!” I could not but agree, as I reflected on that comment. Sallah was upon us as a nation, and I decided that without sounding like some episcopal theologian or expert in religion, my admonition would take this dimension.
Kindly and patiently follow me…Are you a Christian, did you eat Sallah meat? I enjoyed my childhood so much that most times I detest growing up and old. If there was a reason I did not like failing in school, especially any term that preceded the festive period, it was because I hated missing the visits and festive roaming because of poor performance reprimands. Those visits were worth the fun of a whole year.
Like Christmas, Ileya (Eid-el-Kabir) used to be fun for us, even though we were/are Christians. We would put on our best clothes and go visiting our family members and friends who were Muslims, they who would do same during Christmas.
The only difference I knew that existed between a Christian and a Muslim, then, was the place of worship; we went to church; they went to the mosque. Shikena! Every year, our freezer and pots would be filled with 'Rago leya, nama Sallah or Eran Ileya' (Sallah Meat) that would last several days after the celebration was over. I could recount the names of those who would bring 'abinchin Sallah or ounje odun' and at what time it would be. Any knock on our door, after the family altar, would usher in the first set of pounded yam and greatly garnished Egusi soup (a special recipe reserved only for that season).
Later to be followed by a variety of rice and meat from different cooks. But as we started growing, things changed. There is this hypothesis forbidding the eating of 'such meats'. Some tag it 'meat offered to idols' while some just hate the fact that it was a ram.
Some people would eat the chicken and the cow meat served on Sallah day but not the ram (though all came from the same pot). I have no intention of going into the theology of difference in Gods of Christians and Muslims. The crux of this piece is not to establish whether eating Sallah meat is right or wrong for a Christian! On the contrary, as time past, with numerous ethno-religious crisis, with building hatred. With the 'Islamic' agenda, with the “Christians” have it spirit. With who took us to OIC and who should bring us out taking the centre stage, with how many
Muslims have been IG, or how many Christians would be ABU vice chancellor becoming the issues, suddenly we are not sure what to leave to God and what not to leave to Him.
Leaders stole us to the gutters, we left it to god in establishing the ethnicity of the thief, and we refuse to leave it with God when it came to the faith of the thief.
Did we leave Ebola to God, or we left it to fate, is the light (electricity) meant for Nigerians in the hands of god, have we left our courage to god, in return for cowardice.
Let me cap it all with this story. When I was teaching in a private nursery and primary school, I had both Christian and Muslim students in my primary 1 class.
On resumption after a Sallah break, one of the kids ran to me with a parcel of meat and said excitedly, 'Uncle, I brought this for you.' Would you have expected me to reject such from a kid whose sole understanding of Sallah was a period of celebration just like birthday or Christmas and a time to share with his loved ones?
Nigerians are so religious yet with no godliness, we live in an era of mutual suspicion, we have lost our innocence from the moment we started
leaving what God intended for us to do, in the hands of god. So, while the flag glowed in the blazing sun, and I remain an unrepentant optimist, yet a cautious one about the Nigeria dream, while I ate my Sallah meat till my tooth ached, and though I still expect the main Sallah meat from you, I reflected that on the 1st October, there was no flag flying or hoisted anywhere around Nigeria's foremost Independence Square—The Tafawa Balewa Square. Could it be that, we equally left that to God.
While we bicker on whether to eat Sallah ram together as a nation, one wonders when we will get it right. Only time will tell.
Written by Prince Charles Dickson.