Despite the increasing religiosity of Nigerians, as manifest in the preponderance of places of religious worship and lousy religion-related ceremonies and activities, it is ironic that Nigerians are becoming increasingly Godless in the conduct of their affairs. As a matter of fact, hardly does a day pass without some nerve-wrenching report of one atrocity or another committed by Nigerians, including those who claim to be people of God. Last year was especially terrible such that some people were misled to even think religion is the problem, though it is part of the solution.
In many parts of the world also, renewed attacks against religion are being launched at all fronts with sadistic ferocity and the young ones are becoming disillusioned. They would rather be “free” than be restrained by some ethics imposed by religion.
Then, in places where religion appears to be thriving, its teachings have been so compromised and “mordernised” such that worshippers in some places of worship do not look better than those who attend strip parties. In some other places, religion is used as a means of social and political exclusion.
As the Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede, said in his 2016 Annual Lecture of the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL), held last Thursday (February 18, 2016) at Kwara State University, Malete, Kwara State, religion has become a tool in the hands of the irreligious to attack the religious and destroy religion. The proof is glaring in its various dimensions.
“Using religion to hurt or exclude other stakeholders and/or denial of existence of, as well as, value of religion is irreligious. It is not religion to (mis)appropriate commonwealth for a particular group without conceding similar rights to other co-owners. To be inconsiderate is irreligious,” he said, while identifying religious values as “truth, honesty, compassion, kindness, modesty, decency, selflessness, chastity, justice, discipline, patience, morality, sincerity, among others.” How many people have such attributes again?
But is the future of religion bleak despite the challenges of the present, especially since the dawn of the 21st Century? Prof. Oloyede, who spoke on “Utilising Religion for National Integration and Development”, said no. His evidence is that the Pew Research Centre, a US think tank, in a study last year found that “the religiously unaffiliated population is projected to shrink as a percentage of the global population”, whereas out of the world’s total population that is expected to be 9.3 billion in 2050, “there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion or 30% of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31%)”.
Already, we are in a world dominated by religion. Citing a 2012 Pew Research Center report, which was based on the analysis of “2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers”, it was revealed at the event that in our world, we have 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) in the world as at the year 2010. Besides, more than 400 million people (6%) practise various folk or traditional religions, including African Traditional Religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million (less than 1 % of the global population) are said to belong to such religions as Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenkrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism”.
Therefore, it is agreeable and crucial that if we are in a religious world, largely, we should seek religious understanding as a way knowing one another and co-existing harmoniously as a single people. This appears to be the logical and expected step to take, especially where wrong religious interpretations and ethno-religious agitations have been wreaking havoc on humanity. However, as the lecturer, who is also the National Coordinator/ Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Inter-religious Council (NIREC), lamented, the study of religion is being relegated in Nigeria.
In specific terms, both Islamic Studies and Christian Religious Studies as separate subjects have been reduced to be mere topics in a riotous subject called “Religion and National Values” at the three levels of basic education in the new curriculum being implemented. In the “wisdom” of our policy makers, “ignorance is bliss” and removing the two subjects from the curriculum is the panacea to the challenges the country is facing.
But this is a time bomb and my take is that the policy should be reversed immediately by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, through the appropriate procedure. If those who studied the two subjects are those who mislead Nigeria till we have a huge mess the current government is working hard to clear, what then happens to the generation that does not study the subjects? If the two religions are not studied formally in school, how will the young ones not be vulnerable to the antics of those who will indoctrinate them with poisonous interpretations since nature does not allow a vacuum?
OLD PDP, NEW SHERIFF
There is another drama unfolding in the PDP House of Commotion. The drama involves part of the efforts to “rebrand” the party and give it a new lease of leadership. The former Governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, has resurrected from his political obituary to emerge the new Chairman of the party.
But all hell has been let loose as his (s)election has pitted PDP against PDP. There have been verbal missiles flying all around, especially from the intrepid Femi Fani-Kayode and the former Governor crowned party Chairman. The voices of dissent are rising in din.
The most embarrassing thing for Sheriff is that he realises that not all the perfume of Arabia can wash his hands clean of the Boko Haram insurgency. That the CNN ridicules him, PDP and Nigeria as the founder of Boko Haram really shows that he needs tact, not necessarily hard tactics.
Now that the new sheriff of the PDP is the same Modu Sheriff, it appears that PDP is still learning its ropes after the last loss sent it into some coma. To keep his job, the new sheriff in town need not fire his salvos from all directions issuing threats. He rather needs to tread softly.