By Yaya Ademola
According to Wikipedia, “A religion is a set of beliefs that is passionately held by a group of people that is reflected in a world view and in expected beliefs and actions (which are often ritualised). The beliefs are often linked to supernatural beings such as God, gods or spirit.” Everything religion is spirituality – the spirit of each person towards goodness, duty, truth, etc. It teaches “moral code” on how humans should act. Examples of religion are Islam,Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Rastafarianism, Ifa, etc. God is only a term to describe the absolute power which created and sustains the world and each religion worships God as revealed by the forebears. For example, Islam worships God as revealed by Mohammed; Christianity worships God as prescribed by Jesus Christ; Hindus does it as revealed by Krishna.
Like other social institutions, religion is dependent on material and economic realities of a given society as it has no productive history. Instead, it is the creation of productive forces. Religion, however, provides social cohesion in maintaining social order in conformity and control in society. It provides spiritual, social, psychological and sometimes material support for individuals and families. It gives succour to the poor to have illusion that through the name of whatever they worship, things will be better someday. It serves as a stabiliser of society. This explains ruling elite cordial relationship with religion. Despite establishing the fact that government authorities should not have connection with any religion, they sponsor pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Saudi Arabia every year with State resources.
For instance, Nigeria is said to be a secular State. Wikipedia defines a Secular State as “an idea pertaining to secularity whereby a state is or purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion.” In a secular state, citizens are treated equally regardless of their religion or affiliation or lack of belief. However, everything is lopsided in Nigeria. For instance, since its return to civil rule in 1999, 12 states in the north have introduced Islamic law despite the facts that they have huge population of Christians. The Sharia Law is only applicable to the poor – be they Christians, Muslims or Traditionalists. While the northern ruling elite have continued to commit crimes including stealing of money meant for development of their areas, like their counterparts in the South do, they have never been tried by Islamic Law also known as Sharia Law. As the ruling elite steal for their insatiable lifestyle and crude accumulation of wealth for themselves, children and grand children, the poor whose situation get worse due to elite greed are made to pay. In 2000, Buba Jangebe limb was amputated after being found guilty of stealing a cow by a Sharia Court in Kaduna. Another man named Lawal Isa’s right hand was cut off having found him guilty of stealing three bicycles. In 2011, an Islamic Court in Zamfara State sentenced two youths to amputation of their right hands openly for stealing a bull. These amputees will end up to joining the huge crowd of destitute in the state. There are thousands in detention awaiting trials in same sharia court. In all these 12 states, consumption of alcohol is prohibited but it is sold and could be taken in Police and Army barracks. Apart from members of the security forces who are exempted, only the elite could patronise barracks for liquor either to nurse it at the barracks or take away to their well fenced homes. Only the poor can be caught at the bar with grave consequences.
In the southern part where everybody worships whatever pleases him/her and Court of Law under Nigerian Constitution reigns, the poor remain at the receiving end. Most factories and business districts have been bought and converted to religion centres as religion has metamorphosed into businesses, especially the churches with some of their proprietors having private jets with the price range from $3million to $90million, private universities that an average member of the church cannot afford and choice property among others. Dunlop Tyres, just an example, a multinational company located in the heart of Ikeja, Lagos, was bought by a church and people come to the church to pray for job. Interestingly, the tap root of religion today is the damning suffering condition of the mass majority of the poor combined with hopelessness. Religion business is, however, one sided. The poor are so tied to the yoke of religion that they squeeze blood out of stone to raise tithes and offerings for the proprietors who exchange these with prayers of prosperity. While the poor patronise the centres with the belief that God will answer their prayers vis-a-vis their poor economic condition and alienation, the big pastors/Imams enjoy themselves.
It is instructive to state that God has handed over everything and all affairs on earth to human being. To get organised so as to better their lot, human being selected or elected some of them to the leadership position to guide and direct their affairs. For instance, Baba God cannot provide electricity as He has provided sun and moon for day and night, and brain power to improve upon it if needed; it is human leadership which is known as government that will provide ways and means with which electricity will be generated within the system. God cannot provide portable water as He has provided rain, rivers and oceans; it is human being under the coordination of their government that will invent how to make potable water available for human consumption. The prayers and illusion by the poor that someday, God will make life easier and better other than by human productive engagements well-ordered by government is a huge joke. As long as the government that is in charge of everything refuses to do the needful, it will be permanent sorrow, tear and blood for the poor people. Baba God has provided everything for us to live well on earth. We can convert our society to paradise where everyone will have enough to live a decent life, if we so wish. What is needed is a committed government that can think outside the box and creatively engage its populace to actualising this objective. This is what is lacking in our society. Our problem is not from God and the solution will not come from Him. He has done His own; the rest lies in us. If we struggle to change the leadership, we may be better off; if we don’t, we are doomed already!