Give it to Nigerians. When someone cannot measure up in other areas of life, religion becomes the last refuge. Nigerians love their religions, perhaps a little more than they love their tribes. Their nation? Who cares about that? Who even needs a nation? We are fixing to start identifying ourselves by our tribes and religion when we go abroad. We are exploring ways of issuing international passports that show where we worship and how, including the indigenous language we speak. Some say that is the only way forward. Who says we should hunker down and try to make something of our nationhood, just as every other ‘geographical expression’ the world over have tried to do. Intellectual dishonesty takes over. We are forever hunting for those who have hurt us, those who have wronged us. We don’t get it, that our claims will be stronger, more valid, when we also acknowledge, and redress those we have wronged. Fairness, balance, equity, are not in our dictionary. We assemble in our conclaves, in a joro-jara-joro attitude of seeking and demanding, for reparations, and benefits, and allocation, and slices of the cake, over which we later quarrel, sometimes snarling at each other, like hyenas in the wild.
I intend to reexamine the claim that the entire nation is about to be Islamized. These are rabid claims from some of our most eloquent folks, many of them clergymen of the Christian faith, meaning they have a bias in the matter. The latest of such claims came from Retired Commodore Kunle Olawunmi, who made so many shocking and solid statements worthy of investigation from a security angle, but complicated everything by claiming there is an Islamization agenda. Commodore Olawunmi’s interview could be unpacked in many ways. It should be studied by all and especially in our security circles. Why throw the gates of our security units and fortresses open on Fridays – and some say on Sundays – for anyone to come in and worship? Why does religion have to always trump good sense? Why are most Nigerians more interested in making heaven – in spite of their inconsistencies and many sins which have got us to this very point – rather than trying to make this place a better place for all to live? Why has the government done nothing to Boko Haram and terrorism sponsors despite reports written against them? Rather Olawunmi says some of these terrorists are in Buhari’s government? Buhari, for me, seems a lost cause. A president that continues to insist on ancient practices in spite of tensions in the land, is not one to hold my breath for. Why not count the days until he departs? For he shall, some day. So, this is not about Buhari.
Olawunmi is correct in many ways. Only that his Islamization claim will be examined shortly. Why, under Buhari are we rehabilitating cold-blooded terrorists and integrating them into society? Who are the guys sponsoring these terrorists? Because when some of them are caught, they all look gaunt, disheveled and deprived. Who gets the money? There is surely intelligence on this that hasn’t been revealed to the public. Who are the sponsors? What are their aims? Are mind-control drugs involved? We have heard people like Sheikh Gumi try to equate the cold-blooded bloodlust going on in the far north, with Niger Delta struggle over crude oil. He also called for reparations, amnesty and monthly stipends for these terrorists; a call which made many of us conclude that this is strictly about making money, using these usually young, drugged-out boys as mere disposable instruments. Anyone who has seen where these guys slaughter human beings like chicken, will know what I am talking about. The terrorists of Northern Nigeria do not discriminate. They have surely killed way more Muslims than Christians. I recall the January 2012 and November 2014 killing of over 300 people as they emerged from prayers at the Kano Central Mosque. From Borno, to Kaduna, and lately the senseless massacres in Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Niger and elsewhere, these terrorists seem not to care about anyone’s religion before abducting and killing them. In the Jonathan days, they never cared about the religion of any of their victims when they bombed Nyanya bus stop, Kuje night market, Banex Plaza, or even the UN HQ in Abuja.
Three facts must be conceded to Olawunmi and those who believe in the Islamization agenda though; one is that for a while now, the world – and Nigeria – has suffered from a brand of terrorism from a group of people who are fanatical adherents of the Islamic faith. Since the Irish Republican Army was tamed, we haven’t had many Christian groups ready to kill others for any course and since the Spanish Inquisition of the 1400s I’m not sure we have seen many Christian groups ready to kill in the name of the religion. The Nazis had an idea about Christian supremacy, but also colored that with a huge dollop of racism, obscuring their Christian fanaticism. Secondly, there is an injunction for Muslims to always come together wherever they may find themselves, and in Nigeria, as unrighteous as the outcomes of our conduct has shown us to be, Muslims make it a point of duty to always create the atmosphere to invite other Muslims for worship wherever the opportunity arises. When this happens, there is usually no discrimination. In housing estates, in the national mosque, perhaps even in Aso Villa, the lowliest, the most-suspicious looking, have free access to places of worship and it is indeed a testimony to the rarity of terrorism that those guys do not detonate bombs on a weekly basis. I mean that terrorism in Nigeria is more coordinated than as projected. Intelligence services have only kept so much information away from the people. Olawunmi however attempted to open the Pandora’s box. Thirdly, we are unlucky to be saddled with then leadership of someone who thinks in very narrow terms and who have either emboldened these extremists or looked away from doing anything tangible about them. His nepotism has also fueled suspicion – especially among people of the other Abrahamic faith – just as his general approach to governance (some will say absence from governance), has compounded Nigeria’s problems on many fronts.
But is anyone trying to ISLAMIZE Nigeria? Can anyone Islamize, Christianize, or Babalawonize the whole of this country? As a fact, we all know the tug of war between Christianity and Islam in Nigeria. These two Abrahamic religions are always struggling with each other for elusive supremacy. Of late, and especially in the south, many young Muslims have found it easier, and more fun, to switch to Christianity, thus spurring Islamic leaders to come up with ideas that could help retain their youths, such as NASFAT. Perhaps, rather than promote the hypothesis that Muslims and Christians could not exist in the same country in almost equal proportions, we could have risen above such sentiments and made Nigeria a model country. But the so-called intellectuals, who should be at the vanguard of such an idea, are the ones who push the extremism from the pulpit and other places. Both sides are equally culpable. Interestingly, a good number of the fieriest Christian preachers, were Muslims, including David Oyedepo, Tunde Bakare, Matthew Ashimolowo, Joshua Iginla, Yinka Yusuf, and Johnson Suleman, among many others. Nigeria has seen growing aggressiveness on both sides, when other countries were focused on improving the livelihoods of their people and improving standards of living. The Christians here have done fairly well, due to what is known as Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic (since many of our churches pump up their people to get rich), but in many instances, the greed of church leaders get the best of them and ends up impoverishing the majority. Nigeria’s brand of Islam – especially northwards – is tightly fused with politics and has not done a lot to reposition the majority economically. Nigeria’s inability to get 15 million children off the streets, and reposition education up north, is due to the influence of powerful Muslim clergy, who are wittingly or unwittingly holding down the vast majority of the people to be pliable for dishonest politicians who also play the religious card when it suits them.
It is my considered opinion, that since the Christian/Muslim balance has remained intact since the creation of this country, it is likely to continue ad infinitum. Instead, we are likely to see many young people who will probably choose to have nothing to do with both – because of the failures noted above. This will create panic among the older people. None of the major religions will be able to convert the whole of the nation to their side alone. An intellectual, honest leadership at the centre and the states would have helped, but we have been unlucky to find leaders who can abandon the unproductive and ultimately destructive path, to instead focus Nigerians on humanity, progress, justice and equity. It will also help, to find leaders especially at the centre, who will honestly tackle the current dalliance with terrorism. As stated above, a lot of information has been kept from the public. This is not who we are. Before 2010 Nigeria did not know anything like the newfangled terrorism. We should ensure that that phenomenon does not define us, just over 11 years after. There’s got to be a way of reconnecting with our humanity. This is why I think there is something wrong with Commodore Olawunmi’s total capitulation to the Islamization agenda. Christians have always been intimidated by the seeming spontaneous unity among Muslims. But under Buhari, we saw the dichotomy between Shia and Sunni. Muslims are also riled by the rapid expansion of churches in every nook and cranny of Nigeria. But Christians in Nigeria have evolved into over 10,000 different brands, and only unite when it is time to fight the other religion. The metastasis of churches in Nigeria, is largely commercial and transactional.
I think what is going on calls us to think properly, on both sides. There is so much hypocrisy, on both sides. There is a need to focus on humanity, and improve the lives of our people, on both sides. We need to understand, that in order to make heaven, there is a need to also contribute our quota to the betterment of this earth. Nigeria has been in reverse gear, largely as a result of this sharp and unproductive divide along religious lines. Those who have also benefited from this country, and been at the kitchen table with their mouths full from the morsels of the national cake, should spare the rest of us of these religious counter-accusations when they get kicked out of the inner circle. Integrity requires that they try and change whatever is wrong, from within.
We should all slow down on all these theories, like the one that says Uthman Dan Fodio sought to dip the Qur’an in the Atlantic. Some even say that is why Ahmadu Bello Way is the road that led to Bar Beach. Maybe there was a fascination with the sea way back when technology wasn’t as advanced. But these days there are many beaches everywhere in Nigeria (most of them unkempt of course, for that is who we are). Anybody can go and dip whatever they seek in any sea. Most of the seas are filled with young boys seeking to sell you drugs anyway. Let us roll back some of these dark, sad tales and ensure we do not indoctrinate our children into them. The challenge our children face, is not among themselves, but with children in other countries, performing great feats, in sports, in technology, in industry, in the arts. What can I say? May God grant us leaders who are in tune with positivism. I believe this country can be turned around in a short period of time. I am sick and tired of all the negative energy around and will have nothing to do with such. I am a hopeful person and anyone who needs to be hopeless should give me a wide berth please.