Religion: Jonathan’s Timely Warning

AS is expected, the warning of former President Ebele Jonathan is significant in several ways-and for several good reasons.
In the first instance, the remarks of the erstwhile President speak to the fact of the existence-either by way of perception or reality-of the issue of religious intolerance in the Nigerian society. This is a dire admission by someone who should know-having been Nigeria’s leader in the recent past.
Secondly, the remarks-in a speech he delivered-showed that even as former Nigeria leader, Jonathan is not insulated from the fear of the possible devastating effects of religious intolerance in the country. In simple terms, the import of this is that this fear of religious intolerance and its effects on the larger society has permeated even the echelon of the Nigerian society, and nobody-rich or poor-is at ease with it.
Yet another element of significance of the former President’s speech in America is the fact of its timeliness. Coming on the heels of the recent (or, is it still persisting )violent clashes between herdsmen suspected of being Muslim Hausa/Fulani, and farmers, mainly Christians, in Southern Kaduna, which scores of the latter were gunned down in the many battles of the lingering war between them, the speech of the former Nigerian leader could not have been more apt and relevant. This is because, as is truly evident, the bizarre murders of many compatriots by feuding combatants (suspected herdsmen and locals in Southern Kaduna) as reflected in the media coverages –radio, television, newspapers/magazines and even in the social media-typify just one thing, the dire situation in the state of co-existence among the people of the area in question, particularly, of late.
A dire attestation to the fact of the severity of insecurity in and around Kaduna State is the reported confession of the state governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, to the effect that some 20,000 persons had been killed in the state since 1980. As if to add salt to injury, Malam El-Rufai said that nobody, repeat, nobody at all, had, in real terms, been punished for engaging in the legion spates ofreligious mayhem that have characterised the state over the period.
Of course, the question of lack of peaceful co-existence among Nigerian communities-many of who had lived in mutually-assured peace for aeons-is not restricted to the Southern tip of Kaduna State alone; it has deep presence elsewhere, and may yet sprout in the most inauspicious places, places now considered safe, secure and inaccessible to the fingers of insecurity.
In the face of the persistence of the Southern Kaduna crisis, many questions-some quite critical-have been raised as to why, in Nigeria of all places, religious strife takes on a garb of insurmountability.
Well, it is actually difficult, if not impossible, to fathom all of the issues that trigger and sustain religious intolerance in the country. And the reason is obvious-religion is one of the few issue in humanity where reason is hardly brought to bear on matters in contention. In fact, it goes without an iota of doubt that hardly any adherent of any religion-Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, Zoraosterism, Budhism, Judaism, African Traditional Religion (ATR), etc-is objective when issues directly affecting their faith is up for discourse. It is for this reason that many Nigerians-particularly of the Muslim and Christian faiths-hardly see the ‘other’ side of the argument when issues affecting their religion are on the card. And the main reason is this-hardly any religious faithful condones even the most objective critique of his faith, and, in lieu of this, it becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to accept even the most harmless of criticisms. Of course, the reason for this tendency is this: Every objective reason that runs counter to the import of the faith of the adherent , amounts, in their view, to sheer heresy, and an erosion of the very foundation on which their faith is predicated. In symbolic terms, this is death, particularly in a spiritual sense, and one of the biggest challenges any religious faithful faces is the death of his/her god (belief) on the altar of superior reason and facts, which many will prefer buried in the tomb of ignorance.
But can anyone truly forever bury the truth?
While I leave you to ponder this question, I will add just one thing; for reason of this ignorance-led perception, many religious faithful engage in mindless superiority wars, many claiming supremacy of their God, over and above others’. This is the real reason, for instance, in Nigeria, the crisis of supremacy between Christians and Muslims has yet to abate, and may never, in effect, do so.
Yet, many more reasons exist for the persisting syndrome of religious intolerance in the country.
In Nigeria, just as in much of the developing world, religion and its practice, particularly in depressed economies, acquire the additional potency of either creating or sustaining, or creating and sustaining, an additional challenge in that they create a warped perception of religious leaders as super humans whose every word is command and whose deeds are beyond questioning-no matter how well meant-how much more reproach. As a result of this and many other related matters and issues, many of them, in broad daylight, get away with even blue murder.
This is the real reason that many bad, bad, bad things done by some of these religious clerics we erroneously call spiritual leaders, are left to rot, with none, absolutely none of them called to account , actually, or even constructively, by the institutions that ought to do so.
Of course, the real issue here is the product of our wrong classification of religion and spirituality as one and the same thing; nothing can be farther from the truth, because, while religion is a system of belief in a supreme being and how it can be accorded reverence and deification, spirituality is the application of natural and spiritual rules /law to daily living. So, the difference is clear, at least, to the discerning and the informed.
But because, in Nigeria and elsewhere in the mainly developing world, we have the wrong perception of religion and its leaders, we end up deifying them and making them beyond sanctions . Acting out the import of this our wrong classification of them, many of these religious leaders, at times, inadvertently, act as if they are over and above the laws of the land. In the long run, impunity is borne. With it comes legion other evils that grow insurmountable with time.
Yes, we must kill religious intolerance and impunity, in their every form, shape and location before they kill Nigeria. Time is of the essence.