by Femi Fani-Kayode
They should tell General Theophilius Yakubu Danjuma, the greatest and most respected general in the history of the Nigerian Armed Forces, that religion has no place in our politics and see what his reaction will be.
I read Mr. Don C. Adinuba’s article titled ‘Toying With The Fire Of Religion’ in ThisDay Newspaper on 5th November 2014. He raised some interesting points, some of which I will attempt to address here.
There is a grave affliction that has gripped our land. That affliction is known as willful delusion. Thankfully not all Nigerians suffer from it but many of them do: particularly those from the south. They believe that religion does not play a role in our politics and that it never has done.
I agree with those that believe that religion OUGHT NOT to have a place or play a role in our politics but I am compelled to concur with those that admit, albeit in hushed and nervous tones, that it does. Whether we like it or not that is the reality.
It is the bitter truth. It is the elephant in the room that everyone pretends is not there. It is the proverbial demon that has come to stay and that we have no choice but to live with.
It is the bad smell that emanates from a silent but deadly fart at a well-attended and well-heeled dinner party: everyone can smell it but everyone pretends that it is not there and that it never happened. Sadly, whether we like to admit it or not, that is the reality.
Yet many still close their eyes to the veracity of this assertion and the glaring consequences of this sad and unfortunate state of affairs.
Those that live in this willful yet blissful denial can easily be identified by the fact that they consistently and loudly repeat the lie that religion does not play any part in our politics.
Even though they know that it is not true they say it over and over again as if to say that the repetitive chanting of this vainglorious and masturbatory mendacity is capable of changing anything or of melting away the bitter truth.
Sadly it does not and only the abjectly ignorant believe that it ever could. Worst of all is the fact that ignorance is not only a terrible disease but it is also a very dangerous one.
As a matter of fact it is even more dangerous and debilitating than cancer, Ebola, heart disease and AIDS all put together and it is responsible for far many more deaths. For those that honestly believe that religion plays no role in Nigerian politics permit me to suggest the following.
They should tell the residents of the predominantly Christian town of Mubi, which has now been captured by Boko Haram and renamed ”Madinatul Islam” (meaning ‘the City of Islam and Peace’) that there is no religion in the politics of our country.
They should find out what has since happened to the good people of Mubi and what they have been subjected to. They should tell the hundreds of thousands of northern minority Christians that have been slaughtered in the north over the last 50 years that religion has no place in politics in our country.
They should tell the Berom people of Plateau and the Sayyawa people of Bauchi. They should tell the people of southern Kaduna and the people of Zangon Kataf. They should tell the people of Zuru and the people of southern Zaria.
They should tell those that have been forcefully converted to Islam or those that have been made to appear in sharia courts in northern Nigeria even though they were not Muslims that religion has no place in the politics of Nigeria.
They should tell the people of Taraba, Adamawa, Benue, Plateau and the Christian minorities of Kogi and Kwara that religion has no place in the politics of Nigeria. They should tell all these people this and they will laugh them to scorn.
They should tell General Theophilius Yakubu Danjuma, the greatest and most respected general in the history of the Nigerian Armed Forces, that religion has no place in our politics and see what his reaction will be. I could go on and on.
The worst thing to do to a festering wound is to ignore it and pretend that it is not there. The fact that we refuse to acknowledge certain things and the fact that those things are unpalatable and unpleasant does not mean that they do not exist.
They should tell the thousands of Igbo Christians that have been slaughtered in the north over the years both before and after the Nigerian civil war that there is no religion in Nigerian politics.
They should tell the millions of Christians that have been denied the right to buy land to build churches in many parts of the core north that there is no religion in Nigerian politics.
They should tell those that have witnessed the hundreds of churches that were burnt down to the ground over the last four years all over the north by the Islamists that there is no religion in Nigerian politics.
They should tell the thousands of Muslims that were slaughtered in Zangon Kataf, Southern Zaria and Plateau state over the last twenty years that there is no religion in Nigerian politics.
They should tell the Muslims who were murdered in cold blood and had their flesh cooked and eaten in Jos by some Berom christian youths two years ago that there is no religion in Nigerian politics. The truth is that it is a selfish and selective recourse for anyone to say such a thing and it smacks of nothing but insensitivity.
That insensitivity is well- manifested by the millions of very comfortable southern middle class elites who continue to view the dire religious tensions, discrimination, perversions and divisions in the north as essentially a northern problem which does not concern them. They forget that the adage is that when your neighbours house is on fire you better help him to put it out before yours catches fire as well.
Many in the south have forgotten the fact that Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Saurdana of Sokoto and the most revered political leader in northern history, said that it was the intention of the people of the north to ‘’continue their march to the south and dip the Koran in the Atlantic ocean’’ after the British had left and thereby perfect their grand scheme to conquer and islamise the whole of Nigeria.
It took Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the erstwhile Leader of the Yoruba, to stand up and reply him in very clear and decisive terms by saying that rather than for the Yoruba to bow down to the hegemonists of the north and succumb to their horrendous agenda they would prefer to face death.
For those amongst us that are still delusional and that insist on holding fast to the erroneous view that religion does not play a role in our politics permit me to end this contribution with the words of Mr. Opeyemi Agbaje who is a banker, an economist and a lecturer at the Lagos Business School.
On 4th October 2014 on his Facebook page he wrote the following:
‘’I know it sounds intelligent, modern and sophisticated to say that religion should not be a consideration in politics. I know that is also the politically correct thing to say. As a matter of fact, that is how I have always lived my life and that is how the South West has always practiced its religion. We have always adopted a tolerant, accommodating and matured view about the place of religion in social, cultural and political affairs. However if you live in a country in which eleven (11) states in one region of the country have established a Sharia regime with religious laws, police and policies, there is nothing intelligent or even rational about saying religion is not a consideration in politics. Indeed in the Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri Islamic North, religion is not a factor in politics, it is the ONLY factor! If you live in a country in which a religious terrorist group called Boko Haram has killed over 20,000 people in just four years, it is almost insane to say that religion is irrelevant! I agree it should be, and indeed would have preferred that it is, but evidently and unfortunately due to the actions of the sponsors of religious politics, today it is NOT irrelevant! Sadly but clearly!
If the country you live in was smuggled into the OIC and remains there; if a region of your country has been overwhelmed by religious terrorists with millions of displaced people; if there are substantial allegations that one of the two dominant political parties has a preponderance of one religion among its officials, office holders and candidates; if infact the leading presidential candidate of the party is a former military dictator who has PUBLICLY declared his intention to establish sharia all over the country; and if the whole world is contending with religious extremists including ISIS, Al Qaeda, Al Nusrah, Hamas, Al Shabab, Seleka, Daesh and Boko Haram who are trying to establish Islamic Caliphates in Northern Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, CAR, Egypt, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia’s Caucausus region, India’s Kashmir, China’s Uighur region and even the US, Europe and Canada are battling religious extremists, there is nothing at all smart about saying religion is not a consideration in politics! Instead frankly such a statement would be delusional!!!’’
How right Mr. Agbaje is. I need say no more.