No doubt that Nigeria is one of the most religious countries in the world!
Ordinarily, such a global recorgnination goes with certain
responsibilities, because there cannot be honour without responsibilities.
But, what do we have in the country today?
When any nation is at cross roads, the people look up to the religious
leaders for moral direction! This was the case of Archbishop Oscar Romero
of El-Salvador who became the linchpin for the liberation struggle of the
country from the socio-political and economic subjugation of the people.
The same thing can be said of Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist Preacher
who became the symbol of the America’s civil rights movements. Two major
renowned religious leaders of all times who changed their societies during
their earthly lives were Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammed! For example,
Jesus Christ taught, preached and healed for only 3 years when He
participated actively in His earthly ministry, yet, His message still have
effects and resonance in this modern world than any known philosophers of
the past! For instance, Socrates taught for 40 years, Plato taught for 50
years and Aristotle taught for 40 years. All together, the three
philosopher-kings taught for 130 years, yet, the impacts and the effects of
their teachings cannot be compared to that of Jesus Christ who only taught
for 3 years!
In Femi Falana’s article “Unasked Questions about Corruption” published in
Thisday Newspaper of November 30th, 2012, he said: “The roles of religious
bodies in the fight against corruption have also become haven for corrupt
individuals whose monies are used to sustain them. Instead of speaking the
truth, religious leaders have suddenly become appendages of the ruling
class using their vantage position to enrich themselves at the expense of
the poor members of their congregation who often see them as next to God”.
He asked “Why is it that in spite of the stinking poverty in the country,
religion is hastily becoming another source of psychological trauma for the
ordinary Nigerian? A poor man goes to church or mosque and is greeted with
SUVs and other flashy vehicles belonging to the cleric. Even when the
congregation cannot afford to eat two balanced square meals in a day, some
of our religious fathers deliberately or inadvertently display wealth”?
Sometimes, if you look at the character of the people in one of the world’s
most religious countries, you will be tempted to canonize some of our
pagans; yet, these are people we want to convert! In most government
establishments, it is hard for a staff who was employed to serve the people
to do so without demanding for underhand exchange. The worst is when a rich
employer is demanding for a sumptuous amount from a wretched applicant who
is looking for any means that will help him live for the next morning,
before offering him or her the needed job. Because the law forbids bribery
and corruption, there have now nicked-named it “appreciation”. My question
is, when appreciation becomes compulsory, what do we call it? The answer
needs codification to become law! Also, religious leaders are not left out,
because, some of them use mind-controlling strategies and motivation to
exploit their congregations, making religion the “opium of the people” and
not a permanent solution to their problems as Jesus Christ said “whoever
the son of man sets free is free indeed”. For these types of clerics, Mr.
Falana has a word for them, “… Some of the most corrupt individual in
Nigeria find it easy to go to churches and mosques on Sunday and Friday
without fearing that tough messages await them there”.
As a guest speaker of the 2009 BBC Reith Lectures entitled: “A New
Citizenship—Markets and Morals”, Professor Michael Sandel of Harvard
University in the first phase of the lectures asked: “What are the moral
limits of markets”? In the lecture, he condemned what he called “Market
triumphalism”, a phrase he used to describe how market has removed the
moral stigma attached to certain aspects or elements of human activities.
For example, out-sourcing pregnancy or commercial surrogacy, and the
selling of prayers and miracles. There are some priests who place a price
tag on the efficacy of the prayers they offer to their church members.
Please, what I mean here is different from corporate chaplaincy! According
to Sandel, “One of the most pervasive tendencies of our time is the
expansion of markets and market-oriented reasoning in to shares of life
once governed by non-market values”. “… A more vigorous and searching
public debate about the moral limits of markets is an essential aspect of
the new citizenship”. He called for a change, saying, markets should be
subjected to ethical principles and social justice.
Similarly, Pope Benedict XVI, now Pope emeritus in one of his sermons
decried what he termed “Dictatorship of relativism”. A concept he used to
warn against an ideology “that does not recognize anything as definitive,
and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s ego and desires”. While
the society is fast degrading, some of our clerics are smiling to the
banks. Is it not ironical that, while our religious institutions are
expanding, crimes and other social vices are expanding at the same
proportion? The question now is who is to be blamed? My answer is the man
in the mirror! What about you?
*Comrade Edwin Ekene Uhara is an activist and public affairs commentator.
He is also the National President of Young Nigerians for Change!*
*No. 29, Ben Mbamalu Crescent, Achara Layout, Enugu State.*