Government officials are also servants of God aren't they? Well, they should be. Because in this modern world, they hold the key to making life a bit more enjoyable for God's people. They share budgets, they are the ones who have seized the public space.
Most people see their government officials - president, governors, local government chairmens, councilors - more than they see their pastors or Imams. So, we ought to redefine the linkage between God and man, and that linkage should necessarily include our government officials. Perhaps that will scare them into doing the right thing. For as it is, many of them profess God, but act as if they think God is dead.
I state here today, that there is a need to regulate all our religions, in order for our country to survive, in order for us all to escape perdition. The way we practice our religions in Nigeria is taking us to Hell, not the Heaven they promised. Religion is good, but is often subject to personal interpretations. And since human beings are what they are, even our religious leaders are subject to human failings. With the results on ground in Nigeria, one could conclude today, that religion has not done well for our people.
Let us look at the most talked-about issue. Boko Haram and some forms of Islamic extremisms. Whereas I have my theories on the dreaded phenomenon known as Boko Haram, it is an apt fact that there comes every once in a while, supposedly 'Islamic' sects that believe in anarchy. The failure of the state to police its environment, to notice movements and curb problems before they occur, is what has pushed Nigeria into the hands of international terrorism such that today we are in a permanent state of shock. At the very top, leaders get all sorts of intelligence reports, and I believe that Umaru Yaradua knew what Boko Haram was intended for right from the beginning, hence his stance to brook no nonsense from them. But Umaru died, and Boko Haram took on a new life. So for Islam - the religion of peace - the government (Federal, State or Local) must continue to ensure that its intelligence personnel are on ground, and that they monitor any misguided sect before they turn into monsters. A simple approach is to ensure Islamic sects are registered with government and their leaders, motives, and tendencies are known. It can be done and it would save any nation a lot of grief.
Christianity. Its adherents believe that it is very peaceful. But the rhetoric of a lot of churches are becoming increasingly violent in Nigeria. We have seen posters inviting innocent churchgoers to 'crusades', where the preacher dresses up in army camouflage and wields machine guns. We have seen where the preachers hold machetes. We have seen captions like 'Blood Must Flow', 'Point and Kill' etc. Perhaps there is something that limits the imagination of our leaders in Nigeria, such that they see nothing wrong with the rhetoric on the streets until little wrong-headed ideas become international problems and they start to run helter-skelter. Why not curb a problem, before it becomes major?
The problem with Christianity in Nigeria is its rampancy. Christian churches deface the environment more than their Muslim and traditional counterparts. Yet governments see nothing wrong with that. The growth of the churches is helped by the failure of governments, as many of them appeal to innate greed in our people. "God, My case is very Urgent!", "God I want my own NOW!", "God, do this for me or you will be ashamed!", goes some of the crazy rhetoric with which so-called churches recruit our hapless people to their snares. I believe strongly that these so-called churches are not bearers of the word of God, and it seems pretty obvious, because week-in, week-out, as they wind up Nigerians and put fear and trepidation in their hearts, the so-called pastor is the one sure person who makes it big.
The essence of the founders of our religions has been forgotten. Religious houses in Nigerian no longer preach values - honesty, hardwork, perseverance, modesty, contentment, sacrifice, service to humanity, tolerance etc. No. Instead they preach - immediacy, dependency, sense of entitlement, obscene riches, and even openly aid corruption. Many car stickers go "My year of unexplained riches", "My year of rulership and royalty", "My year of supernatural wealth transfer!" And why not? The pastors are often the personification of obscene and unexplained wealth, so the congregation has mentors?
To make matters worse, many of them promote mutual enmity among the populace. "God, who did this to me?", "God, kill my enemies" etc. Many of the prayer instructions pitch adherents against their own families. "God, destroy every enemy on my father's side". "Every enemy on my mother's side, fall down and die!". Many have been known to be turned against their spouses and children.
Regulate Churches. In the UK - from where Christianity was introduced to Nigeria - churches are registered Charities, and the pastors are on salaries. We can make our pastors' salaries very attractive, and their accounts must be audited - not necessarily taxed. Designating churches as Charities will mean that they are accountable to society, as they will be benchmarked based on how much charity work they do.
If all churches were responsible to society, Nigeria will not be the poverty-stricken country that it is today. There probably needs to be a 'consolidation' of churches in Nigeria, along the lines of what Professor Soludo did for banking. A situation where any fast-talker, steeped in immorality himself, sets up church and deceives the people, capitalizing on their innate greed, illiteracy, insecurity, disease, and so on, is simply unacceptable and seriously damages society. We need brave leaders who can act on this and protect the poor people of Nigeria.
The traditionalists too cannot escape regulation. Some of our traditional religious practices show open bestiality to animals. In this year 2012, this is not good enough. Alarmingly, some of them even aid the slaughter of human beings.
The case of the sibling murder in Festac a few weeks ago, underlines this problem. There is nothing wrong in letting traditional worshippers know about these issues, and of course, bringing them under governmental regulation. The state will only be assisting in setting the nation back on the path God ordained for it.
Government should really govern. Most of them are not doing this in Nigeria. The Federal Government is the most negligent and timid. In Lagos State, a shining example of leadership under Babatunde Fashola, public preaching in BRT buses have been banned, and well-enforced. Over time, this reduces the angst in people - which may have been caused by crazy preachers violently assaulting their beliefs just because they use public buses.
The people of Lagos will ultimately emerge as better citizens for the good of all. Fashola has also found ways to curb the noise pollution caused by Mosques and Churches in some areas. That is what I call governance! I dream of a day, when Muslims will have a device by which the Muezzin's call can be heard on devices installed in their rooms, so that people of other religions do not have to wake up at 5am as well. I dream of the day that our Christians will know better than to wake up their neighbours at 12midnight in the name of night vigil.
I dream of the day when traditional worshippers will not hunt for human beings to kill for sacrifices, and will be humane in the way they slaughter animals to worship their gods. These can be achieved. And God will smile on us all for it.
''The truth might be hard to say, painful to bear or even drastic for the truth sayer but still needed to be said''. ALISON.