By Chuks Akamadu
IT is exactly one year ago I, alongside other classmates of mine at International Management Institute (IMI), New Delhi visited a religious tourist centre in Tamil Nadu, where different religious faiths including Christianity, Hindi, Islam, Krishna etc took turns to recite portions of their respective Holy Books to a congregation of all religions present.
It was a pleasant sight to behold the orderly manner in which adherents of different religions in regular intervals ministered to members of their faith and non-members of their faith alike under same room and in healthy brotherhood.
For me, proceedings there brought home the stupidity in religious intolerance, the oneness and universality of God and indeed the fragrance that comes with religious harmony.
As soon as I returned home, I had in the course of my post-mortem of my sojourn established – effortlessly, too – the nexus between the healthy religious orientation obtainable in India and the more than 35% the service industry contributed to that country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Further, I had also sought to see whether there was a correlation between the elevated place of religion in Nigeria and the distress our economy faced at that time. The reason for the comparative analysis had been the obvious similarities between the two heterogeneous societies.
Like India, we are a densely populated nation; like India, Nigeria is multi-ethnic and multi-religious; like India, Nigeria is reasonably assailed by sleaze and assorted variants of corruption; and like India, we are a former British colony. But unlike India, “religion” enjoys a most regrettable premium in both our private lives as citizens and as a community. Somehow, I couldn’t run away from the fact that unlike in India, we pray so hard for God to do for us what He had already given us the ability to fix.
And the last time I checked the scriptures, God is not wasteful – He is not only prudent, he actually expects his creatures to diligently make the most of his endowments.
So, we end up praying amiss oftentimes. Similarly as a nation, we have also allowed that which ought to strengthen us both as a component part of humanity and as one people under one God to divide us unnecessarily.
It thus becomes understandable why Indian youths are busy doing exploits in the service industry and ICT environments whilst our youths are busy reading the Holy Books upside-down.
Yet, we hope to prosper! Otherwise, how can one satisfactorily explain the lingering Boko Haram madness in this country? And worse still, the growing spate of killings in the North on account of religious intolerance?
Yes, Nigeria has slipped into economic recession; we can also clearly see prospects of our going further southwards into economic depression, and ultimately end up, if care is not taken, in the cesspit of economic inferno, but that I can assure Nigerians is of lesser consequence than the hell certain elements appear set to visit on the nation.
I will refrain from recounting the series of religion-motivated killings witnessed on our shores in recent times in order not to precipitate a resurgence of emotion, but suffice it to say that the height it has climbed to is, for want of a better word, alarming. Pray, does President Muhammadu Buhari know this? It is even more nerve-racking because the general Christian public perception appears to be; That this phenomenon has grown much worse under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch
That there appears to be tacit endorsement or at least a certain level of conspiratorial tolerance by security and law-enforcement agencies. Whilst I may not be in a position to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the “claims” above, it appears quite clear to me that the state is in breach of the constitution that clearly defines Nigeria as a “secular state”, by not addressing the legitimate concerns of Christians who are always – as in always – victims of religious intolerance in the hands of Muslims. Were late Chief Gani Fawehinmi to be alive today, I am sure he would have approached the Supreme Court to interpret the meaning of “secular state” as enshrined in our constitution.
It is against the this backdrop that I wish to call on the authorities to immediately convene a National Religious Conference (NRC) to retrieve the nation from this path of unmitigated disaster.
Such confab will offer both Christians and Muslims equal opportunity to jaw-jaw, so as to make war-war impossible – in the overall interest of the nation. A stitch in time still saves nine!
Akamadu writes from Lagos.