Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari unwittingly provoked the age-long discourse on the relationship between God, religion and the state. Confronted by hundreds of dead bodies and rivers of blood aftermath a gruesome carnage suspected to have been unleashed on Barkin Ladi, Riyom and some parts of Jos South of Plateau State by Fulani herdsmen, Buhari, who had made a pleasantly shocking, prompt visit to Jos, as against his wont, lapsed into a narrative that is difficult to piece together. “I contested for this position (presidency) four times before I got it, so I cannot complain of the challenges we are facing,” he had said. In the same breath, he had said that, “Nobody can say that we haven’t done well in terms of security, we have done our best, but the way this situation is now, we can only pray” (italics mine).
As I will argue presently, Buhari’s we can only pray reveals and indeed symbolizes the character of Nigerian leadership since independence and by that very fact, the key reason why Nigeria has remained grossly under-developed. God and prayer, on one side; as well as the State on the other are a major issue whose need for matrimony or permanent divorce has been subjected to debates for centuries. The question has always been should there be a formal/mutual relationship, separation or distance between religion, its observances and the state?
The idea that both can relate together was first mooted by North Africa Bishop of Hippo Regius, St. Augustine in his famous The City of God. An ideal relationship, said he, should exist between the “earthly city” and the “city of God” and that indeed, an overlap exists between the two. In medieval Europe, for centuries, monarchs ruled their subjects based on the idea of “divine right.” This apparently emboldened the Catholic church of the time which operated a theocracy, with the doctrine that the Pope, as “the Vicar of Christ on earth,” should be given an ultimate authority over the Church and the state, the latter it reasoned is the footstool of Christ. Thus, for all the period of the Middle Ages, the Pope exercised this right and did depose kings of Western Europe. The remnant of this theocracy is today’s Holy See.
In America, Martin Luther of the Protestant Reformation propounded a doctrine that he called “the two kingdoms,” reinforced by James Madison, its modern proponent, who articulated the need for the separation of the church and the state. This doctrine can be said to be a precursor of today’s conception of separation of religion and the state.
Though secularism is enshrined in the Nigerian constitution, the country obeys this verse of its grundnorm in abeyance. While secularism means that a country does not officially recognize any religion, Nigeria attempts to recognize both Islam and Christianity in equal proportion. This actually isn’t the tragedy which Nigeria finds herself; it is that her leaders, over the years, have hidden under the banner of religion to foist charlatan rule and their personal limitations and inadequacies on the people.
The same way they are not able to distinguish between public and private purse, Nigerian leaders confuse the province of state and religion, as well as government and metaphysics. Under the maximum rule of General Sani Abacha, marabouts and imported Islamic clerics were alleged to have been flown in from Senegal and other neighbouring African countries to divine solutions to knotty issues of state. Live cows and human beings were rumoured to have been buried in the four corners of the State House and the marabouts decided the Commander in Chief’s itinerary. Not much is known of the now-bearded Abdulsalami Abubakar.
When Olusegun Obasanjo took over the mantle of office in 1999, he merely substituted the long apparel-wearing and unkempt-bearded marabouts of the Abacha era with his Christian religion brethren who wore clean suits to cloth their innumerable sinful lives. Failures of state and its runners were explained from the prism of Christianity. In spite of all the flakes of misrule which dogged his government, those who encountered Obasanjo at the Aso Rock Chapel testified of a fire-spitting, Holy Ghost tongue-speaking prayer warrior whom you could not reconcile the numerous infractions of his government with the pious, sober character he was once he entered the “House of God.” While his Deputy, Atiku Abubakar, accused him of purchasing a Peugeot 607 saloon car for a woman friend allegedly dispossessed while mediating between her and her estranged husband, with proceeds of the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) and his soldiers stomped their blood-thirsty feet on Odi and Zaki Biam, mowing scores to their deaths, Obasanjo, with his blood-tainted apron, was busy at the chapel acting the biblical King David and rolling on the chapel floor.
Then came Umaru Yar’Adua. Dogged by an undecipherable sickness which, at the twilight of his life, was largely veiled from the rest of Nigerians, the Villa under him was said to have been taken over by Islamic clerics who took sole proprietary of divination of solutions to Nigeria’s 21st century problems and the Head of State’s health challenge. When Goodluck Jonathan took over the reins from him, he merely reversed to the Obasanjo template as he was held by his presidential apron by a self-acclaimed Bishop who once confessed that he smoked marijuana while growing up. We are now in the reign of Buhari, a man whose subservience to Islamic clerics and religion is said to be legendary. What unites virtually all of these rulers is what I call the disease of African Government Houses where the leader hands over government into the hands of foreign religions or African metaphysics.
According to the globally-acclaimed Amnesty International which is not known for frivolity of figures or passion-infused conclusions, Nigeria had lost 1,813 of her nationals in the last six months to the ineptitude of the Buhari government to frontally attack the blood-sucking vermin of insecurity. I still insist that, never in the history of the country, had there been such river of bloodshed within such a spate of time, except during the civil war and perhaps, the Northern genocide against the Igbo in 1966. More instructively, TI accused the Nigerian government of complicity of silence in many of the killings. The genocide by Fulani herdsmen last week is still riling the globe, especially when gory pictures of disemboweled victims and cracked skulls of children flash back to its memory, making world leaders lose appetite at meal time. The world wonders why such two-footed animals who inflicted such horrendous savagery on their fellow man could have been lumped together in the same human space with it.
In the midst of all these, all Buhari could do was throw up his two hands in resignation. For, we can only pray is nothing but resignation and total handover of a purely governmental issue which needs a thinking, committed and unbiased leadership, into the opaque, unscientific, prone-to-abuse hands of metaphysics. Let it be said that if Nigerians believed that the existential problems ravaging the country were basically spiritual, Muhammadu Buhari was not the most qualified to be entrusted that responsibility. If they were convinced that securing the country was solely in the province of appeal to God, perhaps Enoch Adeboye, Mathew Hassan Kukah or even the Sultan of Sokoto, would be most qualified to call the shots today from the Aso Villa. But Nigerians, apparently erroneously, with the benefit of hindsight, believed that their problems, though can be sprinkled with some garnishing of prayers, can be solved solely by mental alertness of the leadership. If the President is this helpless to ensure peace in Nigeria, he can as well vacate office and let someone who can think through the problem take over from him. We can only pray mocks us as a people and shows that our leadership is clueless, lazy and deserves to vacate office immediately.
Elizade @ 80
The Chairman of Elizade Group, Chief Michael Ade.Ojo, clocked 80 years of age recently. Chief Ade. Ojo towers high in Nigeria’s industrial calculus like the Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart mound of pounded yam eaten by two parties on either sides of the mound who only knew of the presence of each other after the mountainous pounded yam had been reduced to its barest minimum. But perhaps where he towers highest is in his Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State hometown where he is almost a modern-day redemptive messiah. Not only has he put Ilara-Mokin on the global map, his presence in the town is writ large like an imposing mast. Hundreds of students of the town have benefited from his scholarships; he has personally tarred hundreds of kilometers of roads in Ilara-Mokin, brought a university therein and gathers people from all walks of life to his Smoking Hill golf course said to be of international standard. As a demonstration of the esteem which Akure kingdom in general holds this icon, His Royal Majesty, Oba Ogunlade Aladelusi, the Deji of Akure, honoured Chief Ade.Ojo with his royal presence at Ilara-Mokin.
Unfortunately however, Akure is today a factitious kingdom. Ilara-Mokin, Igbara-Oke, Iju, Ita-Ogbolu and the central, Akure are in a silent war that has no logical bearing against one another. The only bearing this war has is the naivety of those who propagated hatred among the kingdom, all in the name of promoting the ascendancy of one town over the other. Reference is made to a destructive song of a mon i s’Akure oko… (ours is not the backward village of Akure) sang by some Akure people in the past. This divides the kingdom on a daily basis and tears it apart by the minute, with the people suffering its repercussion collectively. For instance, the kingdom has no minister at the federal, never had a governor since inception of the state and cannot boast of a top person in the federal scheme of things. Recently, the railway route skirted by government and billed to pass through Ekiti State, never meanders past anywhere in the kingdom, no thanks to Akure’s paucity of representation in Abuja. Its few representatives are so consumed by this a mon i s’Akure oko… refrain that they abandon the collective aspiration of Akure kingdom. A few days ago, about 100 shops were consumed by an inferno which erupted by the Deji’s palace, where multiple of millions of naira were incinerated. One of the owners of the shops, one Mrs. Orogun Aina Elizabeth, died of shock three days after. Thank God that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu was promptly there to offer succor to the people but in other united towns and cities, the conglomerate of Akure kingdom’s sons and daughters was enough to wipe tears from the brows of the victims of this disaster.
I enjoin Chief Ade.Ojo to lead the crusade of the re-unification of this splintered Akure kingdom as an icing on his 80th celebration. We have a lot to learn from the Igbo who though are accused of being clannish, have clans that are united by a common purpose. Nkanu and Nsukka people, for example, are almost wedged together like glue. The more divided Akure kingdom continues to be, the easier it is for those whom, in the words of immortal Robert Nesta Marley, “don’t want to see us live together” because “all they want us to do is, keep on fussing and fighting,” to have an easy sail in our midst.