Religion and faith are sensitive aspects of human existence that have somewhat defined the path of every human life. From Myanmar to China to Indonesia and India, not forgetting the Middle East-an overly volatile region-the story had and would always be the same. Implying: it is a national life, way that fuels populist agenda and a veritable tool or instrument of influence and control by political authorities and institutions to charm and endear themselves to the people.
Therefore, Nigeria’s case cannot be different.
It is not a hidden fact that the giant of Africa is a religious ‘mecca of some sorts’ on the continent and the world at large. The activities and roles of the two dominant faiths over the years have brought relevance and spotlight to the country. However, beneath this heralded fame and success, lies ‘blood and tears’. Blood and Tears of innocent souls that have fallen under the angst and violence of unnecessary bloodletting; blood and tears of lives torn apart as a result of religious intolerance and hatred; blood and tears of scarred victims that were lucky to be ‘alive to tell their sordid tales and brush with death’; excruciating experiences that could be avoided had politicians and the elites steered clear of politicizing this sensitive aspect of the ‘Nigerian life’ for their selfish gains.
But, they didn’t. So, we now have on our hands a ‘keg of gun powder’ that has not only exploded but one threatening to evolve into a ’fireball’-A molten magma that has now drawn in a man of God in Apostle Johnson Suleiman.
Apostle Sulaiman, a professed pastor ‘shepherding God’s flock’ unconsciously or unknowingly added a feather to his course when a video of him saying “kill any Fulani that comes close to me” went viral and courted attention from Directorate of State Security (DSS). It was a drama that saw the Ekiti state governor Ayo Fayose play the super hero as his timely intervention stopped the DSS from swooping on the ‘man of God’ who was in Ado-Ekiti for a revival.
Although, the dust has settled now as the pastor came out to ‘clear the air’, but trails of rumblings and arguments still billow over the incident.
While it is ok to condemn the apostle irrespective of the excuses he gave, the fact still remains that the Nigerian state for so long has paid lip service to the ills bedeviling the system.
It is often said that history is the best teacher for today, tomorrow and the future; however, the country has failed to learn. It has simply been an unwilling student. This apathy has therefore created vacuum cum crater that has now become a gorge thereby making it difficult for the government to fill it up.
Many atrocities have been committed and have gone unpunished in Nigeria’s history of religious violence. Killings and maiming have been carried out by various groups under religious garb with the government looking the other way. The government’s inaction kind of rubberstamped the impunity and further reinforces these actors and their foot soldiers’ belief and confidence in continued perpetration of their heinous crime.
It is a dangerous action that can only dent the peoples’ belief and trust in the Federal government. It would also call into question the sanctity of the ‘one Nigeria’ mantra bandied by Abuja and further raises eyebrow on the country’s professed secular constitution.
In a multi-ethnic and diverse country like Nigeria, it is important for those that are saddled with steering the wheels of the West African giant to acknowledge and respect the multi-cultural beliefs and faiths that would always be embedded in such peculiar political entity. Even the democratic government and principle in practice recognizes and accepts this fact.
Under its tenets, respect for the minority and religious faiths is an essential feature in its modus-operandi. Hence, fear of bias and marginalization by a group seriously indicts any government practicing democracy.
Unfortunately, Nigeria seems to be swimming towards this.
A group now feels the system is unfavourably skewed against them no thanks to the present administration’s handling of the herdsmen and southern Kaduna killings. The latter seems to have further stoked the embers of distrust and also vindicated those who feel there is a sinister campaign with state approval in southern kaduna.
Or how can one explain Kaduna state governor El Rufai’s statement that he embarked on a peace mission to the troubled southern parts of the state to “offer monies to the perpetrators of the killings in his state to give peace a chance”? It is an absurd and unbecoming statement from a state governor. In the tenets of dispute and conflict resolution, it is an anomaly.
Truly, if the DSS wants the polity to remain calm, swooping on Kaduna state governor would have been the way to go. His statement is self-indicting and deserves to be scrutinized. It should be a case of “what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” judging by the manner they handled Prophet Joseph Sulaiman’s case.
Nigeria and the ruling elite need to learn, and learn fast because using religion as a tool to foist their ambition on the people comes with a catastrophic consequence-One they may not escape unscorched.
Narendra Mohdi, Indian’s prime minister learnt that during his reign as the Governor of Gujarat state. His Pro-Hindustan philosophy caught up with him as the international community especially the US blamed him for the killings and maiming of Muslims in Gujarat in 2007.
While across the borders into central Africa, the atrocities and open wound that has scarred Banjui and the rest of the Central African Republic (CAR) as a result of the political cum religious crises that gave rise to selaka (Muslim rebel group) and anti-balaka(Christian faction) still haunts and hurts the former French colony.
So, guess Nigeria’s political authorities must look inward and toe the path of unity and oneness by addressing the religious ills that have threatened the existence of this country.
And for the Islamic clerics and Christian leaders, preaching virtues, tolerance and respect for not only their followers but other faiths should be their main service to God and humanity.
Guess if the government had always been sincere and done the right thing, many ‘Suleimans’ out there wouldn’t have exploited the loopholes in the system. It should be food for thought before ‘crucifying Pastor Suleiman’.