“The task of a leader is to get his people from where they are, to where they have not been.” – Henry Kissinger
With a population of over 200 million people, Nigeria is a country blessed with numerous cultural and religious practices. However, the two major religious institutions that we subscribe to and commonly recognize as a country are Christianity and Islam. Over 90% of the population engage in the practice and worship of Jesus Christ for the Christians and Prophet Mohammed for the Muslims. For centuries, the two religious institutions have permeated over parts of the nation, building Mosques and Churches; schools and colleges, hospitals and other important structures. They also gave us the Holy books; the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran which were used to teach us Latin and different doctrines. They are a few Nigerian cardinals in Rome that are in line to become Popes in the future, we also have Islamic scholars that have researched and distinguished themselves globally on Islamic studies.
To buttress and help my writing on this topic I have selected a few doctrines that we relate to in our worship. I will take chapters from the Holy book of Prophet Muhammad and also from the Holy Bible. Staring with the Holy Quran, we see clearly in the following excerpts that there are clear doctrines guiding how men and women should conduct themselves for the good of all.
Qur 2:188 (Al Baqarah)
“Do not usurp one another’s possessions by false means, nor proffer your possessions to the authorities so that you may sinfully and knowingly usurp a portion of another’s possessions.”
Qur 5:38 (Al Ma’idah)
“As for the thief – male or female – cut off the hands of both.60 This is a recompense for what they have done, and an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise”
I should add here that somehow the above scripture is still being practiced literally in some sharia states but only applies to the poor and underprivileged in Nigeria or else many of our Politicians would be walking around limbless. I digress, still on the many doctrines in the Quran; I have a few more to share.
Qur 17:32 (Al Isra)
“And do not come near adultery. It is immoral, and an evil way.”
Qur 17:34 (Al Isra)
And do not go near the orphan’s property, except with the best of intentions, until he has reached his maturity. And honor your pledge, because the pledge involves responsibility.
35. And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with accurate scales. That is fair, and the best determination.
And do not walk proudly on earth. You can neither pierce the earth, nor can you match the mountains in height.
Similarly to the Quran, the Bible also lays down God’s laws for Christians to abide by as it affects their daily lives.
You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
There are many notable sayings in the Holy Books that condemns many ills that seem commonplace at the moment. To write them all would totally fill this newspaper and future ones for many weeks so I would only mention a few more from the Holy Books and its scholars.
“The heart is the leader of the body, and through the purification of the leader the subjects become purified, and with his corruption they become corrupted.” – Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani
“They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” – 2 Peter 2:19
The prophet said “riches does not mean having a great amount of property but riches is self-contentment” – Shahih Al Buhari
Now if only a small percentage of those that practice the different religions also adhere to the doctrines, why then is the project Nigeria in Crisis and almost becoming a failed state? I have delivered lectures around the whole nation in the past 40 years, I have carried out explorations reaching out to the younger generations as a way of inspiring Nigerians to think outside the box, I have written five books as a way of reaching out to the young and the old, all because I have always seen myself as part of the project Nigeria. I have also been invited to the House of Lords in UK to participate in a global climate change debate. My advocates and critics have been wonderful making it possible for me to continue to write this column every week for almost 3 years.
Somehow all these no longer mean anything to me because the solutions to the problems that have kept the nation Nigeria from emerging for over 50 years are deliberately being ignored or continually being swept under the carpet despite my writings and efforts of the co-writers I have the honour of working with in my quest for a better Nigeria. It is no surprise many are gradually becoming despondent that I have therefore decided to reason with myself about the so-called project Nigeria, the failures and disappointments of the past several decades.
I have been able to do so because I have been around for a very long time and have seen the rest of the world that were in a similar position with Nigeria 50 years ago evolve. I was a student outside Nigeria in the early 60s during the Civil Rights Movement and the result of that movement can be felt everywhere in the world today. The same can be said for the Women Liberation and the Right to Vote movements. Their outcomes have been printed in the Global history book. Without talk, the race to the space and moon that started during the same period and has had the most profound impact on technological and scientific advancements. I also followed the Mandela struggle for the emancipation of his people and the death of apartheid in the whole of Southern Africa.
Now coming back to Nigeria, the mid sixties gave us a three year Civil War and many military coups, followed by the many inconclusive wars I described in in my four part series on the issue published in this same column some weeks ago. Each of these wars and coup gave us lessons to learn from if we so choose to. But of course we didn’t. As with our attitude towards our religious doctrines, we have also turned a blind eye to the course our founding fathers charted. It appears that we no longer reverence the founding fathers that negotiated the Independence and left their footprints everywhere. Men like the Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello and what he meant to the entire people of northern Nigeria; Obafemi Awolowo the champion of the well-educated Western Nigeria; Nnamdi Azikiwe known as the Zik of Africa and Anthony Enahoro of the Midwestern Nigeria.
We often recite from the lyrics of the National anthem that ‘the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain’ but are we really justified to say so when we barely revere that labour enough to emulate the lessons or obey their summons which can be found in the constitutions and laws of the land. The bible in 1 John 4:20 says that If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? I’ll go further too say if we can’t obey the laws of man who we can see and feel, how then can we obey the laws of God. So yes, we may worship our masters both the ones on earth and in heaven but we do not emulate them because if we did, Nigeria would flourish.