Someone said that when it comes to religion, some Nigerians fight for God, but when it comes to their own livelihood and basic human rights, they ask God to fight for them! Sarcastic, but how true! You may also have come across another article that analyzed the difference between the knowledge economy and the economy of religion. The black man’s economy is the economy of religion while the white man’s economy is the knowledge economy. One of the philosophers of negritude and former president of Senegal, Léopold Sedar Senghor, says that reason is Hellenic (white or European) while emotion is African (black). But Aimé Césaire, another of the founding fathers of Negritude, retorts that emotion is as Hellenic as reason is African. Afro music exponent Fela Anikulapo-Kuti mocks the zombie way Africans accept (foreign) religions and follow archbishops, popes, imams and alfas who suffer and smile while those enjoy life to the fullest and smile as they walk to the bank. True, then, are the words of Karl Marx that religion is the opium of the masses! Who says religion, says oppression! Apologies, elite rule theorists!
While today’s Christian fathers steal in the name of the Lord, their Muslim counterparts kill in the name of Allah. In “Stealing in the name of Jah,” reggae musician Max Romeo summed it up this way: “Stealing, stealing, stealing, Stealing, stealing/Stealing in the name of the Lord/My father’s house of worship/Is become a den of thieves/Stealing in the name of the Lord/They fed our mothers sour grapes/And set our teeth aggravated/Stealing in the name of the Lord/Striking the hammer of justice/And freeing my people/Striking the hammer of justice/Where my people are/They speak to us of a paradise/Where milk and honey flow/Flying in the name of the Lord/They say this place is called paradise/No rich man can go there/Flying in the name of the Lord / Yet the reverend pulls out a fancy car / Buys everything duty free / People must sacrifice / Give to charity / My father’s place of worship / Has become a den of thieves / Stealing in the name of the Lord”
Christian fathers don’t just ride in fancy limos these days; they wear designer suits and fly overhead in state-of-the-art helicopters and jets. They own not just one but several planes, some for local travel and some for international airspace. We are a long way from the days of Nkem Nwankwo (author of “My Mercedes Benz is bigger than yours”) when the new rich competed and boasted about the class and size of their Mercedes Benz cars. Now they make do with the class and value of their designers’ jets. Obscene opulence amid abject misery! If the milk of human kindness flows through the Christian fathers, how is it that today they approach “Agbalowomeri Baale Jontolo” by Joseph Folahan (JF) Odunjo? They take from the poor to add to their own wealth – wealth which, at first, came from the sweats of the same poor. If there is God – and truly there is God – no brazen theft in broad daylight will go unpunished! I am amused when, after each show, people are told to leave in peace; that the Holy Spirit will go with them – but they themselves are being escorted home by a legion of MOPOL and other security guards! Who’s fooling who, asks the Detroit R&B group called “One Way”! “Who’s cheating who/Are you cheating on me/Or am I cheating on you?”
Last week’s “Honor killing: Where Christians and Muslims fell apart” drew an unprecedented volume of responses, but before I dwell on that, did you follow the dust kicked up when a Sterling Bank Easter goodwill message compared the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the “resurrection?” Agege bread? It was a very bad joke from the bank (if it was only a joke), and was really in poor taste; very insensitive, very offensive, to say the least. It was incendiary and inciting. A news outlet reported it this way: “Sterling Bank Plc has come under fire on Twitter after its Easter message to Nigerians was seen as offensive and insensitive. The message read “As Agege Bread, He rose”, with a photo showing the bread and a caption “Happy Easter”. This was considered offensive by many who questioned whether Sterling Bank equated bread with Jesus who is the reason for the Easter season. The bank later removed the post from its social media pages and posted another that read, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. We humbly celebrate his resurrection, the defeat of death and the hope of salvation. The new post was accompanied by a flyer containing an apology that many also found offensive and insincere. “…let him who has never sinned cast the first stone. For our recent mistakes, we sincerely apologize. Forgive us in the spirit of Easter,” the bank wrote.
“A Twitter user identified as @Oyoyonwa1 said, ‘Seriously? Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone? And that’s supposed to be some kind of excuse? Who approves of these things? @dinaudoh said: “You need to overhaul your creative department because these Easter posts have been in poor taste, insensitive and rather disturbing. For a bank that claims to care about every customer, you should not denigrate any religion or its symbols. DO BETTER!!!” @NwaezeMma said, “Your apologies are insincere. Try it with other religions and see! Do well! @AdaGOkoli wrote, “If it’s apologies then it won’t increase with Nigerians. @Moolaoye said: “Whoever told you forgiveness is out of arrogance not repentance! This is not a message to ask forgiveness but a message to justify! Don’t send a message you know nothing about. #blasphemous”
Judging by his name – Abubakar Suleiman – the managing director of Sterling Bank might be a Muslim but he is still alive. The Christians did not raise a mob to kill him. They could have crossed the Seme border to hire Christian or Voodoo mercenaries who would wreak havoc and then cross the border, as some of the organizers of the murder and the real assassins of Deborah Samuel would have done. Suleiman could have paid for his life; his bank might have been in flames; Muslims and businesses associated with them may also have been looted, vandalized and burned. And Christians and their leaders would have mobilized to defend the mob action. That’s all that happened in Sokoto with the beastly murder of Deborah. To add insult to injury, we’ve heard of the legion of seasoned (Muslim?) lawyers who march in defense of the vile murderers. The Christians and their leaders expressed their grouse to Sterling Bank only in a civilized manner; they did not take justice into their own hands. They weren’t vindictive. Because they were not bloodthirsty dogs, Christians and their leaders did not ask for blood. The Christian Association of Nigeria only asked Sterling Bank and its managing director to apologize, and once they did, they were forgiven. It shows gentleness, not weakness; it demonstrates strength of character, not fickleness of mind. The Bible says they know their God will become strong and do exploits. The Christian God does not need anyone to fight his battles; rather, He says He will fight our own battles for us and we will keep our peace.
Now, not all Muslims believe in so-called honor killings. My longtime friend and colleague, Kudu, was the first person I hired after the heinous murder of Deborah. Kudu did everything to convince me that what the Sokoto mob did was un-Islamic and unacceptable to many Muslims. He dumped loads of Islamic authorities on my platform to prove his case but I was not comforted. I told him that we kept hearing that it was not Islamic; yet it keeps happening. What I want to see is that this doesn’t happen again, plain and simple! I most respectfully thank Alhaji Jamiu Ekungba, a former statesman from my hometown and someone who is respected by everyone for his honesty and integrity; he was an avid reader of my columns. A devout Muslim, his opinions agree with those of Kudu: this honor killing is not Islamic; that the Prophet Muhammad himself was insulted during his lifetime and never condemned any of these people to death, but taught his followers to overcome adversity with patience, perseverance, accommodation and love. Where, then, did Muslims preaching honor killings in the name of the same Prophet Muhammad or Allah find justification? Alhaji Ekungba said it’s tradition, not religion! So whose tradition is it: the Fulani, the Hausa, the Kanuri or that of the many other ethnic nationalities of the North who profess Islam? If it is not about religion but about tradition, it becomes easier for the authorities. And a good education is necessary to dissuade the hordes of ignoramuses who practice honor killing in the name of Islam from refraining from doing so. If someone is giving your religion a bad name – and you really love your religion – then it is also up to you to do what is necessary and stop such elements in their tracks.
My “egbon”, Bishop Olaoye, said that the biblical passage we quoted last week was about “Judaism”, not Christianity”. Please do not merge the two. Christianity has never practiced honor killing, nor is it mandated or encouraged in our Holy Bible. ” Thank you sir ! Another highly respected “egbon” who would like to remain anonymous said: “My main point of disagreement in your article is the passage quoted from Numbers 25. I strongly disagree that it was an honor killing. Did Moses do it on his own initiative? Was he fighting for God? Do you refuse any mission entrusted to you by God? God entrusted this mission to Moses and should he have refused? Why did Saul, the first king of Israel, have his crown taken away? Saul did not fully carry out God’s instructions… Didn’t God punish Jonah for not carrying out His instructions? God’s instruction is completely different from man’s initiative. What are Sharia courts for? We should demand a full unedited transcript of the chat on this WhatsApp platform to know the truth about what really happened. Did the owners of burnt churches and businesses in Sokoto commit blasphemy? Has anyone tried to avenge Deborah’s brutal murder? »
Even if Deborah has committed blasphemy – just like the Sterling Bank CEO did with his satanic Easter message – is the next thing to do is justice in the jungle in a land under law? Pa EK Odeleye, who worked and retired in the North, described honor killings as “archaic and unacceptable in a modern context. Look at the destruction of property in Sokoto targeting non-Muslim merchants! Isn’t this a case of opportunity for crime? Why does a religion encourage mob action against (its) perceived enemies? It has been said that it is not religion that is at stake but tradition – and I want to accept it that way. Understanding this is the first step. Performing surgery to excise the vile and backward tradition is the next step.
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