– Wole Soyinka and religion in Nigeria
– If we don’t tame religion in Nigeria, it would kill us – Soyinka
– I don’t mind if we kill religion in Nigeria – Soyinka
In the words of Wole Soyinka, “If we don’t tame religion in Nigeria, it would kill us.” Soyinka spoke at the launch of the book, “Religion and the Making of Nigeria”, in Abuja, yesterday.
This is what he said : “Religion in the history of this continent has been a disastrous venture, a disaster in many zones and continues to be even so today. In this very nation in Southern Kaduna, over 800 souls were brutally extinguished suddenly.
While the issue of grazing lands versus farming is unquestionably part of the conflict, it is equally undeniable that religious differences have played crucial role in the conflict.
And yet some weeks before the latest outrage, the governor of that state was quoted to have claimed that peace was nigh since he had sent funds to the earlier wave of killers and they had agreed to end their killing spree.
What astonished me was not the admission by the governor, but the astonishment of others at such governmental response to atrocity. There was nothing new about it. Has appeasement to religious forces not become a Nigerian face of justice and equity? First lethargy and then appeasement.
Wasn’t Boko Haram’s Muhammed Yusuf not a beneficiary of appeasement in a similar fashion? Southern Kaduna has reminded us once again that the monster is always lying waiting to pounce under the guise of religion.
If you ask why General Buhari did not act fast enough when these events took place, which degrade us as human beings, well it is perhaps he has been waiting for the governor of that state to send money to the killers first for them to stop the killing.
The sitting President of this nation, General Buhari, once said ‘If you don’t kill corruption in this nation, corruption would kill us’. I would like to transfer that cry from the moral zone to the terrain of religion.
If we do not tame religion in this nation, religion would kill us. I do not say kill religion, though I wouldn’t mind a bit if that mission could be undertaken surgically, painlessly perhaps under anesthesia effectively spayed all over the nation or perhaps during an induced pouch of religious ecstasy. However, one has to be realistic. Only the religiously possessed or committed would deny the obvious.
The price that many have paid not just within this society but by humanity in general makes one wonder if the benefits have really been more than the losses.”
In his own remarks, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, regretted that those who commit heinous crimes in the name of religion are left unpunished in the country.
His words, “Very few people have been prosecuted for religious violence but none has ever been brought to conclusion. Why is it that such cases are never concluded? Too many cases of high profile murders that are not concluded in this country.
National character is very hypocritical. When we are playing football, we all clamour for the best legs because we want to win. We don’t ask how many Muslims or Christians are in the team.
When you are sick, nobody asks the religion of the doctor. We only ask about competencies. The manipulation of religion by the elites has led to the problem that we are facing.
Nigerian elite will use religion when it is convenient and at other times they may use ethnicity or some other form of identification. It is that frequent use of religion for manipulative tendencies that has led to our predicament. And this is because we always discuss the issues after conflicts where lives are lost and it thus make such discussions emotive.”
Also speaking, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Hassan Kukah, lamented that religion has been used mainly for manipulative tendencies by the northern elite. “Unless we get round to defining what constitutes religion and in this particular case, the way and manner in which the northern ruling class continues to use religion as a cover to perpetuate and subjugate the people, the problem will persist.
We may never prosecute anybody for killing in the name of religion precisely because we have been unable to separate criminality from religion. But it has been impossible for us to prosecute anybody because we have a feeling that somehow, people can actually genuinely kill in the name of religion.”
Bishop Kukah said in northern Nigeria, schools that were built by the Catholic Church in Kaduna have now been given names of Muslim heroes and heroines. “Would anybody take over a school built by Muslims in Nigeria and turn it into either St. Thomas or St. Margaret ?” he asked.
Meanwhile, Nigerian Army has said it would launch Operation Kaunama 11 in Southern Kaduna. It also stated that the military exercise in the South-East, code-named Operation Python Dance, would be renamed while still carrying out other engagements across the country.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Yusuf Bruntai, made the disclosure while fielding questions from newsmen at the end of the security council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, yesterday. He said the exercise in Southern Kaduna would be extended to Plateau and Kano states.