Must Read: Religion, The Opiate And Bane Of Nigeria’s Development, By Oluwakayode Christian

To understand this piece, you must understand it in context.  In Max Weber’s view of ‘traditionalism’, he would believe that the impoverishment of Africa is contingent on traditional practices, and not as the professor in Guyana, Walter Rodney, described it in his How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, as stemming from colonialism. McGuire (2002) explained that the interest of sociologists in religion will be its impact on individuals and institutions, and in this case, I intend to link it with our religio-political institutions, and the economy. I am going to describe opiate as a concept, and will explain religion, but dwell largely on this, then allude to the Nigeria’s situation, with reference to both words.

An opiate is a drug like codeine that is made from opium, and it serves the functions of reducing pain and aiding sleep. In other words, sick people or those who are unable to sleep can use it. Merriam Webster also described it as something that causes people to ignore their problems and to relax instead of doing things that need to be done. And this is vital. It is like a tranquilizer, which makes one feel relaxed.

On the other hand, religion as described by the distinguished scholar, French philosopher and sociologist, Emile Durkheim (1912) is “a system of unified beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden-beliefs and practices which unite in one single community called a church, all those who adhered to them”. The fault I however found with the definition is the mention of ‘church’, since the study was carried out among the Australian Aborigines, whose worship was to totems, a concept that means revering plants and animals, just like in Animism. But then, his work on suicide (1897) was influenced by the rates of suicide among the Catholic and Protestant populations. So, he might have an affiliation with the church.

Sacred in the context of that definition has to do with things that are set apart and forbidden; while profane are the commonplaces which we see every day. The sacred are extraordinary and mysterious, which inspire awe, but the profane are not. Therefore, the meaning of the definition is that, depending on the objects of worship and how followers define them; the ordinary profane objects can also become sacred. For example, the Candelabra (non sacred) becomes sacred to the Jews if it is a menorah; the candle sticks are not decorative items to the Confucians and Taoists, but highly valued offering to the gods in religious ceremonies that mark the new and full moon; water can become sacred when it is used for religious purpose by the Confucians; a snake may become sacred as the object of worship in Animism. Sociologists like Michael Hughes and James Vander Zanden regarded cults and secret societies as religious groups.

When Jesus Christ ascended, his followers got the name ‘Χριστιανός’ (Christianos) in Greek, which is translated to mean ‘Christian’ in English, through their deeds. Therefore, here the object of worship was Jesus. Not materials, not symbols. This means they were doing what he did while He was with them. If Christians are to practice the religion of Jesus, it will be Judaism, which is the religion of the Jews. We will all be worshipping in the Synagogue together, not the denominational worships we have today. But then, the Jews would consider me and you, ‘gentiles’ or ‘heathens’, since we are not from Israel. That’s why the Apostle Paul regarded himself as the Apostle to the gentiles, because he was sent to you and I to know more about Jesus and his works, not to introduce a religion (Philippians 3:5 & 6; Galatians 1:15-16; Acts 22:21; 2 Corinthians 4:5)

Jesus Christ was in constant conflict with the Pharisees and Sadducees for manipulating the people, who were ignorant (Matt23:16, Luke11:43). Some Bible commentaries described the Sadducees as being more political than religious, since they were aristocrats, even though they occupied the positions of the chief priests and high priests, who were notably religious. We have seen this trend, where leaders exploit the people since the time of Jesus, how come self-centeredness in rulers now seems to be a 21st century feature? What Christianity, which was introduced as a way of life has gone through, is going to be very lengthy if I decide to describe everything here, but the main concern is how both political and religious leaders have used religion to manipulate the people, thereby causing setbacks. Constantine declared Christianity as a legal religion (religio licita) when he won a war against Maxientus, after the cross sign, which read “In hoc signo vinces” {In this sign (you shall) conquer}, was shown to him, a day before his war. This declaration Made Christianity famous and its leaders became powerful.

What prompted John Wycliffe to translate the Bible over a period of 13years, from 1382 was what he described as exploitation of the leaders on the people they led, since they could not read Latin, Greek and other languages, in which it was originally written. The leaders would read, in part to the followers, especially parts where they want to exploit. Wycliffe was bothered about this. John Wycliffe, who was the outstanding English thinker and theologian, was called in to advise parliament in its negotiations with Rome, and the more contact he had with Rome, the more indignant he became. He recognized how the leaders were using the scriptures to manipulate the followers. When he died, by 1427, the leaders in Rome still had his bones exhumed and burnt, so his resting place was not venerated. The leaders wanted to ensure that the followers are ignorant, but a man, by the name of John Wycliffe came to liberate them.

In his “on civil dominion”, 1376, he said, “England belong to no Pope, the Pope is but a man, subject to sin, but Christ is the Lord of lords and his kingdom is to be held directly and solely of Christ alone”. He reiterated that the immorality with which many clerics often behaved invalidated the sacraments they conducted. If clerics were accused of crime, they should be tried in the ordinary lay courts, not in their special tribunals. God sent Wycliffe to liberate the people from ignorance. One of the most famous and frequently used phrases of Karl Marx in a journal journal stated Die Religion….ist das Opium des Volkes, translating to “Religion is the opium of the people”. Marx was troubled at how the people were uninterested in changing their situation, because they kept hoping to reach a promise of the better life, while they are being exploited. The rich religious leaders were getting richer, but the poor poorer.

Fast forward to this age, symbols, men, ordinary men are the objects of worship, not Jesus. We pray to God in Nigeria to change our country, while we do the exact opposite of what makes us believers. We pray for change, yet we do not believe. I believe that this current administration is the purpose of God for Nigeria, to make us see that men are men. How has religion played its role in Nigeria? Religious followers have either forgotten the object of their worship, or are oblivious of it, or have totally ignored it intentionally. They worship men and trust men than God, whom they worship. They are ignorant.

Know the scriptures! There was no stringent rule given to the gentiles (Non Jews), who would receive Christ, like were given to the Jews, although God had us in mind from the beginning as He said in Malachi1:11. Let me emphasise that the stringent, compulsory rules of the Dos and Donts in the Old Testament were directed to the Jews, including giving, which must be followed compulsorily. That’s why those who are saying tithing is an Old Testament practice of giving are correct.  However, the New Testament giving depicts giving ALL (not only finances, but even time). Giving ALL was what defined the disciples, not part or most, but not compulsory. That was why all of them were selling their possessions to give to all those who are in need (Acts 2:45); that was why Barnabas sold all he had and brought the money to the Apostle’s feet to be shared among the poor (Acts 4:36). That was why Ananias and Sapphira were slain when they tried to show off, since they were not forced or cajoled. If you read Acts 2:44 and Acts 4: 32-35, it will be clear that there was no class among them.

In Nigeria, both the political and religious leaders are using religion, which is what they have at their disposal to exploit people. Why do they always tell us to pray when they have not seen any need to eschew corruption? They will say we all should pray for Nigeria, sit back and wait for a significant change to happen, when nothing is wrong with Nigeria, but with them. On festive days, including Christmas and New year, Eid el Kabir and Maloud, they will ask Nigerians to use that day to pray for Nigeria, but they are corrupt on other days. Traditional religion! But that does not mean the senators and reps will use the money allocated to them to develop their zones, constituencies and areas; that does not mean that the governors will not use the public money to do irrelevant things like building statues and still owe workers; that does not mean some pastors will not fight over tithe issues and neglect the state of the poor. Sheer wickedness have pervaded the country. No one cares about the poor anymore.

The Peruvian priest, Gustavo Guttièrez, postulated the Liberation Theology in 1973, after recognising the poverty around him, he stated that, in order to serve the poor, one had to move into political action. He advocated for their liberation. The very famous, I have a dream speech, by Martin Luther King Jr in 1963 was delivered because he recognised the plight and exploitation of blacks in America. Today in America, every 15th of January is earmarked for him.

I am bona fide Kwaran, not by naturalisation or migration, but because my father’s fathers hailed from there. In terms of development, from the 19 states I have seen, the state is only better than two states in the North-East, one in the North-West, and one in the North-Central. Majority are being held to ransom by a single individual in Kwara, whom they worship, but they claim to be close to heaven and far from hell. Laws are being enacted from time to time to further subject people to impoverishment. In his explanations of class in itself, Karl Marx believed that what the people need is emancipation from mental slavery.

How can we raise brains that will make new discoveries in Nigeria with this current brain induction? How can we also make significant changes in the world? I listened to Edmund Obilo, whom I have come to love, who said Nigerian leaders are not intelligent. Why should they embezzle money and transfer it overseas? It is an anomaly.  Why could it not have been used to develop the country? But they won’t, since they are gods, whom they worship, and they prefer it so. God forbid! What then is the prayer about?

In addition, it is no longer news that Nigeria is divided along religious boundaries, but what is not understood is that the idea of religious division, favouritism and nepotism can never bring development. Positions in Nigeria are now being occupied by those who have some sorts of religious and political affiliations, not by those who are qualified. Not by those who can bring development. What then is the prayer about? Why do we pray and not act? Why do we pray and stay aloof? Leaders now act like they don’t care. In the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the only American that was left in Rwanda was Carl Wilkens, who was the head of relief agency, which is an arm of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. He made sure he provided aid, support and succor to those who were wounded in the Rwandan genocide. Rwandans will not forget such a hero. The Rwandan, Immaculee Ilibagiza, the author of Left to tell will not forget the man of God who was a member of the majority group (Hutu), but still hid six people (tutsis) who were supposed to be murdered by the minority, in a small toilet. In addition, Dr Emmanuel Okanla was few years away from becoming a professor at the University of Ilorin when he retired, and went into mission work full time, and established schools in villages for the villagers to attend free of charge without soliciting for funds on the social media. Leaders have responsibilities

I like to reiterate, we do not need God to rule Nigeria, it is a way of making us not wake up from sleep, like we have been induced by an opiate, but we need leaders who have morals. Morally upright people who are not innately wicked can change Nigeria. Leaders who will know that siphoning public funds meant for development is unrighteous. We don’t need those who are highly esteemed in the church, but who are corrupt. We don’t need those who steal the money meant for development to pay tithes and offering or build mosque. It is contradictory to see all these and still pray. In developed nations, since God gave them brain, they use it. Or do they worship God better? It is a slap on God’s face that we call on him this much and do nothing. China has the fastest growing economy in the world, they use their brain. God has been known to give people responsibilities, which they must carry out. When He made Adam, he gave him the responsibilities of the garden and everything in it (Genesis 1:28, 2:19). He didn’t come down to do his job for him.

It is now conventional that we have been induced by an opiate, thinking God will come down to do everything for us, as if He didn’t give us the brain. During counseling, they advised a couple not to get married because they both are AS, but they insisted that since they love each other, and also believe God, they could defy the warnings and marry. Is it not logical enough to listen to such advice? Why do we test God?

I believe Jesus, who is also Christ. I believe the things, which he wrought among men. He has shown Himself to me in diverse ways. But I do not believe that he told us to be gullible, idle, and corrupt and make men gods. I laughed so badly few days ago, and uncontrollably. A woman and her entire family (apart from her husband) were duped of all they had, by a prophetess. They said they visited a church at Ibadan. During deliverance, they would ask them not to open their eyes, lest something bad befalls them. When they open their eyes eventually, they will see either a broken egg, or a doll, or powder or something conjured on the floor. After which they will be asked to ‘sow a seed’, since the prophetess saw something bad about them all. The prophetess would collect the seed, and take it to the burial ground to bury. It was funny that when they brought the prophetess, she didn’t even know the meaning of ‘Massacre’; an education fellow, using the brain of people, who are educated. Both religious and political leaders have used religion to induce us, hence no development.

Please let us worship God, and begin to work. Nigeria can be better.

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