By Bosun Obafemi
I have said that religion is a way of life and worship of a supreme being that has to do with the belief in worshipping and praying to a superhuman controlling supernatural power. This instrument the political class has used against the people.
Other instruments of enslavement employed by the politicians and their collaborators include:
i. Politicising of religion and ethnicity for personal gains
In the course of desperation to attain political power at all cost, politicians in collaboration with religious leaders have politicized what ought to be a practice of faith to become a tool for political agitations. This has brought about unwarranted and unnecessary political discrimination between the two major religions in Nigeria that once related cordially across social divides. A close study of people who promote religious sentiments to acquire power, show that they do it for personal gains. The same people become entrapped by this undignified approach to play the card of religious bigotry, nepotism, favouritism and the likes while in government.
Due to the demography of religion and ethnicity spread in Nigeria, some politicians have capitalized on the concentration of adherent of a particular religion in certain locations to spur ethnic-religious agitation. For example, Islam faithful of Hausa-Fulani ethic groups are dominant in northern Nigeria representing millions of voters in any election compared to their southern counterpart statistics. In order to have the support of these particular group, an average Nigerian politician is ready to compromise genuine principles and essentials for a democratic government on the altar of religion and ethnicity.
ii. Poverty and money inducement
The political class over the years has plundered the resources of the nation and subsequently impoverished the larger population of Nigerians. Nigeria is an oil producing nation but due to leadership incompetence, it has become a refined crude oil dependent country. All the wealth that ordinary Nigerians ought to be enjoying has been commercialized in favour of a few privileged ones in the name of exporting crude oil for refining abroad and re-importing the same product at a higher cost. This unfriendly oil production system has plunged Nigeria into a huge debt through corrupt practices associated with payment of subsidy yearly in billions of Dollars.
With this bastardisation of the economy coupled with the naira depreciation to dollars, the chain of production in the public and private sectors has been negatively affected and thus, created a large army of unemployed Nigerians leading to the increased burden of dependents on the few working class. With this, poverty has taken grip on the people and thus it becomes easier for the few privileged politicians to use money as inducement for vote buying to secure elector victory.
In this situation, religious bodies are not being spared as the politicians, some of them carrying the toga of religious leaders, have systematically infiltrated members of the religious organisations to create disaffection for political gains. The perception of many people in politics or intending to join, is being shaped as to seeing politics as a clever way or an opportunity to steal public funds to better their lives. In other words, the political class has deliberately made the people poor mentally and it becomes easy to buy them over, be it via religious sentiments or by fanning ethnic differences.
iii. Self-centeredness over public interest
Patriotism is fast fading out in the public organisations. Individual Nigerians have adopted a kind of notion that Nigeria is nobody’s business, rather, it is a project where you take whatever you can take out of the system for personal gains. This development which has spread to the private establishments, is most unfortunate.
When you hear the case of a snake swallowing millions of naira cash, or an Accountant General of the Federation embezzling over 80 billion naira within a short period in office, you begin to see the reality of total disconnection of a people from the path of national development and prosperity.
Where there is patriotism, there will be an intentional joint effort to place the nation on the pedestal of socio-political and economic advancement. The economic fortune of many developed nations of today was achieved as a result of selfless services and sacrifices made by their citizens and past leadership to make things work well for today’s generation (e.g., The UAE economy’s transformation by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zaed). The opposite is what we have in many underdeveloped nations like Nigeria. The failure of the past leadership has compounded problems and challenges facing the present generation and if nothing drastic is done to change the narrative, the coming generation is bound to face more severe challenges.
It therefore becomes inevitable to come to the reality that division based on religion for political gain is not in the interest of anybody at a long run. This is because where there is no economic development, there will be an increase in the rate of criminality and at this point, neither the privileged few who have cornered the resources all to themselves, or those aiding them through ignorance, will be spared the aftermath of insecurity and threat to lives and properties.