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Concern over Nigeria’s religiosity

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There is so much talk about Nigeria’s religiosity. The talks border on concern that instead of Nigerians bending down to work there is so much preoccupation with going to church or going to mosque. Those who draw our attention to this situation are irritated that there is too much preoccupation with God, what He could and should do. It is said all our problems whether as a nation, as a people, as organizations or individuals are heaped on the Creator. What man ought to tackle himself is laid at the feet of the Creator. Some years ago, Nigerians were described as the most religious people in the world, following findings from a global survey. Some postings in the social media have gone as far as stating the number of churches you could find per street in parts of Nigeria; ditto the number of mosques.

It is then concluded that despite the innumerable religious houses and prayer houses, and Nigerians’ pre-occupation with the Almighty Creator, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world; it must be perplexing that there is great suffering in the land. Those who show this concern—and they are right where what are involved are not exaggerated claims—are mainly in the ranks of the materially comfortable and those who are able to display intellectual sagacity and confidence. They argue that despite the fact that they did not bother themselves with the presence of God in their lives, all has been smooth sailing and swelling good all the way. So what do they need an “unseen God’’ for in their lives? The latest of such thoughts trending goes as follows:

“After independence, in order to build a great nation, each country went to work. But in Nigeria, after independence (in 1960) our people went to pray and fast.
“So, while we were praying, Malaysia came here and took our palm seedlings and built a great factory of it.
“While we were praying, Singapore went into investment in technology.
“While we were praying, China went to massive industrialization.
“While we were praying UAE went into massive infrastructural development.
“While we were speaking in tongues, Denmark went into education of her citizens.
“While we were mounting big speakers in our places of worship, USA was mounting man on the moon.
“After our prayers, God, being a wise God, decided to reward us according to our labour.

“Since those that went into industrialization, technology infrastructural development, ICT, education, etc have been rewarded accordingly, it is only wise God rewards us with our efforts in prayers. That is why today, Nigerian pastors are competing in building biggest churches.
“That is why there are more prayer houses and worship places than hospitals and schools.
That’s why we don’t do business visibility before jumping into it since we are going to back it up with prayers. And when it collapses, we blame devil.
“That is why our Pastors don’t consider the opinion of engineers while building and blame the devil when the building collapses.
“That’s why faith in God replaces building pillars and when it collapses we blame it on Lucifer.
“That is why our pastors are making sure they plant church branches instead of schools on every street in Nigeria.
“That’s why we want our teachers to labour on earth and go to heaven for their rewards.
“Nigeria is a prayer loving, God fearing nation. Religion has taken the place of technology, infrastructure, education etc.
“When travelling, we ignore all the necessary road requirements, servicing of our vehicles and pray. And, once we pray, we can put half serviceable vehicles on the road and blame our step mothers or mothers in law if anything goes wrong.
“That’s why there are more people dying on our roads than wild animals in the forest.’’

The irony of this concern is that the Americans are lamenting that God is being taken away from their lives, from homes and their public and private institutions. They complain that prayers have been banished from their schools. They are attributing soullessness and decline in their values to “banishment of God.” They are blaming rising crime rate, lack of cohesion and harmony in their family lives on increasing absence of religious foundation in the upbringing of the individuals in the American. For them, they say, technology is their “new god.”

The Europeans have for about 150 years been struggling with whether to believe in the existence of the Creator or not. Belief how much more conviction in any Higher Being is for Europeans old fashioned if it were not a mirage altogether.

I have the feeling that the speaker of what I have quoted must have been given a standing ovation. For the unweary, there was nothing like the speech. For the audience, it was a lot of food for thought. The concern of the speaker is quite understandable. The rate at which churches are sprouting in neighbourhoods and streets like mushrooms after the first rains must be worrisome if there is the right understanding of worship and prayers. We would also need to separate prayers from religious extremism, zealotry and bigotry. What have some worship centres themselves become, from reports of weird activities assailing the ears practically every day?

Certain questions must be asked for us to have a grasp of the fundamentals in discussing the subject matter. What are prayers, for example? For whom are prayers meant? Are petitions the same as prayers? How do we pray? How are prayers answered? What are the motivating influences driving people to praying? Are prayers indeed incompatible with work? Are prayers and development mutually exclusive? Do prayers impede technological development? Are we not admonished to pray without ceasing? What does it mean to pray without ceasing? And who is man that is praying? Where has come from and where does he go when he takes his exit from this world? What is the purpose of life? Do we need to worry about where we go after death? Parents say for the children to make it in life, it must be 90 percent perspiration and 10 per cent inspiration. Does it not follow that they recongnise that it is not just all prayers, it must be work and pray? What does it mean for a people to pre-occupy themselves with God and understanding His ways? Questions and questions to help us unravel the issues the concerned Professor speaker raised in his address. This column will give full treatment to the subject matter next week.


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