By Dr. Grace Achum
The Evil of Religious bigotry in at alarming Rate in Nigeria, in recent times the Christian religion is going through theatres of the absurd.
Nigeria has descended to the Hobbesian state of nature, where life is “short, nasty and brutish. Nigeria is a nation of two great religious, respecting the rights and privileges of the other. No body must be allowed to kill in the name of religion or any other guise, and go scot free. Nobody has the right to take any life since no one can give life,
The persistent recurrence of religious tolerance in our clime is worrisome. What people believe and worship is not subject to reasoning or logic, which is why freedom of religion finds expression in virtually all constitutions. Even in theocratic countries, it does not imply that other religious are emasculated or people are forced to queue behind the dominant religion. The Vatican is a typical theocratic state. The Pope is head of state but it does not imply that people of other religions cannot live there. The Vatican has a robust interaction with people of other religion to the point that a cardinal is designated to interface with people of other religions. Our own Cardinal Francis Arinze once headed that interface as President of the Pontifical Council for inter religions Dialogue. I do not know how things are run in Afganistan, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen where the flag of theocracy is hoisted. I know that Nigerians live and work in Saudi Arabia even when they do not practice the dominant faith in that country. Even in the communist states of yore people still professed their faith in the face of severe pains and persecution. Religion cannot be legislated or forced down the throat. One of the tenets of civilized societies is that people respect the rights of others to worship whatever or whoever they believe. People of other religions ought to ignore or pity people who do not understand or follow them or explain why they do what they do, even in the face of apparent provocation. If someone is ignorant what my religion entails and the pratices therein how can he know that he has blasphemed? He would not know given that he operates on the premise of ignorance. I am quick to admit that the law hardly pardons your ignorance but religion should not be put on the same pedestal as the law. In Nigeria there are two dominant religions. Christians and Muslims have largely coexisted and respected the right of others in spite of few and far between skirmishes. But the advent of the Islamic extremists and Fulani Herdmen tended to end that with their attacks on churches. We have since come to see that the insurgency only wears a toga of religion and hardly represents the tenets of the religion the front.
The forgoing gives room for us to review that circumstances leading to the killing of Mrs Bridget Agbahime, the Igbo woman who lives in Kano with her family. The woman was killed for allegedly blaspheming another religion. She did not allow someone to do ablution in front of her shop. An eyewitness, Iruka Okoro, told reporters that shortly after the minor dispute resulting from Agbahiwe’s refusal, some irate youths armed with daggers and knives attacked her, stabbed her several times and slit her throat.
According to Okoro, who is a member of the Igbo community Association in Kano, “The murder of Mrs Bridget Agbahiwe was a big slap on the Igbo Community Association. Also, the witness recalled that the owner of the premises, where they both had their stalls, had on more than one occasion intervened in the dispute between the late woman and the co-trader. “The landlord instructed the male co-trader to confine himself to his side of the market, as well as perform his ablution there,” he said.
Reports also said some irate youths stormed the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital Mortuary at about 2amlast Friday, demanding for the head of the murdered woman. It was gathered that security men guardian the mortuary turned down their request.
That was how the 74[-year-old woman was forcibly sent to the great beyond by people who say the blasphemed against their religion. Reports say the woman was a Christian, which implies that she may not know what word translate to blasphemy in a religion she knows she knows little or nothing about. We do not yet know what she said that is deserving of death. Perhaps her refusal to yield the frontage of her shop for religious use amounted to the kind of crime that attracts death sentence in a religion strange to her.
Thankfully President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the incident and ordered an investigation. Inspector General Solomon Arase has promised speedy investigation and some people have been arrested in connection with the incident. There haves been torrents of condemnation from the senate and Ohaneze Ndigbo and some governors. Against the backdrop of the incident Governor Rochas Okorocha from, whose state the woman hails, has met with his Kaduna and Bauchi counterparts. Governor el-Rufai said northern governors condemn the incident and that the matter should be treated as a case of while those involved should be brought to face the wrath of the law.
In a statement the president of AKA Ikenga president Chief Goddy Uwazurike said in part’ the mastermind of this murder and his cohorts must be charged to court promptly,,, as an example so that other murders under the cover of religion will be stopped”.
Everyone has spoken well but what will become of the culprits? At the heat of current emotions all kinds of promises will be made. At the end the matter will abate and no one will ever get to know what happened thereafter. Kano had a similar incident in the early90’s when one Gideon Akaluka was killed in similar circumstances. Does anyone know what became of the suspects? We hope this question does not reverberate in this matter in Oshogbi, Osun state on Thursday June, 2016, students of Baptist school in Osogbo attended class in religious garbs, a beefed up at Baptist school following the approval of the governor of Osun State, Engr. Rauf Aregbesola for the Muslim students to use Hijab to schools in the state; Against this back drop, the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) led by Rev. Elisha Ogundiya, and presided over by vice chairman Pastor Moses Ogundeji held a prayer session and called on God intervene in the ongoing religious crisis. The situation attracted many comments and condemnation, the former minister of transport and aviation, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, warned Governor Aregbesola not to plunge the state into religious war, saying that South west has always been co-existing as Christians and Muslims, and no government should promote one religion against the other. On June 23, 2016, it was reported that a Catholic Priest was kidnapped and killed 60 days after his abduction, the Catholic Bishop of Otukpo diocese, Revd. Fr. John Adeyi, was kidnapped between Otukpa and Ugbokolo in Ogbadibo and Okpokwu Local Government arrear as the abductors cut off all communication with the family until his skeleton was found according to Governor Samuel Ortom, Governor of Benue State who revealed this during a town hall meeting held with Igede people on June 22nd. A situation which was blamed on the numerous and ongoing killings and brutality in Benue state by the rampaging Fulani herdsmen.
On July 8, 2016, a pastor of Evangelical Church winning All (ECWA) located at Kabene Surubu village in Kauru Local government area of Kaduna state, Reverend Yusuf Magaga, was kidnapped at 2am by herdsmen who attacked the village, but luckily, the people were able to mobilize for defence, but the attackers destroyed the church, injured a few people, and took away the pastor of the church. Its been one destruction and killings to another. The sad, tragic story of the hacking of Mrs Eunice Mojisola Olawole, a deaconess in the Redeemed Christian Church of God who was savagely killed in Kubwa, in the early hours of Saturday July 9th for preaching the gospel of Christ by Islamic extremists youths.
So the questions in every body’s lips is what happens to religious tolerance? What happens to freedom of movement and right to worship? What happen to the right to dignity of human person and right to life, as enshrined in our constitution?
Nobody, must be allowed to kill in the name of religion or any other guise and go scot-free. Nobody has the right to take any life since no one can give life.
The authorities have a duly to get to the root of these fast spreading monster fast, creeping monstrous happenings and bring the perpetrators to the path of sanity, rule of law and order sadly, after Pastor Olawole’s cruel murder, there have been other killings and destructions linked to religious extremism and intolerance.
In Niger State, a Catholic Church was attacked by alleged Islamic fundamentalists because they opposed Friday as a day of worship by Christians!
Islamic extremists youth numbering 200 besieged the Catholic church, St Phillips Catholic Church, Close to Zuma Rock in Niger State maiming, and destroying the church. While Catholic faithfuls who were having prayer session inside the church by 2pm ran in different directions in few of their lives. These happenings are certainly not good for a country that is fractured along all kinds of fault lines including ethnicity, religion and region.
Religion is the opium of the masses, says Karl Marx. In Nigeria this opium is fast becoming widespread and intoxicating. But opium doesn’t come cheap. Who is providing this opium? What’s fuelling the renewed aggravation? The government must get to the root of this ugly scenario, fast. This state of affairs is completely unacceptable. This nonsense must stop, before it degenerates to something else, something worse than Marx anticipated; Nigeria can serve economic down turn but not religious and ethnic war.
If we did not quickly tame the monster of religious bigotry, we could find it difficult, if not impossible, talking about one nation, one destiny. No nation ever survives religious war.