E O EkeThursday, March 27, 2014
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Religious intolerance and Terrorism

his is an area which requires a lot of work, but which unfortunately, successive Nigerian governments have done very little, to say the least. Nigerians are a very religious people with deep rooted God based attribution system, which has not transformed them into honest and law abiding people and nation. The evidence clearly shows that the more religious Nigeria became, the more corrupt the government, the higher the rate of crime and worse the country. This can be measured by the number of churches and mosques in Nigeria which has a direct correlation with the worsening Nigerian society. This relationship between religion and deterioration of Nigeria can no longer be ignored. It would seem that religion is perpetuating ignorance, poverty through exploitation, underdevelopment, prejudice and intolerance in ways that are not helping the development of a culture of honesty, tolerance, peaceful co-existence. Therefore, Nigeria cannot develop, if it does not break the hold bad religion and toxic ethnic nationalism have on the minds of the people and enable them develop a balanced moral attitude that ensures the rightful place of God in their lives. Nigerian must be set free to question their religious beliefs and orthodoxies and understand their religious prejudices, and allow knowledge to inform whatever they choose to believe or think about others and the transident. This is enlightenment. Without it, we will continue to grope in darkness of ignorance, irrational religious dogmas, traditional beliefs, self-consuming greed and magical thinking.

We will have to enforce the existing Nigerian secular constitution and ensure freedom of thoughts, beliefs and expression. The idea that people offend by expression of their thoughts, would be abolished in the new Nigeria. The new Nigeria would Train and equip the security forces to crack down in lawful ways and manners, on religious intolerance and bigotry in any form or shape. Encourage Christians and Muslims to establish Christian and Islamic association to look at religious tolerance and beliefs and relationship between faith and science in a way that would enable Nigeria develop, without being poisoned by religious intolerance and self-induced and perpetuating ignorance in the name of faith. Without this, religion that teaches the western education is sin will continue to gain ground and Nigeria would be consumed in religious conflict like Afghanistan and Pakistan, while the rest of the world moves on. The state would pursue moral values and principles founded on the time tested wisdom of good religions.

There is no doubt that the menace of Islamic terrorism by Boko Haram and Niger Delta militancy is the most serious security threats to Nigeria. As the groups continue to kill military personnels, burn down police stations and military barracks, the moral and confidence of Nigerian security are being sapped away. The indecisiveness of the government and its prevarication in the face of crisis has not helped matter. The result is that terrorism is taking root in Nigeria and Nigeria is heading the way of Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, countries where guns, criminal gangs, and warlords rule the day. We will rethink the current strategy of the security agencies. It is simple unwise to adopt conventional military tactics which the Nigerian security organisation have adopted, in an unconventional war. The plan would be to combine unconventional tactics with the best intelligence and most effective conventional strategies in this war.

No government or army can defeat a guerrilla army by making itself visible at check points or unfortified barracks, where they become easy targets for the terrorists. The current tactics of Nigerian security agencies in the war against terror only makes military personnels and institutions sitting targets. First, these regions will be occupied by significant number of Nigerian soldiers with the view to wining the hearts and mind of the people. Then, the army will and carry out a thorough military operation against those who continue to bear arms against the country. This will make it clear to the terrorists and militants that the government has no intention of losing the war and would be involved as long as it takes to defeat them. At the same time, the government will continue the social investments needed to improve the standard and quality of life in these areas and other parts of Nigeria, and those who are minded to lay down their arms will be guaranteed amnesty, but not the payment of large sums of money and those who are arrested will be subjected to due process. This is the way serious and honest governments fight terrorism and insurgency. The government has to demonstrate that the choice of the terrorist determines what treatment he would get from the government.

Ethnic conflict;

The new Nigerian government will establish a truth, justice and reconciliation committee to address ethnic grievances and prejudices and will request them to suggest further changes to the constitution, which they believe will strengthen multi-ethnic unity, ensure justice to all, security accountability and peaceful co-existence. There is a solution to all the problems that are crippling Nigeria. What we need to do is put those who know what to do in charge. Nigeria cannot continue to have leaders who want to lead it to the promise land without a map or sense of direction and geography. The last time a leader tried to do that, he and all the people who started the journey perished on the way, and a journey of few weeks took 40 years. This is what happens when a people depend on God in an ignorant, adamant and delusional way and manner, to lead them and ignore existing knowledge, evidence, experience and common sense. God has already given enough knowledge to help Nigeria solve most of her problems, if we get the right leadership. For instance, for Abia state; the new Abia state will pay compensation to all those who have suffered the injustice of discrimination by expulsion from the civil service on the basis of a narrowly defined meaning of indigenousness and begin to make the necessary social investments which the state is crying for by honest utilisation of resources. This will be the first step in the fight against the very high rate of acquisitive crimes in form of armed robbery and kidnapping in the state. This will remove the excuse some people have for going into crime as no government can fight crime when it operates policies and behaves in ways and manners that make crime a rational choice. It would operate on the principle of equality, liberty and social justice for all, and no one would be discriminated on the basis of ancestral origin, sex, ethnicity or any orientation. It would ensure equal opportunity and seek to restore the dignity and rights of the people which have been denied and abused by successive government.

Social inequality.

To get Nigeria right, the government must ensure that every Nigerian play by the same rule and that religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and circumstance of birth no longer give people undue advantage or disadvantage in life. The government will function in such a way that it will not worsen the condition of those with natural disadvantages, while ensuring that those with natural advantages do not gain at the expense of those with natural disadvantage. This is a just society at its best. The new Nigerian government will explore ways to ensure that those who acquired their wealth through corruption make more contribution to the society.

They corruptly enriched themselves with money that would have been invested to create a more equal society and as such, the government would be right to attempt to recuperate some of this wealth in a fair and just manner. The government would introduce a means tested social security benefit for the unemployed and pursue aggressive, social investment, skills acquisition training and economic empowerment programs for the unemployed. The government will focus on what governance is all about, which is the making of life better for the people and enabling all to achieve their potentials by creating the enabling environment? These are the steps Nigerian government needs to take and the wasting of money in a national conference which would only ensure that certain privilege and selected people are given money that should have been spent in social investments. The cost of the national conference at the conservative estimate of 12, Million Naira per delegate (5,640,000,000 Naira) about six billion Naira, would have refurbished at least, three teaching hospitals and bring them to world standard, which would have had massive impact on health tourism to India and stop capital flight from Nigeria.

Healthcare delivery service

The new Nigeria government will pursue a policy of universal access to healthcare in ways that would ensure that money will not change hands at the point or service. The national health care program will be extended to every Nigerian,

First the government will require every Nigeria to register with a primary health care practice headed by general Medical practitioners, who will be contracted by the national health care services to provide health care to those registered with its practice. Prior to this, the government would hold extensive discussion and negotiation with all health care practitioners to clarify their roles and part in the ensuring that every Nigeria gets the health care they need at the time they need it. The government will increase the current recurrent expenditure on health by 3% and every Nigeria would be required to pay a national social and health care contribution, which will be used to fund the national health care service in a sustainable way and manner.

Each local authority would be required to elect a health board, which will be in charge of the primary health care practices and hospitals and tertiary and specialist medical institutions. Each state will have a state health trust, which will work with local government health board to ensure that primary healthcare practices, secondary health care instructions like general hospitals and specialist medical centres are well developed and provide the care the people need. This model will be based on the people government partnership for health developed by the author, which gives the health care professionals the independence and freedom they need to practice their profession, pays them very well and hold them accountable and to very high standard.

This is not an exhaustive list, but an attempt to convince Nigerians that our problems are not insurmountable and that with good and honest leadership, little effort, dedication and cooperation from all, we will overcome them and begin the journey to the new Nigeria, where justice as fairness, equality, tolerance and security reigns supreme. Dreams do come true if you work it. I would be minded to join any political party that would commit to these plans and reflect them in its manifestoes and womanisfestoes or be forced to form one.

Economic development and job creation

No country can have peace and development, if does not have effective and sustainable ways of creating jobs for its young people who graduate from of its various institutions and training programing. In this wise, the new Nigeria would prioritise sustainable job creation. The strategy would be to open up the economy, encourage creativity, entrepreneurship and provide assistance in to the people in a fair and equitable manner. In this wise, the government will create more jobs in the health, financial, construction, and legal professions for many other professionals and clearly define the roles of professionals to avoid diffusion of roles and ensure that other people other than the principle professionals benefit from the sector.

For instance the health sector would be reorganise to create more jobs for, economists, administrators, health secretaries, accountants, lawyers, architects, engineers and ICT specialists, in addition to health care professionals. In the legal profession minimum standard would set for the opening of chambers that would require a law practice to employ a minimum number of people and have a minimum number of lawyers to operate. The same will be applicable to other professionals. This alone, will create millions of jobs for young graduates who are currently roaming the streets. With the granting of university autonomy, change of land use act, restoration of state funded education and social investments, the economy would be given the need boost to generate and sustain growth. In addition, the government will embark on the development of rail transport in Nigeria to link all the regions and national capital will provide more jobs in the transport sector than Nigerians can fill, kick starting the emergency of Nigeria as a true economic power.

This can only happen, if those who know how it can be done are elected into office, which is the reason why, Nigerians should allow the quality, content and plausibility of the manifestoes and plans to solve the Nigerian problems of the parties or candidates, to determine who is voted into office. Nothing will change in Nigeria, as long as Nigerians continue to determine those elected as leader, on the basis of ethnicity, religion and wealth alone. In 2015, Nigerians should cast their votes for honest Nigerians, who have better plan and manifestoes, irrespective of their religion or ethnicity.

Very unfortunately, the attitude of successive Nigerian governments to corruption, impunity and injustice has prepared the ground for self-appointed leaders with selfish interests, to emerge as leaders by playing the card of ethnic nationalism and religion. Those who do not see this are blind, ignorant or simply indifferent to the present realities of Nigeria. Nigeria is pregnant and it will deliver no matter what anybody does, my concern is that when the time comes, that the mother and child would survive. As things are at the moment both are in serious danger, if no attempt is made to prepare for the delivery. This is why I shout myself hoarse, even though those who need to save her are not listening.

My struggle is the struggle for equality of status and right of all Nigerians to personal dignity, self-respect, full participation in the affairs of the country and rescue for toxic ethnic nationalism and religious intolerance. This is because, these are what has brought Nigeria to the present sorry state and will finally destroy her, if no honest attempt is made to address them. This is the only reason why I condemn corruption anywhere I see it in Nigeria, no matter who is involved. This is why I condemn the systemic changing of the Nigerian constitution to protect corrupt leaders from the consequences of their action, the abuse of power and the use of discriminatory legislation to punish individuals not because the intrinsic nature of their behaviour meets the definition of crimes, but because of what religion compels some people to believe about it. These are injustices and inhumanities, which no one with clear and good conscience can ignore and remain innocent.

Therefore, there is need to understand that the struggle is not a revolution of people like me to dominate others, but a fight to be free. It is a struggle for equality and attempt to assert equality and reclaim our human dignity and autonomy. What we are fighting for is something no power in history has ever succeeded in denying a people who fought for it. It is the right to take an intelligent active part in the determination and guiding of our own country and individual destinies. It is the right to play apart in the shaping of our future and life. It is the right to be free in truest sense of it and to be treated with respect and not deceived, derided and discriminated against, by those who abuse the power that rightly belongs to us. This is the truth. Ours is not a struggle like a crusade or Jihad or colonisation. It is a struggle to regain one’s self-respect and individuality and no man can succeed in stopping it because a man ceases to be a slave once he swears “ I will never be a slave” he knows that from then, he will fight daily to be free and will either gain his freedom or die fighting for it. Nigeria is at threshold when majority of its citizen will declare for freedom or death and join some of us who have made that choice.

Victory will come either peacefully by the powers that be listening to the wisdom of history and reason, or violently because they made peaceful change impossible. This freedom is not only possible in a nation of one’s ethnic group. It is possible in a multi-ethnic Nigeria. It is important to understand that the reasons why those who fought for the overthrow of colonisation in Africa appeal to ethnicity and religion to rally the people against the colonial masters, no longer exists. In this post-colonial struggle, we cannot afford to emphasise what divides us because victory depends on unity. It is a struggle for universal values, which are not limited by ethnic boundaries or religious convictions. It is a struggle for what makes us human and we must unit to win. The fight for a better Nigeria, cannot be fought successfully under ethnic and religious banners, to do so is to lose even before the battle begins. Nigerians must unit or perish.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.