Femi Ajayi's Outlook

What has the cartoon has to do with the killings of fellow Nigerians, destroying Nigerian private properties, and burning Nigerian Churches? It does not add up.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dr. Femi Ajayi



igerians need to be asking themselves what is getting into the heads of those who choose to kill their fellow innocent Nigerians, burning Churches, destroying properties for what happened in other parts of the world which Nigerians were proxy to. Solidarity does not mean that you have to take human life in such a barbaric form. Those that demonstrated against over controversial cartoons published in Europe on Prophet Muhammed did not kill their fellow men and women, nor burnt other religion places of fellowship, in the name of religion.

An unidentified man walks near to a church that was burnt during violent protests yesterday at the city of Maiduguri, Nigeria, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2006. Thousands of Nigerian Muslims protesting caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad attacked Christians and burned churches in northeastern Nigeria, killing at least 15 people, police and residents said.
(AP Photo)

I doubt if there is any religion that teaches hatred, violence, murder in this world, being it be Atheists, Traditional Religion, Christianity, Hindu, or not even Islam. Even the Traditional Religion in Africa is changing.

Every religion worth its name prohibits killing, stealing, lying, oppression, etc. Each religion-whether Traditional, Christian, Islamic, or any other religion all over the world such as Hinduism, Buddhism, or Godianism-teaches morality, honesty, sincerity, trustworthiness, accountability, sympathy for each other, and good neighborliness. Nevertheless, one more often than not finds the exponents of a religion doing things contrary to their own precepts.

What has the cartoon has to do with the killings of fellow Nigerians, destroying Nigerian private properties, and burning Nigerian Churches? It does not add up. Nothing is wrong in showing some solidarity with the events around the world through demonstration, but not burning to death innocent Nigerians who have nothing to do with what somebody did in Europe. The cartoon was not done in concert with Nigerians, not even with your neighbor that you have lived with for ages.

Family of Mr. Joseph Tukwa, in Maiduguri, watched helplessly as six of his children were burnt into ashes, because his name is Joseph. While another family of five in another part of Maiduguri watched his children burnt to death as well, Chei! Burning innocent fellow Nigerians to death. You made parents watch their children burnt to death in the name of religion. That is not right. Who are the victims, Danish or Nigerians, Nigerians that you have lived with for years? What did the Police do to stop this in Maiduguri and Bauchi? If it were a gold rush, the Police would do everything possible to get there.

Whatever name we call our Creator due to the diversity of world languages, we all belief in one God. No one should be hiding behind the faith to be disruptive in the Society. We might ask ourselves, how far is Denmark to Nigeria that Nigerians decided to kill themselves, maim some people, destroy properties because of what never affected them. Did the southerners cause the Danish reporter to publish the cartoon? Is this a way of cleansing some ethnic groups in some Nigerian communities.

If we disagree with what somebody say about our faith, in a civilized society, we could lunch a protest without getting violent or murdering our fellow human beings, destroying properties. Those acts are inhuman.

The attack on Churches in Nigeria at a simple riot is becoming something the Nigerian government should control. Unfortunately, it is taking Nigeria back to the period when there was no difference between human beings and animals. Ironically, some American Medical Doctors that were supposed to be in my Medical Mission to Ogun State (February 2006) turned it down after the arrangement has been finalized, because American Government warned its citizens not to travel to Nigeria. This is how it affects some other development in Nigeria.

Unfortunately we have the leaders' sealing up their lips not condemning what is happening in their States and the uncontrolled youth continue to do whatever they like to do. Given the fact that the leaders kept quite at the instance of the religious riots, is definitely an endorsement to what the rioters are doing. Governor Sheriff of Borno State in his speech after Maiduguri's riot warned that there would be no sacred cow in dealing with the culprits caught in the crisis. Imagine the Lousy Tiger, who is supposed to be the custodian of security or the Chief Security of the State, warning of no sacred cow in dealing with the culprits caught in the crisis, that could only roar and helplessly. Where was the Governor prior to the riot, as the State Chief Security Officer could not find out what's happening in his State. Unfortunately his deficiency has spread the violence like a wild cancer to other parts of Nigeria.

The utterances of some religious leaders were enough to incite violence. Such utterances have tended to exacerbate fears of Moslem unreadiness to join in the search for those values that could promote coexistence despite religious differences. They believe that the nation could only survive within the framework of a particular religion.

Pa Awoniyi could not see the underpinning factors into the riot and would like for Nigerians to think along his line

"the violence could not have been." According to him, "From general indications available thus far, and from unbiased, non-sectarian and responsible residents of Maiduguri, anti-Christian feelings were not the origin of the violence. The Danish cartoons of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), which was the excuse for the mayhem had been condemned by Christians and Moslems alike as provocative, thoughtless and insensitive".
So the violence is anti-WHAT, if we may ask Pa Awoniyi?

If Maiduguri riot was not anti-Christian, why did they burn innocent Christian children alive, or destroyed their properties, and why burning down Churches. Did the Churches and Christians in Maiduguri collude with Danish Cartoonist? In the past, up till today, Jesus Christ has been presented in many forms in the movies, heads never rolled. Once anything negative is said about Prophet Mohammed, kata kata would envelop the world. What is it in the faith that we are so much fanatic about?

No one wants his parent names to be trashed on the faces of the newspaper how much more trashing our faith. Most Nigerians, including this writer, condemned defacing any religion in any shape or form. But that does not mean that I have to kill my neighbor or destroy their properties.

Do the Moslems ever think of revising their actions, for Christians to burn Mosques, to see how they would feel? Take for instance what happed in Iraq recently; February 2006, when Sunni bombed the Shiites Shrine. We noticed the tension within Iraq, that an unprecedented day light curfew was imposed in the City. That was Moslem to Moslem. Supposing it was a Christian sect that bombed the Holy Shrine, one of the Ancient buildings in Iraq, what do you think would have happened? In Nigeria Moslems must stop this barbaric approach of burning Churches and killing their fellow innocent Nigerians.

I believe that the Christians in Onitsha thought that the Christian doctrine in the New Testament, that you have to wait for seventy times seven a day before you revenge, might have been outdated, which made them to retaliate against the Moslems in their States. But was that right also, revising to the barbaric belief of "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" doctrine in the Old Testament, a kind of tit-for-tat religious attack.

Balogun of Owu just woke up from his dream stopping the spread of ridiculous religious riot in Nigeria over Danish Reporter's act. The Presidency fearing that the attacks might spread to other parts of the country directed the Chief of Defence Staff, General Alexander Ogomudia, to activate the internal security apparatus of the military for the purpose of quelling the sectarian violence across the country. Now the Federal Government is sending troops to Onitsha to stop the riot. How long would it take President Obasanjo to take control of this challenging Nigerian security at greater heights of the endemic religious intolerance?

What has Nigerian Government done about religious riots in Nigeria in the past? Another Pepper Soup General turned Civilian President? What a mockery of Presidential responsibilities to Nigerians.

There was a two-day bedlam in Onitsha, the commercial city of Anambra State, where victims were slaughtered like animals with machetes, knives, metal objects, cudgels and in some instance, and even guns. They went to free inmates who are armed robbers, murderers and suspects to cause more havoc to the society, unfortunately those who released them could possibly be their victims. We should wonder what has the inmates got to do with religious riots. More so, why the killings?

Panic is taking over in the north, especially in Katsina, Maiduguri, Bauchi and Gombe while hundreds of southerners sought refuge in army barracks fearing retaliation following the Onitsha riots. How can Nigerians be living with such a fear in their country? They have no other place to go.

In Abuja, there was another panic over what a Moslem cleric described as the circulation of a book written by a Lebanese Christian, from Lebanon, containing some derogatory remarks about the holy Prophet Mohammed.

Religious leaders should practice what they preach, so that others will emulate them. No religion should claim superiority over the other. Bertrand Russell asserts that, since all religions disagree, none of them could be true. However, I think that all religions teach the same thing in the area of morals. Arnold Toynbee agrees that:

"There is no one alive today who knows enough to say with confidence whether one religion has been greater than all others."

Moslems leaders should start preaching peaceful co-existence among the believers and with other religious sects. Nigerians need to reassess their faith very seriously. When you riot over something that happened somewhere else, and you killed your own people, destroyed their properties that is not helping the spongy country we call Nigeria. I hope the rioters realize how much damage they have inflicted on the already fragile Nigerian economy adding more to the devastating condition of Nigerians standard of living?

Unfortunately, the religious riot has spread to Potiskum, a city that would always remind me of my NYSC camp days, the city that changed my mind from joining the Military after an extensive one-day 'jungle training', as they called it, crawling on my stomach at the sound of a bugle and gun shots, as part of the training in the jungle, with all the army gadgets all over my body. Muslim youths in Potiskum burned shops, churches and houses belonging to minority Christians Friday, February 24, 2006.

Another tit-for-tat religious tornado touched down in Kontagora and Enugu same past Friday. In Kontagora machete-wielding Muslim mobs killed nine people and torched four Christian churches, in Enugu, Christian youths armed with machetes and truncheon attacked Muslims, beating one motorcycle taxi driver to death and burning a mosque.

One of my readers wrote to me and asked:

"Why dont {don't} Yoruba Muslims ever riot? Why is it only the Hausa Muslims who are always rioting? Does it mean the Hausa and Yoruba Muslims read the same Quran but interpret it in different ways?"
This is a multi-million dollar question Nigerians should be asking the fanatics if it is not the same Quran.

If I may respond to my reader, in the Yorubaland, there are almost as many Christians as there are Moslems; when compared to the North, much more harmony exists between the two groups. This level of tolerance should be a barometer for the religious practices throughout Nigeria, but especially in the northern States. I assert that the legendary personality of Oduduwa was and has remained a political and religious symbol among the Yorubas.

Another reader echoed from Russia and he says:

I'm saddened like many Nigerians 'cos of this tragic, senseless and devilish killings in the name of Allah by "our brothers". �. Another proof that Nigeria is just an artificial country; and nothing good will ever come out of this unsolicited union �... It's very sad and unfortunate that after 45 years of forcefully leaving together: most especially after the civil war this progrom {pogrom} took place. My own interpretation of this is that no lesson has been learnt from the civil war and that we can't really co-exist together."
My brother it is extremely shameful, to say the least.

Some schools of thought believe that the riot was all about Obasanjo, being a Christian, who is maneuvering the Constitution for the Third Term. Would the riots stop the Constitutional changes, that some believed has been printed, as we speak, February 26, 2006, how would the riot change Obasanjo's state of mind, or make Nigeria better?

Nigeria today is a pluralistic society with different cultural and religious groups. The people do not live in a religiously monolithic society. That is, the Nigerian environment cannot, without series of consequences, be regarded as purely Traditional, Islamic, or Christian. This situation is nonexistent anywhere else in the world today (2006), despite efforts by a few leaders to create a state with only one religion.

Nigerians rightly live as peoples with different cultural backgrounds (as can be seen in the museums and festivals of arts and culture) and diverse religions, traditions, and practices, coupled with a multiplicity of patterns of behavior and lifestyles, which are often diametrically opposed to each other. Nonetheless, the way Nigerians preach, teach, and practice their religions; their adherents' inability to accommodate other religious views; their false devotion to religious founders and their seemingly zealous but in fact fanatically uncompromising practices, contrary to the fundamental claims of their religious and the religious founders-all of this has resulted in religious disturbances in the northern part of Nigeria. Therefore, believers of all faiths should be concerned and rise up as one to jointly seek a solution to the intra- and interreligious conflicts.

In Nigeria's case, if the Christians and Moslems have been preaching and practicing the ways of life of Mohammed and Jesus, there could not have been the religious disturbances and political oppression witnessed in the 1980s and 1990s, and now resurfacing in Nigeria.

No religion has the monopoly of the knowledge of God. An unfortunate aspect of my study findings in the early 1990 revealed that indigenous religions in Nigeria have not been given due attention and recognition. It could be the means of soothing the relationship between Christianity and Islam, but more important is the common belief among Africans the concept of God, which might differ from culture to culture. All religions-Islam, Christianity, and African Traditional-need to interact theologically and socially, and have dialogues at all levels. Adherents of each religion should see non-members as brothers and sisters and children of the same God.

The Nigerian Government needs to step up an enlightenment crusade for Nigerians. The Government needs to invigorate the educational policies in Nigeria and remove from them any religious and ethnic influences. Nigeria needs a very sound, functional, and complete education, and the education of the human mind. It should acquire a functional philosophy of education that will embrace the character of teachers, a philosophy of education, which emphasizes morals to stop theft from the public treasury, to make people love hard work, and provide jobs for the unemployed, such as in agriculture. A very sound education might eliminate the use of the quota system, while merit would still be practiced. At all levels of education in Nigeria, students and teachers should constantly reflect on the value of religious tolerance in a mixed community of beliefs and practices.

Cynicism is an endemic social disease in Nigeria. It permeates the entire sociopolitical fabric. If one scratches an average Nigerian, the watery blood of cynicism pours forth. One will also find beneath the surface the slightly burned flesh of negativism. Nigerians are very cynical and negative about their country. Nonetheless, it is a country of abundant and innovative human resources. They should apply their abundant intelligence in a positive direction, instead of killing one another over religion. If done, then perhaps Japan and America would have been learning positively from Nigeria. A good and high sense of patriotism should be flowing in the veins of Nigerians.