hen I was a little boy growing up in Aba, we had a saying ‘accident always occurs’. I grew up thinking that accident is something no one can prevent and that it will always occur unless one prays. I spent a great deal of my life praying and feeling guilty for things I did wrong and things I prayed to God to prevent which happened nevertheless, leaving me feeling it must be because of my sin. . As I grew older, I realised that the statement is not really true and that accidents do not always occur. I have learnt that accidents are essentially the result of human errors and they often occur for we fail to do or did not anticipate would go wrong. However, I found out that my childhood understanding of accidents is what is prevalent in Nigeria. So when an accident happens, people cry and shout God knows best. Early in my life, a very close acquaintance who was taking his family to settle in Lagos died in an accident along Benin Ore road. At his burial the pastor offered an explanation for his death which I found very difficult to rationalise then, but which I now can simply say was mundane. He said that everything that happens is the will of God and that we should accept the accident.
Is everything that happens really the will of God? Do the Bible and Quran contain all the truth about God? Is there another narrative to the story of God which would improve our understanding of the transidence apart from what the Bible and Quran claim to be true? Have we wondered what the English wise men who in 1611 on the order of King James produced the King James Version of the Bible removed, added or simply rewrote to reflect the wishes of the king? What is really the word of God? Who is right about God, since every religion claims to be right? What does it mean to believe in God? Perhaps, answers to these questions will help us understand the confusions and why some religion may lock people into a process that makes them to feel guilty for being human. There is just a lot we do not know and religion does not have all the answers. Sometimes, I wonder if animals practice religion, whether the lion would be expected to go for confession for killing to eat.
Now I know that most things that happen in life, except natural disasters are caused by men and women, either by what they do or fail to do. If what is written in the Bible and Quran about God is true, God is more inclined to doing nothing while men scheme against each other, make wars and oppressing the weak and righteous. If He has a habit of interfering in the affairs of men, I suppose he would have interfered when pretentious religious men conspired against Jesus, called false witnesses’ and in violation of their juripondence, gave him a mock trial and sentenced him to death on the cross. His ‘son’ prayed harder than any religious person facing serious problem would, and He simply kept quiet and did nothing, his only begotten son in whom he is well pleased, simply rationalised his father silence by saying, not my will, but his will be done. It was His will as Christians believe, for his son to face a cruel death and he did. Let no one give me the rationalisation that it was the plan of salvation by a loving God who said thou shalt not kill, but requires blood for the forgiveness of sin. What a contradiction and illogicality. God is a complex being who prefers to leave human beings alone but who human have refused to leave alone and rather misuse to exploit one another.
I no longer believe that a God based attribution system which religion bequeaths to the believers is the only way of making sense of reality. There are other ways which make more sense because in addition to faith, they recognise the place of reason, knowledge and evidence. It is one of these ways that gave rise to enlightenment which religion opposed. Faith is a dangerous thing when it has no place for reason and knowledge, which is probably why St Peter admonished Christians to add knowledge to their faith. Unfortunately, the evidence would suggest that religion has tends to remove reason and knowledge from faith and is prone to urging faith in the absurd,
The accident that claimed the death of my close friend was the beginning of a life of poverty and hardship which his wife and three children endured. It was obvious that the cause of the accident was reckless driving by drivers who did not take the trouble to learn to drive properly, but paid to obtain their driving licenses, and bad road whose contract were awarded but was never executed as the accident was a head-on collision with another vehicles attempting to avoid a big pothole. Years later, I have wondered the place of God in this accident and have not found it. I now prefer to keep God out of accidents; they seldom have anything to do with Him.
This brings me to a question which my 10 year old son asked me about God some time ago. ‘Daddy, is God selfish? Why did he not save the other children of Bethlehem from death, and saved only baby Jesus? I told him I would research it and get back to him. Since then I have also wondered, why God would only send an angel in the night to warn Joseph and Mary and allow three lovely children of Rachel and thousands of other children to be killed by King Herod’s murderous soldiers. Was God really involved in this story or did Jews try to use God to explain away an event that has a plausible explanation? God indeed moves in a mysterious way. This is why I prefer to simply to focus on the morality he teaches and leave out the economics and politics of the industry men set up in his name.
When my now 20 year old daughter was 4, she came back from nursery school in Aba, and told me that Ambulance is a vehicle for carrying dead people, I told her that she was wrong that an ambulance is a vehicle for carrying very ill people to give them the best chance of remaining alive, she laughed and said daddy, no. I told her that a hearse is a vehicle that is used to carry dead people but she told me that I was wrong because it was not what her teacher said. She believed in her teacher and this is what believers do. They simply believe the authors of a book.
Since then, I have learnt that contrary to what I believed in Nigeria, that accidents are what can be prevented and that every accident is a failure of prevention which is why the west takes accident investigation and health and safety very seriously so that the same cause does not cause the same kind of accident twice. I have been driving in the UK for the past 14 years, and not once has my car broken down even though I drove the same car for more than 10 years. This was because I always made sure that I serviced my car at the right time. Even then serviced cars and even new ones can break down, but then there is a cause, some of which the system for preventing accident could not detect because of limitation of knowledge. We need to come to the point in Nigeria where we can see accident as something that can be prevented.
This brings me to the helicopter accident that claimed the lives of the former national security adviser and former governor of Kaduna state. Like the DANA crash, it once again exposes the attitude of Nigerians to safety, rules and maintenance. In the west, once an aircraft has done the recommended air miles it is serviced or retired. Many of the retired planes find their way to third world countries. Even though that such aircrafts should be serviced more frequently they seldom are maintained in the way they should. It is on record that Nigerian army budgets billions for new aircrafts only for the contractor to deliver old refurbished aircrafts as new ones. Recently, it was reported that an Israeli company sold a Nigeria military contractor toys instead of drones. Why on earth Nigerian army believed that Israel, Europe or America wills sale drones to anybody at this time defies my imagination. My point is that many things are seldom what they seem in Nigeria.
Hopefully, we can learn the necessary lessons from this crash and then determine that the same cause will not cause another accident. If we can do this, then these illustrious sons of Nigeria would not have died in vain. I add my condolence to their families and pray that they will find the fortitude to bear the loss.
Nigeria should welcome the age of reason and leave magical thinking and veneration of beliefs behind. The accident was not caused by a witch a God does not solve people problems He has given enough knowledge for people to understand. We must stop the misuse of religion and the abuse of God.