E O EkeWednesday, September 25, 2013




very honest person in this world knows that Nigeria is a country with serious social, economic and political problems caused essentially by corruption, ethnic prejudice and bad government. What is also known is that Nigeria is also a very religious country and that the people are almost evenly divided into two Abrahamic religions. It is this paradox of evil being endemic in a people that profess to be religious that has become of interest to many lately. When you discuss the problems of Nigeria which require some very simple solution, the people who are often most placed to lead in finding the right solution often respond with, ‘ we have to pray to God for solution’. I have heard this so much that I am beginning to think that may be, religion is one of Nigeria’s main problems.

I have a religious faith. I was born into the Christian faith and have studied the Christian religion, practice it and exploited by it. I have sort for God and found him. Unfortunately, I did not find him in Rome, Jerusalem or Mecca. I found God in my heart. God told me that the kingdom of heaven and hell both exist in my heart and that I reveal whose servant I am by what I do and not what I claim to believe. Many months ago I wrote an article about religious beliefs and argued that the ideas or abstract concepts people hold in their minds have no power to alter reality. As the days go by, it is becoming apparent that in deed, religion is the opium which anesthetizes Nigerians to the reality of our problems and renders us unable to see what they must do.

Having faith in God is a great gift and easiest way to become wise. It is also one of the surest ways to remain ignorant, become foolish, gullible and blind. This effect of faith on insight was noticed by Jesus and he did lament that the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. He lamented that believers are destroyed by lack of knowledge. When Jesus started his ministry, he noted that his people (Jews) even though many Christians believe it to mean Christians, had become blinded and prejudiced by religion that they had forgotten the essence of faith. To the Jews, faith was a system of beliefs and rituals which one must comply with if one wanted to go into the kingdom of God. The desire to get a place in the kingdom of God had become the only motivation for doing good. This desire had become the only restraint to evil and the people had failed to understand why God made the law in the first place. Because they were keeping the law for selfish reasons, they could not understand the spirit of the law and what it was meant to do in their lives.

This was probably why the rich young ruler had the audacity to ask Jesus what else he needed to do to enter the kingdom of God as he reckoned he had met all the stipulated requirements. The rich young ruler was very sad and disappointed, and left sorrowfully; when Jesus told him that in spite of his religiosity that he still lack the most essential ingredient which those who would enter in the kingdom of heaven need.

It would seem to me that religion has done to Nigeria what it did to the Jews before the coming of Jesus. It has convinced the people that abstract ideas held in their minds have power to alter reality because they ask an unseen deity to intervene. In a way, this is irrational, which was why in 2006, Richard Dawkins angered by the irrationality of the ignorant religious, concluded that the belief in God is delusion. Even though I disagreed with the way he misused facts to sustain his beliefs about religion, he made some important points which no sincere seeker of God can ignore and claim to be sincere.

Today in Nigeria, religion is a great problem. It is being used to exploit the people in ways that would make Jesus take the cane again were he to be here today. In the name of God, many self-proclaimed men and women of God are doing things that would have made Jesus to call them sons and daughter of vipers who make long prayers but hide, hatred, deceit greed and unfaithfulness in their hearts. He would probably say to people, if he was here today, when you go to church, when the preachers read from the Bible or Quran listen to what they read to do them, but do not do as they do for the speak, but do not do. Nowhere is this deception of the people more obvious and serious than in the understanding and use of prayer. Prayer is used as the remedy for everything. You often hear, let us pray to God. Now that we have prayed, we should leave everything to God. I wish to say wrong, wrong, wrong, and no, no, no. This is where religious Nigerians are wrong.

Prayer is not what you do when you have not found the solution. No, prayer is what you do when you have used all the knowledge and means God has already made available and done all in your power to solve the problem. Prayer is not a spiritual exercise to invoke the power or favour of God; it is an exercise to submit to the outcome after we have done all in our power. Prayer is an attempt to prepare to accept the reality even when it is what we do not want.

For many years I have observed and listened to the prayers of black people especially Nigerians and compared it to the prayers of white people. The difference could not be starker. When Black people want to pray, they begin by flattering God as if God can be swayed by flattery. They idealise God and address Him with all sorts of name and then, bring out their shopping list. After reciting the shopping list, they begin their incantation which they call binding the evil spirit and then end by commanding God to do as they want. It is an interesting application of primitive defence mechanism, infantile omnipotence and pure magical thinking to hold people captive in ignorance. It would seem from the evidence that Nigerians almost always prays for what money, science, good and honest leadership or technology solve in developed countries. It is either that Nigerians are praying for safe travel in a road where 99% of the drives did not learn to drive properly and passed the driving test, or for Gods mercies in a roads which contract had been awarded but not executed because the man who donated the largest amount during the launching of the church or Mosque building fund; embezzled the money earmarked for the road.

Nigerians pray for good health for people who cannot afford God health care because of poverty or bad government or for work in an economy cripple by corruption, dishonesty and greed. Nigerians also pray for quick recovery for people too poor to afford the medications that would enable them recover from their illnesses and for God to provide school fees for children whose parents cannot afford school fees because they have no jobs. All these problems do not need prayers of the type Nigerians pray, but good and honest government which is committed to doing its best to solving the many problems of the country and then praying for God to continue to enable them to do the right thing. I often wonder how God would feel when Nigerian pray to him to solve provide which he knows Nigeria government is already earning enough money from oil to solve. What would God be thinking when children die from preventable disease in a country where senators go home with five hundred thousand Naira (500,000) every day.

What Nigeria needs is not more prayers. Leaders who continue to point to prayer as solution to Nigeria problem or deceiving the people or at best are ignorant, and unenlightened. What Nigeria needs is to get its leadership right by stopping the trend whereby the worst of Nigerians gain power. Nigeria has to figure out how to get its best minds to take over power and use it for the best interest of the people. At the moment, criminals are in power in Nigeria and nothing will change unless Nigeria has a government that will reduce the remuneration of Politicians by 50% and set up a committee to look into remuneration of politicians and bring it in line with what is obtainable in countries like Nigeria. Nigeria cannot get better when Nigerian senators earn almost four times the salary of an American president. The solution to Nigerian problem is not more prayers but good leadership, good economic policies and management and accountability. Yes we need to pray but after we have done what we must do. Nigerian should pray less and do more. Join a political party today and seek elective office if you believe that you are a good Nigerians. Criminals do not build nations. They want the people to pray while they loot. Those trained to kill cannot save lives. The Bible did not recommend pray as a solution it teaches work and pray. prayer without work is perceived as noise in heaven.

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.