Nigeria: Religion As a Instrument for the Empowerment of Nigerians

what should worry us is not religion as such,

but the possibility that religion can become

pathological such as the case of Boko Haram or

the ‘pastorpreneurs’ who preach the falsehood of

prosperity without hard work. Reasonable minds,

to use, the authors own words denounce such

religious extremes and abuses. It is possible to

heal the sore without cutting the limb.

The media has an infinite power to form and

inform people. People look up to media for

information and guidance. As a platform for

information dissemination however it is also

susceptible to sundry forms of abuses, meaning

that it can also misinform and miseducate people.

Now in Nigeria, with the rising influence of the

media and its critical role in social re-

engineering and positive change, opinions offered

to the public are very critical in as much as it has

the power of influencing people’s perception of

reality, and above all their actions to realising

the ideals of social change. If it is important

that Nigerians should read, in my opinion, it is

even more important what they read for the

reason already stated.

It is not always easy to delineate the borderline

between error and truth, as such judgements will

ultimately depend on more fundamental

convictions of either the writer or the reader.

For this reason the easiest way to arrive at

plausibility is to gauge the validity of a claim

against the contrary position.

I do not believe that religion is a tool for the

impoverishment of Nigerians as Bamidele

Ademola-Olateju emphasised in the piece recently

published also on this platform. Apart from the

fact that the assumptions of the write-up are

faulty, its premises are sweeping and worrisome

and its conclusions are in fact false. The basic

assumptions and premises are that people are

religious because they are poor and that only

poor people are religious; that religion has no

social value; that people can take total control of

their lives; that embracing religion amounts to a

weakness; that the claims of religion are

unredeemable; that religion is the cause of the

ruin of education; that elites and religious

ministers are in a form of unholy alliance to foistwhat should worry us is not religion as such,

 

but the possibility that religion can become

 

pathological such as the case of Boko Haram or

 

the ‘pastorpreneurs’ who preach the falsehood of

 

prosperity without hard work. Reasonable minds,

 

to use, the authors own words denounce such

 

religious extremes and abuses. It is possible to

 

heal the sore without cutting the limb.

 

The media has an infinite power to form and

 

inform people. People look up to media for

 

information and guidance. As a platform for

 

information dissemination however it is also

 

susceptible to sundry forms of abuses, meaning

 

that it can also misinform and miseducate people.

 

Now in Nigeria, with the rising influence of the

 

media and its critical role in social re-

 

engineering and positive change, opinions offered

 

to the public are very critical in as much as it has

 

the power of influencing people’s perception of

 

reality, and above all their actions to realising

 

the ideals of social change. If it is important

 

that Nigerians should read, in my opinion, it is

 

even more important what they read for the

 

reason already stated.

 

It is not always easy to delineate the borderline

 

between error and truth, as such judgements will

 

ultimately depend on more fundamental

 

convictions of either the writer or the reader.

 

For this reason the easiest way to arrive at

 

plausibility is to gauge the validity of a claim

 

against the contrary position.

 

I do not believe that religion is a tool for the

 

impoverishment of Nigerians as Bamidele

 

Ademola-Olateju emphasised in the piece recently

 

published also on this platform. Apart from the

 

fact that the assumptions of the write-up are

 

faulty, its premises are sweeping and worrisome

 

and its conclusions are in fact false. The basic

 

assumptions and premises are that people are

 

religious because they are poor and that only

 

poor people are religious; that religion has no

 

social value; that people can take total control of

 

their lives; that embracing religion amounts to a

 

weakness; that the claims of religion are

 

unredeemable; that religion is the cause of the

 

ruin of education; that elites and religious

 

ministers are in a form of unholy alliance to foist

 

religion on the people in order to oppress them.

 

The bulwark against these stated problems, in

the author’s opinion, is good education. Once

Nigerians receive good education their problems

will all be solved. This is the emphatic point of

conclusion. While it cannot be disputed that good

education is essential for a good human life, it is

not true that good education alone can secure a

good society. What we may call a good society is

made possible by a combination of many factors

one of which is religion. I do not know of any

society where there is no religion.

I do not know of any other organisation that

stands by the poor as religious organisations do

or in fact that can boast of cumulative

empowerment for people that religious

organisations… The role of the church in politics

is no less notable. Apart from doubling up as a

medium for civic and political education of its

members, churches have mobilised massive

election participation and observation as well,

mainly on voluntary basis. Our rising democracy

is evidence to this.

Unlike the author, however I think that religion

has been a tool of tremendous empowerment in

Nigeria. I come from an area of Nigeria where all

the functional schools and hospitals are run by

religious organisations. It is reckless and unfair

for instance to see religion entirely as a bondage

and tool of impoverishment. Foreign missionaries

have spent their resources, time, energy and

even their lives for the education and

empowerment of Nigerians. Today local

missionaries are carrying on this task to a great

level of success. All the villages and corners of

the South-East today are littered with school

projects funded and run by missionaries and

religious organisations. In other parts of

Nigeria, such a claim can also be made with a

degree of plausibility.

The fact that Nigerians could pull through the

darkest days of the war or the days of military

tyranny, especially in the health sector, is

because of the ubiquitous and itinerant presence

of missionary health care. Or do we think that

Nigerians survived on their own, when literally all

government hospitals contained only broken

tables and rusty beds? How can we now denounce

religion entirely without slipping into error and

falsehood?

Churches today still provide scholarships for

indigent children, they still provide food for the

hungry, they still pay hospital bills of poor

people, they still provide homes for the homeless.

In whatever area of human need, the church as

an institution has played a significant role in

Nigeria. It can play more and to this challenge

we should rise, but to turn and impute only

incarceration, manipulation and disservice is less

than the truth. I do not know of any other

organisation that stands by the poor as religious

organisations do or in fact that can boast of

cumulative empowerment for people that religious

organisations.

The role of the church in politics is no less

notable. Apart from doubling up as a medium for

civic and political education of its members,

churches have mobilised massive election

participation and observation as well, mainly on

voluntary basis. Our rising democracy is evidence

to this. Powerful clergy also stood up against the

military in the past and today stand up against

political office holders to bring them to account.

That they can do more is true, but that they

have done nothing; or in fact that they have

colluded with the elites to thwart the lives of

Nigerians, is false.

Good education makes one to appreciate his true

worth and power and to work towards its self-

realisation. Good education opens up

opportunities. It is wrong, however, to assume

by the same token, that good education is

capable of providing answers to the most difficult

questions of human life such as the borderline

between providence and free-will.

The prophetic role played by Father Mbaka during

the last elections is still fresh in our memory.

Not only did he denounce the corruption and

ineptitude of the past regime he encouraged

Nigerians to vote for change. He said it openly

that the prophetic duty of the church demands

that it should speak for the poor, who are being

vanquished by corrupt governments. In doing this

he put his life, like many other defenders of the

poor, on the line for his convictions. Many

religious ministers have risked their lives for the

well-being of their members. Many other

courageous pastors have also spoken against the

government when they had to. I think it is wrong

to disregard the impact of such efforts.

 

I think that religion in principle does not create

poverty nor does good education guarantee

security. Poverty is a given condition of human

society most notably fostered, like in the case of

Nigeria, by political misgovernance. It cannot be

denied that some religious practices such as we

may see in Nigerian can become harmful to

proper self-empowerment, but such

misdevelopments cannot be seen as the core of

religion, rather as its blind spot. It is up to each

individual to decide the credibility of the religious

organisation where to pitch their tent, but the

basic assumption of religion is the indisputable

relationship that exists between God and man.

Good education makes one to appreciate his true

worth and power and to work towards its self-

realisation. Good education opens up

opportunities. It is wrong, however, to assume

by the same token, that good education is

capable of providing answers to the most difficult

questions of human life such as the borderline

between providence and free-will. To claim this is

to overstate the importance of education. Today

we have many unemployed but well educated

youths, is this caused by religion or by no

education?

Finally I can end this piece by noting that what

should worry us is not religion as such, but the

possibility that religion can become pathological

such as the case of Boko Haram or the

‘pastorpreneurs’ who preach the falsehood of

prosperity without hard work. Reasonable minds,

to use, the authors own words denounce such

religious extremes and abuses. It is possible to

heal the sore without cutting the limb.

religion on the people in order to oppress them.