Last week, I argued and suggested that the Nigerian state could implode if we citizens do not invest in the project of rationality in our engagement of public issues and in state/citizen relationship with respect to group practices (PREMIUM TIMES, May 26, 2013). And bang! Some religious commentators missed the point. Ignorantly or deliberately, or both, they took flight from the main theme of the essay, which is that; the most reliable candidate for building equity, fairness and objectivity in state/citizen relationship is rationality, which forges policy (which may then legitimize group practices) acceptable to all taxpayers in the republic. On this criterion, the issue will not be “grant or do not grant X a practice”. Rather the issue and question will be: State the criteria in granting X, and, is it rational to grant X a practice and not grant Z another practice? If so why?”
The drift of these religious commentators suggests that they wrongly think that there is a contradiction between the spiritual and the rational. Or perhaps that the faithful must suspend the rational when he/she enters the public space which is jointly and equally owned by all –including people of all faiths and those who choose to be different in not openly professing a spiritual faith- atheists and/or agnostics.
For, how else can one fail to see (as these religious commentators fail to see) what sovereignty of a state implies and means within its own borders, for constituting states and citizens in a federal republic? How else does one explain the religious commentators’ failure to see that a state that loses its capacity to rule democratically will become anarchistic, chaotic and will atrophy? And how else can one explain the failure to see that following the rational path of the law by citizens and the state is the best way (and not the fiery path of force and fury) to prevent a state from imploding on itself and on us?
Years back, any average Nigerian kid with high school government and civics education will not have challenges understanding the theme in that essay on hijab, public schools, sovereignty and their handling. Unfortunately, for reasons most likely attributable to the sordid state of our country’s education, these religious commentators confirmed my worst fears in their wide, wild and unreflective departure from the principal issues in the essay, which shows they have grave challenges with basic elementary thinking and rational engagement of public discourse. Holed in and closed up in their pious tents and camps, any critical call about a religion is tagged phobia. There is a cognitive challenge about thinking when the rational takes flight, or when one is just plainly conceptually ignorant and analytically unable. With this sort of loss of reason and the rational, it is sad for our nation for we may be in more trouble than we think.
Still on the issue of rationality in the republic, that same irrationality, which dominates us explains the silly “treason” trial of MASSOB by the government under President Jonathan, while cuddling, propping and throwing juicy oily pipeline security contracts to similar ethnic militia OPC, MEND and the Niger Delta creek ethnic militias when all of them are indistinguishable. On the part of us citizens, it is morally shocking that we all keep quiet staring this horrific contradiction in the face when a group of citizens (MASSOB) are being tried for a silly thing called “treason” while similar groups (OPC/MEND/Niger Delta Creek militias) are being given oily pipeline security contracts. This can only happen because we all seem to be hopelessly dominated by the irrational. The MASSOB “treason” trial, is a grave offence against reason, the ethical and the rational in us, it is patently immoral. Our silence is complicit. It shows what dominates us perpetually. It is the irrational. And it is not cool.
Sadly, Governor Jonah Jang, his gang of Christian and Muslim Governors, and their irrational “God” further confirmed this frightening irrationality that is currently on rampage in the land.
But before we engage Governor Jonah Jang’s gang and their irrational “God”, let me again make a public disclosure. Governor Jang professes the Christian faith. I do. But this is where it ends. Political religion, or nascent theocracy (Christian or Islamic), theocratic temperament of any hue or color no matter how mild or burgeoning is problematic for our country because the flippant use of God by “religious” people of all sorts is often self-serving, morally and intellectually dubious and has not been helpful in the nation’s public life. Therefore, I do not see how Governor Jang’s irrational “God” can be my God even when Governor Jang’s gang have right to their irrational “God” that approves election rigging.
But do not hang Jang, hear him: “I can assure you that my emergence as the chairman Nigerian Governors’ Forum was the will of God… ” On the allegation that a faction of the NGF rigged the elections in his favor, Governor Jang gave a bang! “God is a democrat, does not support rigging but if you rig and succeed, that means God approves of it.” On 2015, Mr. Jang did not hang up, he said: “I believe that God has anointed who will be President of Nigeria in 2015 but only him knows who it is.” Jang hung onto all these in a church. With these three propositions- a factual claim, an interpretation and the last a projection, Governor Jang is hanging Nigerian democracy, and he is using God to hang it.
Given that election and voting are at the heart of a democracy, by inserting God as electoral “divine” active agent and subject, Mr. Jang introduced theocratic agents, practices, assumptions -no matter how incoherent, uncouth and mild-through the backdoor into governance. We know how Christian and Muslim politicians dubiously use God’s name for purely personal and cultural projects that have nothing to do with faith or spirituality. So if in Jang’s case God approved his rigging, is that God a Christian or a Muslim God in view of the fact that his rigging sponsors are both Christians and Muslims?
For the rationally inclined, this is the reason the use of religion in state and public matters is very problematic for our nation. If Mr. Jang is right, it means the Christian and Muslim God helped him rig. Now suppose I decide to resist him and the fraud he and his Christian and Muslim Governor colleagues have just committed-it would be said that I am resisting the act of God and Allah!
This type of irrationality is partly the conceptual linkage between the abuse of God and religion and terrorism. Why? Because my hypothetical resistance will be brought down by force, fury and fiat of a presumed living God and Allah who will not allow his “divine” “words” to go “unfulfilled”. This is because my resistance would be seen as a resistance against the “word” of God and Allah! In the twisted mind of the terrorist, the terrorist act is conceptually the “divine” “fulfillment” of the “word” of a “God”. This irrationality may partly contribute to why Governor Jang has been unable to resolve the feud among citizens of different faith and ethnicity in Plateau state.
The tragedy in Mr. Jang’s irrationality is compounded because Mr. Jang may already know who will win the 2015 elections when he openly said God had anointed Nigeria’s president in 2015 and beyond because “the current controversies being faced by government at the moment is a foreshadow of what is likely to happen at the 2015 general elections…” In other words, Governor Jonah Jang’s God (and perhaps assisted by earthly Christian and Muslim cleric citizens and politicians in society, in state houses and the presidency) already knows (two years before the election) the person who will win the election in 2015 because what happened at the NGF forum-where he and his supporters declared him the Chairman in an election he lost is a foreshadow of 2015.
Governor Jonah Jang expresses the absurd and irrational limit of a fledgling theocratic temperament among Nigerian cleric politicians and citizens, their abuse of God and use of religion for fraudulent reasons in state and public matters. His latest act symbolizes the regular practice by cleric politicians and citizens-both Christians and Muslims, to smuggle religion into state and public matters and use it to validate projects that have nothing to do with spirituality. Nigeria is replete with such abuse when our so-called Christian and Muslim rulers and citizens appeal to Allah and God after their abuse of our being. No amount of religious language and symbols deployed to capture our minds should be allowed to screen off this ethically questionable and irredentist agenda of cleric politicians and citizens.
Adeolu Ademoyo (firstname.lastname@example.org) is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.