A few months ago, a bunch of Muslim youths lynched an Igbo woman to death in Kano State; many of our citizens who chose not to fast were harassed by the shariah police in Kano for eating in public during Ramadan; the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), a self-serving organisation, demanded the cancellation of NYSC orientation camp during Ramadan; Christian and Muslim parents are fighting a proxy religious war in Osun state over the type of religious clothes their kids might wear to school. Before all these, there was the case of the Christian school teacher who was murdered in Bauchi State by her Muslim pupils for allegedly throwing the Koran to the floor. And before that, there were the religious violence associated with the hosting of the Miss World beauty contest in Kaduna, the satirisation of prophet Muhammad by cartoonists in Denmark, the maitatsine riots, violent riots sparked by the government's decision to allow Rev. Rheinhard Bonnke to hold crusade in Kano etc. We have not even mentioned the horrific destruction of life and property by Boko Haram jihadists. The list is endless.
It's difficult to see how Christianity and Islam with their supremacist ideologies have benefitted the African society. By declaring there's only one God and only one true religion, monotheism is an automatic invitation to strife. A few days ago, religion claimed another victim - Mrs. Eunice Elisha. There are varying accounts of what happened to her - some claim she was beheaded, others say she wasn't - but the consistent story is that the victim had a habit of preaching with a megaphone between 5am and 6am. Apparently, she had received threats from some Muslims and her husband had advised her to stop but she intensified her efforts to win lost souls for Christ.
I am concerned about the direction that religion is taking us in this country and I feel compelled to use this occasion to draw our attention to the following:
1). Christianity and Islam have caused more harm than good to African societies - look around the continent and consider how Africans are killing fellow Africans in the name of YHWH and Allah. Our lawmakers quote the Bible and the Koran to make laws that criminalise gay people. They quote verses from these books to justify the continuing subjugation of women. We cannot end marriage to child brides because Muslims want to emulate their prophet who married a prepubescent girl.
2). It appears that fundamentalist Muslims in (northern) Nigeria feel emboldened by the presidency of General Buhari who they perceive to be sympathetic to their cause to spread sharia across the country. I urge the president to dissociate himself from these people by ensuring that the victims of their violence get justice and the excesses of shariah police are curtailed.
3). There is need to regulate religious activities in Nigeria. Nigerian Christians are in the habit of using loud megaphones in residential areas to preach to their neighbours all night. And as the night vigils come to an end (usually in the early hours of the morning), a different batch of Christians arrive with megaphones between 5am and 6am to round off the all-night assault. But the assault does not end here - it continues on buses, in taxis, in the market, motor parks, and everywhere. It is doubtful anyone is actually paying attention to these sermons - I mean look at the amount of corruption in the land.
Sleep deprivation has a serious impact on our productivity, concentration, health and safety (e.g. driving and operating machinery). If we wish to bring down the number of road traffic accidents caused by sleep deprivation then we will be wise to do something about the noise pollution our drivers are subjected to every night.
4). This may sound insensitive but it's a mistake to insist that only good things must be said of dead people. Some dead people have done awful things in their lifetime and the living must draw lessons from them. The deceased was inconsiderate in her behaviour for the reasons stated above. But this does not justify the violence done to her.
5). She did not take due diligence for her safety. She ignored her husband's sensible advice and the threats from her would-be killers. It's not clear if she even informed the police about the threats. She gave no consideration to what would happen to her 7 children if she got murdered. There's a reason people like Pastors Adeboye, Oyedepo, TB Joshua, Kumuyi and the rest don't travel to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen or Bangladesh to evangelise even though these places need the gospel of Jesus more than the U.S. and the U.K. where these pators continue to assiduously plant church branches (£, € and $ are sweet).
6). Many Christians see her as a martyr. But from my viewpoint, she was a victim of indoctrination and false assurance. There are no angels on guard, no miracles, no gods and no spirits. Humans must take personal responsibility for their welfare. The idea that an omnipotent God who has the power to stop diseases from killing children but does nothing about it will save a preacher with a megaphone from mob violence is pure fantasy.
God never grows the limbs of amputees. It's fair to say that God never does anything for humans. All the progress that humanity has made in the last few centuries is wholly attributable to the industry of man, and his desire to better his world. God created mosquitoes knowing fully well they can kill millions of children every year. God could end this scourge but he is more interested in who is having sex with whom, and what gay couples get up to in the privacy of their homes. He is a peeping Tom. He would rather bless believers with houses, cars, and even help them find their lost keys than cure babies dying from cancer.
It is very obvious that an omni-benevolent God who is interested in the welfare of humanity does not exist!
7). There is no law against preaching in public places in Nigeria - therefore, this pastor has not broken any law. Her death speaks to the broader issue of mob justice in Nigeria. The rate at which videos of mobs lynching petty thieves, gay people and suspected witches appear on Nigerian social media is alarming. It is worrying this can happen in broad daylight in our capital city, which is supposed to be well patrolled by the police.
8). Religion is a personal matter and must be kept private - the sooner we realise this the better for everyone. The sharia police have no right to harass citizens, whether they be Muslims or not, who eat in public during Ramadan. Indeed, there are many Muslims who choose not to fast during Ramadan - their decisions must be respected. We need a true separation of religion from the state. Only laws made on humanist principles can guarantee the rights of all people. I am absolutely convinced that religion is the bane of development in Africa.
On a final note, this government needs to send a strong message to fundamentalist Muslims and mobsters to stop taking the law into their hands. Find Mrs. Eunice Elisha's killers and bring them to justice! Make an example of them.
And perhaps, the time has come for us as a society to have a grown up debate about how best to regulate religious activities. We cannot continue like this.
I hope that the family of the deceased find the strength to bear this irreparable loss.
Dr. Ijabla Raymond writes from the U.K. and can be contacted at [email protected].