by David Dimas,
Like most Nigerians, I read the Ese Oruru “Kidnap or “Elope” (whichever you choose to describe it) saga with nauseating disenchantment when it began trending. Like most politicized events concerning the Nigerian child, it made me dismal. I began to rethink the future of the Nigerian child in a society where respect for the rule of law and adequate law enforcement is determined by individuals instead of constituted authorities and the constitution.
More disturbing to me, and I dare say, other Nigerians, is how a media house responded with a purported audio clip of Ese Oruru declaring she was never abducted but left her parents willingly. Whether she left willingly or not is irrelevant. The fact is she is still a minor and by all values should be in her parents’ custody until she turns the legal age of eighteen, or proven by law that her parents no longer cater for her. Even then, by culture, her extended family will be first in line for custody. Such act of sentimental journalism can only threaten the new struggle for reformation to rebuild and rebrand Nigeria.
The current fight against corruption in the country has, doubtlessly, sparked off some flame in the hearts of naysayers about the future of a new Nigeria where corrupt officials never go unpunished. However, the current reform the executive arm of government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has initiated seems to be leaving out plans to address the malicious problem of religious intolerance and tribalism which has clearly set an undertone for the barrage of beastly crimes of horrific proportion in the country today.
Truly, many citizens are divided along religion, hence find it hard to rightly connect to their “fellow Nigerians”. The biggest concern is the fact that we as a nation have, lived in denial of this and we have even gone to every length lying about it or convincing ourselves that it does not exist. Or that it seems like political spokesmen have learnt to excuse it so often that they have started living in the illusion that there is no problem at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Religion poses many tests of conscience. Of course there are extremes of opinion about how acceptable it is to disagree with religious leaders. My view that religion must teach people how to, at all times and in all places, conduct themselves with utmost decorum, exude humility, patience and compassion, fight for justice, speak honorably and truthfully, might be seen as extreme — or even heretical by another. Nevertheless, battles of conscience should always come to the surface, irrespective of faith.
We must admit that the undue emphasis on religion in national affairs has created mistaken impression about governance in our citizens. In fact, there is enormous variation in what democratic leadership is. Recently, the Governor of Adamawa State, Senator Muhammadu Bindow Jirilla, attended a church convention in Demsa Local Government Area of the state. He humbly stood when clergymen prayed for him. The comments that followed on social media after this affair left me wondering what he actually did wrong. Most of the commentators felt Senator Bindow, a Muslim and democratically elected governor by citizens from all faith in the state, should not visit events of other creed.
Religious intolerance, no doubt, has proved to be an extreme national challenge in governing a multi-ethnic and religious country such as Nigeria. Nonetheless, our political as well as religious leaders and institutions can help create specific measures to diminish its impact on our society.
Although not every battle leads to progress, but in our case it does. Progress requires a fight when it comes to the quest for national reconstruction in a country bedeviled by corruption, insecurity and hypocrisy in handling religious issues.
We may deny the existence of religious intolerance, but the people who are living with it or those closest to it, will waste no time in telling you how petrifying it is. The dividing line between hypocrisy and reform is drawn by silence. If you silently go along with what is wrong — however you define wrong — then you are verging on hypocrisy. If you speak out, you are inciting reform. The enormous variations in sensitive national issues should be handled by constituted authorities devoid of vested interests from “powerful” figures in the society.
It is, therefore, important to invest in a pattern of reformation that will create an example or benchmark anchored within a legalistic framework.
Indeed, our leaders alone are incapable of righting the societal wrongs of many years. We must take responsibility ourselves and help build an initial framework of patriotism that cuts across religion. We must bridge the traditional gap, created by the desire to establish religious supremacy between religion and nationalism.
Pastor, Author, Inspirational Speaker, Blogger, IT Consultant.
Laurel, Maryland, U.S.A
Twitter handle: @dimas4real