Religion and Development in Nigeria

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Zainab Al-Amin

– Zainab Al-Amin

Nigeria is a very religious country. It is so religious that Nigeria always comes top on religious countries index and for any problem you hear things like ‘prayer solves every problem’. As a result, even our leaders use that against us by either telling us to pray or blame us for any calamity. For example, in the case of Zamfara during the outbreak of meningitis, the then Governor Abdulaziz Yari was given early warning to prepare for it but he didn’t and then blamed Zamfarians for fornicating which made God punish the people with the outbreak of meningitis.

The same Zamfara is currently under siege as no day passes that someone is not killed or kidnapped and we have learnt that Zamfarians were told it is because they sinned against God that his wrath has befallen them through massive killings, kidnappings and cattle rustling with PRAYER and REPENTANCE as the only way out.

The entire northwest is under siege because even President Buhari’s village is not safe as recently as 1st May 2019, his district head was kidnapped. However, most religious leaders and elders keep telling whoever cares to listen that the only solution is ‘PRAYER’. Some even say it is God’s doing that gives or takes security so the President should not be blamed as security belongs to God alone and I was thinking maybe the army, police and other security agencies should be dissolved so we leave God in charge of our security. After all, what is the essence of having such faith and still pay heavily for security if our faith is not weak?

Away from governance, we are also guilty of the same attitude in our personal lives. On university campuses you will find students who attend religious activities during lecture hours,knowing fully well the lecturer does not entertain late comers,then start cursing the lecturer, saying “God will punish him! I went to serve God but because he does not have the fear of God,he locked me out. My God will fight him back!” Same students hardly study since they invest so much time on religious activities neglecting what brought them to school, but in the end,they hope their ‘PRAYERS’ will confuse the lecturer to award free marks or God will install knowledge of everything fromtheir syllables in their brain as a reward for their devotion of their time to religious activities!

In some cases, a mere religious outfit or title get us carried away. We become too comfortable because the person looks or acts religious, then we start hyping the person, seeing the person as a messiah.The world has moved on but we are still caged, dragging religion into everything, forgetting that God will not come down from heaven and make Nigeria a technologically advanced country nor a peaceful and prosperous nation. Also, no amount of prayers can change our fortunes if we do not work round the clock to make it happen.

Today, the world is a global village so you can track whatever progress is made around the globe from the comfort of your room, and so far no nation has developed because the followers are ‘religious’. In fact, the top 20 countries in the world are not in the top 40 most religious countries in the world; rather, they are among the least religious and it is not because they are pagans that they are not at the top, but because they set their priorities right; when it is time to pray, they pray and when it is time to study, update themselves or work, they do that without dragging religion into it as no religion supports irresponsibility.

When they want to vote for leaders, they do not just listen and study the manifesto of every political party but they look at the track record of the candidate and see if it falls in line with what they want and in the event the person does not get it right, they vote out the person without any sentiment or wishful thinking that giving the person another chance will make the person deliver anything better. This is why these countries have developed.

In Nigeria, we believe it is our responsibility to pray for failed leaders; people with no leadership skills or are out of touch with reality. We drag religion into it and assume after we pray, an incompetent person can become competent. The truth remains that this attitude is the reason why Nigerians are getting poorer by the day, there is massive insecurity all over the country with the northwest, Mr President’s home, being the worst hit.

There is no prayer or religious activity that can make a vulture metamorphose into an eagle. It is either an eagle or a vulture and whichever one you want, you will get it and there is no changing it because you are a believer. If being a believer is all that is required for a nation to develop, Nigeria could have been competing with Canada but it’s not the case. As such, what we need in a leader is competence and until the day we see leadership in governance the same way we see our jobs where we either perform or get sacked, Nigeria will be underdeveloped. Our employer does not pray for us to deliver because we said we are competent, we pray in our homes, then ensure we perform. Leaders should be self-critical for fear of loosing their jobs but until we get to that point, we have a long way to go as a nation.

– Zainab Al-Amin is a Human rights activist, a Political Scientist with special interest in conflict prevention and de-escalation in Africa.