In 2010 I had a discussion with a girl I knew back when we were still in the university and somehow we drifted into religion, the idea of heaven and people who would get in. I was shocked when she made a statement stating that “all non Christians will not enter heaven”. She had already passed judgment on people who were not Christians, she had decided that her religion was superior to that of others and she had blatantly refused to accept people from other religions who were even better than her in terms of morality and worship. The interesting fact is that she had no moral scruples; she slept with men for money, rarely went to church while in school, smoked like a Jamaican and drank like a fish yet she was feeling superior to people who knew the meaning of true worship. I was opportune to have met a high ranking police officer during a recent election. While we were having lunch a report came on the T.V about the Boko Haram menace and the effect it was having on Nigeria. He sighed and started portioning blame first on the government for letting the problem fester, on the Joint Task Force for their inability to deal with the security situation and finally on the corrupt political system that helped Boko Haram to enjoy success in their activities. I looked at him in shock as he mistook my shock for interest and went on listing all the problems facing Nigeria.
Here was a man who had received bribe from three different political parties to help turn the electoral tides in their favour. What was his contribution to nation building, how was he helping in his own small measure to ensure that independent, democratic leaders were elected into power; by collecting bribes to safe guard his interest on one hand and pointing fingers at the government with the other.
Wikipedia.org describes hypocrisy as the state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs that one does not actually have. It involves deception of others and is kind of a lie. In other words a hypocrite is a liar, a pretender, a cheat and a two faced being who says one thing and practices another. All Nigerians are hypocrites. Most of us live a lie; we are quick to pass judgment, criticize, offer high ended moral advice that we never adhere to and we hide under the umbrella of religion, tradition and archaic social values. I have the greatest respect for religion, traditional practices and institutions attached to it. I also realize that this write up will not be concise without discussing about Nigerian religious system which entails two key players; the leaders and the followers. Nigerians have claimed to be among the most religious people in the world. A recent survey by the BBC showed that Nigeria topped the list if ten countries by having the highest percentage of people who believe in God. Yet the fact remains that Nigeria is a very corrupt nation. Religion is the basis of hypocrisy in Nigeria. It is the moral high ground on which some people believe they are better than others. It is the common excuse for the judgment we pass on others. It is the opium of a poverty stricken mass and the source of wealth of a select few religious leaders. It is most recently the shade of disguise that atrocities such as kidnap, death, destruction and mayhem are being committed.
The first lessons that any religions are supposed to preach are peace and love. Religion is expected to teach to us to accept others without condition, to be generous without favouritism, to be selfless without question and to love without barriers. Currently this is not what is being preached by Christian leaders who are supposed to spread the message of moral up rightness to their members.
Most new generation successful churches today are built on the foundation of two messages; materialism and prosperity. Forbes released an article on Nigeria’s richest pastors and started the story with the apt lines of “God is good, especially if you’re a Nigerian pastor with some business savvy. These days millions of souls desperate for financial breakthroughs, miracles and healing all rush to the church for redemption. While the bible expressly states that salvation is free, at times it comes with a cost; Offerings, tithes, gifts to spiritual leaders and a directive to buy literature and other products created by men of God”.
The church has become more than just a safe haven of spirituality and salvation but has turned into a bank where ‘customers’ are swayed with the most impressive cut throat and aggressive methods you simply have to admire. Some of these pastors fail to tell their members the truth. They conveniently forget that their post is a sensitive one and as such they have the largest part to play in nation building. Politicians building churches and donating millions of Naira gotten from the sweat of ordinary people who have no say on how the tax money they pay is spent. Young men involved in a life of crime give luxurious cars, houses and other extravagant gifts to church leaders in the hope that a gift to the servants of God will ensure that God turns a blind eye to their evil activities. The pastors ask no questions and receive these gifts as part of the perks of working in the house of God. They fail to educate their followers on the need to vote wisely during elections, condemn corrupt aristocrats who occupy the front rows and preach the message of the life of a true Christian instead of making their sermons on the bible’s promises of wealth and salvation.
The richest pastor in Nigeria at a time had four private jets one of which cost more than $30million. I understand the need for one or two but four is a complete extravagance that sends the wrong messages on the sort of life religious leaders are supposed to exude. These pastors quarrel openly with each other in a show of power, who is greater than the other, whose message is going out of point, battle for land, etc. What type of message do they send to the people when they engage in such public conflicts with each other? One of these pastors left the pulpit to contest elections in 2011 in a bid to ‘right the wrongs’. It begs the question of who is deceiving who, what business does a pastor have in politics, how can you claim to know it all and on what fallacious basis did he convince himself that contesting elections beside an ex military head of state was the right thing to do. I realize now that the fault doesn’t entirely lie with these pastors. We give them the power, because we are controlled by a need to ‘purchase’ salvation, be on the top lists of ‘pastor’s friends’, believe the message of prosperity and ignore the lie that is the life we live when we leave the church. We make no effort to change our lives and we only practice the aspects of religion that suit our lifestyles. 95% of people who throng the churches on Sunday are corrupt, accept bribes, deceive the public, fornicate and only favour those who help them. Where is the act of Christianity in all of that? How can there be so much corruption and systemic rot in a country that claims to love God and follow the edicts of the bible. A lot of the crises that has taken place in Nigeria have its foundation rooted in religion; from the riots and crises in Kaduna, Kano, Jos, Borno, Bauchi, etc. Religion is the fundamental basis for ethnic cleansing and anarchy in Nigeria. Islam is a religion of peace but the Boko Haram extreme fundamentalist group have vaguely given reasons for their war as the need to turn Nigeria into an Islamist nation, eradicate western culture and institute Sharia nationwide while making the country ungovernable in the process of achieving this psychotic dream. In one of my recent articles we don't know how to weep anymore. I listed the occurrences of bomb blast and people who had died as a result of being victims of such mayhem. The hypocritical leaders of these extremist militia have been successful in re-translating the edicts of the Qur'an into teachings that suit their heinous purpose, they have brainwashed their followers into believing that they are fighting for a just cause and that human lives are just a part of the sacrifice that must be given for the greater good of the cause of these mad men. No religion that preaches peace, forgiveness and love encourages bloodshed, anarchy and chaos. We fight each other in the name of religion yet we claim to be holy. We are beasts of the environment, ignorant creatures shaped by an umbrella of deceptive religious mentors who use ordinary people to fight their own wars.
What about our leaders, the people we entrust with our vote to protect our interest, provide us with basic amenities, secure our lives and ensure we have the desired standard of living. The people who lie to us with every single word they utter during their political campaign with a manifesto reeking of deceit. The only things they do are judge us and spend public allocation to live a life of affluence while saving up for rainy days. Recently the lawmakers showed their height of ineptitude, lack of priorities on key issues and hypocrisy stemming from a wrong judgement of what is right or wrong.
They passed a bill outlawing homosexuality in Nigeria while installing a prison sentence of 14 year for offenders caught and found guilty in the act. Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka had this to say “The problem with the legislators is that they fail to distinguish between personal bills and interventions in private lives. I see no reason why they should intervene in the private lives of adults but at the same time, I think other countries who are pointing fingers should look inwards and see whether they also do not practice the same kind of discrimination.”
Simply put Prof Soyinka is implying that both the national assembly passing the law and the foreign countries criticizing Nigeria for passing the law are both hypocrites. We have more serious problems pending that need to be fixed; accountability of government officials, corruption in high places, maladministration of public revenue, breakdown of public infrastructure due to negligence, hunger, poverty, etc. the list is simply endless and we do not have the luxury of moral judgement. Who places a punishment on those of them who fornicate, who steal pension funds, who divert hundreds of billions of Naira meant for public welfare, those of them who have reneged on promises they made to teeming masses of Nigerians who have placed hope on them. They are indirectly responsible for the death of kids in the north who die from polio, young people who take to a life of crime because of the over whelming hardships in their lives, the old people who are unable to enjoy a financially comfortable retirement but die at corridors of pension buildings across the nation while waiting for money that is hiding under a big bed. No one thinks these laws that protect such inhuman actions should be remodeled and tightened to put an end to such actions. Who made them judge over how other people should live their lives; who gave them the right to decide what is morally acceptable or unacceptable; we do not know the secrets they hide beneath their heavy garments or the blood they have shed to get to where they are. Hypocrites, they are pretenders of the highest order. Ignorant of the truth and desperate to place in a box people and situations they do not wish to understand.
What about our daily lives? We start the week by going to church to listen to God’s word and commit all that we do to him. We confess our sins knowing well enough that we will most likely go back to them once we leave the church. We take a vow to be faithful to one person at marriage yet we fornicate worse than prostitutes. Every word that comes from our mouth is venom and the thoughts in our heart are deceit because we only want to get ahead by all means possible. We sit at home and criticize the government for every wrong step they have taken, every promise failed but we voted them into power. In the recess of our hearts we envy their ability to steal in billions and take holidays in the best cities in the world.
The people who threw sticks and beat up the aluu 4, where did the morality of taking another person’s life for an offense come from? They are just as guilty, they have been deceitful, they have stolen and they are definitely not saints. Yet they condemned and took the lives of others for a crime they were not even convicted of. Who made them judge over what is right, who gave them power over lives; No one. Hypocrites that is who they are. I once saw a thief burned to death for stealing petty items worth N100 from a woman. He was burned to death by touts who were thieves, pick pockets and robbers at nights.
I am a hypocrite; who am I to judge the lives of others while I have so many imperfections, who am I to think that I better than others, I write but I rarely take actions, I lie to suit myself and I accept money given freely to me by those who have stolen from others. Hypocrites that is who we are. The Boko Haram crises and all of the problems of sectoral violence in Nigeria are grounded on our inability to accept others and the need to enforce our ways on people for supremacy reasons. That is why this country will never move forward because religion is only in our skins not our heart. We are selfish, wicked, envious and unwilling to contribute to nation building. We have to look inward and realize that Nigeria is heading to an ungovernable state of anarchy if we cannot find solutions to the problems that haunt us. The difference between developed countries and the under developed countries is that we lack acceptance of the people around us, we give credence to unimportant things and we always wait for others to take the first step while we follow.
Michael Jackson said if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make the change. Eviscerate the hypocrite and the problems that seemed magnanimous in size will become unimportant.