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By Edo Ukpong
A few years ago, I was driving along the busy Gbagada express way in Lagos, and at some point there was a serious hold-up occasioned by a massive crowd. Naturally my curiosity was aroused and I inquired as to what was happening. I was told - 'eiye di eniyan!' This in Yoruba which I don’t speak means “a bird turned to human being!”
I never saw the human being or the bird but the story was all over town that a bird had been knocked down and it somehow magically transformed into a human being in female form, of course dead! I laughed it off but did not forget to mention it to one of my sisters in a later telephone conversation. To my astonishment, she believed the possibility of that occurrence and even regaled me with a similar fabulous magical occurrence in Port Harcourt where a cat turned into a woman! I chastised her that a lady with post graduate education should not be so silly. Although she admitted to not personally seeing the 'vision' herself, she was convinced of its reality and when she mentioned that the woman's name was Cecilia – I gave up. I have never met anyone who has personally seen any of these incredulous spectacles but they always know someone who saw 'with their two eyes!'
The foregoing is simply to illustrate how as a people we have become so gullible that any manner of nonsense will make sense to us. Unfortunately this affliction is not restricted to any class, tribe or religion; it is a widespread national malaise. It is however not a laughing matter and in the present delicate circumstances of our dear country, it is a very serious matter and potentially destructively so. Let me start with the Chibok girls. Is it conceivable that about three hundred girls would be coached and volunteered by their families in an alliance with Boko Haram just to embarrass the president and lessen his chances of re-election in 2015? If it is an anti-Christian agenda, is the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) lying when it claims the girls are mostly Christians or is it that their families were plotting with Boko Haram against a Christian president and his government?
Yet others would glibly pronounce Boko Haram's megalomaniac lunacy as the representation of Islam and proclaim that the religion preaches violence. And many, including supposedly educated people would swallow that nonsense without reason. My question will be, when Joseph Kony, a Catholic and leader of Uganda's Lords Resistance Army abducted 139 schoolgirls in 1996 and forced them into sex slavery, was he, as he actually claimed, indeed guided by biblical injunctions? Did anybody believe he was acting on the tenets of Christian faith? No! People saw the charlatan for what he was/is and accepted the fact that Christianity had nothing to do with his obscene stupidity.
In Akwa Ibom State, especially in or about 2008, hundreds of young children were being maimed and killed in churches on allegations of witchcraft! That anybody would believe in such mumbo jumbo is laughable; that the belief would be taken to the extent of killing or condoning the killing of another human being in violation of God's express injunction, is pitifully wicked. So my question is, if witches have all those powers and can fly and change form at will, why was it so easy to capture those innocent children? Why couldn’t they just put on their 'flying colours' and flee or perhaps turn to lions so that their pursuers would be the ones to flee?
As a Christian the Almighty has imbued me with the spirit of discernment to know that only a charlatan will call a place where children are tortured and killed, a church, not to talk of accepting the heinous practice as representing Christian doctrine. If I make this discernment for my religion, the Christian in me will not allow me to apply a different standard of discernment when it comes to other religions unless of course I am motivated by hate, a divisive spirit or mischief, all of which will diminish the essence of my humanity and Christian faith.
What that says in essence is that we should be wary of all these agent provocateurs who masquerade as religious leaders or leaders of one sectional interest contraption or the other. Let us not believe, let alone buy their outlandish postulations and posturing, because we only do so at our own collective peril. They are on a mission to divide us in the short sighted calculation that this represents a legitimate tactic to fuel their greed. They do not genuinely represent any identifiable interest group and are only out for their selfish interests.
Please do not believe it when you hear that Nigeria is roughly 50 percent Christian and 50 percent Muslim. In reality and in truth and without any fear of being labelled as judgmental, Nigeria is at most 1 percent Christian and 1 percent Muslim with 98 percent being Nigerians. True people of faith don’t wear their religion like a badge of honour, they live what they profess. Otherwise and for anybody with elementary understanding of either Christian or Muslim doctrine, it will be crystal clear that if we had such a huge percentage of Christians and Muslims, our national conversation will be wholly different. This country will definitely not be the way it is. If loving your neighbour as you love yourself is the prescribed human conduct in both religions and given that neighbour means fellow human being, without differentiation of religion, tribe colour or whatever, it is curious that we can hate, condemn or deride any other and fail to see the falsity in our humanity.
Please believe me when I say that Nigeria will continue to exist as one country. Do not believe those who glibly talk about Lugard's amalgamation and dividing Nigeria and such trash. It therefore behoves all of us collectively begin to tolerate and understand each other. That is what makes sense. I am a firm believer in Jawaharial Nehru's famous line – 'The only alternative to coexistence is co-destruction'.
As we agonise over our girls stolen from a school in Chibok and continue to pray for their return, the wicked amongst us are pushing us to the brink whilst making contingency plans for themselves and their families. There is too much ignorance which is making for easy manipulation and exploitation. When the Chibok girls were announced to be imprisoned in a forest, many wondered out of ignorance whether there can be a forest in the desert! Ironically the same 'wonderers' will not wonder why a human being will lead a gang with the insane objective of killing other human beings and be called any other thing but EVIL. Chibok is a watershed in the destiny of Nigeria. It will either further tear us apart or bring us together as a people. If God does not forbid and it tears us apart, this will be the triumph of evil. If it brings us together, as it should, then we will be on our way to asserting that our country is indeed populated by humanity and we all be better off for that! 100% of US!