Thursday, 24 October 2013

Religious Charades and Ethnic Jingoism in Nigeria

Nigerian Muslims, especially Northerners, how do you feel when you read news about President Jonathan's intention to travel to Israel with an entourage of Governors and Lawmakers? How do you feel seeing pictures of the President kneeling before and praying with Christian leaders? Does the Aso Villa chapel pictures, showing the President in his snow white agbada flanked by family, friends and staff, praying, worshiping God together arouse suspicion that the President and his "pillars" are trying to Christianize Nigeria?.

Do we all remember the 90s, when watching the 9:00 pm NTA network news on Fridays. I remember seeing the likes of General Ibrahim Babangida, General Abdulsalam Abubakar and General Sani Abacha performing the juma prayers, wearing either a sky blue or white Babariga and surrounded by friends and regime officials. I remember General Abacha in his purple or brown Kaftan and later, images of frail looking Yar Adua performing juma prayers and also performing the lesser and greater hajj in Saudi Arabia.

I was not old enough or reached the realm of political conciousness that would have allowed or enable me attach religious or political sentiments to those images. I and most of my peers (WAZOBIA) had the feeling of admiration, the feeling of awe and thinking to ourselves, these are the guys running Nigeria (Our parents and other adults would beg to defer though). Even as criticism was unthinkable and unimaginable, those that had the opportunity and courage to criticise these regimes, did it based on the need to allow the rule of law reign supreme, they demanded accountability and pushed for fairness. These criticism never had any religious or ethnic ramifications whatsoever.

I attended a military run High school where we had Nigerians of all creed and ethnicity, we all respected and admired the military men and women who ran our school no matter their tribe or religion but interacted with them based on their personality and character. This I believe must have shaped my thoughts for years until I changed environment and found my self in Malaysia. As I remember, I did not hold any resentment or suspicion towards these leaders based on Ethnic, political or religious affiliation.

I'm now politically and religiously concious, the type of understanding and enthusiasm an average northerner whom most southerners will dismiss as ordinary Aboki or useless Mallam had towards his religion and politics back when people like me only cared about my what to eat, Super Mario, Mortal Kombat and football. You have to be, giving the political, religious and racial bigotry going on unabated in Malaysia.

In hindsight, I realise how those images in places of worship were used to mobilise and maintain sectarian support like we are witnessing in the current administration of President Jonathan. Though Mosques and other religious gatherings were not used to spread hate, fear and resentment back then like they do here, every Friday in Malaysia.

So, how does it feel to be on the receiving end of using religious and ethnic affiliation to mobilize political support and sympathy? Sucks right?

Southerners (Christians) have forgotten that power rotates, The North will come back to power someday as long as Nigeria remains a nation and the circle of waste will continue if the northerners decide to manage the country like we are currently witnessing. They will also say its our turn, so we will please ourselves, not do the right things. 2015/2019 is just by the corner, so let's be wise and create a country where citizens no matter their tribe or religion do not have to aspire for political office in order to escape poverty or acquire wealth.

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