What is love without a heart?
What is God without faith?
I’m unsure as to whether it is on love or on God I wish to speak. No matter, I beg your attentiveness, oh listener, as I proceed in rendering my thoughts to your untiring intelligence.
I shall begin with music – more particularly, Nigerian music. Nigerians love music, and not just any music – in my own opinion, R ‘n’ B has no place in the hearts of many Nigerians. Neither does soul music or rock and roll. Only two genres fulfill the task of whetting Nigerians’ musical interest. The first is hip hop. Yes, that genre has a special space in the hearts of many Nigerians; it is the sort of music that we can shake our caboose to and feel alright. And if my observations are any correct, a considerable number of songs of this genre – at least the ones sung in Nigeria – are themed around love. Well, it’s not so much love as a desperate need to impress the opposite sex, which is a means to an end.
The second is the gospel music, which is not surprising at all, as Nigerians have been rated the most religious people on earth. Nigerians love God and everything that is Godly. This love is not new – it perhaps dates back to the regime of Abacha -, neither is it ordinary. It is, in borrowed words, ‘fanatic, passionate, with a furious desire to track down, denounce and vapourize’ anyone who doesn’t share it.
Now, it isn’t this love that bothers me. No, it is the manner and attitude it has taken. Wole Soyinka once wrote ‘The Nigerian variation on any universal practice is guaranteed to develop a character of its own, quite unique, but of course uniqueness is not always a virtue, and some forms of originality actually set one’s teeth on edge.’ There is, in an average Nigerian, a passionate desire to impress; a tendency to want to be not just better, but recognizeably better; a need to outdo his partner on God-issues. Now, this would be impressive if his driving force were to please his God. No, the average Nigerian sees his partner, or any stranger, as a potential competitor for the love and favour of God, and he makes outwitting him his drive. Ipso facto, in reality he no longer worships God. What he now does is something very much similar to God but much less superior: his fellow man.
It only follows then that there should be an outrageous level of religiousity in Nigeria today, as already suspected by the avant-garde, which inadvertently is to diminish worship in profundity. For the sake of clarity, why, if Nigerians are so religious, is there still a myriad of problems in the country? There are two answers to this. The first is that God does not love Nigerians and thus pays no listen to our prayers. The second, and more likely, is that worship in Nigeria has become hackneyed such that it no longer holds water. I hold with the latter, for it is my belief that a greeting made every now and then soon diminishes in regard, until it steadily becomes an insult.
To compound the already stated waning of spirituality is the belief- faith, you may call it – that a simple instant miracle is all it’ll take to better one’s existence. If God ever felt displeased, he now feels insulted, I’m sure, by this staggering lack of foresight. How, I wonder, did it ever occur to Nigerians to imagine that attempting to extort this Majestic Entity is the sure way to everlasting utopia? How? (But then I suppose next to nothing is impossible for the Nigerian mind. You see, Nigerians are gifted with many things, including the ability to render our gifts a truckload of bollocks. If you’ve chanced upon an average Nigerian, I mean as an outsider, you’d be struck at how alarming it is, and how blind we all are to it.)
Now, with the belief that an instant miracle is the one prerequisite to good living comes the inclusion of something dangerously profane to religion: humanism – simply, the believe that man is just as powerful as God, which, in my own view, is only a progeny of atheism. How? An average Nigerian has a religious authority up to which he looks and judges his actions; a sort of reference body, and when it’s time for these deliverance miracles, it is to this authority that he turns all his hopes and faith, forgetting, it seems, the majesty of God. For whomever is still confused, allow me to paint two incriminating scenarios.
I am a student of Yaba College of Technology and last weekend, the venerable Deeper Christian Life Pastor Kumuyi graced the school with his presence. The news, to me, came with a tacit expectation that the pastor’s audience should not exceed christians that belonged to his school of worship, for what does a catholic or a redeem fancy in the worship mode of a ‘deeper life’? But alas, I was to be shocked by the turn out of people. It was a jambalaya of Anglicans, redeems, christ apostles, catholics, e.t.c., without excepting even, the oddest of the lot: Muslims. Let me be quick to say that I have no desire to unpreach religious togetherhood. It just strikes me as wrong that a considerable percentage of the audience was there to witness and experience instant miracles (in their lives, in their GPs..whatever), and so doing have in a way deified the innocent pastor. But this practice does not limit itself to christians alone.
It will shock you to know that it is most common and dangerous amongst Muslims, because when they do it, it is usually to render young lives useless. I’ve heard of a young Nigerian boy, quite blessed with the gift of retention of Koranic verses and teachings. What then were his ‘lucky’ mullahs to do than put him up to the world as a sort of deity, whose every word was to reach into the hidden recesses of the hearts and perform wonders. To look upon the boy was to behold a facsimile of God, and to please him was the beginning of spiritual bliss.
Indeed, it is striking how, through an uncanny obsession with God, Nigerians have brought themselves to a much loathed practice, cluelessly. What then is the purpose of this paper than to outline and dare to correct these ills? I am not an atheist, but I believe in reason. I believe in man’s ability to reason, and if you must serve God, please do it with a palatable degree of reasoning because only then will come moderation, which is a vital element of religion. By moderation, I mean the absence of the desire to impress or outdo your partner; I mean the purity and persistence of worship, not its corrupt incessancy. It is my opinion that with a decent degree of moderation, everything, I mean everything falls into place.