The Christian Association of Nigeria and the Jama’atu Nasril Islam as well as individuals and groups have faulted a statement by the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, that religion will kill Nigeria if it is not tamed.
CAN’s National Director, Legal and Public Affairs, Kwamkur Samuel, and the Secretary-General of the JNI, Dr. Abdulkadir Khalid-Aliyu, stated this in separate interviews with The PUNCH.
Soyinka had, at a book presentation in Abuja, on Thursday, warned that religion would kill the country if it was not tamed.
Condemning killings in the name of religion, the Nobel laureate stated, “I would like to transfer that cry (by President Muhammadu Buhari on corruption) from the moral zone to the terrain of religion. If we do not tame religion in this nation, religion will kill us.”
The Nobel laureate also said the President and the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, were wrong in their approach to the Southern Kaduna killings.
Reacting to Soyinka’s statement on religion, Samuel, in an interview with The PUNCH, said religion was not the problem of Nigeria.
The CAN leader stated, “With due respect to Prof. Soyinka, it is not true that religion is the bane of Nigeria’s stability. No genuine religion promotes killings and destruction of lives and property. It is unfair for the Nobel laureate to project religion as a problem when it is the faithful believers that are praying and sacrificing to keep the nation moving.
“Christianity preaches peace in all its ramifications. I challenge the professor to identify one attack on any community in Nigeria that was reported to have been carried out by Christians. Let him show any terrorist group by whatever name that shouts the name of Jesus before attacks or claim they are fighting for Jesus.
“We are sad that the so-called religious killing is persisting because our prominent leaders are not ready to call a spade by its real name.”
Samuel lamented that Nigeria’s security agencies appeared to use a different template in performing their functions at home from the one they adopted when on international mission.
He stated, “I wonder how Nigeria would have been without the coming of the Christian missionaries. This nation has the security agencies that present heavy budgets, undergo serious training both nationally and internationally, perform very highly on foreign assignments. Yet, when they are dealing with Nigeria, they seem to be very lost as to knowing what is happening in Nigeria, let alone finding any lasting solution.”
He urged respected Nigerians like Soyinka to ask relevant authorities some questions as to why for years, killings had continued with no single prosecution of perpetrators.
“Why a woman will be murdered in cold blood by known neighbours, yet they will be set free without prosecution like it happened in Kano? Nigeria will be far from getting to any solution,” he said.
The Secretary-General of the JNI, Dr. Abdulkadir Khalid-Aliyu, said depending on the context from which Soyinka made the statement, the retired don’s position was most uncharitable.
He called on Nigerian leaders to guard their utterances, especially on religion because of its sensitive nature.
Khalid-Aliyu stated, “Is Prof. Soyinka saying religion is bad? It is important that we really have to be decorous and be respectful of the sensibility of the people.
“Even in advanced countries, people respect religion and adhere to religion.
“Until we are able to separate the chaff from the grain; there is a difference between religion and people of religion. Such assertion coming from somebody who doesn’t believe in religion is uncharitable.
“If he is talking about moderation and the need to really purge ourselves of extremism in the practice of religion or of being used to advance considerations that are inimical to peace and development, then, that could be understandable.”
The former Secretary-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, said religion was positive, admitting that positive things could be abused.
In an interview with The PUNCH, he said, “It depends on the perspective from which he was speaking. Anything, no matter how positive, if negatively good, will be negative and it is the other way.
“Religion, as far as I am concerned is positive. But that does not mean that anything positive cannot be negatively good. So, it depends on the context from which Soyinka spoke.”
Also, the Vice-Chancellor, Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, Prof. Taofeek Ibrahim,
disagreed with the Nobel laureate that religion should be tamed.
In an interview with journalists in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, Ibrahim said religion had been pivotal to the development and peace of many countries.
He stated that people, who were using religion to cause mayhem rather than religion should be held responsible for the killings and wanton destruction of properties.
He warned that going against the dictates of religion could be counter-productive and even destructive, adding that it was important to ensure peaceful co-existence of different religious faithful.
Ibrahim said, “I strongly disagree that we have to tame religion. For most of the developed world and everywhere, where there is sanity today, religion has been the basis of development and peace over the centuries.
“It is those that show themselves as religious but are actually not religious and for selfish reasons, which they impose in the name of religion, are the ones that cause the troubles we have been witnessing in this country.
“When you look at the history of America and Europe, you will appreciate the role of the church in the building of such nations. Similarly, where you still have relative peace in the Muslim world, you will see the contribution of Islamic religion in these areas.
“As a matter of fact, it is when we go away from the dictates of religion that we get into further problem. Whether Muslim or Christian, the problem is for people taking advantage of religion; it is for minimal personal issue that they destroy the picture of the role religion should be playing.”
The Al-Hikmah VC urged religious leaders to place greater priority on spirituality, morality and ethics rather than on materialism.
Ibrahim said, “Our religious leaders, the heads of the church and the mosque have a lot of roles to play. As we preach and eulogise the issue of mundane things, then there will be problems. We need to go back to preach moral and ethics.
“It is amazing that people in government, who claim to be Muslims and Christians will take all the funds they steal from the public or government to the churches and mosques. It makes nonsense of the whole claim of our being religious.”
The VC agreed with the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who, at the book presentation, lamented the non-prosecution of perpetrators of religious violence and other high-profile murder cases in the country.