That Nigeria may steer clear of religious crisis

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In today’s Nigeria, killings in the name of religion are no longer news. What appears to be news is that the Federal Government is still searching for a meaningful solution to the hydra-headed monster years after it reared its head in the polity.
To be sure, the Nigerian Constitution allows for secularism. In other words, the Constitution allows people to freely practice any religion in which they have absolute belief. The idea is to allow both the kite and the dove to perch together without one devouring the other.
Recent occurrences in the country, regrettably, indicate that this section of the Constitution has not only been rubbished, but as well bastardised by the modern day bigots. Nigerians shed innocent blood at the slightest provocation in the name of religion. People simply kill with impunity for ‘religion’s sake’ because nobody cares, as it appears, given that the laws of the land permit freedom of worship.
The recent killing of a woman preacher of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Eunice Olawale, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, calls to question the secularity of the Nigerian state and the capacity of the security agencies to defend the Constitution of the country. The country had also witnessed the killing of Gideon Akaluka in Kano by a band of criminals, who accused their victim of religion infractions. Another woman, Bridget Agbahime, was also recently killed by bigots at a market place in Kano over alleged blasphemy.
Going down memory lane, the brutal killing of a school teacher who had prevented a student from cheating in Zaria, Kaduna State, readily comes to mind. The offence of the teacher, according to reports, was that “she defiantly threw out of the classroom a bag containing the holy Quran”. The student that had been prevented from cheating during the examination, mobilised his other colleagues, who soon formed an assemblage round the hapless teacher with the shout of “Allah Akbar”. The teacher was incidentally rescued and taken to the nearby police station. But the students, according the report, would not allow frayed nerves to calm; they stormed the police station in droves only to fatally deal with their victim.
The Zango Kataf religious war in Benue State joins the almost intractable list of wanton destruction of lives and property the country had witnessed in the name of religion.
Though the Federal Government has spent billions of naira in combating Boko Haram insurgents in the north eastern part of the country, since the bigots stamped their feet on the soil of the affected states over four years ago, more than 4,000 persons have also been killed while over 20,000 persons were internally displaced.
Expectedly, in all these cases, Nigeria and Nigerians were the losers. The ruins, both in human and material terms, were enormous and unwarranted for a country seeking to leapfrog into the league of the developed countries of the world.
The country has, no doubt, lost some of its finest brains to these crises, even as investors have become weary of investing in the country. At a time the country is battling to diversify the economy following the drastic drop in crude oil price, is it not unthinkable that many farmers across the country cannot go to their farms as a result of crises related to religious bigotry?
It is our opinion that Nigeria cannot afford to experience any form of religious crisis now. The recent incidents in Kano and Abuja and the reactions of the leaders of the two major religions in the country to the incidents should, therefore, give the authorities a serious cause to worry.
The Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, set up a high-powered fact-finding committee to look into the immediate and remote causes of these recent killings with the view to preventing a future occurrence. The committee should comprise representatives from the two recognised religions in the country and other stakeholders the government deems fit to be part of it.
While that is ongoing, the security agencies should also go beyond rhetoric and fish out those responsible for these dastardly acts and bring them to justice as a deterrent to others. Needless to say that until our security agencies begin to live up to their duties, evil would continue to thrive in our country.
Meanwhile, leaders of all religious groups need to device a means of ensuring that the creed of their religion is preached unpolluted across the country. Frequent doctrinal training for teachers/preachers of the holy books from the top to the bottom is hereby advocated. Again, we warn that Nigeria cannot afford to experience a religious crisis at this time. A stitch in time saves nine.