By Francis Ulal Damina
Most often, I am surprised at how our world is replete with well-ordered contradictions. But are they really contradictions or God’s creative ways of making the world perfect? This really calls for humility on our part as puny creatures with limited wisdom tied to our nature. But all the same, one has to concur that God’s ways are not ours. How for instance does one fully comprehend the complicated perennial problem of evil versus the goodness of God? If He is alive and good, and looking at how religious we are that at times, we are even ready to fight His battles, why should He not be with us now that there is so much hunger, killings of innocent people and the lingering fuel scarcity just to mention a few out of a long queue of avoidable human predicaments we are now facing? Others may specifically want to ask where He was when over a thousand got killed in Southern Kaduna and the 73 recently sent to their early graves in Benue.
While I am not unaware of the attempts to answer these very nagging questions of the relationship between good and evil by great philosophers at the turn of every generation, I am fully aware that attempts by the likes of St. Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Plato, Aristotle, etc, to answer the seemingly enigmatic puzzle ended up with more questions than answers.
Only recently, my reflection seems to corroborate the saying that God has a reason for everything. As a student of Philosophy and Theology, I have prodded so much on the economics of evil and have discovered that sometimes, what appears to be bad or evil to us may at the end be part of God’s creative plan for the ordering of the universe. There is a motley of examples to show. For instance, even sinners have a place and are important in the economy of salvation. Without them, pastors and priests will have to join the unemployment market where the unemployment rate is worrisome. This is why I am of the opinion that pastors and priests should treat sinners with respect especially when preaching knowing that their employment insurance depends on them. I am afraid that the day everyone becomes ‘born again’, that is the day priests will all lose their jobs in a nation where the religious industry employs more than government. Or, are churches not proliferating everyday with untrained pastors, apostles, prophets, healers, etc, emerging from the blues?
Have you also observed that our bad roads have created a lot of opportunities for hawkers/vendors who make their kills when vehicles slow down at pot holes? Or Is it the conflict-situation that has created the opportunity for some of us to emerge as human rights activists simply because of the unfiltered noise we make? Is it equally not true that a lot of people are busy making their kills by pretending to be liaison persons between the internally displaced persons and willing benefactors?
Yes i know I digressed. But it was to create a background to the fact that there are people who benefit when evil thrives. And this is what I see going on in our dear country and particularly in Benue.
Before now, it was probably an open secret that Governors Samuel Ortom and Yahaya Bello of Benue and Kogi States respectively are the worst performing Governors in Nigeria. And it will require a FIFA referee to determine who, between the duo, is the better-worse. But fortunately or unfortunately, and unlike Bello, Ortom is now utilizing the conflict-situation in his state to: one, divert attention from his nonperformance, and to, two, buy legitimacy by regaining the confidence of Benuelites. Like other conflict entrepreneurs, the Governor who tactically defied party allegiance has suddenly transmuted into a sort of defensor populi by creating a narrative that casts him as an ethno-religious knight in defense of his people against a Buhari-led Federal government that appears tolerant and even supportive of the killer-herdsmen with whom the president shares a tribe and a religion. Ortom, I am sure, is not unaware of how religion and ethnicity have been used in purchase of legitimacy in other states by his fellow politicians over the years. He may have seen how former Governor Ahmed Sani Yerima used what Obasanjo referred to as ‘political Sharia’ to source for legitimacy in Zamfara State. My friend Sam Omatseye put it well when he said:”Ortom is wagging the dog’s tail. He has been an abysmal failure as governor, owing about a year in salaries and presiding over Makurdi that still looks only a little better than a village in the 1980’s . The herdsmen crisis is an opportunity to ride to a second term . It is a boon for him from the enemy”. Speaking on this style of politicking then, Bishop Kukah said:”The reaction to Buhari saga shows in many respects the fact that we are still not out of the woods. Indeed, those who have argued with no supporting evidence that June 12 showed that we have overcome the politics of ethnic differences and regionalism have overstated their case. We still have a long way to go.” Yes, governor Ortom knows very well that with so much killings by the so much criminalized Fulanis in the middle belt presented as being in a mission of Islamization with a stamp of approval from the president himself, it will pay to ply through a road tarred with both religious and ethnic sentiments to cover up for his sins and then regain the confidence and trust of Benuelites in view of 2019. And this is exactly what politicians especially from the north have been doing thereby producing the bricks that laid the foundation of a region built on religious and ethnic distrust. This is why the north is more of a religion than a region.
In his commentary on the manipulation of religion and ethnicity by politicians, the late Prof. Steve Nkom of Ahmadu Bello University’s sociology department said:”It has been the familiar trick of all selfish ruling classes to re-direct the accusations or venom targeted at them to those expedient or even ‘manufactured’ areas that affect or vex the interests and sentiments of the general public.They seek to gain legitimacy and political relevance by shifting the goal -post. They pretend that the attack is targeted at ‘discrediting their religion or ethnic group’, whereas it is their credibility that is in question “. He therefore warned:” Those engaged in defending any class and or group that still practices this outmoded game of manipulating religious, ethnic and sectional sentiments in order to gain or retain power are doing a disservice to all. It severely compromises their legitimacy by bringing it on the soft tissue of manipulated sentiments and prejudices”. He then called on those defending this type of politics to count its huge cost for society which includes “the perpetuation of ignorance and other ills, needless division and acrimony among the masses, avoidable religious tension including violent fundamentalist aberrations such as Boko Haram, poverty and retrogression for the generality of the people, complete vulnerability to the machinations and dictates of a selfish minority, and so on”. Corroborating on what the revered Professor said, Kukah added:” The ‘patron’ is not so much concerned about the welfare of his people, for he requires that existing condition as a grazing field to satisfy his personal ambition and hold onto power. The people are told that they are Hausas, Northerners, Muslims, Tivs, Yorubas, Igbos, Urhobos, or whatever. There imagined ancestry, with no historical or anthropological basis, becomes the fig leaf for covering the nakedness of the patron’s greed”.
And this is why the North has remained backward in education as the politicians who engage in this dangerous politicking will have to deliberately keep society unaccessible to quality education.
This nonsense must be collectively stopped. Ordinary people, whether they are Muslims, Christians, Fulanis, Igbos, Bakulu, Northerners, Southerners, and so on, must have by now, understood the antics of our politicians. The recent epistle written by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for instance, should be able to teach us a lesson or two seeing that after the epistle and the unnecessary arguments that ensued among ordinary people, an Obasanjo and Buhari met in Adis Ababa exchanging pleasantries with bout of laughter. We must know that the struggle for a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria can be achieved only when ordinary people from the North, South, East, etc, come together irrespective of religion and ethnicity, to fight against the greediness of our elite that has brought us to where we are today. While we insist that the protection of human life remains the justification for the existence of any government, the security of lives and property is our collective responsibility. This is why we must do all that is humanly possible to stop the sporadic killings in our land. And in the circumstance, it will require us to move away from popular but fruitless narratives into sincere diagnosis of the issues against the many half truths in the marketplace.
These half truths which Omatseye identified as “The South truth, the north truth, the Christian truth, the Islamic truth, the middle belt truth, the DSS truth, etc, will never bring us out of the current cul de sac that is threatening the unnegotiable dignity of human life, until we have a version of truth that stems from our conscience where God Himself, and not dangerous politicians of Ortom’s stock, speaks to us.
In any case, as far as the killings in our land are concerned, truth is the first casualty! However, ” humanity first “, as Samuel Kukah admonished.
Damina, a student of Religion and Society can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org