A Silent time for a silent begining part 2

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          The only solution to Nigerian religious crisis is for Muslims in the North to accept the Aladuras in the West as human beings. Again, the only solution to Nigerian tribal conflict is for people to make the North habitable for Southerners. To seek this kind of solution now makes Nigerian aristocrats feel frightened at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The act of accepting the other is love personified and tolerance exemplified. I say this because for so long I have gazed on the great walls of tribalism and saw with great optimism that the power of love is the ultimate weapon that could strike tribalism down. Love ultimately helps us to overcome ignorance of the other. Love quenches the longing thirst for hatred; love broadens the heart struck down by the pain of past injuries; love hopes after exhaustion which it brings freely to all people still under the yoke of material bondage struggling courageously to extricate themselves from tribal separation and the dungeon of religious intolerance. Love helps us to strive for a world where the poorest and humblest among us could enjoy the fulfillment of the promise of a good life in a nation of plenty. Love therefore, is the only powerful weapon that could seize the imagination of Christians and sensuality of Muslims alike. It is the only weapon that could arrest the attention of all mankind. Love challenges us to do away with those treasured human values such as institutional tribalism, economic injustices, political thuggery and social isolation. Many Nigerian citizens from different tribes and from different religious denominations do not understand the real meaning of love. Many have forgotten how we were indebted to the stubborn tradition of anger, hatred and religious wrangling. The actual opposition encountered by Christians and their firm determination to put righteousness, and morality at forefront, before tribal sentiment and before religious wrangling or before social and political expediency would help shape some of our most fundamental values and institutions.

        Only today are thoughtful Igbo man is beginning to ponder the extent of religious and tribal problems within Nigerian society. Only today that citizens have realized that Nigeria as a nation has about four major ethnic tribes within its borders and a total of about 521 dialects. In some areas in Nigeria, ethnic groups speak more than one language. The official language in Nigeria is English, the formal colonial language, chosen to facilitate cultural and linguistic unity of the country. These ethnic groups have with them identifiable characteristics, languages and traditions. Seemingly, the Soviet like American race has about 70 major nationalities within its borders and a total of about 160 people with identifiable characteristics, languages and tradition (Sakharov, 1968). America has multi-racial groups within its borders with major racial people with identifiable characteristics, languages and way of life. Many of these ethnic groups in Nigeria with different religious upbringings have remained largely dissatisfied after fifty years of Nigerian independence largely because of repressive and chauvinistic polices on religion and tribal affiliations. Unless Nigeria takes leadership of the fight against tribalism and religious intolerance, the coming crises will impose upon future generation a cynical and anti-tribal peace. This is no oblique criticism but a progressive prediction of long enduring national problem and danger. It always takes a long desolate night of frustration to realize a prophetic call for adjustment. But it always take speedy short while to reach a dead end of human disaster and regrets.

          There are times when local oppositions and tribal loyalty reflected the old prevailing national mood of people. A mood devoid of love anchors its principles on hate where the cancer of tribal bigotry would infect Nigerian cherished democratic morals and traditions. When Nigerian moral principles are infected by the cancer of tribal hatred or religious dichotomy, many people would say there is no peace. Many will feel things are not moving as it should be. Many will say they were being judged wrongly and treated unfairly. For the many who enthrone hatred and tribal wrangling in the North, these demands are prosecuting their banal acceptance of social, political and economic freedom. Nothing impresses human spirit than to work against the forces that undermine Nigerian precious values. Nothing rejuvenates the mind than to participate in a combat effort to overcome division and hatred of the other in a nation of vast tribal and religious fronts. Nothing gladdens the heart than to be part of the struggle for religious unity and tribal codification. Indeed, I am disappointed with those of us who in a very short while have transformed into “sacred cows” or “thanksgiving turkeys” who had not responded quickly to the urgent call for a new opportunity for social change. Change cannot come when human dynamism is dormant. Change cannot come when Christians fail in their responsibilities or when there is tribal complacency or when people refused to become an integral part of a national struggle. I know that scores of Christians in the North both lay and clergy; atheists and spirituals had risked their lives, properties and families for the cause of religious freedom. I know that many Christian churches have been burnt down to ashes, vandalized in desolate midnight and looted in bright sunny afternoon. But I am happy and inspired by the heroic courage and un-quantifying love in the face of hatred; to show forgiveness in the face of belligerence; to be very resilience carving out creative spirit with emotional serenity. These acts are glorious examples in the history of Christendom. For never in human history, have Christians coexisting within a Muslim society were able to be on the receiving end in such naked brutality and violence as we are witnessing today in Nigeria.

          These experiences were not different from the experiences Christian’s witnessed in the catacombs where God’s house as symbol weathered as found among the Israelites in Egypt and among Igbo folks in the North. In the face of violence and hatred and in an effort to repay hatred with pure love, Christians have always transformed their lives as paragons of faith. They have always transformed their willingness to forgive into adaptive and creative spirit. Hate as I know very well is not a beautiful phenomenon. Hate is ugly and this is why it is antithesis to creative spirit of love. Hate can never undo love’s monumental contribution to moral, social, political and spiritual history. Hate can never undo the values and blessings of human endurance. In a tribal society, love often attract all together otherwise, Muslim- North would feel they were indeed the showcase of God’s blessing; and Christian -East would feel they too were on their way to promise land- One similar to the one occupy by the people of Israel in Egypt. A religious or tribal society that is not founded on love rapidly crumbles where people who were initially united would scramble to catch as many of the windfalls as possible. On one hand, a united society with greater sense of love among citizens often are considered the new moral and religious beacon light for unrighteous world  lost in a hopeless wilderness of sin and decadence. These are part of the stunning empowerment or insightful portrayal of tribal and religious movement or network that nurtured and supported a free society. Whenever I am asked my opinion of the current state of religious and tribal disagreement in Nigeria, I am forced to pause because it is not easy to describe a crisis so profound that has caused an oil nation like Nigeria to stagger in confusion, poverty and bewilderment. What might once have been a series of tribal disagreement and religious intolerance now merges into national crises of almost stupefying complexity. Nigerian Nation cannot move forward without first addressing these two tormenting issues. Today, Nigeria’s problems in religion and tribal conflicts are so acute because the tragic evasions and defaults of religious freedom have accumulated to disaster proportion. This makes the very future of Nigerian nation to hang on the balance, depending on capricious turn of events where Christians and Muslims would have no control especially when violence and bitterness launches people into an utterly dark dungeon.

         I therefore subject myself to logical articulation and self-purification and as well as endless self-analysis when it comes to tribalism, poor socio-economic conditions of human lives and religious fundamentalism. I subject myself to the keystone of my judgment believing strongly in the future that one day Nigeria will find alternative to tribalism. This hope and promises in the future would thwart every design planted by messengers of the dark and administrators of economic division. This promise and hope would someday lead to a thoroughly integrated society, where all will be treated equal, where there would be no Islam, Christians, traditional religionists, where everybody will be his sisters-keeper and cohabitate for the sake of common good. This hope would someday conform to the universal declaration of human rights where leaders and the led would acknowledge that men and women are born free and both have equal rights and dignity within a serene sovereignty. This same hope would reenergize everyone to accept undisputable fact that social distinctions are founded only upon the general good. It would help our tribes to reenact the aims of political aspiration as preservation of natural rights of man. The natural rights of men are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression. But if the trend of events continues to move corporately in the direction of collective brotherhood and in the united spirit of sisterhood, we would have moved a long, long way toward such a just and ideal society. Ideal societies have always proved its strength and effectiveness in all tribal frontiers that make-up a nation. I say all these because I know with great conviction that the nexus of objective politics and the true foundation of democratic government in Nigeria lies in unity and compromise. Leaders of developing nations must always dramatize their strength against tribal and religious intolerance just as leaders of advanced democratic nations had for long dramatized their wisdom in racial unity and coalition. Leaders of developing nation must have to do that until the last of those who impose those injustices are forced to change attitude; until finally each tribe wins the protection of the other; until every tribe, is allowed to worship the God of their own understanding, until everybody is stricken gloriously and incurably tribe-free and faith- free. Faced with the dramatic quest for unity and freedom of religious worship, and refusal to hit back when provoked, religious oppressors would found, as the oppressed have always found in the past that they are glued with their own barbarity.

        Paraphrasing the penetrating words of Gandhi, “We will match your capacity to inflict suffering on us with our capacity to endure suffering from you. We will meet your physical force with soul-force. We will not hate you, but we cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws. We cannot in moral conscience accept unfair treatment you bring in our lives. We cannot accept your unjust laws because law is the expression of the general will. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children; send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities and drag us out on some wayside road, beating us and leaving us half dead, and we will still love you. But we will soon wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And in winning our freedom to worship, we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process.” The way of Christian- Muslims and the message of non confrontational effort mean a willingness to suffer, a motivation to accept sacrifice and to win in the long last. When this form of rational motivational love takes place, guilt-ridden sectional majority in the Nigeria would live in fear that if frustrated poor Christians from the South-South should ever attain religious freedom, they would act without restraint or pity to revenge the injustices or the brutality of the past years. It is just like a higher deity, Amadioha who continuously mistreats a lower deity, Agwu. One day that higher deity, Amadioha raises his hands to strike the lower deity, only to discover that the lower deity Agwu is as strong as he is. The higher deity is suddenly afraid and fearful that the lower deity Agwu will use his new physical forces to repay the almighty deity for all the blows and humiliations of the past. Christians and people from the East who once were helpless children, has now grown in stature, they have grown in strength, dignity, politically, economically and culturally. As humans, we must transform and grow in all these areas of life. We must grow in education, in commerce and industry, in science and technology. We must grow in craft and trade so as to benefit from the merits of our handwork. We must transform in self awareness, self-affirmation and self-determination. To achieve these social and economic transformations, every citizen must be allowed to participate personally, or through electoral representations. And every benefit or reward must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes, whether it nurtures or denatures. All tribes being equal are eligible to these dignities and to public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, without distinction except in virtues and talents.

         This organized effort would help cast away fears of Christians as Nehru would say. In the end, Muslims and agitators from the North would have no option than to grant religious freedom to Christians from the East, who has developed a new form of respect for themselves as Christians. Indeed, something must happen to those who are deprived of freedom to worship; to touch the hearts and souls of men who perpetrate religious intolerance that they will someday come together without sabotage, without back-biting, without being jealous to another; without placing oneself on the same par with one who nature and destiny has designed that he is greater than you; that we will come not because Christianity is about nonviolence, but because it is natural and right. In order words, Christian’s ultimate goal in a society of religious disunity is religious integration which is religious freedom and ecumenism. It is only through ecumenism and religious integration that these goals can be achieved otherwise angry passion and deep prejudice will arise and rumble. The spiritual power that Christians can radiate to their Muslim brothers must come from love. This spiritual power must draw strength from understanding, goodwill, free spirit and ecumenism. It may even be possible for Christians through ecumenism and adherence to one another that it may even be possible for other faith to seriously seek alternative to tribalism. This is why eternal appeal always takes the form of a warning: “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.” All who see the pen as might will do mighty things with pen. All who provoke tribal or religious intolerance will crush down Mosques and cathedrals. All who show great strength by fighting the other will kill people in leaps and bounds.

        A voice greater than John the Baptizer once echoed long ago saying to  tribal peters and violent Mohammed’s, “put up your sword and slut it back into its stealth.” History is undiluted with wreckages of nations, whether tribal, democratic, monarchic, dictatorial that failed to follow this Islamic or Christian command. A French philosopher once said, “No man is strong unless he bears within his character antithesis strongly marked.” This is why Martin Luther would admit that “the strong man holds in a living blend strongly marked opposites. Luther argued further that “not ordinarily do men achieve this balance of opposites because the idealists are not usually realistic, and the realistic are not usually idealistic. The militants are not generally known to be neither passive, nor the self assertive humble in themselves. Both are not the same”. Because we are not of the same tribe, Muslim faith always disagrees with Christian faith. Both faiths are not the same but they point to one ultimate truth- God. Their respective teachings are different and their respective methods are dissimilar. Because they are dissimilar, they follow different paths to arrive at that ultimate and profound reality. Muslim faith has continued to reject Christian truth with dogmatic passion and calamitous hatred. With love, Christians can turn Islamic hatred into passion and brotherhood. With love Igbo man can turn Hausa anger into creative tolerance. They can change the spirit of dichotomy into complimentarily. To do these would mean to transform Christian religious elegy from sinking into the valley of religious irrationality or paralyzing tribal hatred. Any love crusade directed to your enemy would prevent them from falling into the marsh waters of obsolete materialism and religious nihilism.

        Today, many people have failed to understand that there can be no peace in a nation where faith and tribal sentiments move on opposite direction. There can be no peace in advance democracy where racial spirit is standing opposed to each other, rolling sleeves to engage in what Jack Nicholson told Tom Cruise “Stand Opposed” in the movie “a few good men.” Those who have this kind of feelings are the ones who argue blindly that tribal or racial division is what is appropriate for Christians and followers of peace movement. They are the ones who love to see lovers of serene spirit go down and crumble. They are the ones who love to beat up the weaklings and that is all they have the enthusiasm to do. They are the ones who torture and torment weaker people in society, and why, because he is Christian or an Igbo man. This same people argue that corruption and poverty should be perpetuated because Christians and people from the South-South are lagging behind in academics, health, employment and moral standard. They find glorious meaning to this belief because Southern mortality rate is far too high while Eastern level of cleanliness is frequently too low. The South-East is too often loud with tribal music in their cars and boisterous in negatives about fellow Igbo-folks. Yet, we spend too much money on drinks, pull-down and demolishing instead of erecting, building, encouraging and empowering the other. And the belief and faith that move people to behave as they do are opaque to others; and as we read or watch the news, we witness with chagrin that lunacy together with tribal suspicion and religious contempt seem to be the order of the day. All these are capable to cause one to believe that heaven is hell and hell, heaven. One of the great needs of mankind is to be lifted from the morass of false belief and negative propaganda about heaven and hell. My assumptions always rest on making evident that hell is not heaven and that heaven can never be hell. At all times, I believe that both are not the same and both can never be same. To believe in its sameness is to say that heaven has a rapport with hell and that Angels are affiliated to Satan and the demonic.

        Many philosophers, Agnostics (a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as god, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable), politicians, authors, pragmatists and existentialists I have read their works are suspicious of the entire drama of faith, violence and disunity. Many have the view that the true value of certain claims, especially claims about the existence of or nonexistence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims is unknown and unknowable. This is why many of us have woefully failed to compare the similarities and differences between our tribal similarities with racial conflicts and differences in advance societies. Failure to engage in such enterprise would blur our vision about similarities and differences between beliefs, between tribes, between religions and knowledge, rather than about any specific claim of things. Many of us also are suspicious and nostalgic of the whole project of epistemology- of saying which intellectual habits deserve respect, and which ones do not. Our tribal attitude reflects that same suspicion-of saying which religion deserve to be treated fairly, and which ones does not; which tribe deserve to receive more resources and grants and which ones does not. Words like tribalism, racism, Christianity, “Islamism” and “post modernism” signals a resulting faith of a cultural people in which anything goes; in which people are murdered; in which people dies; in which progress is cut short like in a twilight zone etc. All these are object of my daily suspicion and reflection. They are object of general suspicion to Christians and Muslims and people from the South-South.

        The object that man is the measure of all things is very troubling to me and poignant and crippling to those who have a higher destiny here on earth. This is why sectional minded individuals see tribe, race, ethnicity, ideology and faith, as the only measure of human life that is becoming a big issue in modern reflective or philosophical discourse. As Francis bacon would say, “The idols of the tribe are founded in human nature itself and in the very tribe or race of mankind. The assertion that human senses are the measure of things is false; to the contrary, all perception both of senses and mind, are relative to man, not to the universe. Human understanding is like an uneven mirror receiving rays from things and merging its own nature of things, which however distorts and corrupts it.” (The New Oreganon: XLI, P 41) As our perceptions are relative so are our tribes relative to each other. And when our tribes are related to each other, human beings would find peace and co-exist and unity will prevail unlike before. Unity is a cosmological reality and that was why Martin Luther cautioned and quipped, “Everyman must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

        Perhaps, writing about tribal unity and religious peace is something most authors are not interested in, but I always feel satisfied that such enterprise is a genuine choice rather than constraint. I feel that its impact would bring men and faith together, rather than narrowing our relationships. It would one day lead to collaboration rather than widening of the canon. It is very obvious that when unity, compromise and collaboration are achieved, minorities in Nigeria will together develop cosmic energy to speak for themselves. They will develop cosmic energy to fight for their rights. They will develop courage to approach people from other tribes like a prosecutor approaches a jury, bombarding people on the stand with testimonials from expert witnesses. Even when they failed to develop cosmic energy, courage imbued in compromise will transform their current climate of hatred into captivating spirit of unity where citizens would never meet with rapturous reception of enmity. Part of brilliance associated with the spirit of collaboration therefore is the inclusion of the other in tribal and religious matters rather than in ominous plot against another that results in anguished voice of disunity. And when compromise is achieved, certain experiences of conflict, of religious indifference, of other races, of other tribes, perhaps of other religions would no longer be appropriate territory for human imagination. Only then would dialogue, collaboration, and compromise promote unity and friendship. These three values have always given direction for a better political understanding and ethnic association. As Sydney Cox says in his opinionated book, Indirection, the pleasures of collaborative narratives ties everybody together in the wings of symmetry, where all human attachment and association makes sense for the common good. Therefore, the strategy of peaceful co-existence and collaboration must be deepened in every way possible to avoid a confusing state of affair or encouraging what Sartre might have termed a hemorrhaging between conflict and coexistence. We must realize that a confusing state of tribal or religious affair is nothing but misery and disaster that adversely cause people to escape their confines to the unknown.

Gerald Ogbuja


Sakharov, A.D (1962) Progress, Co-existence, and intellectual freedom, New York, W.W Norton & Company, Inc

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