Tuesday, April 22, 2014 2:06 pm
When men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences. That’s the first law of sociology, if I am, three decades plus later,faithfully recalling the foundations of my sociology lessons at UNILAG. People see what they want to see. Definitions and perception of reality thus can become instrumental in advancing parochial, personal and partisan goals. In this circumstance, defined reality, often baseless and with no factual foundations, then flies in the face of objective reality. Yet, the delusional can be entrenched as reality in the hands of powerful chaplains and voices with the impeccable skills of a Goebbels. Definitions of reality, driven by purely personal interests or institutional calculus, can import catastrophic consequences for the individual who is deluded. But it is the larger society that directly bears the often horrific brunt of this delusion or institutional psychological gerrymandering.
Boko Haram is an extreme expression of the false grandeur of delusional reality. Against the backdrop of a persistence of dangerous sophistry of self serving erudition advancing the unreal as emerging reality assailing the senses, I have been ruminating about this emergent toxin of the jousting for ascendancy of foreign religions-Christianity and Islam principally- in our society for some time. As a Yoruba, it is natural for me to have sleepless nights over the encroaching catastrophe that is coming to wreak havoc on the ancient idyllic harmony between faiths-entrenched traditional on the one hand and the collectivity of very agitated dominant foreign imports-that is firmly imprinted in mind as the unassailable character of my society. This havoc would be the natural consequence of the assault on firm identities and associated attempts to transform consolidated certain consciousness that has served our communities well from ancient times.
It’s the BBC morning narratives on the Central African Republic that got me started. In appreciating the implications of the first law of sociology, my heart skipped a beat on the wheels this morning as I instinctively jerked and spilled my coffee driving to work. I was listening to the ubiquitous BBC commentary on the emergence of the anti-Balaka forces and the on going virtual cleansing of Muslim communities in the Central African Republic.
Muslims in Central Africa are abandoning homes and past life, if they are lucky to have their heads on their shoulders and their legs and limbs intact, and fleeing away to Tchad or Mali. Horror! The horrendous and unabating inter-communal ethno-religious violence unleashed in that unfortunate country has acquired a cyclical character.
The anti-Balaka orgy is in response to the earlier murderous slaughter by the Muslim Seleka forces and their associates from Mali and Tchad of the majority Christians of that beleaguered country. All that madness was unleashed just only as part of the struggle of Muslims and Christians to appropriate the state. The senseless reciprocal hacking to death of their compatriots and neighbors is blood cuddling. The ostensible reasons are troubling. The unfathomable implications are dire.
On another platform elsewhere, I had noted that the tragic unremitting blood letting in the Central African Republic along ethno-religious lines was not inevitable. I concluded that the dead; women, children and the young, including the murdered future of Central Africans, are all victims of the treachery of international politics. Here now, I add that this unwarranted flight to unreason and descent to unmitigated hell hole have resulted from the mad ambitions of power hungry individuals manipulating and substituting the unreal for objective reality. They do this because it is convenient for their parochial agenda. The pervasive madness is thus politically motivated. I am possibly a late learner or an incurable believer in the goodness of humanity. I suspect it is the latter and cannot understand this.
In this frame of mind, my thoughts raced, while still driving. I was registering every nuance of the radio commentary on the recent uproar in the international community to the not so unfounded allegations recently spread that Angola had instituted a subtle policy of banning Islam from the country. If the allegations were true, Angola would have been the first country in the world that had formally decided to ban Islam. All the threats of an impending final battle of Armageddon were issued against the mainly Catholic Angola by the international human rights community. In no time, Palestinians were up in arms burning the flag of Angola. The machinery of international hypocrisy was immediately set roiling to scavenge another potential self-induced human disaster in another African theater of unending folly.
Naturally, I thought of the outcome of the violent adventurism of the MUJAO in Mali, the long struggle to contain the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Al Shabab Islamists in Somalia and their terroristic extension to Kenya-West field and Mombasa- came to mind. Panic set in. But, ultimately my thoughts wandered home, trying sluggishly, almost a contrived reluctance, to come to grips with the defilation of the preferred serenity of my early morning by the gravity of these thoughts. In this state, I imagined that the soothing breeze along my usual beat on the littoral axis was this morning too humid. I was breathing heavily. There was mist in the air or on the dash board. Or so I thought. No, it was unreal. It was neither the humidity nor the air. It was the news. It was the fear of the coming deluge at home.
My misty eyes were involuntarily watering as I thought of Boko Haram, the associated Governor and now Senator Yerima and the cumulative consequences of the incremental and very murderous multiplier effect of his convenient passion for Sharia. He set the fundamentalist genie free from the safe gourd in northern Nigeria. Roaming mentally, I wondered about the unwise interventions at the national conference supposedly largely composed of many old men who because their future are definitely behind them would have the moral courage to transcend the pettinessof emergent religious antagonisms in Nigeria. But no, the religious balance of the conference participants was their first item on their priority list. What had that to do with good governance and crafting a constitution to rectify the developmental woes that left 29 young people dead seeking to be productive members of society? Did they realise that Nigeria was in ER-Emergency Room!! No, those waiting in the lounge to eternity must fossilize these divisions that really only exist in their warped minds to mortgage the future of their great grandchildren. It is as if the paralyzing cumulative deficits that their collective commanding role and strangle hold on Nigeria’s national life since pre independence have bequeathed to the current generation and Nigeria’s future are not daunting enough.
In the South West, regrettably, I observed those who flaunt usually respectable titles conferred by great institutions of learning reserved for the wise and very knowledgeable in specialized fields are beginning to make public pronunciations so scientifically deficient as to make certified dunces thank their stars. How does one explain it when a university professor makes ridiculous claims about religious divisions in Yorubaland and avers that representation in a national conference in Yoruba land should be based on computations of religious affiliations. When did religion, especially the imported faiths, begin to trump the Yorubaness of the individual? When did Islam and Christianity begin to define the consciousness to elevate them selves to assume the critical and dominant identity among the Yoruba? In the same manner and on the other side of this problematic pretentious aisle, a public commentator claims that the Yoruba would reject a Muslim/Muslin ticket in presidential elections. Donning his Christian credentials, he enthuses that a Christian must be on the ticket. Now, must this Christian be a Latin churning egg head Catholic pontiff, an anglicised Nigerian of the Anglican denomination with impeccable English diction, a moral relativity preaching Pentecostalist podium star from the Household, a bible thumping winner from the Chapel of the masses poor, a gnashing and weeping Redeemer, a man anointed from Joshua’s Synagogue or from the ranks of the world renowned money laundering Embassy of the lord!! Finally, could the Christian candidate on the presidential ticket be a formidable john-thomas wielding mother and daughter impregnating pastor on the run from the Delta?
Further, the assertions on both sides, Islam and Chrisitanity, are so far from the lived objective reality of the Yoruba that they do not deserve expending precious time and energy to refute. The danger however is that of the self-fulfilling prophecy where seemingly leading lights begin to propagate their convenient delusional reality as the grounded fact of the day. These delusional gladiators must wake up to the mortal danger that they pose to internal cohesion of Yoruba land and of Nigeria as a whole. What a Beckett absurdity! Meanwhile, as traditionalists, we now insist that one of our faith, our candidate and by implication the candidate of the silent majority, should be accommodated on this ticket of two.
Hopefully, significant harm to the future has not been wrought already. The recent show of shame in Ede over the commendable transformative initiatives of the Ogbeni to create structures and institutions that would ensure that our children grow as one and are tolerant of religious diversity is a case in point. Which Christian or Muslim parent in 1963, when we were growing and were being socialized in the mores of our community, would prime his child to go school to defend religious bigotry? What kind of a society are we building? The reality is that most Yoruba don’t care a damn hoot about whether a performing Governor or President is called Mohammed or James. Has any Yoruba rejected the much acclaimed paradigm of governance instituted by revered Jeremiah ObafemiAwolowo or any one disputed the ingenuity of his Muslim disciples, including action governor Baba Kekere Alhaji LateefJakande.
In their days, there was relative sanity in society and the values that conferred leadership or public acclaim on the individual were clearly understood by all. It had nothing to do with their faith. And when we ended up with a monstrous maximum ruler SaniAbacha, no one ever attributed his monstrosity to his Islamic faith. And in any case, he had faithful and fawning sidekicks who were knights of the Catholic Church, even if denounced by discerning members of the public. Nor did anyone trace Ibrahim Babaginda’s determination to plunge Nigeria into a civil war to his religion. After all, his principal victim was a Muslim.
Thus the creeping invocation of catastrophic religious demagoguery in the public discourse is the telling mark of an encroaching season of anomie that threatens to fully eclipse the light out of our day. It can only leave Yoruba land and Nigeria groping perpetually in darkness. As with all things Nigerian, convenience is the buzz word. The mantra is that if is convenient, instrumentalize it to attain your parochial end. You can engage in sophistry and semantic somersaults next time around, if you need to change tack. Finally, it is strange that with Boko Haram snuffing life out of the North with reckless abandon every second of the day, anyone would fan the embers of religious intolerance or even promote religious differences as the necessary currency of social interaction in our private lives and in the public domain. This catastrophic demagoguery is the very raison d’etre and emblematic of Boko Haram.
In the presidential elections the Yoruba would vote for any number of permutations Atheist/Pagan, Pagan/Pagan, Traditionalist/Pagan, Traditionalist/Traditionalist, Christian/Muslim, Christian/Christian, Muslim/Muslim, Muslim/Traditionalist…that they imagine would guarantee relief from the blinding literal darkness and extricate them from the suffocating and excruciating daily privations that they have wallowed in for ages through the reckless abandonment by previous Muslim and Christian impostors to national leadership. The thrust of the strident religious demagoguery of recent times is not the reality that I perceive among the Yoruba.