By Kanmi Ademiluyi
RECENTLY in a very perspective analysis in his column on the back page of The Nigerian -, the noted columnist, Obadiah Mailafa pointed out that, “our own Yoruba people, Muslims and Christians live together in the same households. We are not enemies; we are brothers”. This in the present firmament should not be dismissed as a statement of the obvious. Mailafa obviously felt he had a compelling reason to emphasise this point in this our season of discontent. And sensibly so, for in a republic enfeebled with crisis on numerous fronts, there is every reason to be fearful about adding Lebanon-type religious fault lines into the mix. Such a reality will be combustible.
In spite of the commercialisation of religion on all fronts, religion still matters. It is an essential ingredient in the human composition. It always will. From this perspective, let us recall a really outstanding dissection of Twentieth Century political economy, which has become a classic, R.H. Tawney’s “Religion And The Rise Of Capitalism”. Tawney was both unusually a Marxist as well as a practising Christian. He seminally addressed the question of how religion has affected social and economic practices largely for the good. The conflict entrepreneurs’ hand- in-glove with the peddlers of Snake oil solutions as ‘religion’ should therefore not put us from looking at the positive effect.
The Interior Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola bears a reflection to Tawney. He is a social democrat who also practises and has a deeply-rooted and abiding faith in Islam. Like Tawney, he has demonstrated in practice that the teachings of a faith can and indeed should be a trigger for progressive change. Last week, the former governor of Osun, who is widely credited with putting social intervention thrusts into the heart of the discourse on political economy was in his element straddling two events in the State of Osun, put together by the Christian and Islamic communities.
At both events, he used the opportunity to explain the interwoven relationship linking faith and a progressive thrust for inclusiveness leading to a better society. Conferred with the “Episcopal Ecumenical Award” by the Diocese of Ijesa North, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, the minister conveyed a clear understanding of the social disconnect and the issues of inequities underpinning the recent #EndSARS protests. He portrayed empathy in pointing out that, “The youths must be commended for organising a protest that awakened the nation from its lethargy and aroused our consciousness to the state where we found ourselves. We must commend the government for its prompt action in addressing the demands of the youths. These are a blessing to any society,….Today’s youths are a peculiar breed, a generation of the social media and hub of ideas and internet; they appear more intelligent and far more enterprising than the previous generation.”.
A Christian Social Democrat would have used the same adaptation of the key underpinning of the Bible to understand and explain the social disconnect which triggered off the crisis and find solutions.
Presented with an award of excellence from Ta’ Awunu Islamic Group two days later in Iwo, the minister, who commissioned a Symbolic Mosque built by the group again used the bully pulpit to link the testament of faith as derived in the holy book to burning contemporary issues. The former governor urged Nigerians to adhere to the Holy Prophet’s teachings that state that when there is an outbreak of epidemic in a particular place, nobody should go there and the people in the affected place should also not go out until the epidemic subsides. The position here is within the principles of the Ummah and the ethical intent of the Quran. This is a helpful way in which the position should have been presented from the start in a society in which people wear their religion on their sleeves.
The application of the central thrust of religion should be made more central by the political establishment if they really want to convey a position as Aregbesola is doing: that in spite of the hardships and temporary setbacks, life can still be made more abundant and the purpose of government should be for the benefit of the overwhelming majority and not a few. A good example has been set here. It should be imitated. There is everything to be said for a bully pulpit used as a trajectory to promote positive change.