While looking back at the content of this book, I knew that I was delving into an area too exclusive for some people to discuss, considering the conservative nature of our society, but things that need to be said should be said. Especially, when it comes to religion and sexuality, it is like delving into a sacrosanct area.
While many would prefer not to get involved in such debates due to how the society has already conditioned them, others would try to counter some ideas and questions raised here in order to justify what they have been brought up to know as norms or as untouchable part of their cultural or religious beliefs. The conflicts in their judgment would be between what they had been brought up to believe and what should have been the right case.
Intolerance, like I said in the introductory part of this book, is a product of prejudices we already formed either for or against people, places or things. Being prejudices then, it means that their accuracy or certainty is not assured but we have decided not to bother ourselves about the logical accuracies or level of honesty surrounding such prejudices. This is where we always get the roots of intolerance.
Nigeria is a country that has been undergoing several kinds of conflicts. There have been incessant killings and destructions of properties (recorded and unrecorded) which have been motivated by political, religious or ethnic intolerances. Almost daily in Nigeria, people die at random from these acts of violence directly being motivated by our inability to tolerate one another.
“We have Political violence, economic violence, social violence, religious violence, cultural violence, etc. In short, violence typically extends into all the turns and fabrics of man’s life-areas and being. Some instances are: election rigging, corrupt leadership and illegal cancellation of election results are examples of political violence, smuggling and trade in hard drugs, of economic violence; murder and rape, of social violence; Maitatsine fanaticism and religious assaults of religious violence; and other instances. It has to be said that these instances of violence may at times interweave with one another; for instance a robbery activity when understood may extend from social violence to political and even more.”
Since almost every act of violence is rooted in intolerance, we are seriously having issues bigger than what we expected. But then the fact remains that we are not here to pretend that everything is fine with the way Nigeria as a nation has been breeding various kinds and levels of intolerances that make the nation look like nothing more than a keg of time-bomb waiting for its appropriate time to either explode or implode.
Education should be one of the key solutions to intolerance in Nigeria, and by that, I meant proper education. When people are not trained or educated properly to realize that the limits of their rights end exactly at that point where the rights of others start, then we might have looming cases of intolerance to worry about sooner or later. But when we all live in full knowledge of other people’s rights and privileges and how to respect them, then we will always live in serene conflict-free environments. Conflicts always erupt when we start forming ego that would make us feel that we are overall better than any other person. I believe that no one person can perfectly be better than the other person in all ramifications.
Social Studies, Civic Education and History curricula should as matter of utmost urgency be redesigned to incorporate tolerance in its bits and pieces – ranging from social to religious to political to economic, and to other kinds of tolerance. Tolerance should be made the fulcrum on which these subjects revolve so that at least those who have the privilege of going through schools must learn tolerance as part of basic requirements to live in the society. Education should be made compulsory and free to certain levels that would be enough to enlighten the mind of people to understand the rules of tolerance so that going contrary to it would not be excused as mere ignorance, but voluntary decisions of the culprits.
History should not be ashamed of its past, and by that I meant that our history should be taught with neither bias nor prejudices no matter how ugly such histories may be. Some histories in Nigeria have been raising their heads to be noticed no matter how deep Nigeria and her governments had tried to bury those historical facts.
For instance, despite the fact that many of us were born after the unfortunate Nigeria/Biafra civil war, but it is obvious that all efforts by subsequent Nigeria governments till date to unceremoniously ‘delete the histories’ and discourage the tales of the war from both school curricula and public discussions had never worked to the extent that those of us with inquisitive minds who wanted to know details of the war, what transpired before, during and after the war do not gain access to such information. Burying such histories or some aspects of our histories just because it seems not to be palatable in the mouth of the story teller is like sitting comfortably on time-bomb which must eventually explode one day. Truth is like light in the darkness. No one can hide such light. Historical facts are too obstinate and cannot easily be manipulated without subjecting oneself to ridicule of always finding false information to close up the imminent missing links that such historical maneuvers must left behind.
The current resurgence of agitations for independence of Republic of Biafra (from Nigeria) by the younger generation whose approximately more than 80% of their populations weren’t even born by the time the unfortunate 1967-1970 Nigeria/Biafra war was fought is a clear indication that historical facts, just like ideologies can neither be suppressed nor buried. They might lie low for sometimes, only waiting for another better time to reappear. Teaching them as history is of course one of the unarguable part of the healing processes because during the process of synthesizing the causes and the effects of such violence, some morals lessons would also be sneaked into the teaching to prevent future reoccurrences.
On this note, I could only then observe without mincing words that the past that Nigeria nation was too scared of telling its story might be already haunting the country, and at this point and only truth can save us. In the very words of ‘Uthman Dan Fodio we have to reiterate that ‘conscience is an open wound, and only truth can heal it’.
Then again, let me sound this very plainly that what other people do with their lives shouldn’t be our utmost problem. It’s not negligence but rather, expected tolerance that we all should have. It is ridiculous trying to stop people who are living their lives which have no direct interference on that of others. Why I should be bothering if what another person is doing is not in any way breaching the public decency or have direct effects on the peaceful existence of our immediate society? Though the society has right to dictate how people should behave in its environment, but then, it shouldn’t do that while interfering on primary freedom of people living in such society.
We should not look at others who have some defects or those who are somehow different from us as if they are not fit enough to live in the society, or as if they are taking our own space in the society. Religious people, especially Christians should try to imitate Christ who never condemned sinners though he hated the sins and called them for absolute repentance. We are not totally free in any circumstance at all to condemn people who we deemed not suited into our stereotyped way of living or people that their cultures to us doesn’t meet up with our own assessment of being superior.
There’s no freedom without limitation like the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau would say that though man is free, but there’s no guarantee of man’s absolute freedom since man is everywhere in chains, thus limited in various ways by circumstances beyond his control. Rousseau’s chains are what we know as limitations and boundaries which we have while exercising our rights and privileges. We are free to practice our religion for instance, but we are in chains and therefore should be restricted if such religion should be used to disturb the peace of the society or trample on the rights of others, especially the minority.
When religion which supposed to be good in itself goes awry and then become a dangerous tool in the hands of few people who use the religion to intimidate others and trample on their fundamental human rights, then religion should be avoided much more than deadly infectious diseases. No one has absolute right to give unsolicited verdicts on characters of other persons. That would amount to intolerance. Tolerance remains the only way out because it liberates our minds from the cage of unnecessary hatred we nurse against others.
When we can’t agree with them, we have only one option left, and that’s to switch on to the toleration mode. When this mode is fully activated, it can help us to ignore those vices we presumed we saw in other people as long as those vices doesn’t directly or imminently break down the moral or social order in the society to the point of total collapse.
I have a lot of peculiar problems. These problems are my limitations as human. Thus, I have never been the perfect man I always wanted to be despite my Christian and moral observances, my personal beliefs, my actions, inactions and all my unrelenting prayers and fasting. At least this fact humbles me more than anything else. It shows me that maybe, I am not the ideal person that God wanted to create in the first place. These disturbing facts should be occupying my mind more than anything else. I suppose to so wish that I can resolve these problems first before engaging in condemning people because of the way they live their own lives. Their lives and attitudes might be peculiar to them just like all my shortcomings are peculiar to me.
So, when I am still not closer to being better, I then totally lose the moral right to throw stones at others like me. Whenever we sin, we always lose that moral right to judge anyone. If we therefore are living in sins and yet hypocritically be pointing our sinful fingers at our fellow sinners without any qualms of consciences, then our consciences are simply dead beyond remedy.
Let’s say that we incidentally found ourselves being born into a culture where circumcision is hold as priority for all male-born, that wouldn’t make us to condemn those who are not circumcised. It is no fault of theirs and moreover it is not in their culture, and no culture is superior to others. We have heard some people using the adjective “uncircumcised” as derogatory word to describe others or to belittle them.
The ultimate one language the world should be speaking of right now is tolerance. When this language is spoken, understood and practiced, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Taliban, ISIS and all their cousin terror groups and their unlimited franchises around the world would simply disappear. We should be tired of any religion or culture which hides these malicious Trojans in their cloaks while parading themselves as instruments for protecting and enhancing peace and justice in our world. These are unforgivable falsehoods being sold to the vulnerable people in the society in the templates of religions.
When I was growing up, we were told in Catholic Church in Nigeria to believe on certain things that when I look back to them again today, I only see skeletons of intolerances being unnecessarily given flesh by the Church doctrines or by those who were in authority in the Church to recommend norms and laws for its adherents. There were certain norms and laws that I later found not so good that the Church haboured. These laws and norms are still being haboured in many other places today.
I was told as a child that it was mortal sin to read any book that was not of Catholic or to pray with other people that are not Catholics. “Ije uka m’obu gua akwukwo na-aburo nke Katolik”- (Translated: “To go to Church or read non-Catholic books) was one of the mortal sins in the Church. What it meant was that those who did that were condemned as sinners and thus must be subjected to appropriate penance or possibly face excommunication until they confessed their sins and got total absolution from an authorized Catholic Priest.
But today, we can see that the infamous doctrine has gradually been changing as the doctrine of ecumenism is now superimposed to swallow up the previous intolerant doctrine. Of course, this current view of the same act tells us that ab initio someone was initially wrong somewhere and added such law as part of indoctrination out of prejudice they had during their own time in the Church. Then later today, we have seen it not being the right doctrine to preach or to practice as it promotes intolerance. The best way to live is by being careful not to condemn other people that do not share the same school of thought with us. Tolerance remains the only valid answer.
At this point therefore, I want to bring to an end this thought provoking exhortative piece. I’ll beg to borrow the exact words of F. K. Obiora while ending his masterpiece book, “The Divine Deceit: Business in Religion” [The book I can’t stop reading] saying:
“If it [the book] is well composed and to the point, that is just what I wanted. If it is trashy and mediocre, that is all I could manage.”
I had no intention to either form any kind of opposition against any school of thought, religion or culture. I didn’t intend to brand anyone or any group any derogatory names. Nevertheless, I don’t want to praise anybody for persecuting people whose ideologies and characters are different. I’ll always speak out when people’s worldviews, philosophies or teachings are degenerating into causing harm to humanity and increasing human suffering (which they supposed to depreciate).
Lastly and for emphasis, I have to reiterate that any kind of oppression or intolerance targeting any sect or group of people is broad daylight evil and anyone who has good conscience should never subscribe to such knowing fully well that whatever goes around might one day, comes around. We should always bear in mind that one day, when the table turns, the oppressor today might become the oppressed.
 Bonachristus (1996), Principia Logica – A most complete handbook of logic(s), Mid-Field Publishers Limited Onitsha-Nigeria, Pg. 97.
 Guardian Nigeria Newspaper Motto.
 F.K. Obiora; Op. Cit. Pg. 195.
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