As the maxim states, “little drops of water could make a mighty ocean if not stopped on time”. In the same manner, violent religious radicalism doesn’t just start with swords and bullets. It normally starts with improper indoctrinations and brainwashing of the subjects of such religion to believe in the ideologies being propagated by such religion and its founder. There’s no doubt that every religion is rooted in ideology of the founder so much so that it becomes the distinguishing factor between such religion and the rest of other ideologies. The ideologies preached by such founders are taken by the religious adherents as sacrosanct, indisputable and therefore should never be compromised. People are born to believe and protect these ideologies no matter how wrong or funny they might sound.
In extreme cases, such religious adherers would use any kind of means including violence to counter any one who dares to stop them from propagating such ideologies which had been transmitted into them through indoctrination, as true. Most religious adherers were all convinced to believe that if they die while propagating the ideologies of their founders, then they would be rewarded with heaven in the afterlife. And be it as it may, no one would ever want to miss heaven.
Religion is nothing but people’s views and their understanding of God, nature or divinity. As the philosopher, Karl Marx rightly puts it, it is nothing but the opium of the masses. When religious understanding of people in the same religious cult begins to widen and differentiate, it creates frictions among the adherers. When such ideological frictions widen, they usually create another ideology totally in contrast with the original ideology of the main religion. In a case like this, such new ideology might graduate into becoming another distinct religion. Religion is nothing but ideology of the founder garnished with the understanding of the adherers. Christianity and Islam for instance were believed to have come from the same source which is Judaism.
Religious freedom in Nigeria is beginning to sound like an aberration. The abuse of religious freedom in Nigeria today is alarming and unfortunately not many people are courageous enough to challenge the disturbing trend. Any trend without adequate control would definitely have abuses. ‘Freedom as a human reality can be carried to excess. But that is putting it into wrong use. Freedom is not freedom to achieve what one likes, at the expense of others; rather it is the freedom to do good.’
Under the guise of religion therefore, a lot of irritating atrocities have been committed in Nigeria while the victims most often chose to hide their ordeals because they don’t want to expose the evil doers they regarded as ‘men of God’. With this erroneous mindsets that they have been covered by religious immunity and therefore could not be questioned no matter what they do, these merchants of religions have resorted to many other ills including disturbing their entire neighbourhood in the name of preaching or calls for prayers. ‘Many self-made pastors and evangelists woke up by 3:00am in the morning and when they are praying and preaching, the whole streets and suburbs would be shaking to their foundations. This was because Nigeria is enjoying the boom of religious freedom and the fact that the pastors are always equipped with better megaphones, with which they preach to the people.’
Recently we have been witnessing symptoms of religious radicalism and extreme improper indoctrination of vulnerable people in Nigeria by mostly, different Pentecostal Churches. These are pastors who for their selfish reasons introduce some out of context kind of religious observations which they always want their followers to follow under the pains of sin.
We all witnessed cases like that of the self-styled Reverend Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, who was popularly called Reverend King. He was the founder of Christian Praying Assembly in Lagos. On July 22, 2006, he set one of his church members, Ann Uzor, on fire leading to her death. For the brainwashed followers of this man who popularly called him ‘his holiness’, there wasn’t anything wrong if the pastor set the woman on fire because it might have been the will of God. If he had done that, then Ann Uzor must have deserved it, and maybe, her family should have come for thanksgiving in the Church and specially thank ‘Reverend King’ for killing their daughter. That’s the ugly direction that religions in Nigeria are already going.
We also recalled another one that called himself a prophet in a Celestial Church of Christ (CCC), located on Unity Street in Abule-Egba area of Lagos State, allegedly set a female member on fire during service, claiming he was instructed by God to do it. This is really laughable but very unfortunate indeed. According to The Nation Newspaper, ‘the victim simply identified as Madam Bosede, who joined the church just a month before the incident, was found lying critically ill in the hospital where she was rushed to’.
The religious vulnerability of many people in Nigeria has made it easier for some crooks that call themselves “pastors” to operate, even as there is no reasonable regulations guiding operations of these daily religious insurgencies. With the way things are going today, I have no doubt that Nigeria might be heading to serious religious revolution if time is not taken.
When I first saw a video circulating online sometimes ago, and which has a clip of a Christian sect called “The Lord’s Chosen Church” dancing and rolling their bodies in dirty street waters, I ignored it as unnecessary overzealousness of few people who were deprived of the core Christian doctrines and proper public conducts. But then, just recently, another pictures and videos of the same sect in another part of the country came out online, and what I saw on these clips were mildly speaking, so heart-breaking. It was the same show of dancing and rolling bodies in dirty street muds and slums for whatever reason they can never decently defend, because such action or attitude counters the popular maxim that cleanliness is next to Godliness.
Once, I said that religion is too dangerous to be left in the hands of illiterates who cannot interpret the signs and symbols of such religion in appropriate and logical ways. In Nigeria, Christianity is unfortunate enough to have found home in some of these uprising ‘lunatics’ displaying their madness in the name of Church all over the world. It is a fact that some of the ideologies being propagated by this “Lord’s Chosen” sect are obviously molded in glaring intolerant views. Thus, people from this church continue to torment their neighbours across the country in any way they can, unless they become “chosen” as they would say. Sincerely speaking, I am yet to see the clear difference between these sects and the radical Islamic sects around the globe, save that the former unlike the latter, haven’t had the opportunity to carry physical arms to torment their neighbours into believing in their ideologies.
Religion is like a burning fire. When it is well guarded, it could be useful in the house, but when it is left unchecked, it could burn out of control and destroy the whole city. We are already witnessing the upsurge of Islamic radicalism all over the world today, especially in Northern Nigeria. It started by misinterpretations by some sects in Islam of some core Islamic doctrines. The world would not like to witness these upcoming radical sect in the near futures carrying arms when their non-violent but too radical way of preaching obviously fails.
 Ferdinand Nwaigbo, 2003, ‘Religious Freedom In a New Democracy: A Case For Nigeria’, Bigard Theological Studies, Vol. 23 No. 2, p.16
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