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Sermon: Religion: A Maligned Concept

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By Babatunde Jose

Religion is an omnipresent and seamless part of daily life, taking an infinite variety of forms that are part of the distinctive quality of each community. Religion could thus not be seen as something apart and personal. It is, rather, a dimension of life that suffuses whatever people do. Religion has an effect on many people’s attitudes to everything, including such matters as savings, investment and a host of economic decisions. It influences area we had come to see as vital for successful development, like schooling, gender quality, and approaches to health care. In short, religion could be an important driver of change, even as it could be a break to progress… 

James D. Wolfensohn former President of the World Bank

Religion provides the unifying power that grounds the socio-political, economic, technological, cultural and moral dynamics of a culture. This is particularly true of Africans for whom life is an intricate web of the sacred and the secular.

Our daily lives revolves around work, play, eat, recreation, spiritual fulfillment and obeying the calls of nature. It is when one aspect of our life dominates our lives to the exclusion and detriment of others that we become slaves to that aspect of our life. As Easter celebrations ended last Monday, we are looking forward to the holy month of Ramadan next week and people are beginning to question the role of religion in our lives. They claim that we are too religious; a state of affairs that has been termed the unprogressive effect of religion and a hindrance to development.

True enough, political leaders are known to exploit the religiosity of the people in their intra-elite competitions; however, the role of religion in society goes deeper than that. In fact, this might not be the whole truth as research in the developmental sciences are increasingly beginning to recognize  the positive role religion could have in development.

Throughout its long history, the Church and Islam have been major sources of social services like schooling and medical care; inspiration for art, culture and philosophy; and influential player in politics. From the 11th to 13th centuries, medieval Europe absorbed information and ideas from Islamic civilization, which was then at its peak: Such as in astronomy, mathematics, medicine and science. The Islamic world also influenced other aspects of medieval European culture, including the arts, agriculture, music, technology, and textiles.

However, this is also true for the negative effects of religion, such as the conflicts that result in war and bloodshed, the separation of social classes, and the corruption throughout God’s kingdom, especially the unending sex scandal in the Catholic Church; or the radicalization of faith as witnessed by today’s Islamic insurgence. There is also the horrible events of the slave trade and colonization and the decimation of the cultures of non-European peoples, particularly Africa.  It is these perceived negative effects of religion that has prompted many social scientists to condemn religion as irrelevant to socio economic development. However, Despite the general hostility among social science and professionals, the empirical evidence shows religion to be a very powerful and positive part of everyday life – Patrick McNamara, professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico.

Christianity, Traditional Religion and Islam, promotes integral development that goes beyond mere economic globalization, one could posit the thesis that religion if properly harnessed, could play a very important role in sustainable development despite conflicts, (at times violent), arising from religious intolerance.

No doubt, religion particularly in this clime commands the followership of millions. In social change theory, one of the most effective medium of change is diffusion of ideas and innovations; and religious bodies are most suited for this role. How great would it be, if our churches and mosques were to channel their weekly homilies (52 sermons a year from each church, mosque and other religious gatherings) to that great effort at bringing about social change in their followers; with a view to bringing about attitudinal dispositions that are amenable to socio economic betterment of the people? There is no doubt religion, if well channeled, could be made a veritable instrument of change and development.

The paradox of growth in the face of poverty and inequality is a result of the inequity and injustice in Nigeria’s socio-politico-economic distribution, with 1% of the population, (politicians and bureaucrats) cornering the national resources to themselves while the rest of the populace wallow in abject poverty.

The role of religion for the sustainable development of Nigeria has been both positive and negative. Positively, religion stands as a reliable institution providing stepping stones to sustainable development; “from the days of the missionaries to the present, the church in Africa has focused its development strategy in two areas: education and healthcare.” And they have done remarkably well: Ditto for Islamic organizations, which have a proliferation of mission schools all over the country. They provide health and educational services through their hospitals, clinics and maternities, schools and colleges, vocational training centers, seminaries and universities. Some even, promote small scale businesses by granting loans to individuals and cooperative societies.

However, in spite of their laudable involvement in promoting progress and sustainable development, religions in Nigeria have in some ways been inhibiting sustainable development. Christianity and Islam are often antagonists, leading to religious conflicts resulting in loss of lives and destruction of properties. This has been intensified by the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, better known as Boko Haram; which, since 2009, has caused the loss of thousands of lives and valuable government and business properties. Its terrorist activities in Nigeria have crippled the economy of North-Eastern Nigeria, creating insecurity in the country, driving away investors, foreign and local, and resulting in much government spending on security instead of on infrastructures.

It should be noted, however, that as the Council on Foreign Relations in a symposium,

“Religious Conflict in Nigeria,” (2007) discovered, most religious conflicts in Nigeria also have ethnic and political nuances. Yes!!! Politicians have hijacked religion to fight their wars.

Another reason for the upsurge of religious intolerance and violence is economic. The concomitant decline of investment in the education and economic well-being of people, especially the young, makes the latter a veritable reservoir and recruiting ground for religious fanatics or lunatics.  

Religion also impedes sustainable development by tacit collaboration in corruption and mismanagement of the economy; mainly because religious leaders have failed to challenge the unjust structures that give rise to bad governance, corruption and social malaise: They have not spoken with one voice against the cycles of injustice; greed and self-aggrandizement of the political class that confiscates the state resources for personal use, thus dehumanizing ordinary Nigerians.

On the contrary, various religious groups have sought to benefit from the corruption and nepotism of the Nigerian system. As we enter another phase of religious activity with the coming Ramadan, religious leaders in Nigeria must figure out a way to honestly embrace peace and promote mutual coexistence by understanding one another’s religious beliefs. They must become the conscience of the people and speak up against the excesses of our corrupt and thieving leaders: And stop receiving the proceeds of corruption in the form of offerings, tithe and Zakat. Only then would religion become a veritable change agent.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

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Cultist, 2Baba, Responsible for Killing Rivers DPO, Neutralized – Police

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Police operatives in Rivers State, on Saturday, said they have eliminated one Gift Okpara aka 2 Baba, prime suspect in the murder of a Divisional Police Officer of Ahoada Division, Bako Angbashim, in September last year.

A group of criminals, during the period, murdered the DPO in an ambush attack at the Odiemudie community of Ahoada East Local Government Area and dismembered his body.

Angered by the killing, the Rivers State Governor, Similayi Fubara, placed a N100 million bounty on Okpara, and charged the police to fish him out to face justice over the gruesome murder of the police officer.

The spokesperson for the Rivers State Police Command, Grace Iringe-Koko, who confirmed the news in a statement on Monday in Port Harcourt, said the hoodlum was killed in a recent joint security raid in the Idu-Ekpeye community in Ahiada East LGA.

She said human skulls, assorted rifles, explosives, and various charms were recovered during the raid on Okpara’s hideout.

The statement read: “On February 17, 2024, at around 12:00hrs, 2BABA and his gang attacked Okogbe town and Odiokwu community in Ahoda West LGA, destroying pipelines.

“At 04:00hrs, operatives raided 2Baba’s new camp. Despite a fierce gun battle, 2Baba and his gang members escaped.

“However, at around 14:00hrs, intelligence confirmed 2Baba’s death after he lost consciousness and resuscitation attempts failed.

“Efforts are in progress to retrieve the body of the infamous killer, while investigations into the Iceland cult’s activities in the region continue.

“The Rivers State Police Command remains resolute in its duty to protect the lives and property of the citizens and it will continue to employ all necessary resources and strategies to ensure a safe and secure environment for all.”

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Police Nab Five Suspects, Vow to Frustrate Illegal Sales, Theft at Ports

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The Nigeria Police Force has again reiterated its commitment to enforcing all laws and emplacing anti-crime strategies to curb illegal activities at our various ports and around the economic hubs in Nigeria.

The commitment, according to a statement by the Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, is geared towards stimulating the government’s agenda of quick economic recovery and development in our dear county.

The commitment was re-echoed when the Eastern Port Police Command confirmed the arrest of 5 suspects in connection with the diversion of bags of wheat belonging to the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP), and recovery of about 1,238 bags of wheat in Port-Hacourt on the 6th of February 2024.

The 1,840 bags of wheat which were to be transported from Ibeto Port Terminal, Port-Harcourt, to an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp located in Kano State were fraudulently diverted by the drivers tasked with this assignment, alongside their accomplices, who were intercepted and apprehended by the operatives of the Nigeria Police attached to the Eastern Port.

The operatives made an arrest of five (5) suspects namely Umar Hashim, Edidiong Umoh, Udah Stanley, Abubakar Jariri and Yunusa Babangida, and recovered 1,238 stolen bags of wheat along with the truck and a bus used in carrying out the crime. The recovered bags of wheat have been returned to the World Food Programme, and efforts are in top gear to recover the missing 602 bags of wheat and arrest the other suspects associated with the crime.

The FPRO reiterated that the Inspector General of Police, IGP Kayode Egbetokun has re-emphasized the goal of the Nigeria Police to ensure that individuals engaged in activities aimed at sabotaging the economy of the country and entrenching hardships among the vulnerable members of the public are ardently dealt with in line with extant laws. He has therefore ordered that the suspects be charged to court upon conclusion of investigations and tying of all lose ends.

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Police Recruitment: PSC Shortlists 171, 956 Candidates for CBT on March 5

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The Police Service Commission has fixed Tuesday, March 5th, 2024 for the Computer Based Test (CBT) for successful applicants for Police recruitment from the just concluded credentials and physical screening exercise that held throughout the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

A total of 171,956 applicants who were successful from the screening exercise are expected to take part in the Computer based tests. Candidates for the aptitude tests are applicants for the General duty positions.

The 43,778 applicants who were successful from the specialists cadre during the screening exercise are expected to go through practical tests at a date to be announced soon by the Commission.

The Commission after the Meeting of the Police Recruitment Board on Tuesday, February 13th, 2024 approved that the Joint Admission and Martriculation Board, JAMB, should conduct the Computer based tests for the Police applicants because of its long standing pedigree in such examinations.

For the General Duty cadre, 315, 114 applicants were invited for the screening exercise out of which 171,956 were successful and shortlisted for the JAMB CBT. The 171,956 applicants shortlisted are made up of 25,818 females and 146,138 males.

Kaduna State will be presenting the highest number of candidates for the tests with12,343 followed by Bauchi with 10,911, Benue, 10,532 and Katsina,10,457.

Anambra State has the least candidates for the aptitude tests with 343 applicants followed by Lagos, 504 and Ebonyi, 600.

Successful candidates from the Computer based tests will be required to appear for medical examinations before they proceed for training

Dr. Solomon Arase CFR, retired Inspector General of Police and Chairman of the Commission said the Commission is on course to conclude this exercise on time so that successful candidates can be quickly injected into the system to join in the renewed war against insurgency and banditry.

He commended Mr. President for this rare opportunity to reinforce and reinvigorate

The Police Service Commission has fixed Tuesday, March 5th, 2024 for the Computer Based Test (CBT) for successful applicants for Police recruitment from the just concluded credentials and physical screening exercise that held throughout the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

A total of 171,956 applicants who were successful from the screening exercise are expected to take part in the Computer based tests. Candidates for the aptitude tests are applicants for the General duty positions.

The 43,778 applicants who were successful from the specialists cadre during the screening exercise are expected to go through practical tests at a date to be announced soon by the Commission.

The Commission after the Meeting of the Police Recruitment Board on Tuesday, February 13th, 2024 approved that the Joint Admission and Martriculation Board, JAMB, should conduct the Computer based tests for the Police applicants because of its long standing pedigree in such examinations.

For the General Duty cadre, 315, 114 applicants were invited for the screening exercise out of which 171,956 were successful and shortlisted for the JAMB CBT. The 171,956 applicants shortlisted are made up of 25,818 females and 146,138 males.

Adamawa State will be presenting the highest number of candidates for the tests with 13, 780 followed by Kaduna,12,343, Bauchi 10,911, Benue, 10,532 and Katsina,10,457.

Anambra State has the least candidates for the aptitude tests with 343 applicants followed by Lagos, 504 and Ebonyi, 600.

Successful candidates from the Computer based tests will be required to appear for medical examinations before they proceed for training

Dr. Solomon Arase CFR, retired Inspector General of Police and Chairman of the Commission said the Commission is on course to conclude this exercise on time so that successful candidates can be quickly injected into the system to join in the renewed war against insurgency and banditry.

He commended Mr. President for this rare opportunity to reinforce and reinvigorate the Police Force for improved performance .

Dr. Arase assured that the Commission will continue to seek for citizen oriented and friendly Police, properly trained and equipped to provide inspiring leadership in the nation’s internal security.

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