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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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Five UTME Candidates Face Prosecution for Doctoring Scores

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Five candidates who sat for the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination are being prosecuted for allegedly altering their scores.

They were apprehended between June and September by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board and handed over to the police.

JAMB Head of Information, Dr Fabian Benjamin, confirmed the prosecution of the candidates on Monday in an interview with our correspondent.

Adah Eche, Cletus Kokowa, Kingsley Unekwe and Rejoice Mordi are among the candidates facing trial.

Eche was arrested on June 24 for allegedly changing his score from 153 to 290.

The 19-year-old confessed to the crime.

According to him, some social media users helped him to forge the results.

He said the unknown social media users claimed they could alter JAMB results.

Eche reportedly called the numbers provided by the fraudsters to seek their help to add to his score. A fake results slip was later sent to him.

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps arrested  Kokowa in Abuja on  July 4 for allegedly engaging a syndicate to alter his score from 162 to 206, after paying N10,000.

Meanwhile, Unekwe was arrested on August 16 for changing his score from 201 to 269.

JAMB said with the help of some people, Unekwe forged his results slip which he presented to his parents who wanted him to study medicine.

Mordi was arrested on September 8 for altering her score from 164 to 264.

The candidate told JAMB that she got the fake results from an agent identified as Iyanu Oluwa through WhatsApp.

Benjamin said,  “Some of them have appeared in court, and most of them have been arraigned. Others are on bail. But there is no conviction yet.”

The JAMB chief added, “Admission for the 2019/2020 session has started and certainly we have a number but I don’t have it now. It is still very insignificant.”

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ECOWAS Parliament Appeals to Nigeria to Reopen Borders

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The ECOWAS Parliament on Monday appealed to the Nigerian government to reopen its closed borders as it hampers on the implementation of free trade movement within the ECOWAS region.

Speaker of the Parliament, Hon. Moustapha Cisse Lo, made the call in a statement at the opening of the 2nd Extra Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Monrovia, Liberia.

He added that the border closure poses a threat to the implementation of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons at a time when Africa need to intensify efforts for effective abolition of barriers within the Community.

Cisse Lo, however, urged the government to find a permanent solution to the challenge of smuggling, rather than closing the borders, which was not a lasting solution.

“In the same vein, the closure of the Nigerian borders with Benin more than a month ago and Niger more recently is a hindrance to the achievement of the Community’s main objective, which is to achieve the creation of a prosperous, borderless West African region where peace and harmony prevail.

“The ECOWAS Parliament calls for compliance with Community provisions and thus calls for the reopening of borders and a coordinated fight against smuggling in the region;

“The root causes of this recurrent situation must be studied with a view to finding a permanent solution.” he added

He also condemned the Xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, saying that it had constituted real threats to African integration.

“At the time of our session, serious events are taking place on our continent and should be given special attention.

“Indeed, in South Africa, in recent weeks, we have witnessed an upsurge in extremely violent xenophobic acts.

“These sad images of Africa, these painful events and the tensions they generate challenge us as elected representatives of our peoples, we are extremely concerned and deeply outraged.

“The ECOWAS Parliament calls on the South African authorities to assume their responsibility by guaranteeing all their foreign nationals the right to life, physical integrity and free movement.

“We also call on all African States and the African Union to adopt diligent initiatives to restore peace and security and ensure a return to calm in South Africa and all other States.

Cisse Lo, however, expresses the readiness of the Parliament to discuss the 2020 budget of the ECOWAS Community.

He said that the agenda of the extra ordinary session was to adopt Parliament’s draft Budget for 2020 financial year, as well as the revision of Rule 13 of the Rules of Procedure of the Fourth Parliament devoted to the Inaugural Session.

He said that an Ad Hoc Committee was set up to prepare a preliminary draft of Parliament’s Budget for the year 2020.

According to him, the report of the said Ad Hoc Committee was transmitted and examined by the Bureau of Parliament at its last meeting held in Monrovia.

“Parliament’s competent committee, in particular the Administration, Finance and Budget Control Committee, after approval by Parliament will report to the Plenary.

“This is an opportunity for each of us, honourable colleagues, to impose a rigorous discipline on ourselves in order to examine the preliminary draft Budget 2020 carefully and objectively.

” I remain convinced that we will be diligent and punctual, so that the full treatment of our agenda can be accomplished under good and fruitful conditions,” he said.

(NAN)

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Serial Killer on the Prowl in Port Harcourt as Police Shut Motel

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A motel located in the Rumuola area of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, was on Sunday sealed off after the body of a young woman was discovered in one of the rooms.

It was gathered that an unknown man had lodged in the hotel with the young woman, whose name could not be ascertained as of press time.

The incident is the latest after another young woman was found dead in a hotel on Saturday in Obo, Omoku, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the state.

Sources explained that the murder of the woman in the motel followed a similar pattern of snuffing lives out of women in hotel rooms in the state.

Our correspondent learnt that the lifeless body of the young woman was discovered by one of the cleaners at the motel, who went to clean the room on Sunday morning.

A source close to the motel said the man, who brought the woman to the facility, gave false information regarding his identity while filling the guests’ register before they checked in.

The victim, according to the source, had no means of identification as nothing to link her to any person or place was found on her.

The latest killing was said to have shocked Rumuola residents, who said despite the directive of the Rivers State Police Command that CCTV cameras be installed in hotels, most owners and managers had refused to comply.

Confirming the incident, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Nnamdi Omoni, told our correspondent that the manager, desk officer and receptionist of the motel had been arrested.

Omoni explained that they were taken to the station so that they could give vital information to the police to help in the ongoing investigation.

He said, “For now, what the CP said is that we should preserve the place pending when the police will take action. The place is a motel in Rumuola.

“Only the desk officer, the receptionist and the manager of the motel are with us. They just came to make a statement to us. They should be able to help us with information that will lead to the arrest of the suspect.”

He, however, added that the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Mustapha Dandaura, would speak on the matter today (Tuesday).

The Punch

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