By John Ogunrinde
We just experienced a very rare moment – a moment when all social and economic activities were halted so that a novel pandemic is allowed a free way to pass. For the rarity of the moment, perhaps Nigerians and indeed Africans may be inspired by this unfamiliar standstill to reminisce on their growth rate, relative to other nations and continents which nature has not blessed with equal endowment.
If we wonder why Nigeria and her African sisters have consistently kept an unappealing low profile in growth ranking for decades, the puzzle may just to be to identify what the “etcetera nations” have placed their values on, during these many unprofitable years. A quick look around will provide us with details of what we cherish most: to us, prayer is the key – the master key that fits all doors. The only key, potent enough to unlock good health, grow finances, bring fortune, create employment, build sky scrapers, eradicate corruption, elect great leaders, prevent accidents, grow GDP, and even stop a global pandemic.
To make sure that the master key is well lubricated we devotedly seek the face of the imaginary “money-minting god” with many days of fasting, gallons of anointing oil and holy water, and a strict adherence to pastoral injunctions. We go to bed – scriptures under pillows – to fuel in us an illusionary expectation of angelic intervention that may come during the quiet hours of the night to cure the woes of corruption and deep-rooted hypocrisy that beset our nation.
Man is naturally wired to be prosperous. He is prosperous when he is able to not merely survive, but could also acquire the knowledge available to him and apply such knowledge to sustain his health; to grant himself freedom, decency of living and comfort. Since such application of knowledge has been widely accepted to mean wisdom, such a man would be described as wise. How wise have we been in Nigeria and in Africa?
While Japan, China, India, Iran, UAE and the better rest in the West were building industries, technologies, large product-market, trans-generational service centres, social infrastructure, attractive tourism hubs, security, infrastructure, solid medical technology and more – Africans were busy praying with eyes towards the sky for some celestial bodies to descend and take their problems away.
Today, we can all relax and throw hundreds of “Hail Mary” since everyone got the profits of their investment. As Europe, America, Japan, China, India, UAE and others who have invested in technology, massive industrialisation, security, and social infrastructure reap economic prosperity, power and knowledge, the likes of African nations that have invested in religion and hypocrisy have also gained wide reputation for multi-million dollars congregation. For example, China today has become the world’s centre for technologies, Japan today is a major exporter of cars and other mechanics, UAE is among the top tourist attraction and business centres, India is pacing far ahead in self-sufficiency and industrialisation; while on the other hand Nigeria is proudly the headquarters of many pentecostal congregations and religion centres in the world. Good examples are the Living Faith Bible Church (Winners Chapel) Redeemed Christian Church (RCCG) Celestial Church of Christ (CCC), Synagogue, Latter Rain, Christ Embassy etc., all established by Nigerians and headquartered in Nigeria.
Of course, Islam and any other religion you can think of in Nigeria is also not immune to this contradiction – in terms of how many people practice the faiths, deepening investment illiteracy and poverty. That is why the likes of Nasfat, Tabligh, Alhu-sunnah, Islahudeen Tijaniyah, Dawatul Islamiyyah, Quareb, Quadriya and Jomaf still have a lot to do in the areas of financial literacy for their members and imperative of intensive and expensive thinking towards entrepreneurial growth, invention and national development. Generally, although we all want the good things of life – money, exotic cars, mansions and all – Nigeria appears to have the techniques of inventing religious doctrines to solve economic problems. It is a magic we must stop romancing if we will make any meaningful headway.
For now, while we import technologies from countries who are busy producing, we keep multiplying and exporting religion centres by spreading church branches to other nations of the world. No surprises that Nigerian pastors (including imams too?) are rated among the richest of clergies in the world, with private jets and exotic estates to pride. This explains the puzzle of why we have remained under-developed for this long.
Within Abeokuta the capital of Ogun State, and the Lagos Metropolis, there is a worship centre at every kilometre radius. In a more populated area, there is a temple at the count of every five houses. A recent business assessment in Ogun State showed that churches and beer joints (pubs) were the two businesses sprouting rapidly in most environments. In every ten newly opened centres, there are four churches and three beer joints (pubs), a number of business centres and shops were found to have been suddenly converted to churches or fellowship centres – with increasing competition.
It is ironic, however, that despite the geometric rapidity of worship centres in most places in Nigerian and most of other African nations, we have been at the forefront of Corruption Perception Index. The Transparency International (2022) rated Nigeria among the thirty most corrupt nations of the world, with a very poor 24% rating of transparency in public sector. Somalia, South Sudan, Burundi, Libya remain among the top ten. Unfortunately, all the religious devotion failed to inject transparency and accountability in our institutional blood streams. How would creeds save men who failed to save themselves?
It is time we reminded ourselves that financial crises are caused by fiscal dynamics such as inflation rate, gross domestic products, import-dependence versus export-dependence ratio, currency value and depreciation causals in relation with the global money market; product/service demands and supply ratio.
It is time we realised that killing people was never the business of the devil; it is either caused by accident which is a result of bad road, recklessness or bad vehicles, or it may be caused by illness, lifestyle, or poor health facilities which are all linked with life expectancy level, mortality rate/morbidity rate in relation with available health care infrastructure.
We should reason better that unemployment and poverty are beyond any wizard, it is caused by a surge in population figure and a drop in productivity, with attendant over-reliance on government’s social intervention programme, and ignorance concerning farming/food production mechanism.
Lucifer is not the culprit when we lack infrastructure to train our children, we are. Rather than relying on what miracles to come, let’s return to reasoning and produce what the world would buy.
For almost a year, major religion centres had to close down, pilgrimages for 2020 and 2021 were cancelled, pastors and imams were indoors, politicians cannot escape to UK or US and the whole nation was faced with the bitter reality of a poor health sector, endemic poverty, declining oil price, and business paralysis. The nation was being haunted by the venoms of ignorance. The leadership have been of unrepentant corruption and the general public have done nothing other than blackmailing God to take responsibility for fixing our mess.
The gods are now to blame?