Saturday, 23 January 2010

Illegal Immigrants: What If We Give Them Amnesty?

Recently I had an opportunity to engage in a little but highly intelligent discussion with a facebook friend on the question of amnesty for illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom. It was a discussion I must claim was full of intelligence and common sense and therefore worthy of being shared here too.

What actually transpired was that the friend in question berated the Liberal Democrats Party for suggesting amnesty for the illegal immigrants. I do not intend to mention the name of the friend in question because she might be termed a racist. Minorities are using this ‘R’ word to play a fast game. If you do not identify with what pleases them, you are likely to be termed a racist.

In the politics of the United Kingdom, immigration is one of the issues that is seriously considered a no go area. It could make or mar a party’s chance of winning or losing an election. Presently, any party that shows sympathy towards this question of immigration or even think of amnesty for the illegal immigrants is more likely and certainly sure of loosing votes. The British electorates are fast becoming xenophobic and afraid of what would be of their future in the face of the pace of the present immigration system, trend and level. As a result of this, a party that comes up with a very hard line on this issue is more likely to win. This could explain the reason the electorates are fast embracing right wing parties like the British National Party and United Kingdom Independence Party.

However the question here is a moral one. The electorates are more likely to be deceived by the parties to get their votes and do nothing at the end of the day. Parties are in the business of winning elections and never loosing. For them to win they must do everything possible by all means to achieve their aim. That according to Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli in his ‘The Prince’ is allowed in politics; get what you want by all means because the end justifies the means. One of the things they could do would be to tell the voters lie by making false promises including leading them to the Promised Land and building mansions for them in the air. If they are able to win the election at the end of the day, every other thing becomes a promise after all they have got five years to work hard to deceive them again. The electorates are gullible and to deceive them you have to tell them what they want to hear. The parties could tell them that once they are voted in illegal immigration would be a history while those already here would be deported within few years. The former could be possible only when factors necessitating their illegal immigration are nipped to the bud while the later is completely impossible.

The United Kingdom at the moment according to the London School of Economic has about 750 thousand illegal immigrants. Most of them live and work in London and to deport them could take many years including the heavy cost on the tax payers. As a matter of fact the deportation option could be ludicrous and practically impossible and even if it is possible and going by the rate by which illegal immigrants are being removed in this country presently which is about 60,000 a year, it will take about 34 years at the cost of about £11,000 each to remove all of them. At the end of the 34 years it would have cost the nation about £9bn to remove them all. Therefore the realistic thing to do would be firstly to work hard to secure the UK border which frankly may not solve the problem till corruption in the country where these illegal immigrants are coming from is genuinely tackled and secondly to legalise those already here. Both make sense. But due to the egoistic reason of winning an election a party need only to pretend that the illegal immigration is a no go area even though the problem is there. Another thing the party could do to ensure that it does not mess herself up in the public would be to try as much possible to either evade the question entirely or confuse the electorates by being very ambiguous and loquacious in their action plan regarding the question.

This drama of either alluding to a no go area principle or being very ambiguous or garrulous is exactly what the main parties are rehearsing today with the exception of the Liberal Democrats. Amongst the three main political parties, it is only the Liberal Democrats that comes very close to being realistic with the question of solving the perennial issue of illegal immigrants already here. They do not actually have an action plan on how to tackle illegal immigration just like other parties. Labour and the Conservative parties are blindly opposed to any form of exercise that would eventually provide a platform for the illegals already here to be normalised. They do not have a cogent reason for that. In fact they have only two mantra they repeat all the time to support their claim. One is that the exercise would end up justifying illegality while the other is that the exercise would be a push factor. The fact that these illegal immigrants are here working and making profit and sending profits back home does not bother them at all. They more or less live comfortably compared to the legal immigrants since they have little or no bill to pay and therefore enjoy life just like every other person.

The Liberal Democrats are very much aware of this fact and certainly talks out of experience. The Liberal Democrats are in charge of the Southwark Council which has the highest percentage of these illegal immigrants, most from the sub-Saharan Africa. Due to this first had experience, they are of the view that any solution that thinks of deporting all of them would be unrealistic, pennywise and pound foolish and would surely end up being a huge problem to the society and the people involved. In fact the Liberal Democrats believes that the only solution to the problem of illegal immigrants already here is simply granting them amnesty; any form of amnesty even conditional one to enable them turn their lives around, come out of darkness into light and live openly like others instead of living underground. I strongly identify with and share the views of the Liberal democrats. It is noble and more realistic than sending them home. They score high here when compared to other parties.

My identifying with the Liberal Democrats does not in any way suggest justifying illegal immigration but the fact is that I have also thought of this issue over and over again and concluded that we cannot continue to pretend that the problem is not there. The problem is there and must be addressed after all we are dealing with human beings and not dogs. This democracy is therefore under a moral obligation to give this shame a butt and for the sake of humanity must courageously cut a deal that would go a long way to give a second chance to these people. They have made the mistake and we cannot dwell on that forever after all rapists and murderers are routinely paroled. The United Kingdom would not cease to exist if that is done and it would obviously have no negative impact on any part of life of the Kingdom. The United Kingdom stands to gain from this exercise. Somebody therefore must make the first move no matter whose Ox is going to be gored.

I am therefore strongly in support of the steps advocated by the Liberal Democrats. My view is that the Liberal Democrats may not be wrong after all considering the amount of food we waste and throw away in this country and the money we spend daily on our pets. If we consider the fact that illegal immigrants are human beings, then the liberal democrats are making a sense and a big sense indeed. If we can spend so much money on our pets and use same money to buy food and either waste them or throw them away, then all of us need to join this campaign to give a second chance to these people. They are humans like us, though less fortunate due to their place of origin and present status.

My case is very concrete and makes more sense if there is any iota of truth in the fact that every authority comes from God. God is an instrument of good government and if God is indeed an instrument of good government, then the poor and the marginalised are on the side of God as the bible stated and that is where every authority on earth including that of the United Kingdom should be. The UK government is not unaware of this hence its motto ‘God and my right’ which reflects the fact that this kingdom does not only know but is ever conscience of the fact that there is God. This is a very strong statement which suggests that the foundation of the government of the United Kingdom is built upon awareness of the fact that there is something like universal fatherhood of God, brotherhood of mankind, justice, human rights, compassion, sympathy, consideration, selflessness, fellow feeling, egalitarianism, mercy and the opportunity for individual pursuit of happiness.

It is widely held that the main obstacle towards this proposed amnesty comes from the Lords and the Commons. If that is true then the events of last year should have taught all of us that nobody is above mistake or beyond getting their ends by all means. I am talking in particular of the recent scandal relating to the MPs expenses. The fact is that the MPs are not telling the voters the truth. They are brainwashing them into believing that the illegal immigrants are the reason for the woes of this nation. They are not. Almost all of them work and pay their taxes and the only thing they miss is inability to travel home and that is not a big deal for them so far money is remitted to their families at intervals. Also the emergence of twitter, facebook, mySpace, bebo, linkedin and mobile phones has made it very simple and easy for them to be in constant contact with their family thereby obviating the need for travelling which is denied them by their status. Therefore the case for amnesty is meaningful and worthwhile. Illegal immigrants in the past may have had it very hard but with the present ones, the case is a different thing altogether. The globalisation and emergence of social networks and internet technology including the ubiquitous camera and webcam and low cost international calls especially the Skype and the likes makes their travelling less important.

When I think of the plight of the illegal immigrants, I find it absolutely difficult to comprehend that people are still living like dogs in the west despite all the noise about human rights and civilisation. My feeling is as a result of what I see in the South East of London on daily basis. This place boasts of thousands of illegal immigrants and I know of a particular family with 6 children in one bedroom room apartment and by their status of being illegal they are forced to bring up their children underground in that one bedroom apartment; a breeding ground for angry young people. Children brought up in that type of environment are more likely to grow up to become angry young men and women and the society would surely be forced to bear the consequences. Ever thought of the reason for the high rate of crime in the south east of London? That could be partly a reason for that!

Once again, normalising these illegal immigrants would never cost heaven in this country. The United Kingdom has got enough to feed our need but never our greed. In fact the amount of food we waste in this country on daily basis if saved would enough to offset the cost of whatever would be the financial consequences of the amnesty exercise. Also looking at the cost of the ongoing immoral and illegal war and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, then you would agree with me that amnesty is long overdue. How can reasonable people support the wars and oppose fiercely the giving of life and second chance to their fellow humans? Something must be wrong somewhere and God and the angels must be turning with anger in heaven!

Amnesty is long overdue. In fact so long overdue and we are all well aware of that. Sending these illegal immigrants home would never solve the problem. It would create more than it would solve. The solution to this perennial question lies in tackling the corruption in their home country which leads to situations like this. Corruption and not even the quest for better life is the push factor in illegal immigration. Think of Nigeria with enough oil to feed the need of the whole world and yet is still poor because of corruption and bad leadership. These corrupt leaders are bent on avariciously looting the commonwealth and thereby impoverishing millions of their people. These poor and the wretched of the earth are the people who end up coming here by all means to end up as illegal immigrants. They prefer staying here washing plates, cleaning floors and doing all sorts of menial job to staying hopelessly in their country with the heartbreaking reality that their contributions towards the development of their nation is being looted by few unscrupulous individuals.

These people are going through a lot and history may not after all be very harsh on them. The natural instinct to survive is the reason they are taking numerous risks to come to the west and do even the menial jobs to survive even with their university degrees. Therefore sending them home or building a very huge wall across the whole of United Kingdom would never solve the problem. Even if we succeed in building a first class border here, civilised British people would tear it down for no sane person would ever feel comfortable when his brothers and sisters are suffering. There is still something like circle of life and ubuntu. Think of the state of Israel on one side and the big wall they are building to protect themselves from the Palestinians and yet the problem unfortunately is still there. The meaning is that 24-hour vigilance over the UK borders would certainly not solve the problem. Common sense and being more realistic would and that obviously involves fighting corruption everywhere including Africa with special emphasis on Nigeria. What happens in Nigeria is miserable!

African leaders are senselessly corrupt and we should join hands together to fight them. They are thieves and cheats and they are the reason these illegal immigrants are running to this place for succour. We therefore cannot turn them away for we also contributed to their plight. Their leaders refuse to develop their educational sector and yet send their own kids here to receive the best education. They refuse to develop their healthcare and yet send their own families here to receive the best healthcare. This is evil and should never be encouraged. The west must find a way to stop this. I would suggest an embargo on African leaders and their elected officials from sending their families here to receive western education and healthcare whilst in the office. Their children should stay in their country and be part of the mess their fathers put their nation in. The fathers have eaten the sour grape and now let their children’s teeth be set on edge! If this is done, the problem of illegal immigration would surely be reduced by half, at least.

At this point she asked if Nigerian problems just like that of other African nations should not be their own problem which they must solve themselves. In my reply I again picked Nigeria as a case study since I come from Nigeria and know more about Nigerian politics than that of other African countries. Nigeria is corrupt and when I say corrupt I mean very corrupt. I think God was fast asleep when the British gave Nigeria independence. If God had been awake that day, He would obviously have resisted any attempt to give independence to Nigeria and to be sincere, the 'baddest' thing the UK did to Nigeria was to give her that independence. It was too premature.

The UK and the west as I pointed out earlier have got a huge role to play in stopping this nonsense. I have some points to prove that. Am sure you know about DFID which stands for Department For International Development. It is an arm of the British Government charged with giving aids to poor countries like ‘Nigeria’. DFID is the equivalent of the United States USAID. Every year DFID dishes out millions in pounds to Nigeria as aid without making any effort to know how that money is being spent. Majority of this amount goes into the pocket of corrupt government officials. DFID give us this aid to help to develop our local healthcare, education and poverty alleviation but because DFID does not have a mechanism to check how this money is being spent, they end up being diverted into private pockets. This is the reason why aid is the worst the west can do for Africa at the moment and I mean it! Trade is better off compared to aid. If it must be aid then give it directly to the people.

For instance instead of giving 1 Million pounds to the Federal Government of Nigeria to provide books for the Federal Polytechnic at Oko, Nigeria, DFID may think of using that money to buy the books from the Waterstones here in London and ship it directly to the Federal Polytechnic at Oko. This way we are using one stone to kill two birds. First it will completely obviate the need to give cash to these corrupt government officials and secondly we would be definitely sure that the aid gets to the intended recipients. This model could also be replicated in other areas including healthcare, provision of potable water, Scholarship, rural development and many others.

Besides, our government has completely messed up our educational and health care sector and they are not even bothered because they could easily send their own family to the west for western education and healthcare. What the west and the UK government can do here is to place a ban on any of these government officials from sending their family here to receive either medical care or western education so far they are still in the office. They should be forced to use the money to develop our local education and healthcare system. We have both the money and the personnel. Nigerian health workers are performing wonders in the west. What we need is to lure them back home with juicy working incentives and packages. This is definitely going to work and I am very much convinced of that. The only thing required is for somebody to make the first step. However that first step could be very difficult but the fruit is going to be unquantifiable including a sharp reduction in illegal immigration.

In addition most of these corrupt government officials have assets worth millions of pounds here. The UK government should demand to know how much they earn as salary in Nigeria and then figure out how it could be possible for them to earn such amount of money to have those assets in the United Kingdom. The Government of the United Kingdom has a moral obligation towards Nigerian masses and to the mankind and therefore should as a matter of urgency seize those assets and use the money for the betterment of those people living in the place it was stolen from.

In addition there is an urgent need to ban these people who are violating human rights in their own country from coming to the UK at all. If they do not want human rights for their people, they should not come to the UK to enjoy human rights. In Nigeria, there is currently a bill in the House of Assembly seeking to imprison homosexuals for 5 years. Its counterpart in Uganda is seeking for death penalty for them. What the United Kingdom can do here would be to formally warn Nigeria and Uganda of the implication of such a bill on human rights of the homosexuals. If they go ahead to pass it into law the UK should then come in with travel ban on the people behind the law on the understanding that they cannot come to the UK , a ‘country of homosexuals’ to enjoy life while at the same time refuse to respect that of homosexuals in their own country. If they do not like the idea of homosexuality, then they should as well not think of coming to a country that recognises them by law. If this is done, then there would be no need of any homosexual coming to the United Kingdom to seek for asylum or to live illegally. This point is very vital since respect, tolerance and accommodation as well as commonsense and justice are an integral part of democracy.

These approaches would obviously go a long way towards ameliorating the problem of illegal immigration because by the time these corrupt governments see that looting of public fund is no more appetising they would be forced to invest the stolen funds in their own country for the betterment of their own people or better still would not steal at all knowing that the UK and the west would definitely always seize them. I do not have a doubt these measures would work and I hope that somebody should table it before the Commons one day.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Idiots! Am Still Your President: Between President Yar’Adua And The Rest Of Us

The beauty of democracy lies in accountability. The elected officials are accountable to the people. They cannot do anything even things they like doing without telling the electorates. The meaning is that they have to exercise utmost precaution in both their public and private actions and utterances. In fact they do not have a private life. Elected officials by the act of being elected automatically forfeited their right to privacy and private life to the nation and they cannot do anything to stop this part of their life from being under public scrutiny at all times especially by the press.

Privacy and private lives are antithetical to holding public offices. If elected officials cherish their privacy a lot, they have one option and that option is relinquishing their public office and reverting to their private lives. This way they could be able to lay claim to the right to privacy and private life as well as having a ground to sue for invasion of privacy. The argument is very clear; stand for public office and you lose your privacy and private life.

It is because of this that the electorates have the right to know at all point in time the actions of their elected officials including their privacy and private life, their whereabouts and in fact everything about them. They are entitled to know everything and should be concerned about their previous and everyday lives including convictions, qualifications, extra-marital affairs and whatever on the face of the earth you can think of. The electorates have the right to know and this right is not negotiable. It is the core of the right to democracy and it is inherent in human nature and therefore inalienable. Therefore no public official has the privilege to claim the right to privacy and private life or to lay claim to any form of compensation for the invasion of their private lives. By electing to serve, they also elected to have their dirty linens watched in the public.

This lost of the right to their private lives and privacy also extends to their immediate family, extended family, business acquaintances and in fact any form of relationship they exercise and the reason is because a country cannot afford to be led by people of questionable characters or people whose families and acquaintances could bring public opprobrium and disrepute to the country. The implication of this statement is that elected officials are supposed to be men and women of good behaviour, outstanding character, unblemished record, sound wisdom, strong judgement, impeccable integrity and not just any tout or thug from the bus stop. That does not actually stop there; these people should also be ready to surrender their privacy to the nation and cannot do anything and I mean anything even the minute ones without informing the electorates. Like in the famous Meerkat television commercial the electorates have the right to know, simple!

The reason for writing this is because of what is happening at the moment in Nigeria. It is quite unfortunate, appalling and disgusting that one man could have the gut to treat about 145 million Nigerians like idiots and yet be allowed to go scot free. That could never happen elsewhere even in tiny Africa countries. I am therefore flabbergasted that Nigeria, a country very rich in human resources could allow this to happen to her. Where has the giant in us gone to? Are we now so stupid that we are lacking in wise men and women?

It all began on November 23, 2009. The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Shehu Umaru Musa Yar'Adua just woke up, collected his belongings and left for Saudi Arabia on a medical treatment. Nobody was informed about the plan, not even the House of Assembly or the media. He just abandoned his duty and absconded. While leaving he refused to formally handover to his vice as the Acting President. He vehemently refused to do this due to his love and lust for power, personal aggrandisement, ego and the desire to cling to power till he drops dead. This is the president of the most populous black nation on earth. His action is unprecedented and a sign that this man has no respect for the electorates, the constitution and even the democracy. He has got no regard for Nigeria and does not consider her sacred enough to tell Nigerians that he is not only leaving the country but would also not be handing over to his vice as stipulated by the constitution. This would later create a big problem for the nation especially in the judiciary sector.

The action of the president should have warranted the immediate initiation of impeachment process by the National Assembly but the cowards refused to do anything preferring to justify his actions. If that is painful, how about the fact that the president of Nigeria had the effrontery to leave the shores of Nigeria to seek for medical attention abroad? Does that mean that he does not have faith in the healthcare system of his own country? Unfortunately no one sees the argument from that angle. The National Assembly who is supposed to initiate the impeachment process against him for that affront added insult to injury by asking Nigerians to pray for him. These are people who were ab initio never told of the whereabouts and the problem of the president they elected. An insult beyond comparison! They were denied the basic right to know about the whereabouts and conditions of the president they elected and yet asked to pray for him. Well some people prayed and I wonder what they were asking God.

The whereabouts was a closely guarded secret until pressures from here and there and yonder including a judicial threat made the powers to be to reveal that he is in Saudi Arabia on medical treatment for an undisclosed ailment. Three days later, a grapevine had it that he suffers from Pericarditis. Inflammation of the pericardium is called pericarditis The pericardium is a thin layer of specialized tissue that covers the outer surfaces of the heart. This tissue helps to anchor the heart in place, prevents excessive movement of the heart in the chest when body position changes, protects the heart from infections and tumours that develop in and may spread from nearby tissues, and may help keep the heart from enlarging. Pericarditis frequently causes a characteristic chest pain that usually compels one to seek medical attention. There are many causes of pericarditis, including infection, kidney failure, metastatic disease, some medications and radiation therapy. Recent viral infection often precedes pericarditis in young, otherwise healthy patients. In idiopathic pericarditis, no clear cause is determined.

The president is also allegedly suffering from kidney complication, skin infections and probably others they do not want us to know. His life and presidency is completely shrouded in secrecy that is unprecedented in the history of democracy and this country. This leaves all of us wondering if that was actually what we bargained for! We want democracy by all means but obviously not this type of democracy. As the conclave-like drama was going on, one sane Nigerian and a foremost activist and lawyer, Femi Falana initiated a suit against the Federal Executive Council asking the Abuja Federal High Court to declare the actions of the Council in the absence of the president illegal, null and void and of no effect. He also sought for an order of mandatory injunction compelling President Yar’Adua to send a written declaration to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives stating that he has proceeded on medical leave and therefore empowers the vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, to discharge the functions of the president as the acting president of Nigeria.

Mr. Falana, in his suit stated that despite the assurance of the federal government that the vice president is ‘in charge’ the exercise of any of the functions or duties of the president by the vice president is illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever unless the office is properly transmitted to him. The Federal Executive Council comprises the president, the vice president and all ministers. The council meets weekly to take decisions that determine the direction of domestic policies of the government and to award contracts. According to the 1999 constitution, the president presides over the council. The president did not officially hand over to his vice before he disappeared and since the disappearance, the vice president had held about four FEC meetings, where several decisions had been taken, including the award of contracts running into billions of naira. It is the validity of these decisions that Mr. Falana is asking the Federal High Court to quash.

In the midst of that suit, a new Chief Justice for Nigeria was sworn in on December 30, 2009. By the stipulations of the Nigerian constitution, the swearing in of Aloysius Katsina-Alu as the new Chief Justice and president of the Supreme Court is illegal, as only the president has the power to take his oath of office. The ceremony was presided over by the outgoing Chief Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, who retired on 31 December, 2009. The constitution made it clear that the chief justice can only be sworn in by the president meaning that the legality of the swearing in exercise is questionable, unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect. This claim was denied by the outgoing Chief Justice who posited that law had long been in existence to allow chief justices to swear in their successors.

Meanwhile, in the Abuja Federal High Court, common sense finally prevailed when the presiding judge ruled that the Vice President Goodluck Jonathan should commence exercising the full powers of the president pending the return of Yar'Adua. Justice Daniel Abutu, observed that Yar'Adua did not transmit any letter to the National Assembly informing it that his deputy should begin to exercise his duties pending his return from Saudi Arabia, where he is receiving medical treatment. As a result of that negligence he therefore ordered the enthronement of Jonathan Goodluck as the Acting President. What a Goodluck for Goodluck!

The order seems to have finally put to rest the controversy. Justice Abutu declared that the vice president could become the acting president but could only carry out the functions of the president in his absence, which he has been doing and should continue to do as enshrined in section 5 (1) of the 1999 constitution.

Few days later after this judicial pronouncement, precisely on January 12, 2010, President Yar’Adua in a blatant disregard for Nigerians and the Nigerian media connived with his northern brothers at the Hausa Service of the BBC to air a telephone interview where he claimed that he is getting better and would soon return home to resume his duties. I find the whole drama very absurd and I have many reasons for that. In the first place why would Yar’Adua choose the Hausa Service of BBC for the interview and not other services like the English service? The conclusion is that some cabals in the north are working tirelessly to ensure that this impunity being perpetrated by Yar’Adua continues and that is why it was very easy for them to use the Hausa Service to achieve this aim. The BBC World Service Trust has therefore a responsibility to initiate an investigation to find out how Yar’Adua and his cohorts were able to manipulate the Hausa Service to air the interview. Something is definitely wrong somewhere and BBC Hausa Service knows that.

Besides why did the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic Nigeria abandoned his own media in preference for the foreign media. What happened to the Nigeria Television Authority, Radio Nigeria, Voice of Nigeria and even the News Agency of Nigeria? Nigerians should begin to ask questions because the implication is that this man who abandoned the Nigerian healthcare sector to receive medical attention abroad and on top of that chose to grant an interview to a foreign media instead of his own media does not have any iota of faith in his own country and that is the reason why he should be forced to resign.

I do sympathise with President Yar’Adua and his health condition but the fact is that I do not see why he should hide under his sickness to flagrantly disrespect Nigerians. He has an obligation to resign and take good care of himself since it is obvious by his actions that he is no more physically and morally fit to lead this country. He is sick and the best thing for him to do would be to resign. He has a responsibility towards himself and that responsibility involves taking adequate care of himself healthwise. It is obvious that there is no way he could combine his fragile health with the business of presiding over Nigeria. He is incompetent, clueless, egoistic, proud, not in touch with Nigerians and therefore should resign so that the nation could move forward.

Nigeria is made up of about 145 million people and Yar’Adua cannot be more important than all of us. He is a minute figure in this ocean of people. He should therefore leave the scene now that the ovation is still high so that the nation could move forward. It is an act of wickedness, irresponsibility, lack of love for the nation, pride and lack of patriotism for Yar’Adua to think that he could preside over Nigeria from a hospital in Saudi Arabia. That is not acceptable. He is not the only person who could preside over Nigeria. We have many other Nigerians who could do the job and even do it better. He should therefore step aside and stop being a cog in the wheel of progress of this country.

Nigeria and Nigerians have been going through a lot of hard times and the idea that Yar’Adua should be a new addition to the problems we have already is what we do not want at this point in time. His insatiable appetite and lust for power is making him to overlook the basic thing which is to take a good care of himself. He is simply not capable at this point in time and therefore should resign. Yar’Adua is obviously what we do not want right now. His actions are deplorable, reflect African leaders’ mentality and remind me of the conversation between Banzai and Scar in the Walt Disney’s ‘The Lion King’. What a coincidence that the cartoon was set in Africa. In the cartoon Scar was so full of pride and himself that he thought that he is the only one suitable to be a king and each time Banzai euphemistically confronts him with the fact that he may not after all be suitable for the position, he would burst out ‘Idiots!..I will be your king!

That is exactly what Yar’Adua is telling Nigerians today. He is telling us that we are idiots and whether we like it or not, he would still be there and that we should better get over it. Good talk but maybe it is time for Nigerians to remind him and his other myopic, clueless and brainless cohorts that we deserve the best.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Humiliation Beyond Description: The Plight Of Nigeria In Distress

On December 25, 2009, Nigerians woke up to a bad news. A Nigerian that goes by the name Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab was on the news for allegedly trying albeit unsuccessfully to blow up a US bound plane with 289 passengers and crew on board using high explosives concealed around his waist region. The extraordinary lucky Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam was heading to Detroit in the state of Michigan in the United States. Luckily for all us and the passengers and crew aboard the flight the explosive was not able to explode to the extent he had planned. That stroke of fate led to the saving of the lives of the 289 passengers and crew on board the flight and probably others on ground who would have been caught up in the fumbled fiasco.

According to eyewitnesses in the plane, the 23-year old Nigeria had high explosives moulded to his body and sewn into his underpants. As he was struggling to detonate the device, he was overwhelmed by the passengers and crew just minutes before the plane was due to land in Detroit from the Dutch capital Amsterdam. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab has since been charged with placing a destructive device on the Airbus 330 and attempting to destroy the jet.

The story was received with shock worldwide, particularly in Nigeria. Nigerians of every walk of life have been condemning the ugly incident. A facebook group called ‘Get us off that list: Nigerians are NOT Terrorists’ had at the time of writing this attracted 99, 287 fans. Another one called ‘150 Million Nigerians speaking up against Terrorism...Yes we can’ has 26, 501 fans not to talk of other similar groups with fans in their thousands. However as Nigerians were busy condemning the ugly incident, the United States of America came out with a bombshell. Nigeria in conjunction with other 13 countries viz Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Cuba, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Sudan were placed in a list of countries of special interest. In fact countries that poses terrorist threat to the people and interest of the United States of America. The listing was accompanied with directives that passengers travelling from these countries to the United States must face extra security screening. This screening includes the thorough searching of body parts and hand luggage. A shame; in fact a humiliation beyond description which has since gone a long way to add to the already burdened plight of Nigeria in distress!

It was a blow not only to Nigerians but also to those who have the interest and welfare of Nigeria and Nigerians at heart. In fact words have been flying here and there and yonder that Nigeria is not a terrorist country and should not have been included in the list and as a matter of urgency should be removed from the list. I share same view but partially because the idea that Nigeria does not know anything about terrorism smacks of complete ignorance, naivety and denial of what has been happening in our backyard for over 50 years now. Nigerians cannot pretend not to know where am going to otherwise it would tantamount to ignorance and ignominy.

Before I go into the intricacies of this argument, it is pertinent to point out clearly and honestly that the call to remove Nigeria from the list is akin to pouring water on the stone. America is not ready to do that now because they have already reckoned that they can live and do without Nigeria before arriving at that decision. Recall that President Barack Obama in his maiden visit to Africa last year snubbed Nigeria, the most populous black nation on earth to visit the neighbouring Ghana. That says a lot about how the United States thinks of Nigeria. In international diplomacy there is an acceptable modus operandi to follow when issues like this come up to ensure that it is resolved peacefully, amicably and diplomatically. But the bad news is that from the movement of things at the moment Nigeria is never going to resolve this issue so soon; Nigeria must continue to be in the list till she puts her house in order and I mean tackling corruption with all seriousness and honesty. America and the west hate and loathe the enormity of corruption in Nigeria and the fact that Nigeria is still stagnating developmentally despite her abundant natural and human resources. The reason for this my conclusion is that people address you the way you dress. As you make your bed so must you lie on it. Nigeria has a lot of question marks and therefore could not possibly resolve this issue with those question marks still revolving round her neck. Presently, Nigeria is dressed shabbily like a thug and America is addressing and treating her like one. If she decides to put on suit like a lady, America would obviously change her mind and treat her like a lady.

For over three months now, the People and the Federal Republic of Nigeria have been moving like a rudderless ship. The whereabouts of the President of Nigeria, Shehu Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has not been known since he left the country about three months. Some quarters says he is in Saudi Arabia receiving a medical treatment for an undisclosed cardiac and kidney problems. Another quarter said it is in Germany while the third quarter says that he’s been dead or brain dead or brain damaged since the last 6 weeks. Nigerians simply do not know the whereabouts of their President or what to believe and to compound the whole problem Nigerians are not being told the whereabouts or the health condition of the man they ‘elected’ couple of years ago. In fact one top diplomat rudely told Nigerians that they do not have the right to question or know the whereabouts of their President. I was told it was the Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. This allegation cannot be authoritatively confirmed at the time of writing this article.

Echoing similar sentiment the National Assembly and the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria vehemently refused to take constitutional action to pressurise the ailing president-in-absentia to resign so that his vice could take over the mantle and continue with the journey that has been taking ages to get the country to the Promised Land. In fact the rumour mill is of the view that the reason the ailing president refused to hand over to his vice before absconding from his duty was because of his determination to ensure that a southerner and a Christian does not become a president too soon after the former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The Nigeria media is filled with many conspiracy theories of how the incumbent vice president, Jonathan Goodluck would either be forced by the northern cabals and extremists to resign or whatever to pave way for another northerner.

To add insult to injury, the National Assembly posited that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not specify a limitation on how long the President could be out of the office or the country. They even added that he could be absent for over a year and even till thy kingdom. This statement from the National Assembly summarised Nigeria to the rest of the world and it is apparently because of that stupid picture drawn by the National Assembly that a country like the United States could have the gut to place Nigeria along other 13 countries as a country that poses risk to the people and interest of the United States of America. A polite way of saying that Nigeria is now in the league of failed states. However looking at this impartially, one could begin to understand and appreciate why the United States had the gut to do what they did despite the fact that the young terrorist in question was never brainwashed in Nigeria but apparently in the United Kingdom and Yemen.

Every country relies on intelligence to carry out the day to day protection of their country. These intelligence reports are usually collected by individuals often called spies, contacts or agents stationed in various parts of the world including the embassies, high commissions and nunciatures of the spying countries. The information these spies collected are eventually collated by the central intelligence agency of the country seeking the information. In the United States of America it is called the Central Intelligence Agency or the CIA. In Israel it is the Mossad. In Nigeria it is known as the National Intelligence Agency while the United Kingdom calls hers the Secret Intelligence Service or the M16.

The American CIA spy in Nigeria who may even be a Nigerian and even your neighbour must have considered a lot of things before passing the intelligence that eventually led to the inclusion of Nigeria in that list and to be sincere and fair to impartial journalism, Nigerians cannot claim not to be aware of the volatile nature of the northern Nigeria which in the past few years has been a breeding ground for terrorist activities including indoctrination, brainwashing and religious intolerance. Same picture is also being replicated gradually in the south-south and south-east regions where terrorism takes the form of kidnapping and ransom for freedom. The terrorist activities in the south-south do not have any link with any religion unlike in the north where it is rooted in and linked to Islam. Every Nigerian is well aware of this; accepting the fact is another issue altogether!

In the northern part of Nigeria comprising mostly of about 50 percent of Nigerian Muslims, religious intolerance, intimidation and riots are the order of the day. On a very slightest provocation some unscrupulous elements there would go on rampage and begin to torch public buildings, churches, cars and killing people including women and children. Raping is also another cherished medium of intimidation for them.

Some few years ago, prior to a beauty pageant that was to be hosted by Nigeria, some Muslims in the north of Nigeria went on a rampage burning and killing everything on their way to protest holding the pageant during the Ramadan season and a publication in a Nigerian daily where a reporter called for calm and dialogue and suggested that if Prophet Mohammed had been alive, he would have been happy to sanction the beauty pageant and even be glad to pick one of them as a wife considering his teachings and penchant for women. The office of the media the writer was writing for in the north was razed to the ground while a Fatwa was placed on the head of the writer. She luckily escaped with her life intact to Europe where she is living at the moment.

Few years later it happened again when cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed were published in faraway Denmark by a Danish Newspaper. The Jyllands-Posten Mohammad cartoons controversy began after twelve editorial cartoons, most of which depicted Prophet Muhammad, were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 30 September 2005. The newspaper announced that the publication was an attempt to contribute to the debate regarding criticism of Islam and self-censorship. Despite the fact that the incident happened in faraway Denmark, the Muslims in the north of Nigeria picked up arms as usual raping, killing and burning everything on their way.

This type of incidents is never new in Nigeria. It has been part and parcel of the life in the north for quite a long time now but we kept ignoring and containing them as if any person, group of people or religion is automatically given the monopoly and right to violence while others are meant to be guinea pigs for their killing pleasure. This type of religious violence as a result of indoctrination and extremism also played a huge role in the Nigeria/Biafran civil war and recently, to be precise July 2009, it reared its ugly head again in the name of Boko Haram terrorist group. The most agonising part is that despite all these, the Nigeria government has not deemed it necessary to come out boldly and genuinely fight this evil. This evil has a direct link with the action of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab.

He came from the northern state of Katsina carved out from the former sate of Kaduna, an area notorious for being the melting point of the worst religious riots in Nigeria. Incidentally the present Nigerian president-in-absentia came from the same state as Umar. He grew up in that mess and obviously inculcated the culture of hatred and extremism from these experiences. What happened in the United Kingdom and Yemen was just the finalising of the culture of hatred and extremism that began from the north of Nigeria. Many others like him are still there and these likes of him are obviously inspired by his action. Many would be willing to join the bandwagon if given the slightest opportunity and that is the reason the Nigerian government as a matter of urgency should put a special searchlight on the north of Nigeria, no matter whose Ox is gored. Extremism is alive and thriving in the north just as the culture of retaliation to counter it is fast germinating and spreading in the south!

Nigeria should take the north serious and of special interest to the government and intelligence agencies in that region should be Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and Abubakar Mujahid. Both are firebrand clerics. Zakzaky may have mellowed down in his firebrand hate speeches especially against Israel and the west but Mujahid who broke away from him should be of major concern to the Nigeria authorities. He is today leading the more radical Ja'amutu Tajidmul Islami-The Movement for Islamic Revival. There are still many more out there and the government is implicated in shielding them in order not to provoke their followers. These people preach hatred and therefore should be treated as hate preachers. We cannot continue to tolerate the pointing of accusing finger on the whole population due to some unscrupulous elements. The bad news however is that Nigeria has got no law against hate speech and inciting hatred meaning that these people would always be free to continue with their radicalisation of the young people. On the other side it is very consoling to know that we still have millions of young Nigerians living exemplary life worthy of emulation.

Against this backdrop, the United States should therefore reconsider the dilemma they have put about 145 million Nigerians into. The United States cannot morally justify her action based only on a few unscrupulous people. It is akin to branding the whole United States an extremist state due to unscrupulous behaviour of few. Citizens of the United States cannot all morally be seen as a replica of Bernard Madoff due to his Ponzi scheme. Why then did the United States throw caution to the wind to deal with Nigerian in this manner? The United States obviously went to the extreme. The fact is that the decision was taken hastily in a rage and without regard for other good and well meaning Nigerians. But come to think of it, the father of this Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab did something very worthy of emulation. He betrayed his increasingly fanatical son to the authorities to take suitable actions; but they ignored the ticking bomb. That action in itself warrants US apology to Nigeria but instead it warranted our inclusion into a terrorist list or whatever it is called.

When he began to notice negative ideological transformations and political views in his son, he immediately alerted the authorities. This is a heroic act which many parents can never think of doing; not even most Americans. This kind gesture was rewarded by placing Nigeria alongside 13 others as a country of interest. His father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, is a prominent banker and well-connected in Nigeria's political arena. Mr. Mutallab alerted the US embassy in Abuja for the first time in November 2009 to voice concerns and to report that he has lost contact with his son since he moved to live in Yemen.

He would eventually leave Yemen for Ethiopia and then went to Ghana and finally Nigeria before boarding a flight in Lagos to Amsterdam. This is despite being on a database known as Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (Tide) which lists individuals of concern to the authorities. According to the US authorities, his case was not strong enough to have his name included in the smaller Terrorist Screening Data Base, which includes a no-fly list. This raises a very vital question; how was Umar allowed to board a US flight despite being on Tide list. The fault therefore becomes obviously that of the US authorities. The reprimand given to Nigeria is therefore uncalled for and the inclusion of Nigeria in the list is immoral, detestable, disgusting, disturbing and in fact a clear show of ungratefulness. It is obvious that Nigeria in this case especially the father of the bomber cooperated with the authorities by alerting them of the changes in his son. He told the Nigeria authorities as well as the US authorities and yet the blame was shifted to Nigeria.

Nigeria therefore has a strong case against Washington DC. She deserves to have her name removed from that list. And I mean it. Our cooperation is unprecedented in the ongoing fight against terror. But the question now is who would bell the cat. Nigeria at present does not have an active president. We do not know exactly where he has been since the last three months. In fact rumour says that he is sick and in a hospital in either Saudi Arabia or Germany; no Nigerian knows exactly where or what to believe. In our type of democracy the president and elected officials are above the law. They are not accountable to the people. They are accountable to themselves and that is the reason why the president of a country as big as Nigeria could just wake up one day and gallivant away out of his duty and country like a Mary-go-around without bothering to tell those who ‘elected’ him where he is going to or how long he is going to stay. On top of that disrespect, Nigerians are being prodded to pray for a man they do not know his problem or whereabouts. Meanwhile calls for the president who was finally revealed to be seriously ill to resign have been falling on deaf ears.

The president despite his ill health vehemently refused to resign; preferring to be a boil in the arse and ruling Nigeria in comatose from either Saudi Arabia, Germany or God knows where and as a result holding the future of the nation to ransom. By this singular action and a stupid act of irresponsibility, personal aggrandisement, lust for power, selfishness and myopism, he ended up hanging the fate of over 145 million Nigerians on the balance. It is in this vegetative situation that Nigeria woke up to find herself in the international news on that fateful December 25 of 2009. Unfortunately we are still there and America is still tossing us about like a ball because we do not know the whereabouts of our president. Is that not a shame? I mean the greatest shame on earth!

In addition to that when things like this happen, the Ambassador of Nigeria to the United States should be the first link between Nigeria and the United States. But the agonising part of the whole saga is that prior to the incident, during the incident, after the incident and even up till now Nigeria has no Ambassador to the United States of America. Does that not tell us how serious Nigeria is in pushing this case? When a country does not have an active president who refuses to delegate power to his vice and no ambassador, how and who do we expect to resolve the problem? Your guess is as good as mine!

Therefore in as much as we do not want our name to be on that list and not want to be branded terrorists, available evidences revolves around the reality that Nigeria is getting what they bargained for and that is why the United States has the courage to be tossing us around like a ball. As you make your bed so must you lie on it. Hope that adage is making more sense to you now!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Bigotry: The Greatest Tragedy On Earth

I have always made it very clear that the aim of my writing is never to please anybody. I am not in the business of writing to promote any particular belief, religion, creed, political affiliation or whatever that is in vogue. This does not mean that I cannot criticise or praise a particular religion, political party or an ideology if they disregard or show serious commitment towards one of those principles I believe in. These principles include those of tolerance, accommodation, respect, egalitarianism, rule of law and the pursuit of happiness. They are my most cherished and beloved principles. I believe in them as I do in God.

I find it particularly dreadful to engage in any form of religious debate with people and the reason is very simple. Religion does not have solution to most of the contemporary problems we are facing. Science could play a very huge role in solving these problems. Religion could only offer a solace and that may not be what people would want when situations on ground calls for immediate pragmatic actions and solutions. This however does not mean that I do not believe in religion; yes I do though I would prefer not to be associated with any for the mean time. The implication of my statement is that I am not a fantasist. I prefer to be referred to as a realist. As a result of this I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt and despite being a Christian that there are some issues that faith cannot solve; only science could. This does not in any way oppose my belief in miracles; in fact I am of the belief that we should allow science to seek solutions to human problems and where it cannot find solutions to these problems, miracles should then come in. We should use our brains and give God time to rest sometimes! By being the originator and cause of everything, God Has set the process of discovery, evolution and invention in motion and we should take advantage of that. We cannot stay in sin so that grace would be made abundant for us.

The bible is a very old book, the last part of which was written about 2000 years ago. The collection of what makes the Holy Bible as it is today is a different story altogether. At a point in time the Church had to sit down to decide what should be included or excluded from the bible. That was what happened in the Third Council of Carthage in 397AD. Some experts are of the view that in the process the bible must have been tampered with in one way or the other to suit the needs of the church, the time, the council and the editors. The veracity of this story is not what am here to discuss. It could be a topic for another day but suffice it to say that in the process many other canonical documents were either judged unsuitable to be included or regarded as too mundane or too critical of Jesus Christ, his teachings and his followers to be included. Ever heard of the Gospel of Judas or that of Mary Magdalene? Well, am not implying that they are some of these documents excluded, however it is important to note that the Roman Catholic bible has got more books compared to that of other Christian denominations. This disparity says something. The bible therefore is the work of men allegedly written under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Considering the age of the bible, it could therefore not have all the solutions to the contemporary problems. Today’s problems are well beyond the scope of the bible. For instance, the bible never discussed anything about HIV and AIDs, not even Malaria, aeroplane, DNA, psychosexual analysis, trains, condoms and cars and many other things meaning that using the bible or other holy books as a base to judge today’s problem could be nonsensical. It makes no sense and could be a sign of delusion and stupidity. Faith does not mean gullibility; it means rationality.

Against that backdrop, it is pertinent to note that the bible was obviously not written to explain science and I pointed it out very clearly elsewhere that the main purpose of the bible ab initio was to propagate the Jewish culture and religion. This is very true of the Old Testament while the New Testament was written to propagate Christianity. The Igbo people of the south east of Nigeria or the Hutus of the Rwanda or even the Xhosas of South Africa were obviously not included in that plan. It was written and tailored to the needs of the Jewish people, as a result the bible cannot sensibly be used as a landmark to judge these three cultures since before the advent of Christianity, they have their own system of belief and worship. If Christianity did not come to them they would have still been worshipping their gods according to the dictates of their conscience.

The argument of whether the bible is or not the word of God is also beyond the scope of this writing. However suffice it to say that if we push the theory of the bible being the word of God too much, other religions would surely push theirs including Islam which may likely land us into the hot fire of actually endorsing the ‘Holy War’ and whatever it means to Muslims. It is because of this that I have always tried to be more realistic in my writings by not quoting holy books; not even the bible despite being born and baptised a Roman Catholic Christian. I have my reasons for that and one of them is what I have already cited at the outset. Another reason is what I have already dealt with in my previous article titled ‘The Ugly Side Of Religion: A Review Of Mankind Abuse Of God And Religion’, where I posited that religion being an instrument of propaganda could be used to brainwash and indoctrinate vulnerable followers into doing harm and evil to their folks. The Muslim terrorists are a good example here. The American conservative Christians who fund African churches to persecute their homosexual brothers is another example.

Against this background, I am therefore not interested in pleasing people with my writings. Man by nature is insatiable and therefore what pleases man should not be my focus but the promotion of virtues of democracy, peace, stability, tolerance, respect and accommodation. I have a mission and my mission is never to please anybody’s religious convictions. I cannot do that because I am not a theologian. To the best of my knowledge I majored in Mass Communications and minored in Print Journalism. To set the record straight, even though I was born a Roman Catholic, I do not share in the belief that any Christian denomination is more superior or more authentic than others or that any religion is better or more authentic than others. To me, just as all denominations within the Christendom is equal and do same work for the Lord, so is all religion equal and do same work for the Lord according to their modus operandi and understanding. The issue of religion is just a question of chance. An Italian Roman Catholic would more likely have been a Muslim, if he had been a Saudi Arabian, just as Pope Benedict XVI would have been a Buddhist, Shintoist, Confucianist or even a Muslim if he had been Asian. Therefore no one could claim that his religion is the best simply because he is a member of that religion. A religion becomes the best when members of that religion adhere strictly to the ‘Golden Rule’ which fortunately is one rule that all religions share in common.

Just as I defend the right of each individual to belong to any religion by choice and freewill without force, coercion or compulsion, so am I also strongly in favour of those who opted to remain in the worship of their ancestral gods especially the adherents of traditional religions as well as those who decides not to believe in anything and by this latter group I mean the atheists. In democracy every individual should be given the right to believe or not to believe; the right to the freedom of choice. That is the fundamental pillar of democracy. Religion should never be by coercion or compulsion. The use of force to convert one to a particular religion is sinful and antithetical to the meaning of religion while the imposition of our religious belief on others is as sinful as the biggest sin in the bible.

At all point in time especially when circumstances calls for religious debates and arguments, provisions must always be made to include and accommodate the beliefs and philosophies of others; no matter how old school we may think they might be when compared to our own beliefs. A Muslim must be given same platform as a Christian to market or defend his faith. Same opportunity must also be given equally to atheists and traditional believers. It is bigotry, stupidity, immaturity and idiotic to impose our religious belief on others and that brings me to the reason for all these lucubrations.

On the eve of Christmas 2009, I posted a poem on my blog ‘The Rantings Of Chukwunwikezarramu Okumephuna’ at www.chukwunwikezarramu.blogspot.com and the title of the poem was ‘Another Meaningless Christmas’. A fan, Okos Okoduwa made a comment after the poem and his comment read, ‘I have always loved your intelligent comments on National issues but am afraid to say I don't buy your position on Gay whatever. An Ibo man fronting for a cursed cause is absurd’.

I found his comment distressing, upsetting and disgusting for two reasons including the fact that he never crosschecked the gravity of the words he used to express his outburst. He was overwhelmed with the desire to insult me and ended up making the comment in the wrong place. His comment was supposed to have been made after my status update where I asked, ‘Who Is Your 2009 Person Of The Year And Why Is The Person Your 2009 Person Of The Year?’ The reason he made the comment was because of who I chose as my 2009 Person Of The Year. I chose the Homosexuals in Africa as my 2009 Person of the Year and this is exactly what I said: “ My 2009 Person Of The Year are the "Homosexuals In Africa". My reason for picking them is because of my deepest conviction as a person and a Christian that they are also the chosen children of God and part and parcel of Africa as a continent and culture. Nobody is less important or more important in the sight of God otherwise the concept of God become meaningless and questionable. No animal is more equal than others! God cannot create and condemn! These homosexuals obviously for no fault of theirs are presently going through a hard time in Africa. In Nigeria, five years imprisonment awaits them for expressing their sexuality in any form. In Uganda, they could be sentenced to death for that. In Rwanda, a country that just came out of the worst genocide of the 21st century, they are outlawed. In The Gambia, the president gave them ultimatum to leave that country or face the music. In Zimbabwe they are equated with pigs. The story is the same in different parts of Africa except South Africa which is the only country in Africa where being a homosexual is permitted and protected by law. We cannot continue to tolerate the insanity of killing, ostracising and degrading others because of their sexuality based solely on our blind cultural and religious convictions. What they are asking for is the right to love someone just as we all have someone we love. They are not asking for too much. They deserve to love and be loved! I have no doubt that if Jesus Christ is still here, He would have treated them as He treated Mary Magdalene. But the most agonising part of the whole story is that our governments instead of protecting them are making laws and even encouraging us to harm and kill our own brothers. Africa Unite And Do Not Leave Your Brothers Behind For Their Blood Would Come Back To Haunt Us! They are going through a lot and just like the civil rights activist they have been resisting all attempts to have their rights emasculated and dignity as human beings trampled upon. I therefore crown them as my "2009 Person Of The Year" even as I thank and encourage all those who sympathise with their plight to continue till Africa is made a place where everybody is treated as somebody and somebody treated as a human being. Where all would have their human rights valued, cherished and respected, have access to all the basics of life including education and healthcare and above all be happy and proud of coming Out Of Africa!”

Another reason why his comment distressed me a lot was because of his verbal attack on me. I would not have had any qualm if he had stopped at saying that he does not buy my idea, but going a bit further to tell me that ‘An Ibo man fronting for a cursed cause is absurd’ is way too far beyond the boundary. I thought he crossed the boundary of decency, ethics of conversation and civilisation because there is a clear case of argumentum ad hominem in his comments. That is basically the reason why I decided to do what I have not done before here; replying to one of my fans. It would be very stupid and cowardice for me not to. It would also amount to victory for stupidity and ignorance, if I do not. By the way I am an Igbo sometimes spelt as Ibo from the South East of Nigeria hence his attack on my ethnicity.

Once again, I am not a theologian. I see myself more as an activists than as a writer. Writing is just a medium for me to lay down my grievances. I am very confident that many things are not going the way they ought to have been going especially in Africa. My blogging is my own little way of pointing out these anomalies as well as contributing towards making the world a better place. There is too much poverty in Africa, not because we do not have the resources to be like Europe and North America, but because there is too much greed, corruption and wickedness amongst our leaders. They do not have respect for the people they are called to serve and that is why a country as big as Nigeria does not have good roads, quality education, constant power supply and all those things that are taken for granted elsewhere even in the neighbouring Ghana.

Instead of tackling the problems, the corrupt leaders who are responsible for the mess and quagmire resorted to scapegoating and the people at the receiving end are the homosexuals. They are being blamed for all the evils in almost all the African states notably The Gambia, Nigeria and Uganda. But a closer look clearly betrays this scapegoating as a ploy to deviate the attention of their citizens from the fact that they are unable to deliver the dividends of democracy to them. The idea behind this is that when they bring up issues like homosexuality which many Africans do not tolerate, it would end up being the talk of the day, a rallying point, a point of focus and eventually divert the citizens away from asking the main question; the dividend of democracy. Elsewhere, I made it very clear that I am not the right person to be asked about my opinion on homosexuality if you are looking towards getting a negative answer. I refused to join the bandwagon of condemnation simply because as I have noted earlier, the bible is not strong enough on the question of homosexuality. Psychology and science came up with a better, strong and cogent explanation on why people are gay. Their conclusion is that being a homosexual is not about choosing a lifestyle but falls under one of those situations in life we cannot control. Another good example is the colour of the body. Others include colour of the eyes, fingerprints and even where to be born. We do not have control over these and just as we do not have control over them, so do homosexuals not have control over their sexuality. They are victims of some circumstance beyond their control and they have to live with it. My call as a blogger is not to add to their already heavy burden!

It is based on these grounds that I refused to condemn homosexuals and homosexual lifestyle. My conservative Christian friends do not share same belief with me. They have many passages in the bible to justify their condemnation of the homosexuals including the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to which I always reply that there are also many other things in the bible which are forbidden and we still do them. Amongst them are adultery and fornication. Who has not done it before? Same bible they quote to justify homophobia also mandated exile for any man who sleeps with a woman during her period (Leviticus 18: 19), killing of disobedient son (Deuteronomy 21:20-21), made it an offence to mix linen and wool in any garment (Deuteronomy 22:11) and mandated that if a girl is raped in the city and no one hears her scream both she and her assailant shall be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:23-25). Same bible also placed an embargo on anyone born of undesirable marriage from worshiping the Lord up to the tenth generation and many others including the eating of sea animals-oyster, lobster, prawn-that has no fin and scales which the bible said in the book of Deuteronomy 14 are unclean.

From the above therefore, it could be concluded that the bible forbade almost everything we do today and if that is true why then singling out the homosexuals for public opprobrium? Is homosexuality the only sin in the bible? Why did the church and all of us suddenly became aware that the bible condemned homosexuality but not also these things I mentioned above? That was the basis of my refusal to condemn anybody based on his sexuality. The selective teaching and interpretation of the bible does not conform to the teachings of the bible itself. Am sure God is still almighty and can still use that almighty power to bring down fire and brimstones on the homosexuals and since He has not done that yet, it is not my responsibility to carry out that function for Him because vengeance belongs to Him and it is neither your responsibility because all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Lord hence his poser that anyone who have not committed this type of sin before should be the first to cast his or her stone.

After going through all these passages in the bible with my limited faith, I must admit that I find it very difficult to understand why those with faith big enough to move mountains would be the first to cast their stone or to look for a speck of wood in their brother’s eyes whereas they have a log of wood in theirs. On that note I concluded that the whole thing boils down to ignorance and bigotry and it is based on that conclusion that I replied to Okos Okoduwa. In my reply to him I posited, “As a writer, you are the conscience of the people, the fourth estate of the realm and the voice of the people. I may have personal opinions but as a writer those opinions should not becloud my sense of service to my readers and the wider audience. The fact is that my job is never to pass judgement on human sexuality. I am not interested in knowing whether people are homosexuals or not or the merits and demerits of being one. Am only interested in what people can contribute to ensure that the world is a better place to live in. As a result of this I have the deepest respect for homosexuals who are striving in their own way to make the world a better place. The problem with Nigeria and the world today is not homosexuality. They are not the reason for the massive corruption, bad roads, dilapidated infrastructures, poor economy and many other ills plaguing Nigeria and because of this fact I refuse to condemn them. In fact they are fearfully and wonderfully contributing to the will of God on earth. As a writer I am called to be on the side of the poor, the less privileged, the ostracised and others being marginalised for one reason or the other and it is because of this that my writings are clearly aimed at attacking people victimising the poor and the marginalised and I do not think I have any regret doing that. Once again, there is nothing wrong with being a homosexual but if you think there is then there is something wrong with being a Christian in Africa because Christianity is not part of African cosmology. I think it is high time we left the homosexuals alone for the simple reason that they are not the reason for corruption and underdevelopment in Africa. And by the way, to think of it deeply, what have you got to loose with two men loving themselves? You really need to think about homosexuality with an open mind and if homosexuality is 'cursed' as you wrongly said then being black is also cursed as being pushed by some white extremists. Well, we have come a long way out of that and we should rather concentrate on creating more jobs for young people in Nigeria rather than devoting precious time to persecuting the homosexuals. By the way being a homosexual is so Igbo since homosexuality has got nothing to do with tribe, ethnic group or culture. Every culture, ethnic group and tribe has got homosexuals”.

I thought he would get the message, unfortunately he did not and he replied to me, “My Bible tells me that God we will all come to judgment. If your dad was gay, you would not have been born. Little wonders you chose to send this write-up via personal message to me. It would have been better if you came out openly, let your Ibo brothers recognise you on Facebook without obscuring your face and identity. This is akin to cultural bastardisation. Your argument on this clearly shows what you are. Get on with it. If you use your wisdom and intelligence to insult God Almighty, you will surely give account. Jesus loves you. Go to the National Assembly and sponsor a Bill to legitimise this in Nigeria”.

His reply was very childish to me and the poor construction made it pretty difficult for me to perfectly understand what he was implying. Once again he made reference to my ethnicity and added my dad. I would have stopped because my further conversation with him would be akin to celebrating ignorance but because of the fear that he might think am a coward and the fact that he even involved my father in the argument, I replied to him, “I do not think am interested in going into further argument with you on this. Using your bible to judge others is a sign of ignorance. Democracy accommodates every shades of opinion and democracy is well aware that everybody does not share the same faith with you and that is why every reasonable democracy strives never to mingle religion with democracy. Every democracy should be build upon secularism and that is the way it ought to be. Your religious beliefs should be kept within you and must end in your room. It is ignorance and bigotry to judge others using your religion and even the bible you called 'My Bible' was written by people you do not know and the veracity of the stories there may not be the whole truth. In addition, I do not need to have a straight father or even a father at all to be born. Science made it possible to have kids without a father or even a sexual intercourse. Meanwhile I do not share the same opinion with my dad on various issues and I would wish that you do not involve him in a discussion like this. You can still make your opinions known without involving my ethnicity and family. My dad is a staunch Roman Catholic and I do not obviously agree with all his beliefs since most do not make sense to me. Meanwhile this reply was never sent into your inbox. It was initially replied to you on my wall and copied to your inbox to ensure that you get it. Listen if am not convinced in what I am doing, I would have stopped. At this my age and level of exposure, education and travel, I am convinced that there is something wrong with holding opinions like yours. I do not have regret on my stand on this issue. You are certainly filled with hatred probably due to no fault of yours and I do not want to be drawn into that. As a young man, I wish you would begin to change things around you. Furthermore, my writing has not in any way suggested insulting or lacking belief in God. What I know for sure is that my writing as far as possible is devoid of any stand that uses religion to condemn people or their way of life. The bible was not written to explain science or psychology. It was written by a group of men to highlight the relationship between them, their culture and their God and that does not obviously cover science and psychology as we have them today. On sponsoring a bill in the National Assembly on the same question, of course you and I know that the Nigerian National Assembly is not fit for purpose. The Assembly is akin to kindergarten filled with kids high in skunk and new wine and behaving wildly like those having an orgy. They are only after money and never about the welfare of the people. What have they done to solve mountains of problems confronting Nigerians including the newest addition of terrorism?”

At this point he left the subject of the argument and came back to attack me again. “You write like someone that is a bit exposed but you seem to believe you are the only Nigerian that is trained abroad. Thank God I hold a Masters degree from one of the best Universities in the UK as well. I will not be drawn into arguments with an atheist. It’s sad that you think you can use Facebook to indoctrinate people like me who believe God cannot be wrong. It is a sin for a man to have sex with another man. Bible says all sinners will find themselves in a lake of fire that burns with fire and brimstone. You need to give your life to God. You were created for a purpose. I am sure your dad and mum cannot even imagine what you gay men do to yourselves. I will not read any message from you otherwise you will continue to irritate me. I have got young boys. On daily basis I ask God to shield them from doctrines in favour of homosexuality like yours. You hide under the cover of freedom of speech, rule of law etc whereas what you want is freedom to "fuck" shit. Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed because of this evil.”

Following this, I become convinced that the whole drama is getting funny, getting out of hand and becoming like arguing with truck pushers, bus conductors, touts and thugs in Ajegunle market of Lagos, Nigeria. I decided to stop responding but then I said no for I am a strong believer in the fact that knowledge and commonsense would always be triumphant over ignorance and bigotry. I therefore replied to him, “You have a Masters Degree from one of the best universities in the UK? Congratulations but I'd rather end up as a Molue bus conductor than to acquire a foreign degree and end up as an empty bigot. Oh! By the way, am not struggling for heaven with you because I have already decided to rot in hell than to share heaven with people like you. I never said am an atheist but if that is what you called me; I think it is better than what you believe in at the moment. Am not really offended, am only trying to respond to you using the tone you used above to reply to me. Holding a Masters Degree is not a measure of wisdom, after all idiots and scums can have or buy one. The greatest disaster is that you do not actually allow that Masters you got from one of the best UK universities to go through you. Am sure most Nigerian leaders have Masters too including those from Toronto University but look at the mess they have put our country into. Therefore Masters Degree is nothing if it could not be applied into everyday thinking and practicalities. How can you acquire a Masters from one of the best UK universities and still think like those in the Stone Ages? Once again, I do respect your opinion and am happy that you share same room with God. But as for me I still believe in what I believe in. Any religion or belief that canvasses the persecution of others because of their sexual orientation is not worthy to be and one cannot profess to believe in God and yet in the name of same God persecute and condemn his own brethren! Religion is all about bringing all together towards God and never about excluding them and by the way what made you think you are better than homosexuals?”

He then got mad and wrote, “I have told you I will not continue in this with you. I did not read this and will never read anything from you. Jesus loves you. Give your life to him” but I refused to give up. I replied to him, “Well I thought you want to prove your blind religious convictions to me. Why are you running away? Come on, go on and talk! The greatest disaster ever to face man is hypocrisy and bigotry. On that note, I think we stop here but make sure you repent of your hatred and ego which makes you think you are better than others. Before I leave please tell me what makes you think you are better than homosexuals?”

He never replied. He chickened away quietly removing his profile from my fans page and that actually made me happy because I cannot condone ignorance ruling over wisdom, intelligence and commonsense. Everyone is entitled to their religious belief but using same to judge others is going too far. It is bigotry to use the bible to judge a Muslim or an atheist just as it would be ridiculous to use the Koran to judge a Buddhist. Everyman should be allowed to practice his religion without flaunting it disrespectfully in front of others, forcing it down their throat or imposing it on others. We have come a long way out of the stone ages and to the best of my knowledge this is 2010 and we cannot continue to tolerate the fact that people are still being ostracised, lynched, imprisoned, abused, killed and murdered just because of their sexuality. That is ignorance and that is completely unacceptable.

It is ridiculous to claim superiority over another person by virtue of birth or sexuality. A heterosexual is never superior to a homosexual just as a white man is never superior to a black man! And since there is no scientific evidence to prove that homosexuals cannot reach the same level of achievement with their straight counterparts, I once more refuse to be intimidated by any blind religious convictions until that time when the Lord shall come in judgment to settle disputes amongst nations and force them to beat their swords into ploughshares!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Ugly Side Of Religion: A Review Of Mankind Abuse Of God And Religion

Few days ago, a friend Deinde Falase made a comment after my Facebook status update and that comment prompted the writing of this article. The Facebook status update in question asked, “Do You Really Believe That God Made the World in Six Days by Mere Word Of Mouth and Created Man out Of Clay? Reasons?” After a lot of intellectual lucubrations that went back and forth between us, he posited, “Indeed. I’ve been wondering about the high standard of living here in the UK where they are not religious and the poverty and hunger back home in Nigeria where everyone claims to be "born again"”.

In my reply I said to him, “On a very sincere note, do you really think that what we practice in Nigeria is a true religion? By their fruit thou shall know them. I do not want to answer the question but then your guess is as good as mine”. However on a second thought I decided to tackle the issue in detail. The following article is therefore a detailed response to that discussion.

However before proceeding, I would want to clearly state that this article does not in any way diminish my belief in God nor does it suggest any iota of doubt in the goodness of religion and the existence of God. Another reason am highly interested in writing this is because of numerous experiences both personal and circumstantial that has proved to me beyond reasonable doubt that some unscrupulous elements are hiding under the cloak of religion to commit evil. Religion, if hijacked and used this way could be turned into an evil force and effectively used as an instrument of hatred which could potentially undermine the virtues of tolerance, respect, accommodation and whatever democracy stands for.

The misinterpretation of the holy books to achieve personal gains is as old as the holy books themselves. It is never stopping and it will never stop so far the words greed, wickedness, exploitation, brainwashing and indoctrination still exist in English language. There is no end to it and the events of the recent past attest to that. Probably because of this, Karl Marx was left with no other option but to conclude probably out of anger and frustration that religion is like opium which when injected into a person makes the person to behave not according to how he would have loved to but according to the dictates of the opium which has taken control his system. Opium of the people! Religion when recklessly and callously used this way achieves exactly the same aim too. It works as opium on the unsuspecting victims by making them high like a person under the influence of drugs, making him to lose his compos mentis temporary or permanently and to begin to act in the name of the drug he is under. It could be ecstasy, opium, marijuana or cocaine.

A good friend Ndekwu Ogani while reacting recently to an unrelated Facebook status update captioned, ‘It Does Not Worth It Defending Your Blind Religious Convictions...But It Worths More Than Silver And Gold To Defend Fundamental Human Rights And The Virtues Of Tolerance, Respect And Accommodation!’, said, “The world is fucked up because religious nutters are going around with crap beliefs believing it is the gospel. What happened to critical reasoning and logic?”

And he is not far from being right. Religion is today part of the major reason we do not have peace in the world. The Muslim extremists notably the Taliban and the Al Qaeda use it as an excuse to foment troubles now and then in the name of God. It is the source of the never ending controversy in Northern Ireland. It served as a coal that invigorated the fire of hatred between the Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda which led to the worst genocide of the 20th century. It is one of the contributing factors to the monumental corruption in Nigeria today. In Saudi Arabia it is used as a cover to deny freedom of religion and worship to other religions except Islam. In Iran, the Ayatollah and his cohorts hid under it to rig an election. Israelis hide under it to victimise the Palestinians while it played a crucial role in the invasion of Iraq by George W. Bush.

From the above, it is therefore safe to conclude conveniently that religion could be a formidable instrument of actualising evil intentions, indoctrination and brainwashing. In fact, religion is one of the easiest and quickest means of brainwashing the faithful. Religion has more to do with emotions and sentiments and playing on people’s emotions and sentiments turn them on easily. For instance, those who carried out the September 11 attack in the United States of America and that of July 7 in the United Kingdom did what they did not out of political or economic reasons but purely based on religious motivations and convictions as a result of long process of brainwashing. The September 11 group were so stupid to believe that after the attack they would be welcomed into heaven by virgins who would be their wives. Their common sense failed to tell them that heaven is not a brothel where people go on holiday of orgy! Where has reason, logic and common sense gone to?

When George W. Bush, a half Episcopalian and half Methodist, for the first term as the President of United States, one of the first things he did was to stop the funding of all agencies that promote abortion or the use of condom as a means of contraception or in the prevention of the transmission of HIV and AIDS. He did this on his first day in office in January 2001 by reinstating the so-called Mexico City Policy-known as the global gag rule to critics-that bars US family planning assistance for organizations that use funding from any other source to provide counselling and referral for abortion, lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their country or perform abortions except in certain cases. Those exceptions are a threat to the woman's life, rape or incest. George W. Bush insisted that the fight must be biblical by buying and endorsing a religio-centric campaign of abstinence which he forced down the throat of millions of Africans not considering their stand on religious and faith issues. This is very akin to what the Talibans can do and it is a clear sign of bigotry, delusion and lunacy.

In Nigeria, members of a radical Islamic group called the Boko Haram were brainwashed into believing that western education is the source of all evils and corruption in Nigeria and just one morning they let loose their madness and began a campaign of slaughtering their neighbours who do not share the same stupid and idiotic convictions with them. The carnage lasted for months until the Federal Government of Nigeria intervened with a military action that brought the madness to an abrupt end. Most of the young men including their leaders lost their lives. The young members of the Boko Haram were brainwashed into believing that what they were doing was very pleasing to Allah.

This incident echoes a similar one that took place in Jonestown, Guyana where the founder of the People’s Temple, Rev. Jim Jones brainwashed his congregation into believing and drinking poison to prepare them for the life after since according to him the world was coming to an end. The massacre was horrible. About, 909 inhabitants of Jonestown, 276 of them children, died of apparent cyanide poisoning. According to escaping Temple members, children were given the drink first and families were told to lie down together and take theirs. The reason for the death of children first is that when their parents see that their children are gone, they would have the courage to die too. It worked and they died en masse like animals because of their blind religious convictions and inability to distinguish between madness and delusion and reality and voice of God.

Also in Nigeria, the Primate and the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Anglican Communion, Peter Akinola played a very crucial role in supporting a bill that sought to criminalise same sex relationship with up to five years imprisonment. The Archbishop despite his high level of both secular and theological education threw caution to the wind and openly supported the bill out of his blind religious convictions. This is regardless of the fact that what he believes in maybe exactly what others do not believe in. He went on with that bigoted belief and ended up making it one of the official creeds of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. This in turn led to the brainwashing of millions of unsuspecting Nigerian Anglicans who today view homosexuality not only as evil but as something to be fought by all means including the use of threat and intimidation. Unfortunately, one thing they do not realise is that they are stupidly fighting their own brothers and sisters in the name of God while outsiders laugh at them.

The Archbishop did not achieve this feat alone. In fact he was strongly supported by the conservatives in the Anglican Church of the United States of America otherwise called the Episcopal Church. They gave him the financial backbone he needed to achieve his ulterior motives and evil objectives. The American conservatives financially brainwashed Akinola into fighting his own flock and people in the name of God. The same conservative group and the Pentecostal churches in America are also responsible for arming the State of Israel against the helpless Palestinians. The two groups are convinced that Jerusalem is the eternal city and the land promised to the Jewish people by God. As a result of this ridiculous belief and the stupidity of using an over 4000 years old theology to explain the 21st century democracy, the two groups have blindly, ignorantly and wickedly contributed billions in donation towards the Zionist cause that has resulted in the murdering of thousands of Palestinians. All in the name of God! When one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion.

Similar development is also repeating itself at the moment in Uganda where the Anglican bishops instead of bringing to the awareness of President Yoweri Museveni the human rights implication of the homophobic speech he made in a church where a new Anglican bishop was being consecrated, actually issued a press statement in support of the speech. The president had earlier during the consecration service condemned the homosexual lifestyle and reminded them of the consequences of being one in Uganda. Sadly, the bishops who are supposed to shield the children of God from persecutions are now joining hands with the government to engage in this orgy of homophobia. Is that not making a mockery of the merciful and ‘vengeance is mine’ attributes of God?

And to compound the whole problem the two leading Anglican Primates, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu have refused to speak out against this evil in Uganda. Regrettably, the Archbishop of York is also a Ugandan and he should have known better. The reason for their refusal to speak out is because they are afraid of what would be the consequences on the already fragile and divided state of the Anglican Church as well as being afraid of provoking the state of Uganda. These are men of God who are called to be on the side of the poor, the vulnerable, the downtrodden and the marginalised at all times. If religion has decided to keep mute over what is evil, then I think it is high time we began to question the relevance of religion in the 21st century. If the church refuses out of fear to be on the side of the poor and the marginalised where then do we expect the common man to run to? What has happened to the Liberation Theology and ‘Be Courageous For I Am With You’?

Apparently due to the silence the State of Uganda moved a step further. In connivance with the church leaders, the State of Uganda is presently seriously surging forward with stiff sanctions including death penalty against homosexuals. The proposed legislation would impose the death penalty for gay Ugandans while their family and friends could face up to seven years in jail if they fail to report them to authorities. Even landlords could be imprisoned for renting to homosexuals. The measure was proposed in Uganda following a long period of meddling between some Ugandan politicians and leaders of a secretive American conservative Christian group called ‘The Family’. However, at least one of those leaders has denounced the bill, as have some other conservative and liberal Christians in the United States.

Membership of The Family includes the high and mighty of American politics of both the Republican and Democratic parties. The group which dates back to the 1930s recently came to the limelight for the tomfoolery surrounding the extramarital affair of Nevada Senator John Ensign at the Congressional boarding house on C Street. According to Jeff Sharlet, author of ‘The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power’, The Family is connected to the proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda. Prominent members of the group include Senator John Ensign, Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Charles Grassley, Governor Mark Sanford, Representative Bart Stupak and Representative Joe Pitts among others. Interestingly Senator John Ensign, a Pentecostal conservative born-again and married father of three does not see anything wrong with extramarital affairs-he had an extramarital affair with Cynthia Hampton who was married to one of his top aides-but sees everything wrong with homosexuality! He is the only Pentecostal in the American Senate.

The Family, also known as The Fellowship, was founded in the United States in 1935. The founder Abraham Verene claimed that God came to him one night in April 1935 and told him that Christianity has been focusing on the wrong people, the poor and the suffering, "the down and out" and therefore commanded him to be a missionary to and for the powerful, the "up and in", who could then pass off the blessings to everybody else. The group has no website and does not allow its members to speak about its activities. The group which is now being led by Doug Coe also sponsors the annual National Prayer Breakfast that has been attended by all Presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower. One of the Ugandan members of parliament who introduced the bill to the parliament just returned from one of the National Prayer Breakfast meetings before introducing the bill to the Ugandan House of Assembly.

In a recent interview Sharlet who detailed the decades long connection between The Family and Ugandan politicians noted that David Bahati, the Ugandan politician who introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, is a member of The Family who "organizes their Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees an African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda."

Mr. Bahati, a parliamentarian from the ruling National Resistance Movement, has in the past said that homosexuals do not deserve human rights. Sharlet, who has spent years researching on The Family, describes the core agenda of the secretive but powerful group as one that is intent on fighting homosexuality and abortion, promoting free-market economics and dictatorship, an idea they once termed ‘totalitarianism for Christ’. The Family recruits people in positions of power and influence to promote its agenda and according to Sharlet, the group has had Uganda on her agenda for over 20 years and its recruits include Mr. Bahati, President Museveni and Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo. President Museveni as far back as 1986 was identified as their ‘key man in Africa’ says Sharlet.

Poor Ugandans! Their leaders are being bribed by Americans to kill their own brothers who are homosexuals. The question we should ask is why American conservative Christians are only interested in killing the homosexuals in Uganda and never the ones in America? Why the interest in Uganda? I bet that by the time Ugandans realise what they are doing, it would have become too late. There is also the possibility of an anti-American sentiment in future not only in Uganda but everywhere in the sub-Saharan Africa, when Africans begin to realise the harm they have done to their own brothers as a result of American manipulations. And to think that all these is because of religion makes the whole story a painful one.

One fact worthy of note is that religious brainwashing does not respect boundary, age, class or nationality. It is a weapon that could render the mighty useless in a matter of seconds. In Jamaica, once a famous rapper, Shaba Rank was interviewed about his opinion on homosexuality and he openly expressed his hatred and condemnation of the gay people citing Jesus Christ and the bible for up to 10 times within 5 minutes to justify his stand. Shaba Rank who was living with various women at the time of the interview did not see anything sinful about his own lifestyle but he was quick to point out that of others. Probably his own version of Christianity endorses living with series of women or he must have forgotten so quickly that passage in the bible that advised us to first remove the log of wood in our eyes before looking for the speck in that of others. This behaviour is very Jamaican. Jamaica despite being a booming centre for Pentecostalism is today one of the most homophobic nations on earth with killings of homosexuals being recorded every now and then. The fact is that Shaba Rank has got a right to the freedoms of speech and opinion but those rights do not implicate the right to hatred. He was not aware of that due to his blind religious conviction that he knows better than the bible to know that Jesus Christ and the bible condemned homosexuality.

In the face of these ugly scenarios, one is left with just one option of asking if there is still anything good in religion at all. Well the answer is yes! Religion is good since it could serve as a source of solace to man. It is a medium that brings him closer to his creator. I am not an atheist. In fact I was born a Roman Catholic and still professes the faith even though I have stopped being active in its activities. I prefer being a believer in God to being associated with any religion at the moment till all this madness is over. Part of the reason for my decision is because of the negative influence religion could have on people. For instance the religion I was born into, the Roman Catholicism has on various occasions described homosexuality as being ‘intrinsically immoral’ and ‘the homosexual inclination’ as ‘objectively disordered’. Such crude remark does not conform to my belief as a Christian and I refuse to believe and accept that my brothers or sisters are ‘intrinsically immoral’ or ‘objectively disordered’ just because they are homosexuals. God has a purpose for every living creature on earth including the homosexuals. If He does not want them, He could wipe them off the face of the earth. But since He has not done that yet, it means that they are still his children, fearfully and wonderfully made in His image!

Once again, I prefer being a believer in God to being associated with any religion at the moment till all this madness is over. One does not need to belong to any religion to go to heaven. In fact religion could be an obstacle to going to heaven if the adherents become victims of indoctrination and brainwashing.

There is no doubt that what most Christian pastors teach today mostly deviates from what our Lord Jesus Christ taught them. They teach the bible to suit their needs, circumstances, whims and caprices. The bible noted that Jesus Christ was so poor that he had no place to lay down his head. Today pastors are one of the richest people on earth. They have the best cars, private jets, mansions and have surplus of ladies and concubines attending to their various needs including spiritual and temporal. They live a life of opulence that is obviously incompatible with the good news they were mandated to go and preach to the poor. Most of these pastors minister in the poorest parts of their countries and yet their life does not in any way reflect the environment they are working in. They are simply scandalously rich in the midst of poverty and that is not compatible with their call and ministry.

The life these pastors live nowadays has become an eyesore that Jesus Christ would weep uncontrollably seeing them in this type of opulence. The life is openly egoistic, egotistic, self-centred and materialistic with much emphasis being placed on material wealth and accumulation. My original parish is in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha in the South East of Nigeria and you dare not come there when they are having their monthly meetings or recollections. However if you dare to come you must be sure of being sadly confronted by the sight of newest cars in towns. Their meetings and recollections have become the greatest show in town for the poor parishioners. This is very ridiculous in the sense that these pastors serve in areas, states and a country regarded as very poor. These people are very rich and therefore cannot genuinely identify with the plight of the poor they are called to serve!

The poor whom they are called to minister to bears the highest brunt of their extravagant and opulent life. They have to pay their tithe otherwise they are accused of robbing God or owing him and therefore must end up in hell. These are people who are so poor that they cannot even afford to eat and how they are robbing God is what am yet to comprehend. That is brainwashing. The pastors simply need the tithe to keep maintaining their extravagant lifestyle and the unsuspecting poor people gullibly believe everything they are told without using their sense of logic or reasoning as my friend I mentioned earlier noted at the outset. This is not religion. It sounds more like an intimidation and extorting money from the people of God in the name of God using religion as a cover. The only justification they have is that it is God’s command and therefore justified because it is done in the name of God. It is just like a pastor sleeping with your wife and telling you that it is justified because he is a man of God and therefore should be seen as an act mandated by God. Onanism! An Opus Dei! Frankly, that has happened before.

This group of dodgy men of God are ever ready to justify their evil deeds using religion or God and that is evil. They are everywhere and they go around stepping on people’s toes in the name of God and religion. They do not have respect for others. It is just about them because they think they are messengers of God on earth. The other day in Bus 12 going from Oxford Circus to Dulwich Library, a young man was busy preaching on top of his voice the imminent end of the world around 5am despite the fact that people were going to work and needed some breathing space to relax, meditate, surf their notebooks or blackberry and read their books. To the young man, he is preaching the word of God and no matter whose Ox is gored that preaching must continue because the Bible mandated him to go to the rest of the world and preach the good news of Jesus Christ to the gentiles.

At the same time the young man was preaching, somewhere in Nigeria the Primate and the Archbishop of Nigeria, Anglican Communion is finalising one of his early morning meetings with some members of the Nigeria House of Assembly in his residence in Abuja on how to impose a very strict punishment on those who profess to be, associate, promote, advertise or have anything to do with homosexuality even as the nearby Roman Catholic pastor is already telling his parish how abominable it is in the sight of the lord to be a homosexual using carefully crafted sermon and highly selective passages from the Bible to justify his argument. He does not care about what would be the impact of his homily on his congregation. The fact that this type of hate-filled homily could lead to homophobic crimes including murder and lynching never bothered him. He is only interested in preaching blindly what he wants his bible and faith to say. His own religion is completely ignorant of the need of other people and that is one of the main issues with Islam in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, the version of Islam we have does not accommodate the needs and feelings of other people and their faith. In fact an average Nigerian Muslim would want to islamise the whole nation by force. Is that not an arrogant madness? The fact is that issues revolving around religion is a personal one and is actually one of the cardinal pillars upon which the fundamental human rights revolves. The implication is that people should be allowed to make decisions regarding belief and religion personally and privately. It is a personal and private matter and should be dealt with as such. This right to make decisions regarding religious matters should also include the right to decide to be an atheist. That should be protected constitutionally and nobody should be victimised for being an atheist. All religions, beliefs and philosophies should be allowed a level playing ground in this quest to acquire converts. They should make their creeds available to the public so that the public should have the choice and freedom to pick the one more suitable and sensible to them. Religion should not be by force, coercion or compulsion. It is therefore a pity that these unscrupulous elements have completely thwarted the meaning of religion that they now use it solely for their selfish and personal aggrandisement including forceful conversion and persecution of those who do not buy their doctrines or share same beliefs with them. Others use it as a medium to achieve their political aims and other ambitions.

For instance, about 10 hours drive from the parish of the Roman Catholic pastor mentioned earlier, another war was raging in the town of Oko in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State. The Roman Catholic Chaplain of the Federal Polytechnic there is on a verbal battle with his Anglican counterpart over who will be the next Rector Magnificus of the polytechnic. The Anglican chaplain took a vow it must be an Anglican while the Roman Catholic priest vows that if his candidate, a Roman Catholic is not appointed, then there would be fire and brimstone in the polytechnic. Now the question is what has religion got to do with the appointment of a rector of a federally owned higher institution? Even employment in Nigeria is premised upon religion. A Muslim is 99 percent unlikely to hire a Christian and vice versa.

Sadly, this is the level we have reduced religion to. It has been reduced to the level of an object of mockery and caricature that people could easily invoke the name of God while committing evil. In Nigeria, a country that has prided itself as a godly nation, It is not uncommon to hear God and his various names in various languages of the world, yet this country has been described as the most corrupt country in the world and a haven for internet scam. What happened to the religion and the God we shout His name all the time?

Personally, shouting the name of God all the time is tantamount to disrespecting God. Taking the name of the Lord in vain is one of the evils that are forbidden in the bible but that evil is very Nigerian. Ask a Nigerian, how he is doing, the reply would certainly be, ‘by the grace of God am doing fine’. Ask him how old he is and you are sure of hearing ‘By God’s grace I am 30’. The name of God is today so common and frequently used even when reaching an orgasm that a times we begin to doubt if God does still exist. It is getting out of hand that most people take some very stupid decisions and justify it with faith and hope in God as if God is an iPod to be manipulated at their own whims and caprices.

For instance, just four months ago I was chatting with a friend on the Facebook. He was planning to come to the United Kingdom to pursue his graduate studies and when I asked him how he intends to fund the remaining part of his school fees, he told me that there is God and that God is alive and that by His grace, the money would be ready in four months time to conclude the payment which is actually a conditio sine qua non before he could resume the course. A week before the deadline, he is still looking for the money. Not that I do not believe in miracles but the fact is that stupidity does not bring about miracles, only sane judgements and wise decisions, after all it is said that heaven help those who help themselves.

Back to same Nigeria, a country that is still struggling 49 years after independence to have a steady power supply, good health care, quality education, motorable roads, pay workers salaries and wages, provide security of life and property for the citizens and pension for retired workers, the government still has the gut to sponsor people on religious pilgrimages. This is the greatest insult and affront on the sensibility of Nigerians. They claimed that there is no money to meet the demands of teachers and health workers, to construct motorable roads and provide Nigerians with security for their lives and properties and yet there is money to sponsor people going on pilgrimages to Mecca, Rome and Jerusalem. Is that not the greatest and stupidest thing in the world?

Religious is a personal and private affair and should be treated as such. The state should have no hand in it. There should be a very thick line between the state and religion. I suggest a line as thick as the Berlin wall! How can you as a good Christian or Muslim accept to be sponsored with money meant for our schools, roads, shelter for the homeless, water for the thirsty and good health care for the dying in the hospital to go on pilgrimage? It is only a mad 'god' that would be happy to see that happening and answer a prayer that came out of it or even bless the venture at all. No wonder things get worse as soon as they come back! These people are not worshipping God. They are satisfying their personal aggrandisement and God would eventually come to judge them all. No person, no matter how religious and spiritual you are would accept to be sponsored on a religious pilgrimage when people are dying because health workers are on strike for not being paid. That is evil and the beneficiaries are condoning it in the name of God and religion! That is not religion and it has nothing to do with God!

My dream is therefore to let people know, appreciate and fully understand the boundary between the word of God and the word of men. This is a dream so dear to my heart. I have witnessed many of my friends abandoning God and religion in thousands due to misinterpretation of the holy books. I have homosexuals friends who told me that they are leaving God and religion since their religion made it very clear to them that they are going straight to hell to burn to ashes and if they are going straight to hell to burn to ashes what then is the need of believing and going to where you will end up burning in hell. The word of God is filled with love, tolerance and accommodation while that of man is filled with hatred, bigotry, division and indoctrination and it is very vital that we all understand this. God does not encourage or support discrimination. We are all equal before him and there is no way He could love some more than others.

It is therefore quite unfortunate and a big time shame that some could be excluded from the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit as a result of malicious interpretation of the holy book by some ignorant unscrupulous elements. It is based on this ground that I am eagerly looking towards the possibility of endowing a professorial chair to be called 'The Chukwunwikezarramu Okumephuna Professorial Chair For The Public Debating, Questioning And Understanding Of Religion’. That is still a dream and I seriously wish that the dream could be achieved soonest. We need to let people know how important they are in the sight of God despite their circumstances in life.