How Religion Underdeveloped Nigeria- By Adetunji Adeniran

I had a very important reason to be in Ibadan last week and I got lost while navigating my way through University College Hospital, Nigeria’s premier hospital. Instincts told me to ask for directions and the only set of people in sight was some men and women in white robes. They looked very serious and engaged in some form of last minute reading like students preparing for an examination. I walked up to one of them who seemed approachable from afar and asked for directions to where I was going. Even though her examination was a few minutes away, she was very kind.

Dr. IK as I got to find out later is a Paediatrician. She was preparing for one of those exams doctors do to become consultants. As I began to walk away, her voice resonated as if she needed something;

“Do you work here or you are visiting?”- She asked

“I actually came to visit a friend, do you need anything?”- I answered with a smile.

She explained that the examination is usually tight and she would need a wrist-watch to time herself but unfortunately she didn’t have one. I smiled at her, removed my wristwatch and handed it over. With a beam of surprise in her eyes, she managed to say thank you. We exchanged contacts and agreed to get in touch after her examinations. She was grateful as she walked into the examination hall.

We could not meet again after her examination because my phone battery was drained and I needed to leave the hospital premises. Even though I didn’t know her, the success of her examination was more important than the wrist-watch. The following day, I was ready to travel to Benin City and I decided to give her a call.

“Hello Dr. Ik, how was your exam? Sorry my phone went off yesterday and we couldn’t connect. Meanwhile, I am on my way out of town to Benin City.” — I explained to her and also added that she could give the wrist-watch to her younger brother.

“Thank you very much. I passed my exams. Coincidentally, my husband works in Benin City and I am coming there by weekend. I will call you when I arrive.”- She said with much excitement.

And that was how I gained a friend and hopefully a long term family friend.

Just recently I had a discussion with another friend who has deep reservation with dealing with people of other (I don’t like to say opposite) faiths or religions. My first questions have always been; are we first humans before we are Christians or Muslims? Are we first Nigerians before we realise that we should belong to one religion or the other? What we have today is Nigerians fighting one another over another man’s religion. We have people of the same country of origin fighting over superiority of faith forgetting with little or no regard for humanity. I have seen people who would not help fellow humans except they are members of their church. Nigeria has been artificially divided between the Muslim north and Christian South; no thanks to foreign media and diplomats.

Assuming that I wanted to be religious with Dr. IK, I would have first asked if she is a Christian or a Muslim? If she professes Islam, I would probably have had reservations and not render her any help. Even if she is a Christian, I may probably want to know her denomination. These things are killing us!

Nigeria got independence from the Europeans after many years of torture, humiliation and brain-washing. However, it looks like we have not freed ourselves mentally. Religion is a sensitive topic all over the world and everyone irrespective of his/her faith deserves respect, dignity and proper treatment first as a human being and second as a countryman.

Nigeria is a blessed country with over 250 ethnic groups and languages. Imagine such diversity and inclusion. We have a constitution that allows us freedom of movement and religious affiliations. We cannot afford to start segregating ourselves based on these artificial traits.

A new Nigeria is birthed and driven by well informed, educated minds like you and I. We see ourselves first as Nigerians. We shun violence. We co-habit in peace and help one another to grow.

I am @hopefield_net on twitter

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