A column about Nigeria’s attitude to religion and culture (2)
The big takeaway from all this was that people profess the religions they do and practise them the way they do primarily because of environmental factors. We all learn our religion from our parents and immediate environments. Give or take a few strong-willed exceptions like myself, people generally grow up to emulate their surroundings. Kenta would never have grown up in Kyoto and decided all of a sudden one day to become a Christian, just as Calistus or Titilayo in Lagos would never wake up and decide to worship Shinto. The way they would look at Shinto as an exotic false god, is exactly how Kenta would look at their Christian god.
The second major thing I picked up from my time within this motley crew was that there is nothing inherently different or special about being Nigerian, as we are brought up to believe. All those stories we like to tell about our incredibly pushy parents, our difficult day-to-day lives, our spicy food, our corrupt government and our “resilience” – other cultures have those things too. Whether it is a desire to see our children do better than us, or a fear of letting down our parents, or persevering in the face of difficulty, these attributes are not “Nigerian.” They are simply human – everyone has them.
Our Culture Needs a Reboot
This means that the behaviours that we excuse due to these things are actually unjustifiable. For example, we are not the only people living in difficulty who want our children to be better than us, so we do not have to be the ones that use that difficulty as an excuse to carry out child abuse masquerading as “discipline.” If we pay a bit of attention to how other people live, particularly in other parts of the developing world in Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America, we will see that despite several cultural similarities, these people manage to get by without doing many of the things we do that complicate life for us everyday.
The actions that we take in the name of our religions in particular are examples of geographically localized things that do not actually represent the religions outside of Nigeria. My experience of Christianity in the land of the people who introduced it to Nigeria was one where the church is not used to defraud and exploit people. Despite living in one of the wealthiest societies on earth located just a few hundred kilometers from Mecca, most Bahraini men marry only one wife and have just two children on average.
The actions that we take in the name of our religions in particular are examples of geographically localized things that do not actually represent the religions outside of Nigeria.
So If a subsistence farmer in Kebbi marries three wives and has 17 children that become almajiri, that is not actually a religious matter (though he will no doubt insist it is), but a cultural habit that needs to be attacked as a matter of national security. If a pastor uses his female church members as his personal harem, that is not a religious issue to be covered by the infamous “Touch not my anointed,” but rather a cultural issue to be rooted out with extreme prejudice. Our religions in themselves are not what is killing us, because other people practise these religions without causing the kind of damage that we do. Our Nigerianness, masquerading as faith, is what is killing us, and we need to get rid of it – fast.
To modify our toxic culture, we need to acknowledge that there is a world out there much bigger than Nigeria where people who do not have two heads are doing things differently to us and seeing different results from us.
If we are looking for new ideas to feed a cultural revolution, we can probably start with a map of the world.