Have you ever wondered how it is all so easy for many Nigerians to namedrop God or even the devil? Well, I am assuming you are not as guilty as the next citizen. We love to lace our conversations with expressions like, ‘by God’s grace’, ‘God knows’, ‘true to God’, ‘God forbid’ and ‘the devil is a liar’ etc. They all go to show our religiosity, which we virtually wear on our sleeves. Even those who run our affairs in every tier of government have elevated religiosity to state art, sometimes organising prayer sessions for the state, even if some parts of the organisation (cost, honorarium etc) are soaked in corruption. And we hardly see a nexus between the praying states and efficient states. Someone once quipped that even when people (civil servants as an example) hold a meeting to share the loot, they often start and end their meetings with, you guessed right, prayers.
One has no problem with being religious, but more with the attempt of many to excuse or blame everything to some divine or other spiritual being. What can one make of the provocative statement, made penultimate week, by the then president of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) that the fire incident in the football association’s headquarters was ‘an act of God’. That was startling for me, even sacrilegious. What did God have to do with it anyway?
The Glass House had for some time now been embroiled in controversies such as leadership tussle, financial mess and fraud. And in the middle of that came the fire incident which destroyed part of the building and then the man who superintended over the body had the temerity to blame that act on God! It was as provocative as when someone said in 2011 that the violent killing of some young persons on national youth service assignment, during the post-election violence, was an act of God. That was fatalism taken to the hilt.
Saying it was an act of God took away the responsibilities of people to account for their acts of freewill actions, inactions and consequences. It simply suggests that we are pawns or programmed to act in certain ways by some powerful force beyond us. It doesn’t therefore matter if someone carelessly left combustible materials in the house or used naked flames therein, leading to the fire. Similarly, arming and mobilising youths to take up violence in the name of politics shouldn’t be blamed for any resulting mayhem because in both cases, there is a divine power that allows everything to happen.
On the reverse side of the religiosity is the attempt to excuse our failures also to the devil. This is often the case when a criminal is finally picked up after years of atrocities covering different criminal and evil acts. It is now a refrain to hear things like “it was the devil that led me to do it”. An armed robber is caught, and instead of accepting responsibility, he blames it on the devil. Does he then want us to excuse him and go after the devil, wherever it is found? Truth is the devil we know for the moment is the very person we have caught and should be so treated.
Still talking the blame game, Nigerians also love to blame the victims for what befalls them. We blame women for being violated because of how they dressed, how they talked and how they carried themselves. We blame citizens for being attacked by terrorists because they have failed to identify the bad eggs in their own part of the country.
And just last week, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) blamed citizens for not getting registered for elections because some people who shouldn’t have turned up to register did so or they were disorderly in their behaviour while on the line in the scorching heat and all that blah. So what was INEC thinking when it chose to use just five days to register thousands of potential voters, many of whom turned 18 in the last four years and were unable to register in 2011 despite attempts just as now or were outside the country in 2011? What were they thinking by trying to register that number of people in one location per local government as opposed to the usual practice of registering at every polling unit, yet the single ward registration point was not advertised, even as some wards cannot be covered within two hours travel on bad roads?
So now where lies the blame – God, devil, citizens INEC? The least INEC can do is to accept failure for this and re-strategise immediately on how to provide opportunity to all the excluded potential voters to get on the voter’s list. The idea of asking them to go to the local government offices of INEC to register runs against reasoning. If at ward level it didn’t work, widening that to local government is a disaster in waiting.