Friday, August 13, 2010
The Old Gods Are Yet With Us
To me, this just goes to show that despite the veneer of imported religions like Christianity and Islam, our hearts still belong to the old gods. A perfect example of this is in oath taking. Many Nigerians can and do lie without issue on a Bible or a Koran, but very, very few will even take an oath on a traditional fetish - let alone lie on it. They will claim that such items are devilish and diabolical, and that to associate with them is against the religion they currently practice, but I am convinced that it is because the ancient fears are still with very much with them.
I am convinced that the lawlessness and insecurity we currently experience in Nigeria comes from the fact that we have built our institutions on sand. We have lost our sense of community and responsibility because we lost the indigenous systems that undergirded these institutions in the past. In Nigeria today, it is every man for himself. Those who occupy our positions of authority from the university lecturer to the bank president, do not seem to understand that they work for the masses. They preach service with their mouths, but the evidence is in the work of their hands. And we condone it, because we know we would all do the same if we were in their place.
The situation is accurately reflected in Ngugi Wa’Thiongo’s “Wizard of the Crow,” which I am currently reading. I’m about a third of the way in and I am entralled by the author’s incisive observation on the place of religion in African society. In it, a man who people believe to be a powerful wizard becomes more powerful than the illegitimate government in power or the corrupt institutions that prop it up.
We are rightly considered to be one of the most religious societies in the world, but I wonder if this is only because we protest too much. We loudly proclaim our faith as if volume could compensate for the secret place in our hearts that the new God has not touched.
I know for a fact that if we returned to invoking the old gods in our public spaces, we would have a far more functional society than we do now. A perfect example of this theory in action can be found here. In a community in Edo State, elders who were fed up with rampant kidnapping got together and placed a powerful curse on anyone who practices the act within the community. Almost overnight, it is reported that incidents of kidnapping ceased. Nobody wants to mess with that kind of power, no matter how devout they might seem on Sunday morning or Friday afternoon.
Imagine if our leaders, judges and lawmakers had to swear on the altar of the deity of their hometown when they came to office that they would not steal, lie or engage in any other form of malfeasance. That is not to say there won’t be oath breakers, but at least we would weed out the grossly criminal and ensure that those who enter our scared spaces understand that they work for us, for the gods, and not for themselves.