"The moment we [Africans] lost our languages was also the moment we lost our bodies, our gold, diamonds, copper, coffee, tea." - Ngugi wa Thiong'o

3 April 2016

The curse of death on Governor Nasir el-Rufai and the right to freedom of worship in Nigeria

Some few years ago I stayed the night at my sister-in-law’s house in Lagos, Nigeria, while travelling to London, UK. At about 4.30 am, I heard a voice from a loudspeaker/public address system screaming fire-fire-fire. I jumped out of the bed and alerted my hosts in my own loud agitated screaming that there was fire in the neighbourhood.

My in-laws woke up only to tell me that the shout of fire–fire-fire was, in fact, coming from a church behind their house. I said it doesn’t matter where the fire was at, what matter most is that we have to leave the house. The woman smiled and said; there’s no fire; the church is praying.

In an embarrassing tone I asked; praying? The woman nodded and in a rather surprising pitch added; yes they are praying. Then, it occurred to me that my sister-in-law is equally a born-again Christian. And so, I quietly went inside the room to ponder away the early morning.

Hence, I listened again to the noise that I have now been told is coming from a church. In addition to fire-fire-fire, the people in the church were also shouting die-die-die. I guess these curses were directed to imaginary foes – ignorance.

The curses I heard coming from that church was unimaginable. I was born a Methodist and attended a Methodist college. My life was Methodist until I stopped being a Christian. I can boldly say that I never heard that kind of prayers while I was a Methodist. More so, I am conversant with the bible.

Thus, if they are Christ-like as they claim, why would a Pastor pray and encourage his congregation to pray for the death of a foe?

But Jesus that these people claim to emulate was quoted in Matthew 5:43-45; "you have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…”

And that takes me to a certain ‘man of god’ (Apostle Suleiman) that I saw on Facebook laying the curse of death on Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state – Nigeria.

Suleiman ‘prophesised’ that el-Rufai will die. And that if it doesn’t happen that people should know that he doesn’t serve God. El-Rufai, on the other hand, has asked for the date of his death so that he can write his WILL.

So what is ‘the bone of contention’ here? Suleiman says that el-Rufai is trying to muscle the church of Christ – another way of trying to Islamise Nigeria. Moreover, that the governor is infringing on his constitutional right to freedom of worship.

Gov el-Rufai on his part says that he is trying to sustain that citizen’s right to freedom of worship. He quickly added that he wants to remind ‘men of god’ like Apostle Suleiman that their rights to freedom of worship must not infringe on other people’s rights.

As a result, the administration of el-Rufai forwarded a preaching bill to the Kaduna assembly to amend an existing law that will prevent Apostle Suleiman and others from violating other citizens’ rights while exercising their rights to freedom of worship.

The bill proposes setting up two committees. One will comprise of Christians and the other Muslims. The committees will regulate religious bodies including issuing licences to them to practice and withdrawing such licences upon violation of the conditions of the licence. 

By so doing, ‘men of god’ such as Suleiman will stop threatening other people with death.

By the way, if el-Rufai is shot dead tomorrow would Suleiman say his god has killed the governor? Of course, he would be held answerable. It is the work of god or other spirits is not recognised in law. This is the kind of ignorance that el-Rufai is trying to check - the type of ignorance that these so called ‘men of god’ pass on to their followers.

Furthermore, the bill proposes to enlighten Christian Pastors and Muslim Imams that other people have the right not to be disturbed while exercising their freedom of worship. The bill will prevent them from hanging loudspeakers outside their places of worship and praying through them.

Besides if such a law existed in Lagos, I wouldn’t have heard of the fire-fire-fire prayer that I mistook for real fire. Who wouldn’t have panicked like I did? Staying in a country where a facility such as fire service is virtually not available.

And I am still wondering what happened to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 6:6; “but when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6 is more of what is obtainable in civilised societies. There are no loudspeakers hanging in front of churches disturbing the environment. The Muslims’ early morning call to prayer doesn’t happen in Europe even though they have large number of Muslims.

And to those Christians that oppose the bill, el-Rufai says you should do him a favour; go through the bill and point out what you don’t like in the bill. It is only when he can discuss with you. But that’s the problem with most Nigerians – they dwell on rumours. They don’t investigate issues.

It is highly likely that Apostle Suleiman hasn’t seen the proposed bill how much reading it. But he’s at his Church invoking death on Gov el-Rufai and spitting fire at what he termed the Islamisation of Nigeria by the APC government of President Buhari.

In all, Nigerian Christians and Muslims should understand that there are other practices apart from theirs. And so, they should respect other people’s constitutional rights to freedom of worship. Even if the person chose to worship a stone, it’s his prerogative and none of your business.

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