BY ADEBAYO AJAGUNNA (Ajagzy Okurin Ogun)
I flew into the City of Atlanta yesterday from my Houston base and I was informed of a planned solidarity demonstration at the CNN Center by the Nigerian community. I was with my friend and we all decided to go and show our support. On getting there I met a crowd of about 40 people predominantly dressed in red and carrying various placards to show their angst at the kidnapping.
But what I found very surprising and that put me off and almost put me at loggerheads with the organizers of the Atlanta rally and which I want to highlight with this post as one of our really serious problems as Nigerians is the way we can never do things in an all encompassing way. NIGERIA IS A DIVERSE COUNTRY, ITS ALSO A SECULAR COUNTRY, what I saw as I arrived the corner of the CNN building threw me back a little. In essence what was going on was a Christian Praise and Worship session rather than a demonstration, the guys with the megaphone started every statement with “Praise The Lord” and the crowd responding “Halleluyah”. There were prayers, exhortations, a little of speaking in tongues and “Holy Ghost fire” invocations.
I then asked if this was a Church organized protest and they said “No” so I asked that the way the protest was being conducted they were alienating other Nigerians who happened not to be of the Christian faith but who would want to join hands with other Nigerians to bring attention to this ugly kidnap issue. Initially the leaders of the rally resisted my position that this should not be another “fellowship”, they refused to let me speak or another person speak and for “diversity” they requested individuals they knew to come and sing Christian songs in the various Nigerian languages, so we had songs in Yoruba, Igbo, Efik and Ogoni. I told them I wanted to speak on behalf of Nigerians who were not Christians. They said they would not give me the microphone except I wanted to sing and I said we needed to remind ourselves why we were standing by the street corner with placards rather than fellowship, the leader held on to the Microphone and started a prayer session., I then told my friend who showed up with his entire family (wife and two sons) that maybe we should leave, at this point a lady who overheard my complaints called the leader and requested they should let others have a say too.
Well, I just said a few words to remind us the real reasons why we came out to the streets and that our responsibilities as citizens should not end with this action and that if we had paid attention to the kind of leaders we elected in the past we wouldn’t be in this mess today. I think my message despite the initial sceptism was well received so I raised an Igbo gospel/Super Eagles Supporters Club rally song “Nkpo ya Chukwu” which seemed to please everyone. The truth is we wear our religion blatantly and arrogantly yet something is still deeply wrong with our hearts. I have never seem such greed, avarice, hatred, envy and all negatives with people so religious. We should learn to keep our religion PRIVATE. Nigeria belongs to the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the religious and non- religious and there must be space for everyone to operate freely.
A significant part of this Boko Haram problem is the fact that some folks want to shove their interpretations of some foreign religion down the throats of others.