In Nigeria, religion and politics mix like snake oil and fire water

A writer wishes Nigeria's politicians would act like they were religious

Michael Fitzgerald By Michael Fitzgerald

Lining up for to see and be seen at a church in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

In the U.S., your mom will tell you not to talk religion and politics in polite company. The same does not hold true in Nigeria. “Nigerians are the most prayerful people on earth. We wear our religion on our forehead. We make a show of what in saner climes would be a private devotion,” writes veteran journalist and PR professional Wole Olaoye in Nigeria’s Daily Trust.  

Olaoye is angry that Nigerian politicians speak godly words to one another, with little apparent impact in their daily lives.

“We think that we are holy because we spend long hours in mosque and church; but as Garrison Keillor has humorously noted, you can sit in the garage all your life; you’ll never become a car,” Olaoye writes in his article, “Religious but not godly.”

Nigerian Muslims at prayer. (Reuters)

Olaoye welcomes a decision by Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council, analogous to the U.S. Cabinet, to replace Christian and Muslim prayers before public events with a reading of the pious words of the second stanza of Nigeria’s national anthem. (Sample: “Oh God of creation. Direct our noble course. Guide our leaders right.)

God helps those who help themselves

Olaoye thinks the national anthem is an improvement, but “it is still rife with our usual appeal to God to do for us what we have refused to do for ourselves.”

Olaoye fumes:

We steal the treasury blind and call on God to prosper our land. We bend the rules in aviation and then call on God to stop plane crashes. We neglect the highways and call on God to prevent accidents. We refuse to generate employment and call on God to provide jobs for our teeming unemployed graduates. We export our worst elements to other countries and call on God to make the world respect us.

Olaoye calls on Nigerian politicians to end such hypocrisy. Until they do, he suggests, the country will continue to suffer. He bemoans the inability of Nigeria’s politicians and other elites to see past what is good for themselves.

Funny, he sounds like he could be talking about American politicians.