Over the past few months, the country has been caught in the web of religious motivated killings, heightening the fear of the rise of extremism. From Sokoto to Bauchi to Abuja and Lagos, religious mobs have taken the laws into their hands killing and setting ablaze fellow citizens over allegations of blasphemy. As the possibility of escalation hovers like the Sword of Damocles over the country, some Nigerians who spoke to The Abuja Inquirer offer suggestions how the federal government can address the specter of religious extremism in Nigeria. Ijeoma UKAZU and Williams ABAH conducted the interviews. Excerpts:
TIMOTHY MANNASSEH: In my opinion, I don’t think it’s a difficult thing to do. Over the years, we had our fair share of religious intolerance, yet government has not demonstrated willingness to tackle it. Clergymen are responsible for ensuring effective teaching of their religious tenets to their congregations.
If you looking at the various religious crises, you would discover that Nigerians are not ready to be tolerant to each other. When the issue of religion is discussed, you would see difference religious scholars noting that no religion permits killings, but killings in the name of religion has become the order of the day, especially the recent killings on allegation of blasphemy.
Religious extremism continues to grow deep into the fabrics of Nigerians. Until government puts stringent laws in place to deal with perpetrators of this dastardly act, religious intolerance would continue to threaten our cooperate existence. I can tell you with clear evidence that virtually everything in Nigeria has religious colouration.
So, it is not going to be easy to tackle it because of the extent at which it has gone deep. The politicians use it to tear Nigerians apart for their selfish interest. However, they are still responsible for putting laws in place that would bring it to an end.
Those in charge of religious institutions, and traditional rulers should also make effort to see how they can teach their people the right morals so to understand the basis of what religious practice is all about in a larger and diverse society.
ODUNSI SA’EED: I think parents and guardians need to do a lot by giving children the right formal education. Our children are the leaders of tomorrow and the future belongs to them. It amazes me to see the way government and individuals are going about religion in this country. Nigeria is a secular state. As such, it needs to experience absolute religious peace. But that has not been the case in our clime. The kind of religious extremism in Nigeria today is as a result of poor parental upbringing.
You can’t just give birth to children and allow them to roam the streets. It is there they learn all these atrocities and graduate to terrorism and other related crimes. If the right parental upbringing is given to a child, no influence of bad company or wrong teaching from clergymen can affect him or her. We need to first of all groom our children on the right moral ways so that they can build a better future for themselves and the society at large.
I do tell people that it is not the number of children you have, that matters, what matters is their upbringing, so that they cannot become a burden to the society in future. As we speak, if you assess the various religious extremists in Nigeria, you will see that some of them cannot trace or give you the identity of their parents or where they came from. How can somebody give birth to a number of children he cannot cater for? It is a sin. The holy books be it Christianity or Islam condemn it.
Government should also keep monitoring the activities of the various religious bodies. Any organisation that operates against extant laws and the constitution should be arrested and prosecuted accordingly. Again, the National orientation agency needs to do a lot to educate people in the rural area. There are certain perceptions and beliefs that need to be changed.
IFEANYI NNAJI: In my view, Nigeria is gradually heading into sectarian conflict and the government needs to act now and fast by calling all clergymen, both Muslim as well as Christians, and admonishing them to preach the gospel of unity than religious superiority.
This is critical and the Nigerian government should act quickly to defend its population, and bring perpetrators of religious extremism to justice. The case of late Deborah Samuel was the height of religious extremism in Nigeria and until government brings these perpetrators to justice, we would only be scratching the surface.
VICTOR MICHAEL: Religion can be used for good or evil. What we are seeing today is the use of religion to divide people rather than unite. It started with ethnic division and now has grown into religious extremism. If not curtailed, it would lead to further destruction.
Citing the man that was burnt in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, it was completely uncalled for. Until our leaders begin to address such occurrences with stiff penalties, we won’t have a head way in ending religious extremism in Nigeria.
Offenders should know that when they commit such a heinous act of burning someone to death in the name of religion, they be picked up by law enforcement agencies and made to face life imprisonment with hard labour. Religious leaders also have a role to play in preaching peace and unity to their followers.