Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka yesterday condemned President Muhammadu’s and Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s handling of the Southern Kaduna crisis.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) alleged that no fewer than 808 people have been killed.
Prof. Soyinka criticised the admission by El -Rufai that he paid killers of Southern Kaduna people to stop the carnage.
He said religion “is more likely to induce anxiety leading to trauma rather than solace and the consolation of spirituality which many religions claim for themselves.”
He spoke in Abuja at the launch of the book “Religion and the Making of Nigeria” written by Prof. Olufemi Vaughan, in Abuja. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was present.
Among those who witnessed the event at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre were Secretary to Oyo State Government Olalekan Alli, Senator Effiong Bob, former Cross River Governor Donald Duke, Amb. Folorunso Otukoya, Amb. Funke Adefope, Justice Ajoke Adepoju, Prof Hamidou Bole, Bishop Hassan Kukah, and Sen. Babafemi Ojudu.
Soyinka said: “What astonished me was not the admission by the governor but the astonishment of others at such governmental response to atrocity.
“There was nothing new about it. If you ask why Gen. Buhari did not act fast enough when these events take place, which degrade us as human beings, well it is perhaps he has been waiting for the governor of that state to send money to the killers first for them to stop the killing. He said it was no longer enough for religious leaders to simply condemn violence perpetrated by their followers. The sitting president of this nation, Gen. Buhari once said “If you don’t kill corruption in this nation, corruption would kill us.” I would like to transfer that cry from the moral zone to the terrain of religion. If we do not tame religion in this nation, religion would kill us.
“I do not say kill religion though I wouldn’t mind a bit if that mission could be undertaken surgically; painlessly, perhaps, under anesthesia effectively spayed all over the nation or perhaps during an induced pouch of religious ecstasy, However, one has to be realistic. Only the religiously possessed or committed would deny the obvious. The price that many have paid not just within this society but by humanity in general makes one wonder if the benefits have really been more than the losses.
“I’ve quite often imagined what the world would be if religion had never been invented. Can one think of any landscape without religious architecture? What went wrong? What has gone wrong? When where and how did religion become a killing machine? The book under consideration does not pretend to attend to those issues.”
“However, for both the monk and the clerical or spiritual leaders, it is simply no longer sufficient to say this or that form of conduct is not permitted by this religion or the other. Or those who do this or that are not true believers of this prophet or that avatar or sage for the simple reason that others who dissociate themselves from conduct which universally is condemned are themselves declaring themselves partisans of their own in contradistinctions to others. What however, concerns the rest of us no matter the internal wrangling, rivalries or controversies within any religion, what concerns us is that the innocent are often those who pay highest price. The non-adherents to one line of belief or another.
Osinbajo who described the issue of federal character as a hypocritical tool in the hands of the elite in peddling influence observed that at critical times, they forget religion and ethnicity.
“Very few people have been prosecuted for religious violence but none has ever been brought to conclusion. Why it is that such case are never concluded? Too many cases of high profile murders that are not concluded in this country.
“National character is very hypocritical. When we are playing football, we all clamour for the best legs because we want to win. We don’t ask how many Muslims or Christians are in the team. When you are sick, nobody asks the religion of the doctor. We only ask about competencies.”
He declared that religion has been a veritable tool in forging educational development of Nigeria but that “the manipulation of religion by the elites has led to the problem that we are facing. Nigerian elite will use religion when it is convenient and at other times they may use ethnicity or some other form of identification.”
Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Mathew Hassan Kukah lamented that religion had been used mainly for manipulative tendencies by northern elites.
“Unless we get round to defining what constitutes religion and in this particular case, the way and manner in which how the northern ruling class continues to use religion as a cover to perpetuate and subjugate the people, the problem will persist.”