By Ingye Dooyum Dominic

Religion has remained an obstructive force in the history of man and society. In Nigeria, Christianity and Islam have become a bane to progressive development. It draws its strength from its potency to induce or bring about change in the attitudes of its adherents, mostly negatively in the Nigerian case.

On this note, it has become necessary to create a shared understanding on the misplaced priority of proliferation of worship centers in Nigeria without concern to the developmental needs of the country. This is in view of the decades old developmental challenges that have bedeviled and continued to bedevil the largest black nation on earth.

The practice of religion in Nigeria has become a recipe for poverty, war and chaos. The social relations and identity of a Nigerian is largely defined by it.  It has not only reinforced ignorance but also become a vortex of mental confusion among young adults, children and the aged.

It is correct to pass a verdict of poverty and ignorance on the two major religions in Nigeria viz Christianity and Islam. This is more so as it has been elevated to become the standard of correctness about anything and everything that is and could be, in Nigeria.

In today’s milieu, the greatest developmental challenges confronting the nation are unemployment, insecurity, leadership failure, and by far, economic challenges as manifested in low income and poor living standards of large adherents of these two major religions. In all of these, these worship centers have not done anything to alleviate the challenges other than prayers! Rather, pastors are milking poor Nigerians to build worship centers all over the country.

Across Nigeria, the number of churches and mosques outweigh capital development or infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and industries. When I visited a remote area of Ushongo LG early this year, I saw a gigantic church built by the so called ‘illustrious sons and daughters’ of the land. Given the threatening poverty, low illiteracy, and disease in the area, what the ‘illustrious sons and daughters’ who occupied appointments at the federal level, deemed fit to give their people is a gigantic church. This represents our priority as a people. We have invested too much in religion than industry and knowledge.

Because our worship centers propagate faith and not work, teaches belief and not reason, logic or rationality, the people who could take actions to initiate development have become docile. The sad reality is that, the youths who are the productive pool of our population demographics have been trapped in this web of ideological confusion. As long as they serve the god of the general overseers of the churches they attend, they are covered by grace and contented in the face of biting poverty. They do not think politics, economics, security, technology, climate change and environment, etc. Science is the work of the devil, they argue.

Whereas both Christianity and Islam teaches the doctrine of divine providence of god yet, majority of the adherents to these religions in Nigeria are classical examples of poverty and illiteracy. Some of the adherents have been psychologically coerced to believe as a resort to self-consolation to their life’s challenges. On the contrary, development economics has nothing to do with prejudice nor sentiment. Less industries means high unemployment and crime. Poor health infrastructure means high death rate. A nation that places god and religion above science or industries will wallow in poverty and always occupy the back seat when other nations gather.

A country with abundant natural resources like Nigeria have not been able to grow her potentials because her critical productive pool have been trapped in mental confusion of religious beliefs which hamper economic growth and development. For example, there are youths who will prefer the government to build more worship centers instead of industries. When I studied in Katsina state, I heard a young radio presenter hailing the governor for constructing over 250 mosques in his first tenure thus, urging the people of Katsina to support him for re-election.

At the height of economic recession in 2016, a certain church earmarked over N12 billion and executed a huge edifice as worship center along airport road in Abuja. Even in the midst of covid-19 cash crunch among ordinary people in Nigeria, the revenue base of worship centers have continued to trickle in with large sums of money. Yet, there has been no concerted effort on their part to key into revolutionary agriculture and industry to open up the economy, create wealth and enhance standard of living.

Tunde Bakare, who is the overseer of Citadel Global Community Church (formerly Latter Rain Assembly) has sunk about N13bn into a project that would likely be one of the most modern churches in Africa when completed. Today, David Oyedepo is celebrating 10, 000 Winners Chapel branches. For a second, just imagine that it is industries, and the good it will do for the suffering majority.

In 2018 alone, the government spent about 250 billion naira to sponsor Nigerians on a pilgrimage to Israel and Saudi Arabia. Already, the government has set aside about 2.6 billion naira in the 2021 budget for pilgrimage. Think of the things we could do with all this huge money!

There are churches and mosques erected on almost every street in Nigeria. The answer to the lingering challenges lies not in worship centers or prayers but science and action. The Nigerian population is growing at an alarming rate. This should be a source of worry to Nigerians. The over 180 million citizens of Nigeria represent more than one-quarter of total poverty in Africa today—and are expected to represent almost half of Africa’s poor by 2030. We would be the main hotspot of poverty by that period.

We need to stop seeing worship centers as our salvation point. The general overseers of these worship centers are living in affluence. When we give to the church, we do not give to god. We give to these men- the con artists who pass as men of god. We need to focus on our self-development and enforce our government to perform its primary roles. No one is coming to fix Nigeria. The world will not end as it is told by religious books. We have only two options; to replace worship centers with industries or, in the words of Osuagwu, have ‘easy access to graves’.

(c) Ingye Dooyum Dominic 2020