Religion divides; religion unites. Its symbols are seen everywhere here. In the big southern cities, churches clamour for prominence with their dizzying signboards on busy and quiet streets. While the western world wants to send God packing, we have him firmly entrenched in our society.
Having watched God’s role shrink in the west, I embraced his omnipresence back home. But my joy at luxuriating in unabashed religious freedom was marred by incident after incident with religious-sounding people.
Religious clichés form a huge umbrella where strange bedfellows meet. Christian choruses drip from the sweet mouths of juju practitioners and Holy-Ghost-power-wielding herbalists advertise their solutions in the newspapers. But it is in the language of everyday people that these clichés find unbridled expression, so much so that a simple yes or no response is as elusive as constant power supply.
In a culture where speeches are padded with verbosity and our elder’s words are peppered with flowery proverbs, perhaps it is fitting that our words are wrapped in religious foil and by God’s grace is the heavy-duty foil that covers every situation under our sun!
When I queried my handyman for a firm work commitment, he kept dodging under the grace of God. “By God’s grace I will come and do the work on Thursday.”
When I persisted, in exasperation he declared, “Madam, I will come on Thursday, God willing!”
Then he beamed like a monkey atop a tree that had escaped the canines of a hungry lion, daring me to challenge the will of God.
That he did not show on the said Thursday is symptomatic of a national ulcer.
Civil servants show up at work by believing and trusting God.
Political parties garner votes by the will of God.
The mechanic will fix your car by the grace of God.
Senators, stupefied by the challenges facing their constituents, hold press conferences where they proclaim, “It is only the grace of God that can save Nigeria!”
Like soap that glides through wet hands, we use religion to evade the grasp of accountability time after time. From Aso Rock to Ajegunle, religion is courted, invoked, and brandished as if it is a determinant of GDP and as if, according to Karl Marx, it is the opium of the people!
At the mall, a young man selling CDs from his début album politely accosted me. Recognising a fellow struggling artist hustling for survival, I decided to purchase one.
“What kind of music is this?”
“By God’s special grace, Christian music.”
I nearly walked away, but I kept hope alive. “Are you sure?”
“Of course madam,” he replied without hesitation, “what else would I record?”
“Look I want to encourage you. I’ll give you N300 anyway, what kind of music is this?”
I guess he must have thought that I imagined that he was born yesterday—a whole him—a scammer of scammers. Looking pained, he told of how other buyers had commended his efforts. He painted a picture of struggle and survival, in which the grace of God and the will of God had converged to give him a testimony, proving that no condition is permanent. Moved, I overlooked the shabby packaging and paid for the CD.
Later, I played the CD in my car. I strained my ears through the poor sound quality to make out the lyrics. The chorus rang:
Naija is where we are
Naija is where we belong
Naija is where we will die
My lips curved slightly as realisation shone through my eyes, of course it was a Christian song!
Since productivity hinges on how God is wielding his grace, I have come to certain conclusions about my day.
Will I go to work today? Ah, it’s in God’s hands.
Will I eat lunch during break? Yes, God willing.
Will I take a pee after lunch? Believing and trusting God.
And finally, can I draft a concluding paragraph for this blog post? By God’s grace!
© Timi Yeseibo 2013
Photo credit: dan mogford / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dansflickr/272385799/
Title: scams upon scammers
Photo credit: MikeBlyth / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blyth/152662733/
Title: Power of God bus (Chi Boy)
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