Thursday, 16 October 2014

Religion and the Manipu... (Is Shekau Really Dead?)

Religion and the Manipulation of politics in Nigeria
Rev Fr Anthony Zakka
Nigeria seems quite a religious society. Religion is very deeply enshrined in this country. And
often it takes quite conservative, sometimes violent forms. What your thoughts on religion
in Nigeria and what it means for anarchism and organizing society might be quite different from mine. Whatever your thoughts, religion and religious practices have entered a new phase in Nigeria. Before the advent of colonialism, our people were mostly traditional religionists, who worshipped small gods – gods of thunder, gods of river, and such other gods. With the coming of colonialism, the two main global religions – Islam and Christianity – became a predominant force in the lives of Nigerians.
The rivalry and competition between the two religions has tended to play down the fact that not all
Nigerians are Christians or Muslims. Even in the North-central, you are talking about pagan tribes and different forms of African religion that take place in those places. But today Nigeria is profiled and stereotyped as a Christian South and a Muslim North. Yet, in the North you find a lot of non-adherents to Islam, you come to the South as well you find a lot of non-adherents to Christianity.
But in the past twenty to thirty years the singular influence of Christianity and Islam has been considerably negative on the Nigeria society in the sense that both religions have become sources of manipulation, political manipulation of ordinary people. Whenever you hear there is a religious riot in the North, a religious riot in the East and you go down and examine the issues, they are not basically religious. Politicians are usually being accused for using religion to manipulate the ordinary people into fighting for the political positions and beliefs of the elite.
Religion seems to become an instrument of manipulation, exploitation, deceit, and large-scale blindfolding of ordinary people in Nigeria. It is one of the elements militating against social consciousness and the development of the working class, as a class, in Nigeria. The development of a class of the dispossessed, the oppressed, the marginalized, who feel and share common interests and are keen to fight for those common interests. Religion is thrown in as a wedge, as a source of conflict among ordinary people. Like Karl Marx said, religion becomes the opium of society. Every little thing is covered and given a religious coloration, when it is actually not. It is a tremendous setback to the development of social consciousness in Nigeria and the rest of Africa as a whole.
Nowadays, however, it seems religious leaders are manipulating political leaders. Or how do you explain a situation where religious leaders create a case of apprehension by organizing prayer sessions, crusades, night vigils, sacrifices, etc in the name of protection for politicians who are desperate. Who is manipulating who when politicians turn imams or pastors overnight? Who is manipulating who when politicians become impoverished after leaving office while their 'anointed' clerics fly their jets years after?
(Fr Zakka is the Director of the Media Service Centre, Kaduna.)
Is Shekau Really Dead?
That was my friend, Fr Zakka, asking the question about religion and politics: which manipulates which?
Two weeks ago, the media was awash with news of the death of the leader of the Boko Haram insurrectionists. We saw a picture of a bearded corpse, marred with blood, in red trousers. To drive home the fact that it was surely the Shekau, his live picture was juxtaposed with that of the corpse with arrows in both pictures indexing a slight lump on the forehead, a proof that indeed it was Shekau and that indeed he has been killed. Many Nigerians on social media jubilated and showered adulations on the Nigerian armed forces.
We saw some short video clips to that effect on social media but none was particularly telling whether or not he had been killed. There was this particular one with a title that suggested that he was actually caught alive, interviewed and then killed. But then it is a very short clip that shows the supposed Shekau sitting in those red trousers clearly wounded, and then a soldier is heard shouting something to the effect that he should be wasted. Then we suddenly see the dead man’s still picture; the same one used to index his forehead as proof of his identity. The problem with that clip is that it is only five or so second. We don’t hear anything of the said interview – or is it exchange with the said Shekau.
However, there is a more telling video. It is a clip of about ten minutes by some persons in Konduga. They videoed a lot of corpses, that littered the street, in the aftermath of some clash with the insurgents. What is not clear is who actually engaged the insurgents, because the kind of wounds on the corpses show the use of rather crude weapons instead of sophisticated ones that the Nigerian Armed forces would use. But the interesting thing is that at the end of the clip, that same corpse of Shekau(?) is seen.
But last week news began to filter in, first from the French media which the insurrectionists always send their videos to, that Shekau may not have been killed afterall. We have now seen a video of him gloating over Nigeria that he is alive. He even makes reference to Chinda, the pilot of the missing military fighter jet, and how they killed him after days of detention.
My older daughter is confused. She has asked me whether or not Shekau has been killed. I am confused too. Please Mr President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, has Shekau been killed or not? Parents are at a loss of what to tell their children. At least Obama spoke when the Navy Seals took out Osama Bin Laden.

BLUEPRINT Newspaper; Oct. 9, 2014

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