Is it Compatible for Christians to Become Traditional Rulers in Ijawland?

Is it Compatible for Christians to Become Traditional Rulers in Ijawland?

 

By Priye S. Torulagha

priyet@hotmail.com

 

Before answering the question with a Yes or a No answer, it is necessary to explore the question critically.  Similarly, before condemning the writer for being anti-Christian, it is necessary to read and digest the story in order to have a full understanding of the compelling reason for writing this article.

Although very controversial, nevertheless, it is necessary to ask whether it is compatible for  Ijaw Christians to become traditional rulers in Ijawland at this juncture of the Ijaw struggle for self-determination. The reason is that many Ijaw beliefs, values, norms and practices are disappearing at a frenetic speed due to the unrelenting ideological crusades mounted by Christian evangelists, pastors and adherents to destroy Ijaw culture and traditions in an attempt to replace it with a Christian culture.  Mr. I. E. Prezi published an article titled “Christian Religion and Loss of Ijaw Traditions and Cultures”, in which he identified some of the rare Ijaw cultural beliefs and practices that are disappearing, following Christianization.  Earlier, Dr. E. J. Alagoa had made reference to the fact that many Ijaw traditions have been abandoned as people convert to Christianity (1999).  Indeed, the destruction of Ijaw culture is proceeding at a pace in which by fifty years from now, the Ijaw cultural world could be reduced to nothingness and replaced with Christian and secular-humanistic ideas.     This means that some of the unique beliefs, traditions, rituals, festivals, songs, masquerades and dances might disappear.  This further means that Ijaw traditional music would be replaced by CHRISTIAN GOSPEL MUSIC.  Already, an increasing number of Ijaw musicians are now singing and producing Christian gospel music.  It is evident that in the future, instead of having the Rex Lawsons, I. K. Belemos, the Sea Gulfs, Robert Ebizimors, Barrister Smooths, Timayas, Pereamas, Dennis Abassas, Allen Alabors, Alfred Izon-Ebis, Fere bon Epebifes, Sistr Ayagbene, and so on and so forth, most musicians would be singing gospel music to demonstrate their Christianity.

The increasing disappearance of Ijaw cultural beliefs and practices is easily detectable by asking young men and women questions about their cultural traditions.  Most of them would not be able to explain why certain things are done in a certain way.  Similarly, most of them would not be able to explain why certain festivals take place.  Most Christianized Ijaws have no qualms about condemning their traditional religion as IDOL WORSHIPPING without even paying attention to the meaning of the word “IDOL”.   The word “IDOL” has been reinforced through classical and operant conditioning methods in the churches and Sunday school to the extent that many Ijaw Christians reflexively respond to the Ijaw religion without thinking about the implications.  A considerable number of the educated Ijaws are not interested even in making an attempt to study and understand the traditional system.  The reason is that since the days of their primary school education, they have been schooled, socialized and educated to believe that the traditional system is ungodly, satanic and devilish, therefore, it is something to be avoided.   Hence, the chorus: IDOL WORSHIP, IDOL WORSHIP, and IDOL WORSHIP in referring to Orukarism.

With this psychological orientation, many, if not most educated Ijaws, do not mind consuming any idea that is associated with Christianity and European cultures and rejecting anything that is associated with Ijaw culture.  The most disturbing part of the continuing decimation of Ijaw culture is that even some Ijaw traditional rulers and elders are beginning to reject their own traditional beliefs and practices by describing Ijaw religious culture as “IDOL WORSHIPING.”  It is understandable when a young Ijaw man or woman makes derogatory statements but when traditional Ijaw rulers and elders say that before Christianity, the Ijaws used to worship idols and not God, it really tells a lot about the intellectual state of Ijaw reasoning concerning religion.

Perhaps, due to the influence of Christianity, some Ijaw traditional rulers and elders no longer seem to subscribe to the notion that the traditional leader is the GUARDIAN, PROTECTOR, ENHANCER, PROMOTER and CUSTODIAN of traditional culture and religion.  This is worrisome because all over the world, whether in China, Japan, India, , Tibet, Iraq, Morocco, Mexico, Vietnam, Yorubaland, Peru, Kikuyuland, Maya, Pacific Islands, Cherokee, Thailand,  Maoriland and so on and so forth, traditional rulers/leaders  and elders are generally regarded as the guardians and custodians of their traditional beliefs, cultures, traditions, religions and ancient wisdom.  As a result, they serve as the protectors, promoters, perpetuators and preservers of their cultures, religions and ancient knowledge of their cultures.  In Ijawland, the role of the traditional ruler and elder is systematically being eroded by some very important personages who subscribe to a religion that has nothing to do with Ijaw culture while serving as traditional rulers and elders.

Based on the utterances of some Ijaw traditional leaders and elders, it is inferable that they really do not care about being the guardians, protectors, enhancers, promoters and custodians of Ijaw culture, beliefs, traditions and religion. Hence, the ease with which they describe Orukarism as IDOL WORSHIPPING while ignoring the fact that all religions, including Christianity and Islam, engage in deification of certain beings, individuals, entities, artifacts, symbols, effigies, and totems. Moreover, Christianity and Islam came to the Nigerian region through military conquest, colonization and imposition.

 

The Declining State of Ijaw Culture and Traditions

It might be necessary to cite some specific circumstances to show the retrogressive state of Ijaw culture as some Ijaws, including traditional leaders and elders, uncritically embrace Christianity, which came to Ijawland through British conquest, colonization and imposition.

1. In 2010, due to the uncontrollable crime rate in Benin/Edoland, the Oba of Benin and the traditional political leadership decided to do something about the situation.  They resorted to the traditional Bini system by invoking their ancestors to punish those who commit crimes.  The Iyase of Benin, Chief Sam Igbe stated:

We are fed up.  This is the way we reacted against this type of things in the past                    and we have just gone back to the ancestors to help us clear them.  So, we                              believe that in order to put a stop to the insecurity, we just have to put a curse,                    call on our gods to put a curse and stop all the activities that threaten lives and                    property (Mmuta, 2010, June 11).

In Ijawland, His Highness, King Francis Ododo of Ikebiri Kingdom in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State decided to get tough with criminals in his kingdom.  Instead of taking the traditional Ijaw path, since he is a traditional leader, as the Bini leaders did, he declared:  “Henceforth, any person linked to criminal activities in the area will be handed over to the security agencies for prosecution’” (African Examiner, 2010 ).

The fact that the Bini traditional political leadership took the traditional African path and the Ijaw traditional leader took the secular-humanistic path does not say much.  However, the boldness by which the Bini leadership decided to adopt the traditional path is what makes the difference.  The Bini leadership did not doubt the efficacy of Bini traditional religious culture.  This means that the leaders strongly believed in their religion.  Hence, the Iyase of Benin further boldly reinforced the Bini religion by saying:

We felt as Edo people we are not Christians, we are traditionalists, we believe                       in God through our ancestors.” (Mmuta, 2010).

The question is, how many traditional Ijaw leaders and elders today would be able to boldly defend the integrity of Ijaw Orukari religion?

2. Around 2015, a Bini son won a local government council election in South Florida.  To celebrate the electoral victory, he decided to hold the event in a university campus.  A traditional Bini religious priest was invited from Nigeria to come and offer prayers for the event.  When the traditional religious priest walked to the stage in traditional Bini attire and explained the intricacies of African Ancestralism to the audience, everyone was awe-struck.  The Americans wanted to know everything about Benin religion.

On the other hand, how many educated Ijaw men and women would be bold enough to invite an Ijaw traditional religious priest to come and offer prayers?   If this son of Biniland was an Ijaw person, it is probable that a Christian pastor might have been invited just to tell the world that the Ijaw son is a Christian and does not believe in “Idol Worshipping.”

3. While perusing through Youtube to find information about Ijaw culture, a very interesting video about Ijaw culture, history and tradition, titled “Art and Culture Ijaw Episode” showed up.  In the video, the traditional leaders and elders of Kabowei (Kabo) Kingdom narrated the history, beliefs and traditions of Ijawland.  The chiefs spoke glowingly and explained the intricacies of Ijaw culture and traditions, including various festivals.  It was very joyous and enlightening to hear very important elders speak about Ijaw traditions and culture.

However, the chiefs also noted that some Ijaw traditions are disappearing following Christianization.  One of the chiefs also repeatedly referred to Orukarism as IDOL WORSHIPPING, thereby, reinforcing the Christian view.  One other noticeable thing about the video is that a Christian gospel song is used as a theme song even though the story of the video is about Ijaw culture and tradition.  It would have been preferable to use a song associated with Ijaw culture to back up a story about Ijaw heritage.  Again, the gospel song simply reinforces the view that Christianity is literally eating away Ijaw culture and people do not seem to pay much attention to it.  In other words, a sizable number of Ijaws are not worried that they are literally destroying their own existence while other ethnic groups in the world are working hard to protect, revive and reinforce their cultures.

4. On June 13, 2017, Emem Ido, a journalist with the Vanguard (Nigeria) newspaper published a report titled “Sabagreia: Bayelsa community where evil, wicked men dread.” In the report, the paramount ruler (Amananaowei), His Highness, Dr. Bokumo Orukari explained the story of Lake Efi Festival.  The story is very captivating and should be told and written about in order to preserve Ijaw cultural heritage.  However, the worrisome part of the explanation is that His Highness said, as reported by the Vanguard reporter:

Life at the time was centered on the idol Efi.

Owing to this constraint, when the fullness of time came, the people and owners of            Lake Efi, renounced idolatry and handed the lake over to the Almighty God.

The last festival in 2013 was the first time it was conducted with new modifications            and alterations to reflect the rededication of the festival to Almighty God.

It is obvious from reading the story that Christianity had much to do with various decisions concerning the lake. Most importantly, the view that Orukarism is based on IDOL WORSHIPPING had a great impact too. This line of thinking is greatly influenced by Christian preaching which continues to maintain the view that Ijaw people in particular and African people in general, did not know God until Christianity arrived at the shores of the African continent.  Thus, the quoted statement seems to create the impression that the people of Sabagreia did not know God, hence, paid homage to an IDOL in the past.  The statement is perfectly acceptable for a Christian audience within Ijawland but does not sound well for the global audience.  The reason is that it creates the impression that the Ijaws did not know God, hence, worshipped IDOLS until the Christians came to civilize them to embrace God.

The fact is that Sabagreia people knew even before the arrival of Christianity that there is a difference between being good and being bad, hence, they named their community Bolouseibokorogha, which translates into “where no evil/wicked person would settle.”  It is ironic that people who supposedly did not know God but worshipped idols, as the Christians claimed, banned evil people from their community even before the arrival of Christianity.  So, if Orukarism is devilish, why would the Sabagreians banned evil people from their community?  Likewise, since Bolouseibokorogha people revered Efi, does it mean that they did not worship God?  If that is the Christian assumption, then, how did they know that there is Woyengi, Aziba, Azibarau, Ayiba, Ayibarau, Oginaere, Tamarau, Tamuno, Temeowei, Temuno and so on and so forth, in the past? Is it not true that the Ijaws know that God exist for thousands of years before the establishment of Christianity? If that is the case, then, where is the justification for spreading the view that the Ijaws only worshipped idols in the past until Christianity came?

5. The fact that some Ijaw traditional leaders and elders are feverishly working to destroy Ijaw beliefs, culture and practices is undeniable. In Aleibiri community, for instance, an active member of the community who is associated with the St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Mr. Golden Garuwa, is allegedly credited for  initiating an action which resulted in the stoppage of the masquerade festival in 2007 (Prezi, 2015, Ocotber 25).  Again, the wonderment is that the traditional leaders, elders and members of Aleibiri community allowed such a rare cultural festival to be disregarded without thinking about the consequences to their sub-culture.  Perhaps, it should be noted that the Anglican Church was established by King Henry VIII in an attempt to seek a divorce from his wife who could not bear him a male heir.  The Catholic Church had repeatedly refused to grant King Henry permission to divorce his wife, hence, he created the Church of England (Anglican Church) to accomplish the goal.  This is why the Anglican Church is regarded as a state church.

6. As part of the ongoing campaign to systematically wipe out Ijaw religious culture, which is the bedrock of the moral foundation of Ijaw existence, a forumite on Ijaw Nation Forum (INF) went as far as to indicate that the word ORU means devil in Ijawland. Of course, the fact is that ORU does not mean devil at all.  ORU is the name of the founding deity, as well as the name of an ancient African ethnic group that is associated with the deity.  Many ethnic groups in Africa today, including the Ijaw, Urhobo, Dogon, Nupe and others claimed to have originated from the ORU nation.  The Ijaws are directly associated with the ancient ORU nation that is why sometimes the Ijaws are referred to as Oru people.

It is not unusual for people to equate their ethnicity directly with the creation deity. This accounted for why the Jews claim to be the children of their God.  Logically, the Ijaws too claim to be the children of their God.  This accounted for why the Ijaws refer to their religion as ORUKARI, which means the worshipping of a deity. In Orukari, there is GOD, gods and goddesses, and ancestral beings. The Orukari religion fits very well with the universal theory of the nine gods/goddesses.  According to this theory, human affairs in the world are regulated by nine gods/goddesses.  Thus, each god/goddess deals with a particular aspect of human affairs.  The Bible also recognizes the multiplicity of gods and goddesses, as indicated below.  Hence, St. Michael is regarded as an angel which protects and fight for justice.  The Christian concept of St. Michael matches the Orukari concept of Egbesu which performs the same role.

 

ORUKARISM

The Orukari religion has stringent rules.  These rules could be regarded as sacred COMMANDMENTS or LAWS.  This is why an Ijaw person can only kill under the principle of self defense.  Anyone who kills must perform a soul cleansing ritual to clean away the sin of taking the life of another.

 

Orukari religion seriously frowns at evil deeds.  Thus, in some parts of Ijawland, any person who has engaged in sorcery cannot be buried in the same cemetery as those with clean hearts.  In some parts of Ijawland, when a person dies, before burial takes place, the OBOBA Bi ritual must be conducted to find out whether the person was a good or a bad person.

 

Thus, every Ijaw person supposed not to violate the sacred rules or laws.  As a result, in Ijawland, there are ABOMINATIONS or SINS.  An abomination is a violation of the sacred commandments or laws.  Evidently, any Ijaw person that commits an ABOMINATION must confess the deed.  It is the only way to wash away the sin.  There is a strong belief that if confession is not rendered, the sin could affect the members of the sinner’s family also.

 

ORUKARISM is based on absolute truth due to the belief that truthfulness is tantamount to godliness. He or she who cannot tell the truth cannot be godly.  This accounted for why no one can lie while entering the shrine. There is a belief in Ijawland that there are no secrets because anything done secretly or clandestinely can be verified through divination.

 

Indeed, ORUKARISM is based on the Worshipping of God.  Consequently, the Ijaws have always worshipped God (WOYENGI, AYIBA, AZIBA, AZIBARA, OGINAERE, TAMUNO, TEMEOWEI, TEMUNO) FROM TIME IMMEMEORIAL.  The Cosmology of ORUKARI Religion, as indicated above, includes God, gods and goddesses, and ancestral beings.  It is from this perspective that the idea of Ancestralism takes place.  This arrangement is not markedly different from Christianity which has God, Jesus Christ, angels and saints. The Christian saints are ancestral beings because they are the deceased members of the Christian religion who have been deified after death.  Therefore, the Christians honor God, Jesus Christ, angels and saints the way Orukarists honor God, gods, goddesses and ancestral beings.  When Christians honor the angels and saints by naming their schools, churches and other important structures after them, they do not say they are paying homage to IDOLS.  For instance, the St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Aleibiri is intended to honor St. Luke, who is a deceased member of the Christian Church.   However when the Ijaws honor gods and goddesses and ancestral beings (dead ancestors), they are referred to by the Christians as IDOL WORSHIPPERS.  Sadly,  many Ijaws meekly buy into this propaganda without thinking about it critically.

 

 

Christianity and Idolism

 

By the way, when Christians claim that they do not honor gods and goddesses, they are either being very forgetful or mischievous since the Old Testament also acknowledges the notion of gods and goddesses.  For instance in Genesis 1:26, it is stated “LET US MAKE MAN IN OUR IMAGE, AFTER OUR LIKENESS.”  The “our image, after our likeness” shows a plurality of deities.

Likewise, In Psalm 82:1, it is stated “GOD HAS TAKEN HIS PLACE IN THE DIVINE COUNCIL, IN THE MIDST OF THE GODS HE HOLDS JUDGMENT.”  Another way to put it is “GOD STANDETH IN THE CONGREGATION OF THE MIGHTY; HE JUDGETH AMONG THE GODS”.  Here again, there is an acknowledgment of the plurality of deities (gods and goddesses). Of course, most Christians prefer to pay little attention to the fact that there is an acknowledgement of the concept of polytheism (many gods) in the Bible.  So, what is the difference between the acknowledgment of gods in the Bible and in Orukarism?  There is no difference between the two ways, however, the Christians are very good in ignoring facts about their own religion while point fingers at other religions.

 

Christianity, like every other religion in the world, has numerous IDOLS made up of various symbols, effigies, images, and totems.  The following provides a short list of items and activities which constitute reverence for IDOLS in Christianity:

1. The Bible: The Bible is a collection of written materials that span about two thousand years.  Even though it is a book written by human beings to describe and predict their perceptions of God and the state of being godly, today, it is accepted as the WORD of God. This is why it is considered a sacred book.  Thus, to know God through Christianity, it is necessary to read the Bible.  Then, what happens to those who cannot read and write?  Does it mean that those who cannot read the Bible cannot know and understand God? Is it necessary to read a book to know God? The truth is that it is not necessary to read the Bible or any book in order to know God.  Human beings have been worshipping God for thousands of years before the establishment of Christianity ands Islam. This is why the Christian religion borrows extensively from other religions.

 

Moreover, the New Testament of the Bible is not necessarily accepted by the Jews. This accounted for why the Christians have persistently persecuted the Jews for refusing to convert to Christianity.   Additionally, the information in the New Testament only reinforces the orthodox view of the Christian story. On the other hand, it does not reflect the Agnostic view of Christianity.  It is necessary to have both views in order to draw a more objective picture of what actually happened in the days of Jesus Christ.

There are many problems with the Bible

There are many versions of the Bible, including the Hebrew, Greek, Ethiopian and the St. James.  The Ethiopian version is probably the largest or longest because it contains additional materials.

The Old Testament and the New Testament are not compatible. The Old Testament deals basically with Jewish religious beliefs, traditions and culture while the New Testament deals with Jesus Christ and the emergence of Christianity.  The Old Testament God is discriminative, revengeful, punitive, tribalistic and reactive.  The New Testament God is very forgiving and tolerant.  The Old Testament God sounds more like a tribal God while the New Testament God is globalized to embrace all.  The view that the Bible contains two distinct Gods is not new.  Around 142 CE, a man named Marcion, a rich ship magnate, the son of Bishop of Sinope of Pontus, a Pauline Christian who later adopted the Gnostic teachings of Cerdon, argued that the Supreme God is different from the creator God (Cosmocrater or Lord of Creation).  In this regard, the God of the Jews (Cosmocrater) was lesser than the Supreme God.  Cerdon had argued that the God of the Jews was not the father of Jesus Christ. (The Atheist Conservative, 2010, January 2).

Some of the stories in the Bible are contradictory. For instance, the Creation Story in Genesis dealing with Adam and Eve is confusing.  First, it states that God created man and woman equally, then, in the explanation section, it states that God took a rib from Adam to create Eve.  For instance, in Genesis 1: 27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”.  Then in Genesis 22 “And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

Some of the stories are incomplete. For instance, Cain is banished from the Garden of Eden to roam the earth.  Then suddenly, the Bible states that he impregnated a woman without mentioning where the woman came from since the Bible had stated that only Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel existed at the time.  Genesis 4:16 states “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.” Then in Genesis 4:17, it is stated “And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch”.  Where did the wife come from?  Were there other people?  If Nod was already occupied by human beings, then the story of Adam and Eve being the first human beings is nullified.

Despite these limitations and contradictions, the Bible is viewed as the WORD OF

God.

2. Jesus Christ: Today, there is an unquestionable belief among Christians that Jesus Christ is not only the son of God but a manifestation of God.  In the past, that was not necessarily the case.  There are a few examples to cite from to show that in the past the status of Jesus Christ was highly debated by the early Christians.

For instance, Montanus and his two associates, prophetesses Prisca and Maximilla appeared on the Christian scene between 156 and 172 CE to spread a version of Christianity which devalued the importance of Christ and emphasized the importance of the Holy Spirit (Davis, 1983). This movement shifted the focus of Christianity away from Christ to the Holy Spirit before the Church banned the idea later.

The Council of Nicaea took place in 325 CE. Emperor Constantine of the Roman Empire organized the council to develop an official doctrine for the Christian religion. Before this time, the Christians had no official doctrine and preached different things about the religion.  Emperor Constantine invited 1800 bishops to attend the Christian gathering but about 318 of them turned up.

One of the major issues the council tackled was determining the relationship between the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Father (God).  This issue divided the council into two factions.  One faction was led by St. Alexander of Alexandria and the other faction was led by presbyter Arius.  St. Alexander, his assistant Athanasius and their supporters argued that the Son (Jesus Christ) was as divine and coeternal as the Father (God).  Hence, there was no difference between Jesus and God.

On the other hand, Arius and his 22 supporters in the council maintained that the Father (God) was supreme and unique, hence, greater than the son (Jesus Christ).  Arius further argued that the Son (Jesus) had a beginning and did not possess the eternity and divinity of the Father (God).  Accordingly, the Son (Jesus) was made God by the permission of the father (God). This view of Jesus Christ and God is known as Arianism.   The debate about the status of Jesus Christ went on from May 20, 325 to June 19, 325.  This means that it took a month to discuss and resolve the issue of Jesus Christ and God.

St. Alexander and his supporters won the debate.  As a result, the Bible only contains the Alexanderian view of Jesus Christ.  The Church leaders banned the Arian view (Davis, 1983).  As can be seen, the belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God and possesses godly essence as God is a product of human intellectual and emotional debate.  Of course, many Christian pastors in Ijawland, Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa and throughout the black world rarely read the story of how Jesus came to be referred to as a God.

A careful reading of the Bible clearly shows that Jesus Christ did not write any of the books of the New Testament, yet, Christian leaders and pastors quote him as if he actually wrote those things in person. It is theorized here that St. Mark wrote the earliest gospel based on information provided by St. Peter since he was a discipline of both Peter and Paul.  Thereafter, St. Mathew and St. Luke wrote their versions based on information partially gathered from St. Mark’s writings.

Moreover, it should be noted that there are four versions on the story of Jesus Christ. They are: (1) the Horus version, (2) the Zeus version, (3) the Simon of Perea version and (4) Jesus Christ version. This means that the story of Jesus Christ is not as simple as many Christians tend to believe.

Likewise, Jesus Christ had a human father, mother and siblings. This is often ignored with the argument that he was born by a virgin who was married or betrothed to Joseph. Perhaps, the twisting of the story contributes to why the Jews do not accept the story.

The Bible does not provide much information about the most important person in the New Testament. This is why some people believe that Jesus Christ was actually married to Mary Magdalene. The Islamic Koran refers to him as a prophet, not as a God manifested.

3. The Cross:  The cross is a pre-Christian religious symbol that the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Indians, Irish, and Native Americans used in their religions.  The Roman Empire used the cross to crucify individuals that had been condemned to death.  Thus, Jesus Christ was executed on the Cross, hence, the Christians adopted it.  Now, it is treated as an exclusive Christian symbol and deified.  As a result, the Christian warriors who waged the Crusades against the Moslems carried the Cross as a symbol of protection.

4. Statues:  Statues have become part of the mainstay of the Christian religion.  In many parts of the world, especially in Europe and the Americas, important Christian figures are deified through statues that are honored as if they are gods.

5. Church Buildings: Christians tend to build very large worshipping houses.  There seems to be a believe that the bigger the church, the godlier the structure.   This is why even in Nigeria today, there are huge church buildings sometimes referred to as mega-churches.  Churches are now referred to as God’s houses.

6. Christian Relics: In many Christian churches in Europe and Latin America, the body parts of former church members that have been deified as saints are kept and worshipped.  It is very common for churchgoers to kiss and touch the body parts in the hope of being blessed and protected by the saints.  Similarly, artifacts that are associated with Jesus Christ and other important members of Christianity are treated as sacred objects and revered.

7. Tithe: Tithe has increasingly become a financial mainstay of the Christian church.  Churchgoers are compelled to give one or 10% of their wages to the Church.  Christians are psychologically made to feel guilty and ungodly if they do not give tithe.  Thus, the giving of tithe is now regarded as part of the Christian process for worshipping God. Some pastors exploit the tithe to become very wealthy.  Some of the funds generated through tithe are used for building mega-churches.

It is arguable that Christianity is a product of Afro-Asiatic traditional religions due to the belief that the early Jews were actually black Africans.  A Ghanaian scholar, Nana Banchie Darkwah, in his “The Africans who wrote the Bible” demonstrated the fact that black Africans wrote the Bible.  Darkwah’s position is corroborated by Dr. Ndagi Abdullahi (2017, June 30) who wrote :

 

But the truth of the matter is that the Jewish culture seen among the Ibos is                          seen also  among almost all other ancient Nigerian peoples including the Ibibio,                  the Kalabari, the Ijaw, the itsekiri, Jukun, the Igala, the Nupe, and so on and on.                 All these ancient Nigerian people have been practicing Jewish cultures for                             thousands of years even long before the time of Our Lord Jesus Christ some two                  thousand years ago.

In other words, West Africa was the original homeland of the Jewish people.  Even              Western scholarship is gradually coming to admit that the original Jews were                      Black African Negroes and that Black Negro Africa was the setting of thestories of              the Scriptures – not the Middle East.

Professor Ze’ev Herzog, the Head of the Archeology Department of the University                of Tel Aviv in Israel, wrote a book and purposely convened an international press              conference telling the world that today’s Israel, or Palestine (whatever you call                    it), was not the place where the stories of the Bible took place.

Yes, the original Jews were Black African Negroes and they were resident here in                Middle Africa – that is West Africa, Central and East Africa combined.

 

Therefore, it is inferable that Christianity is a corrupted form of Orukarism and other African religions.  Moreover, the Ten Commandments in the Bible seem to be a shortened version of the 42 Declarations that were the mainstay of ancient African religions, which the ijaws continue to practice under Orukarism.  This is why in Orukarism, there are many abominations or sins, as indicated earlier.  As a result, the Ijaws cannot engage in certain behaviors.  The Roman Empire and the Christian Church Europeanized some of the Afro-Asiatic beliefs to create the current brand of Christianity, which, sometimes, is referred to as “Constantinian” Christianity.

Obviously, these are only a few of the cases where even Ijaw traditional leaders, either knowingly or unknowingly denigrate their ancestral religion in order to justify their Christianity.  If they continue this way, the future generation of Ijaw children will know nothing about their past, apart from being fed stories in the Bible.

 

European Christians and Reverence for their Gods and Goddesses.

Why Are the Ijaws so eager to destroy their religious culture in the name of Christianity when others do not do so? Why is it that even Ijaw leaders and elders are willing at a moment’s notice to give up their beliefs, culture, values and practices when others do everything possible to perpetuate their cultures?

Perhaps, it might be necessary to show that European Christians who brought Christianity to Ijawland continue to pay homage to their pre-Christian religious deities.  They have no problem calling their deities gods and goddesses, just as the Ijaws do under Orukarism.  There are many examples to cite from:

  1. As stated in previous writings, the month of JANUARY IS NAMED AFTER THE ROMAN GOD JANUS.  European Christians have no desire to change the name.  This means that they are happy with honoring their god.
  2. The month of MARCH is named after Roman god MARS. The Europeans do not refer to Mars as an IDOL.
  3. The month of MAY is named after Roman goddess of honor and reverence (MAIESTA).
  4. The month of JULY is named after JULIUS CAESAR (Here, a human being is deified).
  5. The month of AUGUST is named after AUGUSTUS CAESAR (The same thing happens here).
  6. The U.S. spaceship that went to the moon is named after Roman god APOLLO. American Christians have no problem with the name. They do not call Apollo an IDOL.
  7. The U.S. submarine TRIDENT is named after the three-pronged spear that is associated with the god POSEIDON.
  8. The U.S. submarine POSEIDON is named after POSEIDON, the Greek god of the sea.
  9. The PLANETS are named after Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. They are MERCURY, VENUS, JUPITER, SATURN and NEPUNE.  For instance, the Roman god (JUPITER) is regarded as the god of light and sky and protector of the state.  Even Pluto is a name of a European god.
  10. The Saturn spaceship is named after Greek god (SATURN), god of death.
  11. ZEUS is the Greek god of the sky.
  12. The English people, although Christian today, still pay homage to the Stonehenge.
  13. In England, the town of Glastonbury continues to be revered as a sacred site.   As indicated above, European Christians actually glorify their ancestral past by continuing to honor their gods and goddesses while Ijaw Christians refer to their gods and goddesses as IDOLs.  The Europeans who brought Christianity to Ijawland continue to honor their pre-Christian deities while Ijaw Christians are trying very hard to destroy their heritage in the name of Christianity?

The Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese. Tibetans, Native Americans and South Pacific Islanders have God, gods and goddesses in their religions, just like the Ijaws.  They do not refer to their deities as IDOLS.

 

Is it appropriate and Proper for Christians to Become Traditional Rulers in Ijaw society?

The simplest answer to the above question is that it is not appropriate because Ijaw Orukari culture and Constantinian Christianity are incompatible.  Why?

  1. Religion is a product of the culture and the environment.  This means that religion and culture have symbiotic relationships.  The culture molds the religion and the religion molds the culture.  Thus, Ijaw culture is molded by the Orukari religion and the environment.  Likewise, Ijaw culture molds the Orukari religion.  Therefore, to establish morality in Ijawland, the belief and value system must come from the religious culture.
  2. The traditional Ijaw political system is a product of Ijaw culture, religion, environment, and Ijaw ancestors. Therefore, to become a traditional ruler in Ijawland, the individual must be conversant with the traditional religious culture since respect for the ancestor is the core of the system. There is nothing wrong in Ijaw people honoring their ancestors just like the Christians honor their ancestors (saints).
  3. Christianity is a product of Afro-Asiatic Jewish culture and religion, interwoven with European culture and religion through the influence of the Roman Empire.
  4. To subscribe to Christianity is to subscribe to Judeo/European cultures. This is why many Ijaw Christians, like their Nigerian and other Sub-Saharan African counterparts bear Jewish and English names to signify their Christianity. It should be noted that those who are referred to Jews today are different from the ancient Jews.
  5. The Islamic religion is also an Afro-Asiatic product of Arabic culture and religion. Wesley Muhammed, an Islamic scholar, believed that Black Africans were greatly responsible for establishing and spreading Islam in his “Were the blacks who founded Islam really Africans? In Black Arabia).  Therefore, to become a Moslem is to subscribe to Arabic culture. This is why a vast proportion of Nigerian Moslems and their Sub-Saharan African counterparts bear Arabic names, instead of their indigenous African names.
  6. Since both Christianity and Islam have greatly been influenced by Arabic and Judeo/European cultures today, Ijaw Christians must look to Israel for their religious pilgrimage while Nigerian Moslems must look toward Saudi Arabia for their pilgrimage. The fact remains that there are sacred places in every society. There are sacred places in Ijawland.  For instance, during the Isaac Boro rebellion, Nigerian mobile policemen were advised not to step into an area that was regarded as a sacred place but they refused to heed the advice and all the policemen that defiled the place were reported to have perished. Unfortunately, many, if not most Ijaw Christians might not appreciate the fact that Ijawland has sacred places.
  7. The Jewish, Arabic and most European cultures tend to regard God as a masculine entity. Ijaw culture tends to view God as a feminine entity.  Thus, Ijaw culture is more tolerant towards women than Jewish and Arabic cultures.  Apparently, if an Ijaw person inclines towards the Jewish or Arabic culture, he or she is going to view things more from the masculine perspective rather than from a dualistic perspective if the person subscribes to Ijaw religious culture.
  8. If too many individuals with Christian orientation become traditional rulers in Ijawland, they would denigrate the traditional religious culture and transpose Judeo/European religious culture on Ijaw culture. Soon or later, they might end up creating an environment in which a traditionalist would not be able to ascend the political throne.  They would do so by Christianizing the conditions to qualify for the position.  This has already happened in Hausaland where Islam has been transposed upon the Hausa culture so much so that Hausa traditionalists rarely have the opportunity to become leaders in their own land.  The reason is that the culture is so Islamized that the only way to move forward socially, politically and religiously is to become a Moslem. Hence, Hausaland is now dominated by emirs, rather than by Sarkins (the Hausa word for a king).  In Ijawland, the Christians could end up giving Christian names to Ijaw traditional titles.
  9. Therefore, if an Ijaw Christian becomes a traditional ruler in Ijawland, he or she is most likely to view the traditional religious culture as IDOL WORSHIPPING and avoid the rituals that are associated with being a traditional Ijaw leader. By so doing, the individual might tactically begin to kill Ijaw culture by avoiding those beliefs, practices and rituals that are essential for reinforcing tradition.  In fact, in almost every society, leaders are expected to embrace the religion that most people identify with the culture. It might be necessary to cite some facts to explain the point.

In Britain, it is an unspoken fact that the queen or king must embrace Anglicanism.  A British member of the royal family who becomes a Catholic would be encouraged to leave the religion and convert to Anglicanism.

In Italy, the rulers are expected to embrace Roman Catholicism.

In the United States, a would-be-president is expected to identify with the Baptist faith. This is why it is very difficult for a Mormon or a Jew or a Catholic to become a president.  The late President John Kennedy was able to climb the presidential throne due to his family background.

For the Edo nation, to become an Oba, the individual must forego any foreign religious tradition and embrace Bini tradition totally.  The person would be initiated into the mysteries of the traditional religious culture before being crowned.  The same goes for Yoruba Obas. They are initiated into the traditional system before coronation.

Among the Efiks, every male (and some females) must be initiated into the Ekpe (leopard/lion) society. Any Efik male that is not part of the Ekpe Society has less social value.  Thus, the Obong (king) as well as the chiefs are all members of Ekpe Society, regardless of religion.  The head of the Ekpe Society is one of the most powerful individuals in Efikland. The Ibibios expect their traditional leaders and most men to be initiated into the Ekpo Society.  The Abiriba Igbo people expect most of their men to be initiated to the Abiriba Warrior Society, as well as Ekpe Society.  By so doing, the Edos,  Efiks, Ibibios and the Abiriba Igbos are able to institutionalize their beliefs, traditions and practices.

Among the Ijaws, the Kalabari, Ibani, Opobo, Gbaramatu and Arogbo people are noted for institutionalizing their traditions. This is why the Kalabaris celebrate the Owu Aru Sun Festival and actively join the Ekine Society.  They openly celebrate Akaso without apology to anyone.   The Ibani and the Opobo people celebrate the Otam Ebukuma (Nwaotam) Festival with vigour and devotion.  The Gbaramatu and Arogbo people are steadfast in upholding the Agadagba or Egbesu as the core of the traditional religio-political system.  This accounted for why the Agadagba (King) of Gbaramatu insisted that the Nigerian soldiers who stole the Egbesu golden sword must return it or face the spiritual consequences that might follow. Okrika people celebrate the Odum and the Ogwein masquerades with boldness and joy.  The Nembes continue to perform the Ofuruma  (ofirima) masquerade.

Thus, due to the contradiction between Christianity and Orukari religious culture, the only way a strong advocate of Christianity can become a traditional ruler is that he or she must forego Christianity and embrace Okurarism as the religion of Ijaw people.  The Binis, Yorubas, EFiks, Ashantis, and many other ethnic groups put restrictions or conditions that must be met before an individual becomes a traditional ruler.  In fact, the Bini and Yoruba Obas go through extensive retraditionalization before their coronation.  By so doing, they are able to ensure that the traditional religious culture is not corrupted by foreign religious cultures.

If the Ijaws do not put conditions based on the traditional religious culture, soon or later, the Christians might end up taking over all the traditional leadership positions in Ijawland.  If that happens, Ijawland might end up like Hausaland.  In Nigeria, it is inferable that the Hausas are the most colonized people in the sense that Islam has been imposed to the extent that Hausa beliefs and traditions are highly diminished.

The concern about the possibility of Ijaw culture dying out should be taken seriously.  The Urhobos and other ethnic groups face the same danger.  Hence, in Delta State, Prof. Christopher Orubiu and Dr. Emmanuel Biri of Delta State University “condemned the demonization of Urhobo culture under the façade of Christianity” (Egufe Yafugborhi, 2016, January 7).  Likewise, Prof. Olukayode Oyediran , the president of Egbe Atunbi Yoruba believed that the neglect of cultural and traditional values of Yoruba  race” is responsible for the high crime rate in Yorubaland in the current generation (Ogunnesan, 2017, November 8).

Similarly, Governor Rochas OKorocha of Imo State, not too long ago, argued that public officials in Nigeria should swear their oath of office in the name of their ancestors.  He noted “People no longer fear Bible and Quran that are currently being used, because they knew that God is merciful and did not kill instantly.”  Again, he recently stated that traditional rulers in Imo State should not speak English while addressing their people during public functions (Okeoma, 2017, July 12).  Apparently, there is much concern that African cultural beliefs and traditions are increasingly being threatened due to undue conversion to Christianity and Islam and the embracing of secular humanism.

It seems that many Ijaws do not realize that Orukarism is responsible for the Ijaws being fiercely independent and fearless in expressing themselves.  The traditional religion is responsible for enabling the Ijaws to predict or forecast past and future events through Ye bi or Obuba bi (divination) ritual.  In fact, if not for Christian and secular-humanistic influences, the Ijaws would have used Ye bi or Obuba bi to find out who killed Chief Marshall Harry, Chief A. K. Dikibo and Admiral Daniel Ikoli.  Similarly, the religion is responsible for setting the norms and mores that inhibit sinful acts like killing people to sell body parts and producing baby factories.  The necessity to tell the absolute truth is a direct product of Orukarism.  It is the Ijaw religious culture that encourages people to confess and make amends if they violate certain situations.  Lastly, it is Orukarism that is responsible for making the Ijaws to be great fighters.

If the Ijaws destroy their religious culture, they would emasculate themselves and become a mass of helpless human beings who must depend on greedy, cunning, cheating, corrupting and conniving individuals  to lead them. The signs of greediness, cunningness, cheating, corruption and lying are everywhere as some public officials embezzled public funds with total disregard for social and political consequences.  Some Ijaws now hire thugs to intimidate and kill their opponents.   Some youths are no longer afraid of even embezzling community funds that would have been used to develop their own communities.  Self-centeredness is increasingly becoming the norm, thereby, destroying the communal culture that is the hallmark of Ijaw religious world.  Stealing is becoming very rampant because the traditional taboos are being ignored as people claim to be Christians.

No society has operated successfully through Christianity because the Bible is read, analyzed, explained and interpreted differently by different people.  This is why there are so many Christian denominations.  Each denomination seems to think that its brand of Christianity is superior to other Christian branches.  The pastors like to throw mud at each other as they compete to establish the largest and most populated churches in the world.  In Nigeria, for instance, Prophet I. B. Joshua and Prophet Johnson Suleman re not in good terms even though both supposed to lead their Christian flocks to God (Opejobi, 2017, April 3).  An increasing number of Christian pastors in Nigeria engaged in ungodly acts daily as they scramble to accumulate wealth while pretending to be servants of God.

Thus, it is difficult to establish morality and ethics in society when different pastors interpret the Bible differently based on their ideological orientations and self-interest.  The same problem seems to exist in Islam where the Sunnis and the Shiites do not see eye to eye.   Like Christian pastors, Islamic imams and clerics too read, explain and interpret the Koran based on their ideological perceptions and self-interest.  In Nigeria, Islamic leaders and preachers tend to preach a version of the religion that is more applicable to the 13th century, as Emir Lamido Sanusi of Kano noted while the Arab nations are developing their societies with science and technology.

Throughout the world, Christianity is responsible for destroying many indigenous cultures.  In After experiencing heart-wrenching situations in the hands of the Christians,  the Native Americas in North, Central, and South America are now working hard to revive their cultures that Spanish Christians almost wiped out from the face of the earth while searching for gold and silver.  It should be noted that the Spanish Christians almost wiped out all the writings of the Mayan people.  Fortunately for the world, the Christians missed four of the writings.   The four writings were taken to Germany and kept in the City of Dresden.  Today, the Mayan writings are known as the Dresden Codex.  The four writings have shown that the Mayans were very advanced, both scientifically and spiritually and built some of the largest pyramids in the world (World Digital Library, 2017, May 24).  The Ijaws cannot and should not assist, in any shape or form, the destruction of their own culture in the pretense of avoiding the WORSHIPPING of IDOLS.

To safeguard Ijaw culture from total decimation by the Christians, it is necessary for all Ijaw traditional rulers to subscribe to Ijaw culture by serving as the guardians, protectors, promoters and preservers of the culture. In this regard, the Ijaw Traditional Rulers Council or Forum should hold regular meetings and discuss ways of ensuring the preservation of Ijaw beliefs, values, traditions and language.

Finally, in Ijawland, the traditional moral order should be the guiding light to shape peoples’ behavior.  This means that if anyone steals public money, the person should be compel to tell the absolute truth by swearing in the name of his or her ancestors.  It is a fact that neither Christianity nor secular humanism is working effectively in Ijawland, Nigeria and Black Africa.  This is why things are falling apart, as Chinua Achebe predicted in his novel “Things Fall Apart.”

 

References

Alagoa, E. J. (1999)  The land and people of Bayelsa State:  Central Niger Delta. Chioba, Port Harcourt:  Onyoma Research Publications.

Darkwah, B. N. (2002).  The Africans who wrote the Bible.  Roussellville, Arkansas: Aduana

Davis, L. D. (1983).  The first seven ecumenical councils (325 – 787): Their history and theology. Wilmington, Delaware: A Michael Glazer, Inc.

How rich ship owner affected Christianity.  (2010, January 2).  The Atheist Conservative.  Retrieved July 11, 2017, from theatheistconservative.com/20010/01/02/how-a-rich-ship=owner=affected-christianity

Ido, E. (2017, July 6).  Sabagreia:  Bayelsa community where evil, wicked men dread. Vanguard. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from http://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/06/sabagreai-bayelsa-community-evil-wicked-men-dread.

Ijaw monarch declares war on violent crime in Bayelsa.  (2010, July 8).  African Examiner.  African Examiner. Retrieved July 11, 2017, from  http://www.africanexaminer,com/ijaw_mona.

Mmuta, C. (2010, June 11). Oba of Benin Leads spiritual warfare against robbers, kidnappers. Compass.  Retrieved July 12, 2017, from www.compassnewspaper.com/NG/index.php?view=article&catid=672%3Atop-store,

Okeoma, C. (2017, July 12). Imo: Gov Okorocha stops Imo monarchs from speaking English at functions. Odili.net. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from http://odili.net/news/source/2017/jul/12/818.html.

Opejobi, S. (2017, April 3). You are too small – Apostle Suleman attacks Prophet T. B. Joshua. Daily Post. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from http://dailypost.ng/2017/04/03/small-apostle-suleman-attacks-prophet-t-b-joshua-vidoe/

Prezi, I. E. ( 2015, Ocotber 25). Christian religionand loss of Ijaw traditions and cultures.  Koris Samuel.  Retrieved November 5, 2017, from https://ikorisamuel.wordpress.com/215/10/25/christian-religion-and-loss-of-ijaw-traditions-andcultures.

Seed, H. (2012). The Bible questions.  IVP Books.  Retrieved July 16, 2017, from https://books.google.com/books?id=raCEI_V56UbUC&pg

The Dresden Codex. (2017, May 24).  World Digital Library.  Retrieved July 31, 2017, from https://www.wdI.org/en/item/11621/

Is it Compatible for Christians to Become Traditional Rulers in Ijawland?

 

By Priye S. Torulagha

 

Before answering the question with a Yes or a No answer, it is necessary to explore the question critically.  Similarly, before condemning the writer for being anti-Christian, it is necessary to read and digest the story in order to have a full understanding of the compelling reason for writing this article.

Although very controversial, nevertheless, it is necessary to ask whether it is compatible for  Ijaw Christians to become traditional rulers in Ijawland at this juncture of the Ijaw struggle for self-determination. The reason is that many Ijaw beliefs, values, norms and practices are disappearing at a frenetic speed due to the unrelenting ideological crusades mounted by Christian evangelists, pastors and adherents to destroy Ijaw culture and traditions in an attempt to replace it with a Christian culture.  Mr. I. E. Prezi published an article titled “Christian Religion and Loss of Ijaw Traditions and Cultures”, in which he identified some of the rare Ijaw cultural beliefs and practices that are disappearing, following Christianization.  Earlier, Dr. E. J. Alagoa had made reference to the fact that many Ijaw traditions have been abandoned as people convert to Christianity (1999).  Indeed, the destruction of Ijaw culture is proceeding at a pace in which by fifty years from now, the Ijaw cultural world could be reduced to nothingness and replaced with Christian and secular-humanistic ideas.     This means that some of the unique beliefs, traditions, rituals, festivals, songs, masquerades and dances might disappear.  This further means that Ijaw traditional music would be replaced by CHRISTIAN GOSPEL MUSIC.  Already, an increasing number of Ijaw musicians are now singing and producing Christian gospel music.  It is evident that in the future, instead of having the Rex Lawsons, I. K. Belemos, the Sea Gulfs, Robert Ebizimors, Barrister Smooths, Timayas, Pereamas, Dennis Abassas, Allen Alabors, Alfred Izon-Ebis, Fere bon Epebifes, Sistr Ayagbene, and so on and so forth, most musicians would be singing gospel music to demonstrate their Christianity.

The increasing disappearance of Ijaw cultural beliefs and practices is easily detectable by asking young men and women questions about their cultural traditions.  Most of them would not be able to explain why certain things are done in a certain way.  Similarly, most of them would not be able to explain why certain festivals take place.  Most Christianized Ijaws have no qualms about condemning their traditional religion as IDOL WORSHIPPING without even paying attention to the meaning of the word “IDOL”.   The word “IDOL” has been reinforced through classical and operant conditioning methods in the churches and Sunday school to the extent that many Ijaw Christians reflexively respond to the Ijaw religion without thinking about the implications.  A considerable number of the educated Ijaws are not interested even in making an attempt to study and understand the traditional system.  The reason is that since the days of their primary school education, they have been schooled, socialized and educated to believe that the traditional system is ungodly, satanic and devilish, therefore, it is something to be avoided.   Hence, the chorus: IDOL WORSHIP, IDOL WORSHIP, and IDOL WORSHIP in referring to Orukarism.

With this psychological orientation, many, if not most educated Ijaws, do not mind consuming any idea that is associated with Christianity and European cultures and rejecting anything that is associated with Ijaw culture.  The most disturbing part of the continuing decimation of Ijaw culture is that even some Ijaw traditional rulers and elders are beginning to reject their own traditional beliefs and practices by describing Ijaw religious culture as “IDOL WORSHIPING.”  It is understandable when a young Ijaw man or woman makes derogatory statements but when traditional Ijaw rulers and elders say that before Christianity, the Ijaws used to worship idols and not God, it really tells a lot about the intellectual state of Ijaw reasoning concerning religion.

Perhaps, due to the influence of Christianity, some Ijaw traditional rulers and elders no longer seem to subscribe to the notion that the traditional leader is the GUARDIAN, PROTECTOR, ENHANCER, PROMOTER and CUSTODIAN of traditional culture and religion.  This is worrisome because all over the world, whether in China, Japan, India, , Tibet, Iraq, Morocco, Mexico, Vietnam, Yorubaland, Peru, Kikuyuland, Maya, Pacific Islands, Cherokee, Thailand,  Maoriland and so on and so forth, traditional rulers/leaders  and elders are generally regarded as the guardians and custodians of their traditional beliefs, cultures, traditions, religions and ancient wisdom.  As a result, they serve as the protectors, promoters, perpetuators and preservers of their cultures, religions and ancient knowledge of their cultures.  In Ijawland, the role of the traditional ruler and elder is systematically being eroded by some very important personages who subscribe to a religion that has nothing to do with Ijaw culture while serving as traditional rulers and elders.

Based on the utterances of some Ijaw traditional leaders and elders, it is inferable that they really do not care about being the guardians, protectors, enhancers, promoters and custodians of Ijaw culture, beliefs, traditions and religion. Hence, the ease with which they describe Orukarism as IDOL WORSHIPPING while ignoring the fact that all religions, including Christianity and Islam, engage in deification of certain beings, individuals, entities, artifacts, symbols, effigies, and totems. Moreover, Christianity and Islam came to the Nigerian region through military conquest, colonization and imposition.

 

The Declining State of Ijaw Culture and Traditions

It might be necessary to cite some specific circumstances to show the retrogressive state of Ijaw culture as some Ijaws, including traditional leaders and elders, uncritically embrace Christianity, which came to Ijawland through British conquest, colonization and imposition.

  1. In 2010, due to the uncontrollable crime rate in Benin/Edoland, the Oba of Benin and the traditional political leadership decided to do something about the situation.  They resorted to the traditional Bini system by invoking their ancestors to punish those who commit crimes.  The Iyase of Benin, Chief Sam Igbe stated:

We are fed up.  This is the way we reacted against this type of things in the

past and we have just gone back to the ancestors to help us clear them.

So, we believe that in order to put a stop to the insecurity, we just have to

put a curse, call on our gods to put a curse and stop all the activities that

threaten lives and property (Mmuta, 2010, June 11).

In Ijawland, His Highness, King Francis Ododo of Ikebiri Kingdom in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State decided to get tough with criminals in his kingdom.  Instead of taking the traditional Ijaw path, since he is a traditional leader, as the Bini leaders did, he declared:  “Henceforth, any person linked to criminal activities in the area will be handed over to the security agencies for prosecution’” (African Examiner, 2010 ).

The fact that the Bini traditional political leadership took the traditional African path and the Ijaw traditional leader took the secular-humanistic path does not say much.  However, the boldness by which the Bini leadership decided to adopt the traditional path is what makes the difference.  The Bini leadership did not doubt the efficacy of Bini traditional religious culture.  This means that the leaders strongly believed in their religion.  Hence, the Iyase of Benin further boldly reinforced the Bini religion by saying:

We felt as Edo people we are not Christians, we are traditionalists, we believe in

God through our ancestors.” (Mmuta, 2010).

 

The question is, how many traditional Ijaw leaders and elders today would be able to boldly defend the integrity of Ijaw Orukari religion?

 

  1. Around 2015, a Bini son won a local government council election in South Florida.  To celebrate the electoral victory, he decided to hold the event in a university campus.  A traditional Bini religious priest was invited from Nigeria to come and offer prayers for the event.  When the traditional religious priest walked to the stage in traditional Bini attire and explained the intricacies of African Ancestralism to the audience, everyone was awe-struck.  The Americans wanted to know everything about Benin religion.

 

On the other hand, how many educated Ijaw men and women would be bold enough to invite an Ijaw traditional religious priest to come and offer prayers?   If this son of Biniland was an Ijaw person, it is probable that a Christian pastor would have been invited just to tell the world that the Ijaw son is a Christian and does not believe in “Idol Worshipping.”

 

  1. While perusing through Youtube to find information about Ijaw culture, a very interesting video about Ijaw culture, history and tradition, titled “Art and Culture Ijaw Episode” showed up.  In the video, the traditional leaders and elders of Kabowei (Kabo) Kingdom narrated the history, beliefs and traditions of Ijawland.  The chiefs spoke glowingly and explained the intricacies of Ijaw culture and traditions, including various festivals.  It was very joyous and enlightening to hear very important elders speak about Ijaw traditions and culture.

 

However, the chiefs also noted that some Ijaw traditions are disappearing following Christianization.  One of the chiefs also repeatedly referred to Orukarism as IDOL WORSHIPPING, thereby, reinforcing the Christian view.  One other noticeable thing about the video is that a Christian gospel song is used as a theme song even though the story of the video is about Ijaw culture and tradition.  It would have been preferable to use a song associated with Ijaw culture to back up a story about Ijaw heritage.  Again, the gospel song simply reinforces the view that Christianity is literally eating away Ijaw culture and people do not seem to pay much attention to it.  In other words, a sizable number of Ijaws are not worried that they are literally destroying their own existence while other ethnic groups in the world are working hard to protect, revive and reinforce their cultures.

 

  1. On June 13, 2017, Emem Ido, a journalist with the Vanguard (Nigeria) newspaper, published a report titled “Sabagreia: Bayelsa community where evil, wicked men dread.”  In the report, the paramount ruler (Amananaowei), His Highness, Dr. Bokumo Orukari explained the story of Lake Efi Festival.  The story is very captivating and should be told and written about in order to preserve Ijaw cultural heritage.  However, the worrisome part of the explanation is that His Highness said, as reported by the Vanguard reporter:

 

Life at the time was centered on the idol Efi……

 

Owing to this constraint, when the fullness of time came, the people and owners of Lake Efi, renounced idolatry and handed the lake over to the Almighty God.

 

The last festival in 2013 was the first time it was conducted with new modifications and alterations to reflect the rededication of the festival to Almighty God.

 

It is obvious from reading the story that Christianity had much to do with various decisions concerning the lake. Most importantly, the view that Orukarism is based on IDOL WORSHIPPING had a great impact too. This line of thinking is greatly influenced by Christian preaching which continues to maintain the view that Ijaw people in particular and African people in general, did not know God until Christianity arrived at the shores of the African continent.  Thus, the quoted statement seems to create the impression that the people of Sabagreia did not know God, hence, paid homage to an IDOL in the past.  The statement is perfectly acceptable for a Christian audience within Ijawland but does not sound well for the global audience.  The reason is that it creates the impression that the Ijaws did not know God, hence, worshipped IDOLS until the Christians came to civilize them to embrace God.

 

The fact is that Sabagreia people knew even before the arrival of Christianity that there is a difference between being good and being bad, hence, they named their community Bolouseibokorogha, which translates into “where no evil/wicked person would settle.”  It is ironic that people who supposedly did not know God but worshipped idols, as the Christians claimed, banned evil people from their community even before the arrival of Christianity.  So, if Orukarism is devilish, why would the Sabagreians banned evil people from their community?  Likewise, since Bolouseibokorogha people revered Efi, does it mean that they did not worship God?  If that is the Christian assumption, then, how did they know that there is Woyengi, Aziba, Azibarau, Ayiba, Ayibarau, Oginaere, Tamarau, Tamuno, Temeowei, Temuno and so on and so forth, in the past? Is it not true that the Ijaws know that God exist for thousands of years before the establishment of Christianity? If that is the case, then, where is the justification for spreading the view that the Ijaws only worshipped idols in the past until Christianity came?

 

  1. The fact that some Ijaw traditional leaders and elders are feverishly working to destroy Ijaw beliefs, culture and practices is undeniable. In Aleibiri community, for instance, an active member of the community who is associated with the St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Mr. Golden Garuwa, is allegedly credited for  initiating an action which resulted in the stoppage of the masquerade festival in 2007 (Prezi, 2015, Ocotber 25).  Again, the wonderment is that the traditional leaders, elders and members of Aleibiri community allowed such a rare cultural festival to be disregarded without thinking about the consequences to their sub-culture.  Perhaps, it should be noted that the Anglican Church was established by King Henry VIII in an attempt to seek a divorce from his wife who could not bear him a male heir.  The Catholic Church had repeatedly refused to grant King Henry permission to divorce the wife, hence, he created the Church of England (Anglican Church) to accomplish the goal.  This is why the Anglican Church is regarded as a state church.

 

  1. As part of the ongoing campaign to systematically wipe out Ijaw religious culture, which is the bedrock of the moral foundation of Ijaw existence, a forumite on Ijaw Nation Forum (INF) went as far as to indicate that the word ORU means devil in Ijawland. Of course, the fact is that ORU does not mean devil at all.  ORU is the name of the founding deity, as well as the name of an ancient African ethnic group that is associated with the deity.  Many ethnic groups in Africa today, including the Ijaw, Urhobo, Dogon, Nupe and others claimed to have originated from the ORU nation.  The Ijaws are directly associated with the ancient ORU nation that is why sometimes the Ijaws are referred to as Oru people.

 

It is not unusual for people to equate their ethnicity directly with the creation deity. This accounted for why the Jews claim to be the children of their God.  Logically, the Ijaws too claim to be the children of their God.  This accounted for why the Ijaws refer to their religion as ORUKARI, which means the worshipping of a deity. In Orukari, there is GOD, gods and goddesses, and ancestral beings. The Orukari religion fits very well with the universal theory of the nine gods/goddesses.  According to this theory, human affairs in the world are regulated by nine gods/goddesses.  Thus, each god/goddess deals with a particular aspect of human affairs.  The Bible also recognizes the multiplicity of gods and goddesses, as indicated below.  Hence, St. Michael is regarded as an angel which protects and fight for justice.  The Christian concept of St. Michael matches the Orukari concept of Egbesu which performs the same role.

 

ORUKARISM

The Orukari religion has stringent rules.  These rules could be regarded as sacred COMMANDMENTS or LAWS.  This is why an Ijaw person can only kill under the principle of self defense.  Anyone who kills must perform a soul cleansing ritual to clean away the sin of taking the life of another.

 

Orukari religion seriously frowns at evil deeds.  Thus, in some parts of Ijawland, any person who has engaged in sorcery cannot be buried in the same cemetery as those with clean hearts.  In some parts of Ijawland, when a person dies, before burial takes place, the OBOBA Bi ritual must be conducted to find out whether the person was a good or a bad person.

 

Thus, every Ijaw person supposed not to violate the sacred rules or laws.  As a result, in Ijawland, there are ABOMINATIONS or SINS.  An abomination is a violation of the sacred commandments or laws.  Evidently, any Ijaw person that commits an ABOMINATION must confess the deed.  It is the only way to wash away the sin.  There is a strong belief that if confession is not rendered, the sin could affect the members of the sinner’s family also.

 

ORUKARISM is based on absolute truth due to the belief that truthfulness is tantamount to godliness. He or she who cannot tell the truth cannot be godly.  This accounted for why no one can lie while entering the shrine. There is a belief in Ijawland that there are no secrets because anything done secretly or clandestinely can be verified through divination.

 

Indeed, ORUKARISM is based on the Worshipping of God.  Consequently, the Ijaws have always worshipped God (WOYENGI, AYIBA, AZIBA, AZIBARA, OGINAERE, TAMUNO, TEMEOWEI, TEMUNO) FROM TIME IMMEMEORIAL.  The Cosmology of ORUKARI Religion, as indicated above, includes God, gods and goddesses, and ancestral beings.  It is from this perspective that the idea of Ancestralism takes place.  This arrangement is not markedly different from Christianity which has God, Jesus Christ, angels and saints. The Christian saints are ancestral beings because they are the deceased members of the Christian religion who have been deified after death.  Therefore, the Christians honor God, Jesus Christ, angels and saints the way Orukarists honor God, gods, goddesses and ancestral beings.  When Christians honor the angels and saints by naming their schools, churches and other important structures after them, they do not say they are paying homage to IDOLS.  For instance, the St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Aleibiri is intended to honor St. Luke, who is a deceased member of the Christian Church.   However when the Ijaws honor gods and goddesses and ancestral beings (dead ancestors), they are referred to by the Christians as IDOL WORSHIPPERS.  Sadly, the Ijaws meekly buy into this propaganda without thinking about it critically.

 

 

Christianity and Idolism

 

By the way, when Christians claim that they do not honor gods and goddesses, they are either being very forgetful or mischievous since the Old Testament also acknowledges the notion of gods and goddesses.  For instance in Genesis 1:26, it is stated “LET US MAKE MAN IN OUR IMAGE, AFTER OUR LIKENESS.”  The “our image, after our likeness” shows a plurality of deities.

Likewise, In Psalm 82:1, it is stated “GOD HAS TAKEN HIS PLACE IN THE DIVINE COUNCIL, IN THE MIDST OF THE GODS HE HOLDS JUDGMENT.”  Another way to put it is “GOD STANDETH IN THE CONGREGATION OF THE MIGHTY; HE JUDGETH AMONG THE GODS”.  Here again, there is an acknowledgment of the plurality of deities (gods and goddesses). Of course, most Christians prefer to pay little attention to the fact that there is an acknowledgement of the concept of polytheism (many gods) in the Bible.  So, what is the difference between the acknowledgment of gods in the Bible and in Orukarism?  There is no difference between the two ways, however, the Christians are very good in ignoring facts about their own religion while point fingers at other religions.

 

Christianity, like every other religion in the world, is filled with IDOLS made up of various symbols, effigies, images, and totems.  The following provides a short list of activities which constitute reverence for IDOLS in Christianity:

 

  1. The Bible: The Bible is a collection of written materials that span about two thousand years.  The materials were written by about 66 writers.  Even though it is a book written by human beings to describe and prophesied their perceptions of God and the state of being godly, today, it is accepted as the WORD of God. This is why it is considered a sacred book.  Thus, to know God through Christianity, it is necessary to read the Bible.  Then, what happens to those who cannot read and write?  Does it mean that those who cannot read the Bible cannot know and understand God? Is it necessary to read a book to know God? The truth is that it is not necessary to read the Bible or any book in order to know God.  Human beings have been worshipping God for thousands of years before the establishment of Christianity. This is why the Christian religion borrows extensively from other religions.

 

Moreover, the New Testament of the Bible is not necessarily accepted by the Jews. This accounted for why the Christians have persistently persecuted the Jews for refusing to convert to Christianity.   Additionally, the information in the New Testament only reinforces the orthodox view of the Christian story. On the other hand, it does not reflect the Agnostic view of Christianity.  It is necessary to have both views in order to draw a more objective picture of what actually happened in the days of Jesus Christ.

 

Problems with the Bible

 

  1. There are many versions of the Bible, including the Hebrew, Greek, Ethiopian and the St. James.  The Ethiopian version is probably the largest or longest because it contains additional materials.

 

  1. The Old Testament and the New Testament are not compatible. The Old Testament deals basically with Jewish beliefs, traditions and culture while the New Testament deals with Jesus Christ and the emergence of Christianity.  The Old Testament God is discriminative, revengeful, punitive, tribalistic and reactive.  The New Testament God is very forgiving and tolerant.  The Old Testament God sounds more like a tribal God while the New Testament God is globalized to embrace all.  The view that the Bible contains two distinct Gods is not new.  Around 142 CE, a man named Marcion, a rich ship magnate, the son of Bishop of Sinope of Pontus, a Pauline Christian who later adopted the Gnostic teachings of Cerdon, argued that the Supreme God is different from the creator God (Cosmocrater or Lord of Creation).  In this regard, the God of the Jews (Cosmocrater) was lesser than the Supreme God.  Cerdon had argued that the God of the Jews was not the father of Jesus Christ. (The Atheist Conservative, 2010, January 2).

 

  1. Some of the stories in the Bible are contradictory. For instance, the Creation Story in Genesis dealing with Adam and Eve is confusing.  First, it is stated that God created man and woman equally, then, in the explanation section, it is stated that God took a rib from Adam to create Eve.  For instance, in Genesis 1: 27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them”.  Then in Genesis 22 “And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

 

  1. Some of the stories are incomplete. For instance, Cain is banished from the Garden of Eden to roam the earth.  Then suddenly, it is stated that he impregnated a woman without mentioning where the woman came from since the Bible had stated that only Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel existed at the time.  Genesis 4:16 states “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.” Then in Genesis 4:17, it is stated “And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch”.  Where did the wife come from?  Were there other people?  If Nod was already occupied by human beings, then the story of Adam and Eve being the first human beings is nullified.

 

Despite these limitations and contradictions, the Bible is viewed as the WORD OF

God.

 

  1. Jesus Christ: Today, there is an unquestionable belief among Christians that Jesus Christ is not only the son of God but a manifestation of God.  In the past, that was not necessarily the case.  There are a few examples to cite from to show that in the past the status of Jesus Christ was highly debated by the early Christians.

 

  1. For instance, Montanus and his two associates, prophetesses Prisca and Maximilla appeared on the Christian scene between 156 and 172 CE to spread a version of Christianity which devalued the importance of Christ and emphasized the importance of the Holy Spirit (Davis, 1983). This movement shifted the focus of Christianity away from Christ to the Holy Spirit before the Church banned the idea later.

 

  1. The Council of Nicaea took place in 325 CE. Emperor Constantine of the Roman Empire organized the council to develop an official doctrine for the Christian religion. Before this time, the Christians had no official doctrine and preached different things about the religion.  Emperor Constantine invited 1800 bishops to attend the Christian gathering but about 318 of them turned up.

 

One of the major issues the council tackled was determining the relationship between the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Father (God).  This issue divided the council into two factions.  One faction was led by St. Alexander of Alexandria and the other faction was led by presbyter Arius.  St. Alexander, his assistant Athanasius and their supporters argued that the Son (Jesus Christ) was as divine and coeternal as the Father (God).  Hence, there was no difference between Jesus and God.

 

On the other hand, Arius and his 22 supporters in the council maintained that the Father (God) was supreme and unique, hence, greater than the son (Jesus Christ).  Arius further argued that the Son (Jesus) had a beginning and did not possess the eternity and divinity of the Father (God).  Accordingly, the Son (Jesus) was made God by the permission of the father (God). This view of Jesus Christ and God is known as Arianism.   The debate about the status of Jesus Christ went on from May 20, 325 to June 19, 325.  This means that it took a month to discuss and resolve the issue of Jesus Christ and God.

 

St. Alexander and his supporters won the debate.  As a result, the Bible only contains the Alexanderian view of Jesus Christ.  The Church leaders banned the Arian view (Davis, 1983).  As can be seen, the belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God and possesses godly essence as God is a product of human intellectual and emotional debate.  Of course, many Christian pastors in Ijawland, Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa and throughout the black world rarely read the story of how Jesus came to be referred to as a God.

 

  1. A careful reading of the Bible clearly shows that Jesus Christ did not write any of the books of the New Testament, yet, Christian leaders and pastors quote him as if he actually said those things in person. It is theorized that St. Mark wrote the earliest gospel based on information provided by St. Peter since he was a discipline of both Peter and Paul.  Thereafter, St. Mathew and St. Luke wrote their versions based on information partially gathered from St. Mark’s writings.

 

  1. Moreover, it should be noted that there are four versions on the story of Jesus Christ. They are: (1) the Horus version, (2) the Zeus version, (3) the Simon of Perea version and (4) Jesus Christ version. This means that the story of Jesus Christ is not as simple as many Christians tend to believe.

 

  1. Likewise, Jesus Christ had a human father, mother and siblings. This is often ignored with the argument that he was born by a virgin who was married or betrothed to Joseph. Perhaps, the twisting of the story contributes to why the Jews do not accept the story.

 

  1. The Bible does not provide much information about the most important person in the New Testament. Why? This is why some people believe that Jesus Christ was actually married to Mary Magdalene.  The Islamic Koran refers to him as a prophet.

 

  1. The Cross:  The cross is a pre-Christian religious symbol that the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Indians, Irish, and Native Americans used in their religions.  The Roman Empire used the cross to crucify individuals that had been condemned to death.  Thus, Jesus Christ was executed on the Cross, hence, the Christians adopted it.  Now, it is treated as an exclusive Christian symbol and deified.  As a result, the Christian warriors who waged the Crusades against the Moslems carried the Cross as a symbol of protection.

 

  1. Statues:  Statues have become part of the mainstay of the Christian religion.  In many parts of the world, especially in Europe and the Americas, important Christian figures are deified through statues that are honored as if they are gods.

 

  1. Church Buildings: Christians tend to build very large worshipping houses.  There seems to be a believe that the bigger the church, the godlier the structure.   This is why even in Nigeria today, there are huge church buildings sometimes referred to as mega-churches.  Churches are now referred to as God’s houses.

 

  1. Christian Relics: In many Christian churches in Europe and Latin America, the body parts of former church members who have been deified as saints are kept and worshipped.  It is very common for churchgoers to kiss and touch the body parts in the hope of being blessed and protected by the saints.  Similarly, artifacts that are associated with Jesus Christ and other important members of Christianity are treated as sacred objects and revered.

 

  1. Tithe: Tithe has increasingly become a financial mainstay of the Christian church.  Churchgoers are compelled to give one or 10% of their wages to the Church.  Christians are psychologically made to feel guilty and ungodly if they do not give tithe.  Thus, the giving of tithe is now regarded as part of the Christian process for worshipping God. Some pastors exploit the tithe to become very wealthy.  Some of the funds generated through tithe are used for building mega-churches.

 

It is arguable that Christianity is a product of Afro-Asiatic traditional religions due to the belief that the early Jews were actually black Africans.  A Ghanaian scholar, Nana Banchie Darkwah, in his “The Africans who wrote the Bible” demonstrated the fact that black Africans wrote the Bible.  Darkwah’s position is corroborated by Dr. Ndagi Abdullahi (2017, June 30) who  wrote :

 

But the truth of the matter is that the Jewish culture seen among the Ibos is also seen

among almost all other ancient Nigerian peoples including the Ibibbio, the Kalabari, the

Ijaw, the itsekiri, Jukun, the Igala, the Nupe, and so on and on.  All these ancient

Nigerian people have been practicing Jewish cultures for thousands of years even long

before the time of Our Lord Jesus Christ some two thousand years ago.

 

In other words, West Africa was the original homeland of the Jewish people.

Even Western scholarship is gradually coming to admit that the original Jews

were Black African Negroes and that Black Negro Africa was the setting of the

stories of the Scriptures – not the Middle East.

 

Professor Ze’ev Herzog, the Head of the Archeology Department of the University

of Tel Aviv in Israel, wrote a book and purposely convened an international press

conference telling the world that today’s Israel, or Palestine (whatever you call it),

was not the place where the stories of the Bible took place.

 

Yes, the original Jews were Black African Negroes and they were resident here in

Middle Africa – that is West Africa, Central and East Africa combined.

 

Therefore, it is inferable that Christianity is a corrupted form of Orukarism and other African religions.  Moreover, the Ten Commandments in the Bible seem to be a shortened version of the 42 Declarations that were the mainstay of ancient African religions, which the ijaws continue to practice under Orukarism.  This is why in Orukarism, there are many abominations or sins, as indicated earlier.  As a result, the Ijaws cannot engage in certain behaviors.  The Roman Empire and the Christian Church Europeanized some of the Afro-Asiatic beliefs to create the current brand of Christianity, which, sometimes, is referred to as “Constantinian” Christianity.

 

Obviously, these are only a few of the cases where even Ijaw traditional leaders, either knowingly or unknowingly denigrate their ancestral religion in order to justify their Christianity.  If they continue this way, the future generation of Ijaw children will know nothing about their past, apart from being fed stories in the Bible.

 

European Christians and Reverence for their Gods and Goddesses.

 

Why Are the Ijaws so eager to destroy their religious culture in the name of Christianity when others do not do so? Why is it that even Ijaw leaders and elders are willing at a moment’s notice to give up their beliefs, culture, values and practices when others do everything possible to perpetuate their cultures?

 

Perhaps, it might be necessary to show that European Christians who brought Christianity to Ijawland continue to pay homage to their pre-Christian religious deities.  They have no problem calling their deities gods and goddesses, just as the Ijaws do under Orukarism.  There are many examples to cite from:

  1. As stated in previous writings, the month of JANUARY IS NAMED AFTER THE ROMAN GOD JANUS.  European Christians have no desire to change the name.  This means that they are happy with honoring their god.
  2. The month of MARCH is named after Roman god MARS. The Europeans do not refer to Mars as an IDOL.
  3. The month of MAY is named after Roman goddess of honor and reverence (MAIESTA).
  4. The month of JULY is named after JULIUS CAESAR (Here, a human being is deified).
  5. The month of AUGUST is named after AUGUSTUS CAESAR (The same thing happens here).
  6. The U.S. spaceship that went to the moon is named after Roman god APOLLO. American Christians have no problem with the name. They do not call Apollo an IDOL.
  7. The U.S. submarine TRIDENT is named after the three-pronged spear that is associated with the god POSEIDON.
  8. The U.S. submarine POSEIDON is named after POSEIDON, the Greek god of the sea.
  9. The PLANETS are named after Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. They are MERCURY, VENUS, JUPITER, SATURN and NEPUNE.  For instance, the Roman god (JUPITER) is regarded as the god of light and sky and protector of the state.  Even Pluto is a name of a European god.
  10. The Saturn spaceship is named after Greek god (SATURN), god of death.
  11. ZEUS is the Greek god of the sky.
  12. The English people, although Christian today, still pay homage to the Stonehenge.
  13. In England, the town of Glastonbury continues to be revered as a sacred site.

 

As indicated above, European Christians actually glorify their ancestral past by continuing to honor their gods and goddesses while Ijaw Christians refer to their gods and goddesses as IDOLs.  The Europeans who brought Christianity to Ijawland continue to honor their pre-Christian deities while Ijaw Christians are trying very hard to destroy their heritage in the name of Christianity?

 

The Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese. Tibetans, Native Americans and South Pacific Islanders have God, gods and goddesses in their religions, just like the Ijaws.  They do not refer to their deities as IDOLS.

 

Is it appropriate and Proper for Christians to Become Traditional Rulers in Ijaw society?

The simplest answer to the above question is that it is not appropriate because Ijaw Orukari culture and Constantinian Christianity are incompatible.  Why?

  1. Religion is a product of the culture and the environment.  This means that religion and culture have symbiotic relationships.  The culture molds the religion and the religion molds the culture.  Thus, Ijaw culture is molded by the Orukari religion and the environment.  Likewise, Ijaw culture molds the Orukari religion.  Therefore, to establish morality in Ijawland, the belief and value system must come from the religious culture.

 

  1. The traditional Ijaw political system is a product of Ijaw culture, religion, environment, and Ijaw ancestors. Therefore, to become a traditional ruler in Ijawland, the individual must be conversant with the traditional religious culture since respect for the ancestor is the core of the system. There is nothing wrong in Ijaw people honoring their ancestors just like the Christians honor their ancestors (saints).

 

  1. Christianity is a product of Afro-Asiatic Jewish culture and religion, interwoven with European culture and religion through the influence of the Roman Empire.

 

  1. To subscribe to Christianity is to subscribe to Judeo/European cultures. This is why many Ijaw Christians, like their Nigerian and other Sub-Saharan African counterparts bear Jewish and English names to signify their Christianity. It should be noted that those who are referred to Jews today are different from the ancient Jews.

 

  1. The Islamic religion is also an Afro-Asiatic product of Arabic culture and religion. Wesley Muhammed, an Islamic scholar, believed that Black Africans were greatly responsible for establishing and spreading Islam in his “Were the blacks who founded Islam really Africans? In Black Arabia).  Therefore, to become a Moslem is to subscribe to Arabic culture. This is why a vast proportion of Nigerian Moslems and their Sub-Saharan African counterparts bear Arabic names, instead of their indigenous African names.

 

  1. Since both Christianity and Islam have greatly been influenced by Arabic and Judeo/European cultures today, Ijaw Christians must look to Israel for their religious pilgrimage while Nigerian Moslems must look toward Saudi Arabia for their pilgrimage. The fact remains that there are sacred places in every society. There are sacred places in Ijawland.  For instance, during the Isaac Boro rebellion, Nigerian mobile policemen were advised not to step into an area that was regarded as a sacred place but they refused to heed the advice and all the policemen that defiled the place were reported to have perished. Unfortunately, many, if not most Ijaw Christians might not appreciate the fact that Ijawland has sacred places.

 

  1. The Jewish, Arabic and most European cultures tend to regard God as a masculine entity. Ijaw culture tends to view God as a feminine entity.  Thus, Ijaw culture is more tolerant towards women than Jewish and Arabic cultures.  Apparently, if an Ijaw person inclines towards the Jewish or Arabic culture, he or she is going to view things more from the masculine perspective rather than from a dualistic perspective if the person subscribes to Ijaw religious culture.

 

  1. If too many individuals with Christian orientation become traditional rulers in Ijawland, they would denigrate the traditional religious culture and transpose Judeo/European religious culture on Ijaw culture. Soon or later, they might end up creating an environment in which a traditionalist would not be able to ascend the political throne.  They would do so by Christianizing the conditions to qualify for the position.  This has already happened in Hausaland where Islam has been transposed upon the Hausa culture so much so that Hausa traditionalists rarely have the opportunity to become leaders in their own land.  The reason is that the culture is so Islamized that the only way to move forward socially, politically and religiously is to become a Moslem. Hence, Hausaland is now dominated by emirs, rather than by Sarkins (the Hausa word for a king).  In Ijawland, the Christians could end up giving Christian names to Ijaw traditional titles.
  2. Therefore, if an Ijaw Christian becomes a traditional ruler in Ijawland, he or she is most likely to view the traditional religious culture as IDOL WORSHIPPING and avoid the rituals that are associated with being a traditional Ijaw leader. By so doing, the individual might tactically begin to kill  Ijaw culture by avoiding those beliefs, practices and rituals that are essential for reinforcing tradition.  In fact, in almost every society, leaders are expected to embrace the religion that most people identify with the culture. It might be necessary to cite some facts to explain the point.

 

  1. In Britain, it is an unspoken fact that the queen or king must embrace Anglicanism.  A British member of the royal family who becomes a Catholic would be encouraged to leave the religion and convert to Anglicanism.

 

  1. In Italy, the rulers are expected to embrace Roman Catholicism.

 

  1. In the United States, a would-be-president is expected to identify with the Baptist faith. This is why it is very difficult for a Mormon or a Jew or a Catholic to become a president.  The late President John Kennedy was able to climb the presidential throne due to his family background.

 

  1. For the Edo nation, to become an Oba, the individual must forego any foreign religious tradition and embrace Bini tradition totally.  The person would be initiated into the mysteries of the traditional religious culture before being crowned.  The same goes for Yoruba Obas. They are initiated into the traditional system before coronation.

 

  1. Among the Efiks, every male (and some females) must be initiated into the Ekpe (leopard/lion) society. Any Efik male that is not part of the Ekpe Society has less social value.  Thus, the Obong (king) as well as the chiefs are all members of Ekpe Society, regardless of religion.  The head of the Ekpe Society is one of the most powerful individuals in Efikland. The Ibibios expect their traditional leaders and most men to be initiated into the Ekpo Society.  The Abiriba Igbo people expect most of their men to be initiated to the Abiriba Warrior Society, as well as Ekpe Society.  By so doing, the Edos,  Efiks, Ibibios and the Abiriba Igbos are able to institutionalize their beliefs, traditions and practices.
  2. Among the Ijaws, the Kalabari, Ibani, Opobo, Gbaramatu and Arogbo people are noted for institutionalizing their traditions. This is why the Kalabaris celebrate the Owu Aru Sun Festival and actively join the Ekine Society.  They openly celebrate Akaso without apology to anyone.   The Ibani and the Opobo people celebrate the Otam Ebukuma (Nwaotam) Festival with vigour and devotion.  The Gbaramatu and Arogbo people are steadfast in upholding the Agadagba or Egbesu as the core of the traditional religio-political system.  This accounted for why the Agadagba (King) of Gbaramatu insisted that the Nigerian soldiers who stole the Egbesu golden sword must return it or face the spiritual consequences that might follow. Okrika people celebrate the Odum and the Ogwein masquerades with boldness and joy.  The Nembes continue to perform the Ofuruma  (ofirima) masquerade.

 

Thus, due to the contradiction between Christianity and Orukari religious culture, the only way a strong advocate of Christianity can become a traditional ruler is that he or she must forego Christianity and embrace Okurarism as the religion of Ijaw people.  The Binis, Yorubas, EFiks, Ashantis, and many other ethnic groups put restrictions or conditions that must be met before an individual becomes a traditional ruler.  In fact, the Bini and Yoruba Obas go through extensive retraditionalization before their coronation.  By so doing, they are able to ensure that the traditional religious culture is not corrupted by foreign religious cultures.

If the Ijaws do not put conditions based on the traditional religious culture, soon or later, the Christians might end up taking over all the traditional leadership positions in Ijawland.  If that happens, Ijawland might end up like Hausaland.  In Nigeria, it is inferable that the Hausas are the most colonized people in the sense that Islam has been imposed to the extent that Hausa beliefs and traditions are highly diminished.

The concern about the possibility of Ijaw culture dying out should be taken seriously.  The Urhobos and other ethnic groups face the same danger.  Hence, in Delta State, Prof. Christopher Orubiu and Dr. Emmanuel Biri of Delta State University “condemned the demonization of Urhobo culture under the façade of Christianity” (Egufe Yafugborhi, 2016, January 7)

Similarly, Governor Rochas OKorocha of Imo State, not too long ago, argued that public officials in Nigeria should swear their oath of office in the name of their ancestors.  He noted “People no longer fear Bible and Quran that are currently being used, because they knew that God is merciful and did not kill instantly.”  Again, he recently stated that traditional rulers in Imo State should not speak English while addressing their people during public functions (Okeoma, 2017, July 12).  Apparently, there is much concern that African cultural beliefs and traditions are increasingly being threatened due to undue conversion to Christianity and Islam and the embracing of secular humanism.

It seems that many Ijaws do not realize that Orukarism is responsible for the Ijaws being fiercely independent and fearless in expressing themselves.  The traditional religion is responsible for enabling the Ijaws to predict or forecast past and future events through Ye bi or Obuba bi (divination) ritual.  In fact, if not for Christian and secular-humanistic influences, the Ijaws would have used Ye bi or Obuba bi to find out who killed Chief Marshall Harry, Chief A. K. Dikibo and Admiral Daniel Ikoli.  Similarly, the religion is responsible for setting the norms and mores that inhibit sinful acts like killing people to sell body parts and producing baby factories.  The necessity to tell the absolute truth is a direct product of Orukarism.  It is the Ijaw religious culture that encourages people to confess and make amends if they violate certain situations.  Lastly, it is Orukarism that is responsible for making the Ijaws to be great fighters.

If the Ijaws destroy their religious culture, they would emasculate themselves and become a mass of helpless human beings who must depend on greedy, cunning, cheating, corrupting and conniving individuals  to lead them. The signs of greediness, cunningness, cheating, corruption and lying are everywhere as some public officials embezzled public funds with total disregard for social and political consequences.  Some Ijaws now hire thugs to intimidate and kill their opponents.   Some youths are no longer afraid of even embezzling community funds that would have been used to develop their own communities.  Self-centeredness is increasingly becoming the norm, thereby, destroying the communal culture that is the hallmark of Ijaw religious world.  Stealing is becoming very rampant because the traditional taboos are being ignored as people claim to be Christians.

No society has operated successfully through Christianity because the Bible is read, analyzed, explained and interpreted differently by different people.  This is why there are so many Christian denominations.  Each denomination seems to think that its brand of Christianity is superior to other Christian branches.  The pastors like to throw mud at each other as they compete to establish the largest and most populated churches in the world.  In Nigeria, for instance, Prophet I. B. Joshua and Prophet Johnson Suleman re not in good terms even though both supposed to lead their Christian flocks to God (Opejobi, 2017, April 3).  An increasing number of Christian pastors in Nigeria engaged in ungodly acts daily as they scramble to accumulate wealth while pretending to be servants of God.

Thus, it is difficult to establish morality and ethics in society when different pastors interpret the Bible differently based on their ideological orientations and self-interest.  The same problem seems to exist in Islam where the Sunnis and the Shiites do not see eye to eye.   Like Christian pastors, Islamic imams and clerics too read, explain and interpret the Koran based on their ideological perceptions and self-interest.  In Nigeria, Islamic leaders and preachers tend to preach a version of the religion that is more applicable to the 13th century, as Emir Lamido Sanusi of Kano noted while the Arab nations are developing their societies with science and technology.

Throughout the world, Christianity is responsible for destroying many indigenous cultures.  In After experiencing heart-wrenching situations in the hands of the Christians,  the Native Americas in North, Central, and South America are now working hard to revive their cultures that Spanish Christians almost wiped out from the face of the earth while searching for gold and silver.  It should be noted that the Spanish Christians almost wiped out all the writings of the Mayan people.  Fortunately for the world, the Christians missed four of the writings.   The four writings were taken to Germany and kept in the City of Dresden.  Today, the Mayan writings are known as the Dresden Codex.  The four writings have shown that the Mayans were very advanced, both scientifically and spiritually and built some of the largest pyramids in the world (World Digital Library, 2017, May 24).  The Ijaws cannot and should not assist, in any shape or form, the destruction of their own culture in the pretense of avoiding the WORSHIPPING of IDOLS.

To safeguard Ijaw culture from total decimation by the Christians, it is necessary for all Ijaw traditional rulers to subscribe to Ijaw culture by serving as the guardians, protectors, promoters and preservers of the culture. In this regard, the Ijaw Traditional Rulers Council or Forum should hold regular meetings and discuss ways of ensuring the preservation of Ijaw beliefs, values, traditions and language.

Finally, in Ijawland, the traditional moral order should be the guiding light to shape peoples’ behavior.  This means that if anyone steals public money, the person should be compel to tell the absolute truth by swearing in the name of his or her ancestors.  It is a fact that neither Christianity nor secular humanism is working effectively in Ijawland, Nigeria and Black Africa.  This is why things are falling apart, as Chinua Achebe predicted in his novel “Things Fall Apart.”

 

References

Alagoa, E. J. (1999)  The land and people of Bayelsa State:  Central Niger Delta. Chioba, Port Harcourt:  Onyoma Research Publications.

Darkwah, B. N. (2002).  The Africans who wrote the Bible.  Roussellville, Arkansas: Aduana

Davis, L. D. (1983).  The first seven ecumenical councils (325 – 787): Their history and theology. Wilmington, Delaware: A Michael Glazer, Inc.

How rich ship owner affected Christianity.  (2010, January 2).  The Atheist Conservative.  Retrieved July 11, 2017, from theatheistconservative.com/20010/01/02/how-a-rich-ship=owner=affected-christianity

Ido, E. (2017, July 6).  Sabagreia:  Bayelsa community where evil, wicked men dread. Vanguard. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from http://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/06/sabagreai-bayelsa-community-evil-wicked-men-dread.

Ijaw monarch declares war on violent crime in Bayelsa.  (2010, July 8).  African Examiner.  African Examiner. Retrieved July 11, 2017, from  http://www.africanexaminer,com/ijaw_mona.

Mmuta, C. (2010, June 11). Oba of Benin Leads spiritual warfare against robbers, kidnappers. Compass.  Retrieved July 12, 2017, from www.compassnewspaper.com/NG/index.php?view=article&catid=672%3Atop-store,

Ogunesan, T. (2017, November 8). Neglect of Yoruba culture, reason for high crime rate – Prof.  Vanguard. Retrieved November 9, 2017, from http://odili.net/news/source/2017/nov/8/604.html.

Okeoma, C. (2017, July 12). Imo: Gov Okorocha stops Imo monarchs from speaking English at functions. Odili.net. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from http://odili.net/news/source/2017/jul/12/818.html.

Opejobi, S. (2017, April 3). You are too small – Apostle Suleman attacks Prophet T. B. Joshua. Daily Post. Retrieved July 10, 2017, from http://dailypost.ng/2017/04/03/small-apostle-suleman-attacks-prophet-t-b-joshua-vidoe/

Prezi, I. E. ( 2015, Ocotber 25). Christian religionand loss of Ijaw traditions and cultures.  Koris Samuel.  Retrieved November 5, 2017, from https://ikorisamuel.wordpress.com/215/10/25/christian-religion-and-loss-of-ijaw-traditions-andcultures.

Seed, H. (2012). The Bible questions.  IVP Books.  Retrieved July 16, 2017, from https://books.google.com/books?id=raCEI_V56UbUC&pg

The Dresden Codex. (2017, May 24).  World Digital Library.  Retrieved July 31, 2017, from https://www.wdI.org/en/item/11621/

 

 

 

Evangelical Christianity and the Struggle for the Spiritual Soul of Haiti

Evangelical Christianity and the Struggle for the Spiritual Soul of Haiti

Priye S. Torulagha

Torulaghareports.com

priyet@hotmail.com

 

 

Introduction

After the Haitians launched a successful Voodoo inspired revolution to gain independence in 1804, Christian missionaries poured into the country in an attempt to purge the country of the ancestral-based religion.  It was unthinkable for the Christians at the time to accept the view that any other religion could be successful enough to overwhelm a Christian-based state.  As a result, the Christians have continuously mounted religious campaigns to get rid of the African religion in the country.

To justify the need to get rid of the ancestral-based religion, Evangelical Christians, in particular, tend to attribute every problem that has besieged Haiti since independence, to the view that the country suffers from a curse because Haitian revolutionaries made a “pact with the devil.”  By implication, the Evangelical Christians are saying that Haitians will continue to suffer until they totally forego their traditional religion.  This further means that Haitians will stop suffering as soon as they convert to Christianity.

Following this line of thinking, when Port-au-Prince suffered a very destructive earthquake in January 2010, some Christian groups, including Rev. Pat Robertson of Club 700 fame, floated the idea again that the devastating earthquake was God’s punishment for Haitian worshiping of Voodoo rather than Christianity. According to him, the Haitians:

were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever.  And they got together and swore a pact to the devil.  They said “We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.  And so, the devil said ok, it is a deal (CNN, 2010, January 13).

Since the devastating earthquake in 2010, some Evangelical Christian groups, while offering humanitarian assistance to the victims, started launching an unrelenting religious campaign to convert those Haitians who are still worshipping Voodoo to embrace Christianity.  As part of the campaign strategy to justify the need for conversion, they reinforced the Robertsonian view that Haitians will continue to suffer because Haitian revolutionaries signed a “pact with the devil” in order to free themselves.

This religious struggle, which could technically be regarded as a Christian crusade in the twenty-first century, is indeed amazing.  It is equally amazing that millions of Haitians, including some respectable Evangelical Christian priests, have also accepted the propagandized view of the unfortunate situation that Haiti has found itself.  The religious struggle for the control of Haiti was recently brought to the attention of the world by Reza Aslan’s television documentary titled “Believer,” which was presented on CNN Channel 202 on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at 10:00PM.  Mr. Aslan did an excellent job in presenting the different perspectives concerning whether Haitians should convert to Christianity and forsake their ancestral religion or not.

 

Purpose of the Article

The purpose of this article is to accomplish the following goals: (1) explore the issue of whether the supposed Haitian “pact with the devil,” as Christians claimed, is the cause of suffering in Haiti; (2)  determine whether if Haitians convert to Christianity en masse, their suffering will stop; and (3) find out whether there are alternative explanations for the situation.

To accomplish these goals, it is necessary to gather data by examining important political, religious and historical facts, events and circumstances in Christendom in order to ascertain whether societies that have converted to Christianity have never suffered in their history, following the Evangelical Christians’ claim that Voodoo is the cause of Haitian suffering. In particular, Europe provides an excellent historical laboratory to gather appropriate information concerning the Christian experience.  Likewise, important events in other parts of the world are also taken into consideration, depending on their relevance to the discussion.

 

Hypotheses

Based on the goals of the article, the following hypotheses are drawn:

(1) There is no correlation between the suffering in Haiti and the worshipping of Voodoo religion. (2) Conversion to Christianity will not stop suffering in Haiti. (3) Societies that have converted to Christianity suffer as much as societies that subscribe to other religions.  (4) There are extraneous factors other than “a pact with the devil” that contribute to the situation in Haiti.

 

Political, Religious and Historical Facts and Events about Christianity and the European Experience

First, in 311 CE, the Roman Empire declared neutrality towards Christianity, thereby, giving it an official status as a legitimate religion in the state.  Emperor Constantine eventually converted to Christianity.  This allowed Christians, for the first time, to worship their religion openly without fear of persecution (Barrow, 1979).

Second, the Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity in 378 CE during the reign of Emperor Theodosius (Ibid).  This led to the conversion of Roman colonies into Christianity and the incremental spreading of the religion to various parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Third, the Western Roman Empire collapsed in 410 CE when Germanic tribes (Vandals, Franks, and Visigoths) whom the Romans had persistently exploited, turned around to invade and ravage Rome.  The fall of the Western Roman Empire led to the collapse of central authority in most of Europe.  The Eastern Roman Empire became the Byzantine Empire.

Fourth, to fend off the criticism that Roman conversion to Christianity was responsible for the downfall, St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) argued that Christianity had nothing to do with it.  Rather, he blamed the Romans for their downfall.  The reasons he gave for the fall of the Roman Empire included: (a) that Romans were corrupt and deserved to be punished, (b) that if it were not for the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, Rome would have been totally destroyed, (c) that Rome had many problems even before the empire converted to Christianity, (d) that if Roman gods were so good, they would have protected Rome against its enemies, and (e) that Rome was not a true Republic because it was united by the love of pride and not of God (Tannenbaum & Schultz, 1998).  It is obvious that the Evangelical Christian argument that Haiti is suffering because many Haitians worship Voodoo and not Christianity is very similar to the Augustinian argument that Rome suffered destruction because Romans worshipped pagan deities.  By implication, St. Augustine maintained that if the Romans had worshipped Christianity, then Rome would not have fallen.  Thus, like St. Augustine, Evangelical Christians are maintaining the view that if Haitians convert to Christianity, their suffering will stop.

Fifth, the Islamic religion emerged in Saudi Arabia in 600 CE and spread very quickly resulting in the capture of Jerusalem and other parts of the Middle East. In 711 CE, the Moslem forces, moving from Morocco, captured Southern Spain.  Around 730 CE, the Moslems advanced towards France from Spain.  The Christians viewed the Islamic expansion as a crusade against them.  The Islamic expansion frightened the Christian leadership in Europe to the extent that it desperately sought a savior to stop the Moslems.   King Charles Martel, a great military leader of the Franks stepped in and fought to stop the Islamic capture of France and other parts of Europe.  By defeating the Islamic forces, he saved Christian Europe from Islamic conquest.

Sixth, the collapse of central authority, coupled with the uncontrollable civil wars, the rampaging war lords, and the Islamic threat forced many Europeans around 730 CE to convert to Christianity, believing that such conversion would help them through their suffering.  Thus, the massive Haitian conversion to Christianity following the earthquake of 2010 is similar to the massive European conversion to Christianity during a time of hardship, unpredictability and hopelessness.  When King Charles Martel passed away, his son, Pepin III inherited the throne.  Pepin III divided the throne between his two sons (Charles and Carloman) before he passed away in September 24, 768. Pope Stephen anointed the two brothers in 754. However, Carloman died in 771 CE, thereby, allowing Charles to consolidate his power over the throne Encyclopedia.com, 2003).  It should be noted that some people suspected that King Charles the Great (Charlemagne) killed the brother in order to consolidate his political authority over the territory his father conquered.

Seventh, In 800 CE, King Charles the Great (Charlemagne) expanded his territory profusely to cover most of Europe through brutal military conquests.  As a major politico-military leader of Europe, the Christian Church had to create a political space for him since he fought, like his father, to preserve Christianity, especially the papacy.  In particular, his proactive intervention to stop the rebellion against Pope Leo III endeared him so much to the pope.  Hence, he was crowned as the Emperor of the Roman Empire on Christmas day in 800 CE and given the name of Charles Augustus (Graves, n.d.).  To avoid conflict between the Pope and King Charles the Great, the Pope devoted himself to spiritual matters of the church and the king served as the politico-military head of state of the empire.  King Charles the Great (Charlemagne) forced the Europeans he conquered to embrace Christianity.  For instance, in one of his military attacks against Saxon pagans, he demanded that they convert to Christianity.    About 4000 Saxons who refused to convert to Christianity were beheaded (Griotto, n.d.) in one day.  Therefore, millions of Europeans were compelled to embrace Christianity through bloody wars of conquest carried out by powerful militaristic kings and the church. In fact, the vast state that Charlemagne and his ancestors created was referred to as the Carolingian Empire (BBC, n.d.).

Eighth, even though most Europeans had converted to Christianity, they were not saved in their hour of need when the Vikings, around 793 CE, rose up from Scandinavia and ransacked many parts of Europe through destructive military attacks.  The Vikings invaded, destroyed, killed and looted even Christian monasteries (James, 2011, March 29)).  Here again, contrary to the Evangelical Christian premise that Haitians are suffering because many of them worship Voodoo and that their suffering will stop if they convert to Christianity, the European conversion to Christianity did not stop pagan Vikings from invading, destroying, killing, looting  and occupying many Christian territories in Europe.  Although, the Vikings suffered a defeat in the hands of King Alfred the Great of England, nevertheless, they continued their raids until about 1066 (ibid.).

Ninth, the end of the Viking era did not stop the disheartening situation in Europe as the Europeans continued to suffer from unnecessary bloody military conflicts and wars of conquest.  Due to lack of jobs, local political leaders engaged the services of military veterans to cause problems in the continent.  The veterans formed the Medieval Knights.  The knights invaded, destroyed, killed and pillaged various communities to make a living. Europe was a living hell for millions of people.  Therefore, the assertion that Haitian suffering will cease as soon as Haitians forsake Voodoo and convert to Christianity has no historical support since conversion to Christianity did not stop suffering in Europe for centuries.

In an attempt to stabilize the situation, the Christian Church developed the Christian Doctrine of War.  Consequently, the church issued the Peace of God and the Truce of God in an attempt to stabilize the continent.  The Peace of God (Pax Dei) was initiated in 1027 by the Christian church and later adopted by civil authorities to protect church properties, pastors, women, merchants and non-combatants during war (Callahan, 2007, August 27). The Truce of God ( Treuga Dei) was also part of the church’s effort to control war by ensuring that warfare was suspended during certain days of the week as well as during religious festivals or events    (Britannica, 1998, July 20).

Tenth, in 1095, threatened by Islamic expansion and a desire to redirect the violence in Europe, Pope Urban II called for a Holy War against the Moslems who had captured many Christian territories in the Middle East, including Jerusalem.  He declared the Crusades and called it “God’s Will It.”  The Christian crusades enabled thousands of military veterans who had been causing problems in Europe to form a Christian Army and launched attacks against the Moslems in an attempt to recapture Jerusalem and other Christian territories. The Christians and Moslems ended up fighting three major crusades.  The Christians won the first crusade, the Moslems won the second crusade and they fought to a draw in the third crusade, led by King Richard the Lion-heart. If the hypothesis advanced by Evangelical Christians that if Haitians convert to Christianity, their suffering will stop, then, why did the Christians and the Moslems fought to a draw in the third crusade? The draw indicates that the Christian God is not superior to the Islamic Allah, otherwise, the Christians would have won all the crusades against the Moslems. Similarly, if the Islamic Allah is greater than the Christian God, then the Moslems would have won the three crusades handily against the Christians.

Eleventh, one of the groups that took part in the crusades against the Moslems was the Teutonic Knights.  The group was established as a military order from the Hospitallers of Holy Mary in Jerusalem by German crusaders. On returning to Europe, they settled in Transylvania, Hungary in 1211 through the invitation of King Andrew II. They helped him to protect the kingdom against pagan Cumans (Coppernickers, June 2008).  However, they were forced to leave as they grew stronger, thereby, threatening the Hungarian kingdom in 1225.  Duke Conrad of Mazovia of Poland invited them to help him fight against Prussian pagans.  He promised to give them the Chelmno lands as well as any land that they could capture from the Prussians.  Pope Gregory IX sweetened the offer by decreeing that any property that the Teutonic Knights conquered would be granted to them in perpetuity.  They settled in Livonia.  However, their effort to conquer Russian territory failed when Alexander Nevsky defeated them in Lake Peipus in 1242. Thereafter, they concentrated their attacks against Prussia, Lithuania and Poland (Medieval Times, n.d.).

Due to incessant warfare against the Polish and Lithuanians, the Samogotians revolted against the Knights and asked for military assistance.  The Lithuanian Grand Duke Witold and the Polish King Ladislaus Jagiello responded to the Samogotians request by forming a united military force.  They fought the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Tannenberg/Grunwald in 1410.  They defeated the Knights and killed their leader, Grand Master Ulrich von jungingen.  The defeat was described as a slaughter as the Teutonic Knights lost about 18,000 men and 14,000 prisoners in comparison to the 5,000 deaths and 8,000 prisoners that the Lithuanians and Polish incurred (Haywood, 2002).

Since the Teutonic Knights felt that they were sacred warriors because they were fighting to convert pagans into Christianity, their defeat in the Battle of Tannenberg/Grunwald was psychologically devastating to members of the organization.  As a result, those who survived the battle felt that God had abandoned or deserted them.  After that battle, they were no longer a formidable military force.  As can be seen, the Haitian defeat of Napoleon’s forces is similar to the Polish/Lithuanian defeat of the Teutonic Knights in the sense that a non-Christian military force was able to defeat a Christian force.

Twelfth, the Catholic Church which became the most dominant religious and political entity in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa found it impossible to tolerate other Christian denominations.  Hence, the church did not hesitate to wage war to destroy other Christian movements.  Consequently, perturbed by the popularity of the Cathars (a Christian sect) in Southern France, Pope Innocent III ordered a crusade against them in 1208.  Thousands of crusaders, mostly from Northern France enlisted, having been promised by the Pope that those who killed Cathars would be assured of the highest place in heaven.

Evidently, the Christian Crusaders arrived at Beziers on July 22, 1209, near Languedoc.  The Cistercian commander of the crusaders, in response to a question about how to identify the Cathars from the townspeople, ordered, “Kill them all – the Lord will recognize his own.”  The crusaders killed, destroyed and pillaged the place (Counterblast, 2006-8).

Thirteenth, the European Renaissance started around 1341 in Italy and lasted until the 17th century.  The Renaissance was instigated by  a number of circumstances, including the excesses (inquisitions, destruction of scholarship, crusades and killings of heretics) and failures of the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire, the break-up of the feudal system and the rise of nationalism among the people.  Eventually, the suffocating political and spiritual environment that did not allow free expression of scientific and intellectual thought prompted scholars and thinkers to call for the revival of the classical world of Greece and Rome (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2015, April 17).  Apparently, the European Renaissance resulted in the tactical rejection of Christianity and the revival of pre-Christian Greek and Roman traditions.  The Europeans realized that Christian thought, practices and politics, as perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church, were impediments toward intellectual and scientific learning and advancement.  The Renaissance resulted in the separation of church and state and the institutionalization of secular humanism.

This is why all Western nations today operate their governments on the philosophy of secular-humanism and not through Christian theocracy.  Perhaps, the only entity in Europe today that continues to operate through Christian theocracy is the Vatican.  Due to Western colonialism and global influence, a vast majority of countries in the world today operate their governmental systems based on secular-humanistic ideas and practices.

Fourteenth, the Bubonic Plague struck Europe from 1347 to 1352.  It should be noted that at this time, many European societies had converted to Christianity.  Thus, the conversion to Christianity did not prevent the Bubonic Plague from wiping out a large proportion of the European population.  About 25 million people died from the plague (National Geographic, n.d.).  However, some estimates put the number of people who died from the plague at about 40 to 50 million.  Following the assertion by Evangelical Christians that If Haitians had converted to Christianity, the devastating earthquake would not have taken place, then, how do they explain the fact that Europeans who converted to Christianity were not spared from the ravages of the Bubonic Plague.  More people perished as a result of the plague than the number of Haitians who died as a result of the 2010 earthquake.

Fifteenth, after Christopher Columbus’ epic journey in 1492 landed him in the Americas rather than in East Indies, he inadvertently initiated the bloody Spanish conquest of the Americas.  Hernan Cortes led the Spanish force which invaded and destroyed the Aztec Empire in early sixteenth century.  In 1532, Francisco Pizarro led the Spanish force that invaded and conquered the Incan Empire in Peru.  In fact, his men kidnapped Incan Emperor Atahualpa and promised to release him if gold and silver were exchanged for his freedom.  The Incans agreed and gave them gold and silver.   After receiving the treasures, the Spanish conquistadors still kill the emperor.  (Quijote, 1986).  Although Christians, the Spanish conquistadors inflicted so much pain and suffering by killing Native Americans and destroying their societies to the extent that even in the 21st century, they are still struggling to survive.  In addition, the diseases they brought with them decimated the indigenous population.  It is very doubtful whether Native Americans will ever regard Christianity as a religion of salvation.  It is not surprising that many Native American ethnic groups today are reviving their ancestral religions.  The Christian God did not save them at all from the ravages of the Spanish Christians.

Sixteenth, as the most dominant force in Europe, the Catholic Church became very corrupt.  It got to a point where a member of the church, Martin Luther, a theologian and a monk, could no longer tolerate the hypocrisy and ungodly practices that were being carried out by the Catholic Church to enhance its revenue.  In particular, the notion that some individuals could pay money to the church and had their sins forgiven irked Luther so much so that he compiled the 95 theses in 1517 and pinned the list at the door of a church in Wittenberg for all to see.  The leadership of the church was very angry.  Pope Leo X issued a papal bull in July 1520 that declared Luther’s teachings to be heretical.  Luther was given 60 days to recant and he refused.  Due to his refusal, he was excommunicated from the church in January 3, 1521.  His supporters hid him away.  While in hiding, he translated the Bible into German (History, n.d.).  The effort resulted in the spreading of literacy as people began to read the Bible in German rather than in Greek.

The dispute between the church and Martin Luther resulted in the Protestant Reformation. Europe was thrown into another around of bloody conflicts as the Catholics and the Protestants battled for the control of Christianity.  The struggle eventually led to the Thirty-Year War between the Catholics and the Protestants. Led by European monarchs, the war started in May 23, 1618 and ended in May 15, 1648.  About 20% of the German population died as a result of the conflict between the two Christians groups.

Seventeenth, after the Spanish conquest of the Americas and the scramble by various European states to exploit the resources, one of the worst cases of human brutality took place when the Atlantic Slave trade was initiated in the 16th century.  The forceful deportation of millions of black Africans lasted for four centuries (15th to 19th centuries).  According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, about 12. 5 million Africans were forcibly transported to the Americas (Gates, n.d.) However, some estimates put the number of Africans shipped to Europe and the Americas at about 25 to 30 million people (UNESCO, n.d.).

The Christian establishment and many Christians justified the slave trade by using the Ham’s curse in the Old Testament of the Bible to imply that it was an acceptable act.  Thus, black Africans were equated with being the descendants of Ham, thereby, meriting their enslavement since they were cursed, as Noah did to Ham in Genesis 9:25 “And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren”.  The Ham’s curse continues to serve as the basis for racism directed against black people in the world, even today.

The Christian establishment went further in justifying the slave trade when the Catholic popes issued papal bulls authorizing the Portuguese and the Spanish to import slaves from Africa.  In particular, the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 resulted in the demarcation of global territory into Portuguese and Spanish spheres of influence.  Consequently, starting at 370 leagues, which is about 800 miles, west of Cape Verde, Portugal was given an area involving West Africa, the Indian Ocean, and Brazil.  On the other hand, Spain was given control of the Mediterranean, East Asia and the Americas (Nazeer Ahmed, n.d.).

Eighteenth, it could be said that the Christian Church also contributed directly and indirectly towards the colonization of the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and a sizable part of Asia.  For instance, the Treaty of Tordesillas n 1494, as indicated above, literally laid out the plan for the Portuguese and Spanish colonization of various parts of the world.  It is not surprising that Spain became the colonial master of a territory stretching from the tip of the USA to the tip of South America.  Since Brazil was given to Portugal In the treaty, it is the only Portuguese-speaking country in South America.

Colonialism led to the forceful establishment of agricultural and political enclaves (colonies) where people in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Middle East were forced to embrace.  Likewise, through military conquest and political and religious colonization, many indigenous ethnic groups in the world were compelled to forego their traditional religious cultures and embrace Christianity through education and religious campaigns.

Nineteenth, in 1825, after French slave-owners submitted detailed reports of their losses to the French Government, following the Haitian revolution in 1804, King Charles X demanded that Haiti pay an “independence debt” to the former colonists.  To ensure Haitian payment of the debt, France mounted a naval blockade and demanded compensation totaling 150 million gold francs.  The amount was ten times more than Haiti’s annual income. The figure was later reduced to 90 million gold francs.  Fearful of re-enslavement and recolonization, the Haitian government agreed to pay the “independence debt.”  The interest on the loan borrowed from a French bank to pay the debt was exorbitant.  Not until 1947 was Haiti finally able to pay off the debt (Macdonald, 2010, August 16; The Guardian, May 12, 2015). The debt payment imposed an unbearable financial and economic burden on Haiti, thereby, contributing to the socioeconomic woes of the country.

The action that the French took in Haiti despite their Christianity, resembled the action that the victorious Allied Powers took against Germany after the First World War.  Even though all the countries that fought the war lost so much, the victories powers in the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, inflicted a very high price on Germany as a compensation for causing the war.  The compensation package was so steep that Germany lost 10 percent of its population and territory to the victorious powers.  Likewise, its overseas colonies were taken over by Britain, France and Japan.  The treaty took effect on January 10, 1920.  The Germans were displeased and criticized the treaty very bitterly (Encyclopedia Britannica. 2015, June 9). The severity of the Treaty of Versailles, perhaps, contributed to the massive suffering in Germany that eventually led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.  Thus, anger following the treaty contributed to the 2nd. World War because Germany wanted to pay back in kind for the humiliation it suffered in signing the Armistice after the 1st World War.

The French action against Haiti is also similar to the action it took against the Republic of Guinea, following a referendum in 1958.  In the referendum, Guinea voted against membership in the Community of French Overseas Territories, as proposed by President Charles de Gaulle and decided instead to go its separate way.  The decision suddenly resulted in the country gaining independence from France.  The French reacted angrily against the Guinean decision by taking measures which threatened to cripple the country.   The editors of Encyclopedia Britannica noted:

“The French were particularly vindictive in their break with the country, destroying

valuable equipment and files, suspending all aid and technical assistance, and stopping

almost all investment in Guinea’s mining operations.”  (Gate, 2005).

 

There is no doubt that the French contributed immensely to the economic and financial strangulation of Haiti through the “independence debt” that the Haitians had to pay for their freedom for decades.  France, the Germans felt, contributed to their suffering and anger that eventually resulted in the Second World War.  The feeling of anger probably persuaded Adolf Hitler to force the French to sign the instrument of surrender after Germany captured the country during the Second World War in the manner in which the Germans were forced to sign the instrument of surrender after the First World War.  The National Geographic noted: “The Fuhrer dictated that the surrender be formalized at Compiegne, the very spot where Germans had signed the Armistice ending World War I on 11 November 1918 – Just 22 years earlier.” (National Geographic, 2015, November 11).

 

Twentieth, the struggle for power and influence led to the Crimean War, in which Turkey, Britain, France, and Sardinia aligned against Russia.  The war started in October 1853 and ended in February 1856 after Russia decided to withdraw.  The war took place because Russia attempted to expand its geopolitical influence in the Danube region and the Black Sea.  Turkey opposed the idea since Russian expansion directly threatened its area of influence in the region.  Fearful that Russian expansion as well as its naval enhancement could threaten their geopolitical interests, Britain and France joined Turkey against Russia.  About 200,000 people died in the conflict (Murphy, March 7, 2014).

Twenty-first, by the turn of the twentieth century, most of Europe had converted to Christianity. As a result, a vast majority of the Europeans claimed to be Christians.  Despite this fact, they could not control their nationalistic and geopolitical tendencies, hence, the greatest war ever fought in the history of the world came in 1914 when the First World War started.  By the end of the war, about seventeenth to twenty million people perished.  The scale of destruction was incomparable.  Even biochemical weapons were used to inflict maximum pain and destruction among the competing powers, despite their Christianity.

Twenty-second, quite contrary to the view that Haitians are suffering because they made a pact with the “devil,” the conversion to Buddhism, Christianity and Islam did not stop the Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 from afflicting most of the world.  About one third of the world’s population (500 million people) were infected by the deadly disease.  Out of the number of people infected, about 40 to 50 million were estimated to have died.  The influenza affected both humans and swine.  (Taubenberger and Morens, (2006, January).

Twenty-third, political and military leaders as well as scholars thought that the First World War would be the “War to end all wars.” However, in European Christendom, a more deadly conflict erupted in 1939 when Adolf Hitler and the Nazis launched the Second World War.  This war made the First World War looked like a child’s play.  The scale of destruction, suffering and killing surpassed that of the First World War.  As a result, about 50 million people perished.  The conversion to Christianity did not prevent the hegemonic struggle for the control of Europe and the world. Thus, Christians have no hesitation in killing other Christians, as the Second World War indicated.

Twenty-fourth, the amazing thing about Europe is that it is probably the most militarily fortified continent in the world.  The entire continent is dotted with military fortifications and castles, thereby, indicating that destructive wars had taken place quite frequently in the past.  Many of the castles and military fortifications were built after the institutionalization of Christianity.  This meant that the religion did not lead to the cessation of hostilities among rival communities and ambitious military and political leaders.  On the other hand, Sub-Saharan Africa that is often maligned by Christians for being the center of devil worshipping due to the prevalence of Ancestralism, has fewer military castles and fortifications.

 

Twenty-fifth, apart from events that took place in Europe, in the Americas, conversion to Christianity did not make any difference regarding the occurrence of destructive events. In Christian United States of America, a bloody civil war took place, starting in 1863 and ending in 1867.  New estimates now indicate that about 750,000 people died in the American Civil War (Guy Gugliotta, 2012, April 2).  One of the issues that prompted the southern states to secede from the union was slavery.  Even though both regions were Christian, the north wanted to abolish slavery while the south wanted to perpetuate it.  Even after the civil war, blacks in Christian USA continued to suffer various forms of discrimination.  For Native Americans in the USA, it is doubtful whether they will ever be convinced that Christianity is a source of their salvation, following the military campaigns that resulted in the dispossession of their lands.

To ensure equal treatment of all Americans, the United States Government has been very active in passing legislations to reduce discrimination and human and civil rights violations.  Apart from the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution), the U.S. Government passed the 13, 14, 15, 19th and 26th Amendments. Likewise, it also passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1871, 1875, 1957, 1964, and 1968.  Similarly, to ensure the equal right to vote, it passed the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 and expanded it in 1970, 1975 and 1982.  Added to this is the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (Dye, 2007).  Thus, the US is a shining pillar in the effort to address racial, ethnic, class and gender issues in the world.

Compared to the progressive tendencies of the United States Government, Latin American governments, on the other hand, have been lukewarm in passing legislations that could guarantee equal rights for all citizens, including Native Americans and Afro-Latinos.  In fact, many Latin American countries, including Mexico and Peru, find it difficult to acknowledge their black populations, despite their Christianity.  The blacks exist in a state of political, religious and socioeconomic invisibility.  The Christian leadership and the Christians generally does not feel comfortable in discussing the iniquities concerning the treatment of blacks in Latin America but they are very eager to judge the Haitians because of the Voodoo religion.

Twenty-sixth, it should be noted that a major volcanic eruption took place in Martinique in the Caribbean on May 7, 1902.  The Mount Pele eruption resulted in the total destruction of Saint Pierre.  Only two individuals survived the eruption, including a prisoner who was locked up in an underground cell. Thus, Saint Pierre which was referred to as the Paris of the Caribbean ceased to exist.  The fact is that the volcanic eruption took place in an island that had converted to Christianity (History, n.d.). This shows that natural disasters can take place anywhere irrespective of religion.

Twenty-seventh, again, in the Caribbean region, the Soufriere Hills volcano in Montserrat Island erupted in 1995.  The eruption forced about two-thirds of the residents of the capital to flee, even though no one was killed.  Then, in 1997, the volcano erupted again, this time, killing 19 people and forcing the citizens to abandon half of the island. The volcanic eruption took place regardless of the fact that the citizens of Montserrat were Christians (Huffington Post, 2013, October 13).  Here again, there is no basis to infer that a natural disaster was prompted by a religious belief system.

 

Determining the Outcomes of the Hypotheses

Having identified important political, religious and historical events that have taken place in Christendom, it might be necessary now to determine the outcomes of the four hypotheses of the article.

(1)   There is no correlation between the suffering in Haiti and the worshipping of Voodoo religion.

Based on the facts enumerated above, there is no correlation between the suffering in Haiti and the worshipping of Voodoo in Haiti.  By extension, there is also no correlation between the worshipping of Ancestralism and suffering in Africa or elsewhere.  These are the reasons:

  1. Europe converted to Christianity, starting from the time the Roman Empire officially converted to Christianity in 378 CE. Yet, throughout the reign of the Church in Europe, there was much suffering.  The Dark Ages, in particular, was characterized by killings, destruction, pillaging and much more killings.   The Dark Ages was followed by the Christian crusades and the Viking invasion.
  2. The situation even affected advancement of knowledge as classical Greek and Roman scholarly works were destroyed.
  3. In an effort to make Christianity the only religion in the continent, the Catholic Church, working with the Holy Roman Empire, carried out crusades and inquisitions, burnt thousands of people to death, killed and imprisoned heretics and annihilated other branches of Christianity as demonstrated by the liquidation of the Cathars in France.
  4. Despite conversion to Christianity, the greatest wars ever fought in the history of the world took place in Christian Europe. The major wars included (1) The Christian crusades, (2) the Thirty-Year war, (3) the Crimean War, (4) the First World War and (5) the Second World War. Thus, the heart of Christendom witnessed the greatest human disasters, in terms of warfare.
  5. The conversion to Christianity did not prevent the Bubonic Plague and the Influenza from infecting Ancestralists, Buddhists, Christians, Moslems and members of other religions in the world.
  6. Indeed, the facts, as enumerated above, show that there is no correlation between the suffering in Haiti and the worshipping of Voodoo religion. The data show that Christian Europe has experienced much more pain and suffering than any other continent due to the mammoth nature of the wars that had taken place in that continent.
  7. Quite contrary to the stereotypical characterization of Voodoo as a devilish religion, it is like any other ancestral-based religion.  It is based on the worshipping of God through ancestral deities.  It has gods and goddesses, just like other African, Asian and Native American traditional shamanic religions.  It is considered a very sacred religion, hence, the priests and priestesses are called directly by divine entities to serve.  It is based on absolute truth since truthfulness is equated with godliness.  The gods and goddesses in Voodoo are equivalent to the Christian and Islamic angels.  The ancestral deities can be equated with the Christian saints.  Therefore, St. Michael in Christianity is equivalent to Ogun in Yorubaland and Egbesu in Ijawland.
  8. Thus, God and not the devil is at the core of all traditional African religions, including Voodoo. This is why the Acholis refer to God as Lubanga, the Kikuyus as Ngai, the Ijaws as Tamarau or Ayiba or Woyengi or Temeno, the Efiks and the Ibibios as Abassi, the Igbos as Chineke or Chukwu, the Yorubas as Olodumare (Olorun) or Oluwa, the Kongos as Nzamba a Mpungu, the Akans as Onyamea or Boreborea and many others, the Shonas as Mwari, the Zulus as u Thixo or Unkulukulu, the Oromos as Waaqi or Waqi, the Mandes as Mangala, Mandingos as Ndamanso or Mmariyo, the Hausas as Ubangidi, the Tivs as Aondo, the Urhobos as Ogene, the Edos as Osanobwa, the Nupes as Soko., and so on ans forth. Thus, there is a Supreme God, followed by various gods and goddesses that specialize in various aspects of existence and ancestral beings.  This is similarly to Christianity with a Supreme God, followed by angels and saints.  Therefore, it is utterly incorrect to assume that Voodoo is tantamount to worshipping of the devil.  Unlike Christianity and other globalized religions, African traditional religions, including Voodoo and Rastafari are not imperialistic.  This means that they do not force people to convert.  The religions are considered sacred because the religious priests and priestesses are chosen by godly entities and not by human beings.  Hence, the Haitians, Bakongos, Igbos, Kikuyus, Luos, Maasais,  Ijaws, Yorubas, Oromos, Afro-Cubans, Ambundus, Afro-Dominicans, Afro-Brazilians, Ovimbundus,  Hayas, Rastafarians, Chaggas, Mbutis, and so on and so forth, have never gone on religious crusades to convert people by force to embrace their  traditional religions, including Voodoo, Santeria, Trinidad Orisha, Palo,  Candomble, Quimbanda, and Umbanda.   These ancestral-based religions do not depend on written texts or the readings of sacred books to understand God since the godly essence manifests to those pure in heart at its own choosing.  Adherents can achieve a very high spiritual state of consciousness through spirit-possession.

 

2)   Conversion to Christianity will not stop suffering in Haiti, as the Christians claim

Based on the political, religious, and historical facts as enumerated above, Haitian conversion to Christianity will not make a difference regarding whether the people suffer or not.  The same applies to Sub-Saharan Africans since Voodoo is one of the African traditional religions.  These are the reasons for taking this position:

  1. Europeans converted to Christianity, yet, they underwent centuries of unimaginable suffering, involving unrestrained military warfare, rampaging, looting, killing and destruction.
  2. Europeans converted to Christianity, yet, they lost millions of people to the Bubonic Plague. Later, like the Africans, Asians, and Americans, Europeans also suffered from the Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919.
  3. European suffering started to diminish with the conquest of the Americas, Africa, and some parts of Asia due to the wealth confiscated from those territories. The Congolese paid dearly as King Leopold of Belgium exploited the resources and inflicted pain and destruction on the people.  Native Americans too paid dearly.  Thus, the wealth taken from different parts of the world helped to create wealth that eventually led to industrialization and economic development in Europe.  Thus, Christianity did not contribute to political and social stability in Europe.  It actually made life very difficult.
  4. The Europeans rejected Christianity and opted for secular humanism, which allowed progressive thinking and freedom to bloom in the continent. This accounted for why even in the twenty-first century, the church is still separated from the state in all Western countries, except the Vatican.
  5. The United States was founded based on Christian principles, yet, slavery dragged on even after the civil war. Native Americans paid dearly and are still suffering.  Minorities are still fighting for political, economic and judicial equality.  Actually, ideas originating from secular humanism have been responsible for enhancing progress in human and civil rights in the United States of America, Canada and Australia and not Christian ideas.
  6. While humanistic ideas are responsible for the progress made in the United States and other Western nations, Christianity has not changed the status of blacks in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Indeed, Afro-Mexicans are still treated as a non-existing group of people.  Alexis Okeowo (n.d.) noted when he visited Mexico:

The notion of race in Mexico is frustratingly complex.  This is a country where many are proud to claim African blood, yet discriminate against their darker

countrymen.  Black Mexicans complain that such bigotry makes it especially hard for them to find work.

 

Afro-Mexicans are among the poorest in the nation.  Many are shunted to remote shantytowns, well out of reach of basic public services, such as schools and hospitals.

In Peru, it was in 2009 that former President Alan Garcia Perez rendered an apology to black Peruvians for centuries of discrimination and racism.  He pleaded with public and private institutions to eradicate exclusion and racism (Guerra, 2009, December 8). Former President Alan Garcia Perez, who happened to be a Native American, made the apology. As a Native American, he knew the suffering that his people and black Peruvians have undergone in the country.  The World Bank noted:

Half of Afro-Peruvians have been insulted at least once on the street whereas

four of every 10 have felt discriminated against in their workplace or in shops

or other public spaces.

 

These figures are from the Center for Afro-Peruvian Studies and Promotion,

Which reports that despite some progress, Afro-Peruvians continue to be

Invisible to the government as well as much of society.

 

The country’s international image is tied mainly to its Inca heritage, to the

Machu Picchu and to the indigenous population. It is an image that ignores the

diversity and complexity of the human geography of Peru, especially

Afro-Peruvians (The World Bank, 2013, October 13).

In Brazil, despite the huge Afro-Brazilian population, a vast majority of blacks live at the periphery of society due to discrimination.  Brazilians, Mexicans, Peruvians, and other Latin Americans countries have converted to Christianity but Christianity has not stopped racial discrimination and neglect of Afro-Latin Americans.  They continue to remain generally invisible, in terms of education, health care, employment and political inclusion. Most blacks in Latin America live at the mercy of God, because the states do not care about them.

 

  1. Therefore, if Haitians convert en masse to Christianity, they would continue to experience some of the pain that they are going through now. The reason is that the Voodoo religion has nothing to do with their plight. There is no evidence of conversion to Christianity contributing to happiness anywhere.  Afro-Latinos and Native Americans are living witnesses to their marginalization and neglect, despite their conversion to Christianity.
  2. The clearest evidence that conversion to Christianity will not make any difference is Italy. Rome, which is in Italy, is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.    Despite its Christianity, Italy is dotted with earthquake fault lines.  This means that the country experiences earth tremors regularly. The fact that the country is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church has not prevented earth tremors from taking place.
  3. Obviously, the 27 points identified above show that conversion to Christianity would not prevent or stop natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes from occurring. Moreover, Christians have never been in peace with themselves.  Hence, despite the fact that all Christians read the Bible and follow the teaching of Jesus Christ, they are highly factionalized.  They are factionalized to the extent that Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholic Christianity are still in a state of cold war.  The Roman Catholics and the Protestants actually fought a hot war for thirty years (Thirty-Year War).   If the Christiansare at war with themselves, it is impossible for Christianity to stop suffering anywhere, including Haiti.

 

(3) Societies that have converted to Christianity suffer as much as societies that subscribe to other religions.

Many people in the world do not realize that Ancestralism, the worshipping of God through ancestral deities, is the most widespread religion in the world, not Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.  Although different societies use different names for their brand of Ancestralism but the main tenets remain the same.  Generally, it is possible to identify an ancestral religion by examining cultures which practice communalism and have strong respect for elders and ancestors.  Thus, Native Americans, Vietnamese, Thais, Chinese, Haitians, Nigerians, Gabonese, Ivorians, Togolese, Kenyans, Indians, Senegalese, Mongolians, Indians, Tanzanians, Togolese, Fijians, Hawaiians, Australian Aborigines, Samoans, Maoris, and so on and so forth, pay homage to their ancestors.  This is why it is an abomination to lie in the name of the ancestor in the aforementioned societies.  Therefore, not only in Haiti but in many parts of the non-Western world, underneath the façade of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, there is an ancestral-based religion like Voodoo whereby God is worshipped through the ancestors.  The ancestral religion often serves as the foundation for society’s morality, norms and mores. Apparently, any shamanic-oriented religion is an ancestral-based religion.

In this regard, it is not the case that wherever Ancestralism is worshipped as a religion, the people suffer.  By implication, Haitian difficulties have nothing to do with the Voodoo religion or the signing of a “pact with the devil.”  After all, Japan, experiences earthquakes regularly. The fact that Japan experiences earth tremors regularly does not mean that the Japanese worshipping of Shintoism and Buddhism is the cause.  Similarly, Chile experiences earthquakes regularly because it is located in an earthquake- prone zone.  Therefore, the frequent occurrence of earth tremors in the country cannot be attributed to Christianity.  Why is it that only in Haiti and in black Africa that unpleasant circumstances are attributed to the traditional religious culture while other societies that worship similar religions are not blamed when unfortunate situations happen?

Likewise, there is no evidence to support the view that conversion to Christianity will stop the suffering of the Haitian people.  The following provide a short list of instances in which Christianity has not lead to stability or happiness:

  1. Christians were at war with themselves in the formative years of the religion for the ideological soul of the religion, so much so that there were different factions preaching different ideas about the religion. Emperor Constantine decided to end the ideological warfare by convening the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE.  In the council, there was division of opinion concerning the status of Jesus Christ in relationship to God.
  2. Despite the fact that all Christians worship the same religion, Orthodox Christians and Agnostic Christians are not ideological bedfellows. Hence, the King James Version of the Bible represents the Orthodox view of Christianity and not the Agnostic view. This means that the Bible, especially the New Testament, does not represent the totality of Christian views about Jesus Christ and Christianity.
  3. Similarly, despite their Christianity, the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church have been in a state of cold war for a long time. The feud between the two branches of Christianity has lasted for about a 1000 years. In fact, in February 2016, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill and the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis met in Cuba in an attempt to resolve their differences (Yardley, 2016, February 12),
  4. After the Martin Luther rebellion in 1617, the Protestant Reformation resulted in a split in the Catholic Church, leading to the establishment of Protestant Christianity.
  5. Today, Evangelical Christianity is spreading all over the Christian world as exponents vigorously campaign to win converts. Haiti, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America are battle zones as the evangelicals want to convert even Catholic Christians into their ranks.
  6. Even though Ireland is a Christian country, the Irish people have had problems since the Christian Church split into the Catholic and Protestant branches. The religious conflict magnified when Henry VIII of England had a dispute with the Catholic Pope.  He renounced Rome’s authority and made himself the head of the Anglican Church in 1536.  The Catholic faith was suppressed while the Protestant faith was encouraged.   Hence, Protestants were encouraged from England and Scotland to settle in Ireland in an effort to dominate the Irish Catholics.  Following the crushing of the rebellion organized by the Earl of Tyrone (O’Neill and Earl of Tyrconnell (O’Donnell) in 1603, Irish lands were gradually confiscated while Protestant English and Scots were encouraged to settle in large numbers.  Thereafter, strong-arm military tactics were used to institute a tighter control over Ireland (Holloway, June 2005).  Peace came to Northern Ireland in the twentieth century between the two politico-religious factions. However, even today, the peace in Northern Ireland is very shaky.  Any misstep, either by the Catholics or the Protestants, can turn Northern Ireland into another bloody war zone again.  Thus, it could be said that Christianity has not helped the Irish at all. It magnified their problem by dividing them into two ideological camps.
  7. Christian Europe could be said to have suffered more than any other part of the world despite conversion to Christianity, as indicated by the historical facts above.
  8. Despite conversion to Christianity, many people continue to suffer from poverty and violence in Central America, just as in some parts of Africa.
  9. Finally, the 27 political, religious and historical points identified above indicate clearly that all nations go through challenging periods in their history, regardless of their religion.

 

 

(4) There are extraneous factors other than “a pact with the devil” that contribute to the situation in Haiti.

Rather than blame the Voodoo religion, it is more appropriate to look for other factors that might be responsible for contributing to the problems in Haiti.  The following might help to clarify the position taken:

  1. Haiti is a political victim of its successful revolution.  Even in the twenty-first century, there are Christians who find it difficult to accept the fact that Haitians relied on the spirituality of their ancestral religion to stage a revolution that led to their freedom from enslavement and colonialism in the early nineteenth century.
  2. The success of the revolution neutralized the Christian view that Christianity is the purest and most godly religion in the world. Thus, the success of the Haitian revolution  is a blight on the superiority of Christianity and the Christians are working very hard to clean that history by stigmatizing Voodoo.  Apparently, the struggle for the control of the spiritual souls of Haitians is similar to the struggle for the control of the spiritual souls of the Angolans, Dahomeyans (Beninois), Cameroonians, Chadians, Ghanaians, Congolese, Guineans, Kenyans, Nigerians, Malians, South Africans, Tanzanians, Ugandans, Zambians, Zimbabweans and so on and so forth.  In other words, the Christian war against Haitian Voodoo is a war against African Ancestralism. The Jews have been fighting to stand on their religious faith for about two thousand years now and the Christians have been making it exceedingly difficult for them to be Jews. Jews are constantly victimized by violence perpetrated by Christians in the West.
  3. Due to the fact that Haitians overthrew a highly regarded European leader, the West still continues to be hostile towards them. This is why successive Western interventions in Haiti have tended to drag it backwards, thereby, stunting political and economic development while increasing the suffering and pain of the people.
  4. Thus, Haitian experience in dealing with the West is similar to Sub-Saharan African experience in dealing with the West. Just has nothing good is spoken of Haiti, nothing good is spoken of Sub-Saharan Africa.  Just as most Westerners routinely refer to Haiti as a poor country, so most Westerners refer to Sub-Saharan Africa even though the facts are not necessarily correct. Most Westerners are not aware that Sub-Saharan Africa is highly urbanized with large cities.  The cities of Lagos and Kano in Nigeria and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), for example, have populations that are larger than the populations of the cities of New York, London, Cologne, Berlin, Barcelona, and Paris, yet, sub-Saharan Africans are generally viewed as “poverty-stricken, disease-ravaged wild game hunters and gatherers.” Haiti, like other Caribbean Islands, is located in both an earthquake and hurricane prone zones of the world.  This means that once in a while Haiti will either experience an earthquake, such as the one that took place in January 2010 or a hurricane, such as the one (Mathew) which struck on October 4, 2016 in Southwest Haiti, near Les Anglais.
  5. The Haitian situation, in regards to natural disasters, is not unique. For instance, Italy has experienced more than 100 magnitude 4 or more earthquakes since 2000.
  6. The most plausible reason to explain the difficult situation in Haiti is the “independence debt” that France imposed on the country after its independence. Forced to take a loan with a high interest rate, Haiti completed paying the debt in 1947.  The second most plausible reason is foreign interference, which severely inhibits the country’s ability to develop and modernize both politically and economically.

 

Conclusion

Firstly, it is obvious, based on the political, religious and historical facts enumerated above, that there is no correlation between the worshipping of Voodoo religion and suffering in Haiti.  Apparently, there is no iota of evidence to support the view that a “pact with the devil” is the cause of Haitian suffering. Secondly, there is no historical evidence to indicate that conversion to Christianity will stop suffering in Haiti.  In many parts of the world, Christianity actually contributes to religious and political problems which culminate in suffering.  Thirdly, all societies have suffered in one form or another, regardless of whether they subscribe to Voodoo or Buddhism or Christianity or Islam.  History shows that European societies which converted to Christianity have fought some of the most destructive wars since human existence.  Fourth, it is much more appropriate to attribute the problems Haiti faced to the “independence debt” and foreign interventions to dominate the country.  After all, Haiti (pre-independence colonial name – St. Dominique) was the richest French colony in the Caribbean before the inglorious debt wrecked the socioeconomic fabric of Haitian society.

It is inferable that Haiti is being punished for its revolutionary success in 1804 and not through a “pact with the devil,” as Evangelical Christians seemed to imply.  It is apt to conclude this article by quoting Jean-Marc Bouchet, a water trader in Haiti, who said:

We Haitians know that a big reason why we are suffering today is because we were

forced to pay France for our freedom.  If we were not punished for our independence

long ago, we would have had a better time” (The Guardian, 2015, May 15).

 

If Evangelical Christians are serious about enhancing the quality of life in the country, they should lobby the French government to pay back the “independence debt” it collected from the Haitians and not waste unnecessary time blaming the ancestral religion.  The United Nations, the European Union and the United States of America too should put pressure on France to return the funds it collected from the Haitian people.  It is superfluous in the twenty-first century for any group to insist that one religion is superior to another

 

 

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The Riddle of the Abducted Chibok School Girls

The Riddle of the Abducted Chibok School Girls

 

By Priye S. Torulagha

Torulaghareports.com

priyet@hotmail.com

 

If there is one issue that continues to boggle the mind, it is the case of the abducted Chibok school girls in Northeastern Nigeria.  The reason is that the more an individual makes attempt to comprehend the dynamics of the unfortunate incident, the more the person is left with a greater sense of bewilderment about how the matter unfolded.  It is like a story in a Greek tragi-comedy.  Hence, the story is filled with riddles, thereby, necessitating the asking of endless questions about what really happened in order to get to the bottom of the story. Unfortunately, the story never ends, thereby, adding further to the mystery.

It should be recalled that about two hundred and seventy six students from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok were abducted by the militant Boko Haram Islamic sect on April 14, 2014.  The abduction gained world-wide news coverage, resulting in demonstrations and the demand for the Nigerian Government to do everything possible to free the girls from their captors.  About 57 of the girls were able to escape from captivity in the immediate aftermath of the abduction.  However, a majority of the girls were not able to flee, hence, remained in captivity until security forces started to free some of them incrementally.  Former President Goodluck Jonathan was criticized by many Nigerians and some foreign governments for not acting fast enough to rescue the girls.  As a result, prior to the presidential election of March 28, 2015, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) party promised to expedite the rescuing of the kidnapped school girls, as soon as they get into power in Nigeria if they win the election.  The promise to act with military precision convinced many voters in the country to vote for Gen. Buhari and the APC party.  Eventually, Dr. Jonathan lost the presidential election and Gen. Buhari won.

Based on the campaign promises, Nigerians had high hopes that the girls would be speedily freed from captivity with Maj. Gen. Buhari serving as the president of the country and the All Progressives Congress (APC) ruling as the dominant political party.  President Buhari was sworn in as the head of state on May 29, 2015.  Again, like a riddle, despite the campaign promises, there has never been any speedy freeing of the girls as the Nigerian armed forces waged war to destroy the Boko Haram.  Instead, a few number of the girls were rescued through military operations while the majority of them remained in captivity.  Then, on October 13, 2016, 21 of the girls were freed Boko Haram through a negotiated deal Involving Nigeria, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government. The freeing of the 21 girls raised hopes again in Nigeria and throughout the world that the sad incident would come to an end soon.  Again, like a riddle, nothing else happened and the fate of the remaining girls are still unknown, thereby, raising much concern about their whereabouts.

The political pressure to resolve the matter compelled the Nigerian military to intensify its military operations.  It decided to attack the Sambisa Forest, which has been the major hideout of the Boko Haram from the group.  Eventually, on December 24, 2016, the Nigerian military was able to retake the forest, thereby, forcing the Boko Haram to flee in different directions.  With the retaking of the Sambisa forest, Boko Haram finally lost the last of its territorial stronghold in its self-declared Islamic caliphate.  Again, like a riddle, even the retaking of the Sambisa forest has not resulted in freeing of the remaining Chibok girls.  In short, the girls were not found in the forest.  If the Sambisa Forest was the stronghold of the violent group and no Chibok girls were found, then the question as to where they are looms large again.  So, where are the remaining Chibok girls?  Perhaps, some of them might have been killed during military operations.  However, what about the others?

It should be noted that Nigerian, Cameroonian, Chadian and Nigerien military forces have rescued thousands of abducted civilians.  Despite the successes in doing so, the remaining Chibok girls are still in captivity somewhere that the military forces and intelligence agencies have not been able to locate.

Were the Girls actually abducted or Not?

When the heart-breaking news of the abduction of the students of Chibok Government Girls Secondary School captured the attention of the world, there was a debate about the authenticity of the abduction.  In Nigeria, the debate was very intense.  Some Nigerians strongly believed that the kidnapping was a politically staged event intended to create the impression that former President Jonathan was a weak, clueless and incompetent leader.  The doubters insisted that the staged event was part of the tactical actions taken by some very powerful political leaders in the country to make the country ungovernable so that President Jonathan and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) could be defeated in the presidential election that was scheduled for March 2015.  Following this line of thinking, the doubters continue to maintain that the girls are kept in safe houses owned by powerful political and religious individuals who are working with the Boko Haram to score political points and create personal sources of wealth.

On the other hand, those who believed that the abduction in April 14, 2104 was an actual event, maintained that Boko Haram took the action single-handedly to embarrass the government and to impress upon Nigerians that it was winning the war against the armed forces.  The believers castigated those who viewed the kidnapping as a staged event for being too cynical.  They hoped and prayed that the government would take whatever action deemed necessary to free the remaining students from bondage.  They continue to maintain that the kidnapping was real and should be treated as such. 

The Logistics of the Kidnapping Operation

For those who doubted the authenticity of the abduction, the logistical capability of Boko Haram to plan and execute the operation so swiftly without any hitch, seemed to bother them the most.   At the time of the kidnapping, Boko Haram had not established a protective territorial base. This meant that they were operating in a classic guerrilla fashion, moving from place to place and attacking different targets.  Thus, without a permanent territorial base, it was logistically impossible for a mobile guerrilla force to plan so ambitiously to attack a school and kidnap more than 250 people at the same time, considering the fact that at the time, the Northeast region was under military emergency.  People wondered about the capability of the Boko Haram to abduct the students and drive them away in a number of vehicles without being seen by any branch of the Nigerian armed forces and the police that were posted to the region?

Moreover, the doubters questioned the ability of the group to capture and keep in custody over two hundred human beings.  The reason is that it takes a lot of money, food and other necessities to provide for more than two hundred people on daily basis.  Moreover, under normal circumstances, the toilet needs of the captives would make it exceedingly challenging for a guerrilla force to keep such a large number of people for any length of time without tactical support from some members of the community.  Indeed, even a regular conventional military force might find it challenging to capture, keep and maintain two hundred people.  Therefore, the issue of logistics tends to create doubt about the capability of Boko Haram to carry out such an operation by itself at that time without getting support from some powerful individuals in society who provided money, housing, food and health care to the captives.

The Effort to rescue the Girls

The effort to rescue the Chibok girls too is filled with riddles, thereby, confounding the matter.

First, initially, the Nigerian military was powerless to create an immediate impact militarily since it was penetrated by elements that were sympathetic to Boko Haram.  Fifth-columnists within the armed forces enabled the Boko Haram to operate without fear, hence, it was able to strike at any target it wanted, especially in the northern parts of the country.

Second, many Nigerian soldiers felt that the situation was hopeless due to poor and unworkable equipment.  Some actually ran away and refused to fight, claiming that it was suicidal to confront the Boko Haram without effective weaponry.  It was this period that enabled Boko Haram to capture a large territory and declared the Islamic Caliphate.

Third, the search for the abducted girls did not proceed at a pace many Nigerians expected.  There were too many political and logistical obstacles that disadvantaged the Nigerian military while providing advantage to the Boko Haram.

Fourth, it took a change of army leadership for Nigeria to make progress in pushing the group back. Thus, before the presidential election of March 2015, the Nigerian Army, under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah, became very successful in actually recapturing territory from Boko Haram.  This allowed the citizens of the region to vote in the presidential election of March 28, 2015. Thus, by the time Dr. Jonathan left office, about 50 to 70% of the territory that Boko haram occupied had been retaken from the group.

Fifth, despite successful military effort to drastically degrade the capability of Boko Haram, under the Army leadership of Lt. Gen.  Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the Army has not been able to locate the remaining abducted girls.  As a result, the 21 girls that were rescued took place through a negotiated effort and not through military operation.  Some Nigerian believed that the federal government paid fabulously, in addition to releasing a number of captured commanders of the organization before the girls were released to the International Committee of the Red Cross.  The government denied any payment but doubting Nigerians wondered why Boko Haram released 21 captives without any precondition. The question of whether money was paid or not added to the mystery surrounding the Chibok girls.

Sixth, the most surprising riddle about the effort to rescue the Chibok girls was the sudden departure of the United States, Britain and France from the search effort after volunteering to do so.  The US and the other Western countries left without informing or explaining to the world the information they gathered about the kidnapped girls.  The sudden departure forced some Nigerians to speculate that, perhaps, the US, Britain and France might have discovered that the kidnapping was a staged political event, hence, they packed and left. Sadly, up till today, no explanation has been given for the sudden departure from the search effort by the United States.  The suddenness of the departure simply adds to the mystery of the abducted school girls.

The Rescued Girls and the Great Silence

Another interesting aspect of the Chibok girls riddle is the unwillingness of those who are familiar with the case to speak publicly about it. Generally, in any kidnapping or abduction situation, as soon as the victim is released from captivity, the media would try to conduct a personal interview in order to get the full story out.  Sometimes, it is the victim who decides to hold a press conference to explain what happened.  In the case of victims involving minors, the parents often make the effort to inform the world about what happened to their children while they were in captivity.  For instance, in the kidnapping cases involving minors such as Ese Oruru, Ifeoma Odugusi, Habiba Isyaku, Progress Jacob, Blessing Gopep, Linda Christopher, Lucy Ejeh,  and Patience Paul, the parents spoke to the  press and informed the world about their painful experiences.  Yet, in the Chibok girls’ case, no one is willing to speak openly about the matter.  The silence is a great mystery that defies common logic in dealing with abduction cases.

First, the few Chibok girls who were rescued through military operations were never allowed to speak directly to the media and explain their experiences during captivity after they had been debriefed by the military and intelligence agencies.  If the girls had been allowed to speak to the media and narrate their experiences, the doubt about the authenticity of the kidnapping would have disappeared.

Second, the 21 girls who were released from captivity through a negotiated deal have not been allowed to speak about their personal experiences in an open manner.  After a group picture of their release was taken, they were immediately whisked away and made to remain very quiet about their ordeal.  The 21 girls are now free but remain psychologically imprisoned by being compelled to remain invisible and voiceless.  Why?

Third, a very baffling thing is that the parents of the girls that have been rescued are not eager to speak to the media in an open manner.  Generally, parents always want to speak and inform the world about what happened to their children while they were in captivity.  In the case of the Chibok girls, the parents are almost invisible. They also remain voiceless, like the children.  The silence on the part of the parents tends to create the impression that there is more to the story than the public is made to believe. It appears that neither the children nor the parents are at liberty to speak about their experiences. This creates the impression that there might be other explanations.

Fourth, Chibok is an African community with communal traditions. This means that when something happens to the community, the leaders of the community would speak to clear the air.  In the case of the Chibok girls, the Chibok community does not seem to act in a communal manner to protect the community.   The community leaders remain voiceless and are not eager to explain to the world the experiences of their children.  This is contrary to the behavior that happens elsewhere.  In the Agatu, Nimbo and Southern Kaduna killings, community leaders and the victims spoke about their personal experiences to the entire world.   They even gave specific details about what precipitated the killings.  In the case of the Chibok community, the leaders, like the parents of the girls and the victims, remain speechless and voiceless.  The speechlessness further adds to the riddle about the authenticity of the abduction.

Fifth, the federal government too behaves very strangely.  Generally, when security forces are able to successfully carry out an operation to rescue victims of kidnapping or terrorism, the military branch that was responsible for carrying out the operation will hold a press conference and speak about the operation.  While addressing the press, the rescued victims are allowed to speak briefly about their experiences before taking the next step.  In the case of the Chibok girls, neither the military nor the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture is willing to allow the girls to address or speak to the media.  The 21 girls were released in October 2015 and Nigerians still have not heard directly from them about their experiences.  The world is still waiting anxiously to hear directly from the mouths of the victims.  It seems that they are in a protective custody.

The Media

The riddle of the Chibok girls is further reinforced by the fact that even the Nigerian media are not too eager to interview the girls. Ordinarily, journalists would have been crawling all over the Chibok area in an attempt to get first-hand information from the rescued girls about their ordeal. By now, reporters and editorial writers would have made comments about the difficulty of speaking to the girls on first-hand basis. It is amazing that Nigerian journalists made strenuous efforts to speak to victims of other incidents in the country, yet, do not seem to show any concerted effort in speaking either to the girls or the parents of the girls directly.  Why?  Is anything preventing them from interviewing the girls directly about their ordeal? Even during the heydays of armed opposition in the Niger Delta, both national and international journalists took the risk to find their way to speak to the fighters in the creeks.  Similarly, the Niger Delta armed groups allowed journalists to take pictures of their captives.  Yet, in the Chibok case, it is a journalistic no-go-area.

Civil Society Organizations

Like the Nigerian media, civil society organizations too seem to behave in a manner that creates a feeling of doubtfulness about the matter.  When the abduction took place, demonstrations and protests were mounted by various groups to put pressure on the government to free the girls.  In particular, the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group captured the attention of the world by mounting demonstrations and speaking in various venues to highlight the unfortunate issue.  However, since some of the girls gained freedom from captivity, suddenly, the civil society groups too have not been eager or interested in speaking to the girls directly and informing the whole world about what happened.  Why are they also maintaining silence? This is puzzling indeed.    

Captured Boko Haram Fighters as Sources of Intelligence about the Girls

There is no doubt that Nigerian, Chadian, Nigerien and Cameroonian military forces have captured thousands of Boko Haram fighters.   Some of the individuals captured were probably top military commanders of the group.  This means that by now, Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon should have been able to obtain reliable information that would have resulted in locating the places in which the remaining abducted girls are kept.   The reason is that, generally, captured enemy troops are always excellent sources of reliable information for unraveling the secrets of the enemy.  This has always been the proven methodology in every war that has been fought throughout the history of the world.  Yet, the war against the Boko Haram seems to turn a common military practice for gathering intelligence upside down.  Why is it so difficult to locate the remaining girls when the Boko Haram movement, as reported by Nigerian authorities, has been degraded to the point of defeat?  It is very difficult to accept the view that the armed forces and intelligence agencies of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon have not been able to obtain critical intelligence from some of the captured enemy fighters.  The lack of appropriate intelligence after almost two years of engaging the Boko Haram, further adds to the mystery of the Chibok girls’ case.

The rescued Girls as Sources of Intelligence

Apart from gathering critical intelligence from captured enemy fighters, another way in which information could be obtained is through speaking to those civilians that have been rescued through military operations.  It is a fact that military operations conducted by Nigerian, Chadian, Nigerien and Cameroonian military forces against the Boko Haram have resulted in rescuing of hundreds, if not thousands of abducted children and adults.  There is no doubt that some of those who have been rescued through military operations have important information about the hidden operational bases of Boko Haram.  Therefore, it is befuddling that critical intelligence that can lead to the location of the remaining Chibok girls has not been obtained from those freed from captivity.  Again, this defies common military tactics to gather intelligence for waging war.

Negotiating to Release the Remaining Girls

Not only Nigerians but quite a substantial number of people in the world are baffled that Nigeria is still negotiating with Boko Haram to free the remaining girls after the federal government announced that the group has been defeated, following the retaking of Sambisa Forest. Again, this defies a common military practice.  Generally, when an enemy has been defeated, it would make concessions in return for a better treatment of its fighters by the victorious side.  If Boko Haram has been defeated, then, it is the responsibility of Nigeria to set a condition that all the remaining Chibok girls must be returned by the group before Nigeria decides to reintegrate its fighters into society and rehabilitate them without severe punishment.

Thus, it is a contradiction to indicate that Boko Haram has been defeated and yet, continue to negotiate with it as if it is still a durable force. The fact that Nigeria continues to negotiate with the group, almost on an equal basis, indicates that the group has been degraded but not defeated.  This is why Nigeria is still powerless to rescue the remaining girls without entering into serious negotiations with the group.  Apparently, contrary to the notion that the group has been defeated, Boko Haram has increasingly become very tactical and effective in targeting Nigerian military officers. Here again, the Chibok girls matter creates conditions for people to scream and scratch their heads in bewilderment.

Conclusion

Based on the points identified above, the behavior of the actors/stakeholders in the Chibok girls affair tends to becloud the authenticity of the abduction.  This is unfortunate, considering the pain that the girls, their parents and their communities have undergone. The entire world is waiting anxiously for the facts to be released to the public.  Snap-short commentaries by government officials and civil society groups are not sufficient to calm worried nerves of those who continue to sympathize with the girls.

Thus, when the aforementioned riddles are combined with the reports that N500 million that was budgeted to build the Government Girls Secondary School under the Safe School Fund cannot be accounted for, in addition to the reports that many refugees in the Internally Displaced Program (IDP) camps are starving and being malnourished, it is obvious that current official explanations are not sufficient to douse the view that there must be other explanations. Additionally, the unfortunate bombing of the IDP camp in Raan by the Nigerian Airforce, further adds to the multitudes of questions that need answers.

It is indeed unfortunate that the more an analytical attempt is made to comprehend the abduction, the more questions seem to pop up.  Apparently, the Chibok girls’ abduction issue will not go away, even if all the girls are rescued or released, until the truth of the matter is released to the global community about what really happened. At the moment, the girls who have been rescued are still in captivity even though they are supposedly free.  The reason is that they are not free to express themselves publicly and must remain in great silence like captured prisoners of war. They and their parents are forced to exist in a state of invisibility.  It is sad and painful.

 

 

 

 

 

The International Criminal Court: A Review

The International Criminal Court: A Review

Priye S. Torulagha

priyet@hotmail.com

Torulaghareports.com

 

The Necessity for the International Criminal Court

It has always been problematic in enforcing International law since independent states have sovereignty. Moreover, it was generally assumed in the past that political leaders of the states had sovereign immunity, therefore, they could not be easily arrested, indicted and prosecuted as other citizens due to their special status, even when they committed crimes against humanity. Added to this was the fact that there was no designated international agency or organization that was responsible for enforcing international law as it is the case in national or domestic law. In order to solve the problem, 160 countries met in Rome on July 17, 1998 to draft a treaty for the establishment of a permanent international criminal court. The treaty became the Rome Statute of the Permanent International Criminal Court.

Eventually, the ICC was established in 2002. Its main purpose is to deter and prevent the occurrence of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide or mass atrocities by investigating, prosecuting and trying individuals accused of committing such crimes.   The ICC came into existence at the most pressing time since there was a need to fill a void that existed in the international law arena, as indicated above. Although, after the 2nd World war, trials were carried out against German and Japanese political and military officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity, however, there was no formalized institution geared towards arresting, charging, and prosecuting individuals who committed unspeakable dastardly acts against people.

Thus, the ICC is to ensure that individuals who violate human rights face prosecution, just as those who commit crimes under domestic or national law face arrest, prosecution and possible imprisonment.

Consequently, due to its noble duty, the ICC received immediate approval and support globally as soon as it was established. Indeed, the birth of the ICC increased hope and assurance that finally, political and military leaders, public officials and non-state public figures who commit monstrous acts against people would be compelled to answer questions in the court of law, regardless of their position in society. It is notable that the Thirty-year War (May 23, 1618 – May 15, 1648) in Europe between the Catholics and Protestants and led by European monarchs contributed to the deaths of about 20 percent of the German population. The First World War claimed more than twenty million lives, including combatants and non-combatants. The atrocities committed during the First World War paled in comparison to the heinous crimes committed during the Second World War. About fifty million people died during this war. The abuse of women and children in conflict situations escalated during the middle and later part of the twentieth century. Likewise, the later part of the twentieth and early part of the twenty-first centuries experienced an increase in the use of children to fight bloody wars.

Apart from atrocities committed during wars against combatants and non-combatants, many political and military leaders, especially in the Third World, have been very horrendous, due to a desire to remain in power for life or enrich themselves through massive looting of public resources. They abuse human rights of their citizens by unleashing security forces against them and act with impunity to create fear by unnecessarily arresting, detaining, imprisoning and killing opponents or those they regard as “enemies.” The Balkan wars of the 1990s and the Rwandan genocide in 1994 increased the impetus for prosecutorial action. Therefore, an international court capable of bringing to justice political leaders and individuals who abused human rights was necessary and overdue. Hence, the great appreciation in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Middle East and Europe when the International Criminal Court was established in 2002.

HOW the ICC Operates    

To ensure that the court is able to operate without undue political interference, the International Criminal Court is an autonomous body. This means that it is not an agency of the United Nations. Hence, it does not need a special mandate from the U.N. to operate. However, since the ICC and the U.N. need to harmonize their relationship so that the court can become much more effective and efficient in carrying out its duties, both signed an agreement to govern the institutional relationship between them in October 4, 2004.

Similarly, to ensure judicial objectivity and avoid undue influence by its financiers, the ICC receives funding through multiple sources, including states and voluntary contributions from international organizations, individuals, corporations, and governments.

To minimize impinging on the sovereignty of the states, the ICC exercises its jurisdiction on the states that signed the Rome Statute of Permanent International Criminal Court. This means that those states that signed the treaty are obligated to submit themselves to the jurisdiction of the ICC on crimes stipulated in the Statute. However, states that are not party to the Rome Statute may also allow the court to carry out its jurisdictional activities in their territories if individuals from those states commit crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. States that are not party to the Rome Statute may also choose to allow the jurisdiction of the ICC extended to their territories in order to abide by the prevailing custom of upholding international law, and subscribing to various conventions and protocols.

The ICC supplements the services of national or domestic courts and is not to replace them. Thus, it helps to strengthen the ability of the national or domestic courts in carrying out their duties in areas dealing with human rights, war crimes, child protection, women protection and other crimes against humanity. If national or domestic courts are able to carry out their responsibilities in an effective manner without intimidation or threat from individuals or political and military leaders of the states, the ICC may not intervene by extending its jurisdiction. However, if national or domestic courts are not able to fulfill their responsibilities due to threats from political and military leaders and powerful individuals within the states, then the ICC may extend its jurisdiction and ensure that perpetrators of various violations are brought to justice while at the same time protecting the victims from retaliatory attacks.

Additionally, the ICC’s jurisdiction is time-bounded in the sense that it cannot get involved in cases which took place prior to its creation. Consequently, it only investigate cases that started after its statute of creation took effect in July 1, 2002. Therefore, victims of human rights incidents that occurred prior to July 2002 must seek other means to address their grievances. This stipulation prevents the ICC from trying cases retroactively.

The ICC has about 34 judges and over 700 staff. It operates on an annual budget of about $166 million. Some people believe that the ICC is an expensive operation and is not cost-effective when its conviction rate is measured against its annual operational expenditure. Some people have argued that instead of spending so much money on the ICC, the funds should be granted to the states to strengthen their national and local courts and judicial institutions.

The Limitations (Weaknesses) of the ICC

Structurally and operationally, the ICC is a cutting-edge legal instrument designed to enforce a global standard for respecting human rights of individuals and groups, based on the principle of natural law. However, despite the nobility of its creation, the court has some limitations that tend to inhibit its ability to enforce human rights universally. The following attest to the court’s weaknesses:

  1. Some of the states in the international system appear to operate outside the jurisdiction of the ICC, regarding human rights. Therefore, countries like the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and so forth, seem to be above international law concerning crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. As a result, individuals from these countries that have been alleged to have committed crimes against humanity are rarely arrested and prosecuted by the ICC. The ICC does not seem eager to extend its jurisdiction to such countries, even if there is a compelling evidence to do so.
  2. Following the perception that the aforementioned countries are technically above international law, the ICC tends to behave like law enforcement agencies and prosecutors at the national or domestic level. It seems very selective in filing charges against political and military leaders, high-level public officials and public figures accused of committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. It does so by targeting individuals from mostly the less developed world and ignore those from the developed and powerful military countries. This pattern of selective prosecution is common in domestic law where law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in almost every country in the world tend to apply the full weight of the law against those in society who are powerless politically and financially to mount effective legal defense against them. On the other hand, they tend to avoid cases in which they are less likely to win without putting a considerable amount of effort. This is why throughout the world, it is mostly members of the middle and lower classes which fill up the prisons.   In the US, the president-elect, Mr. Donald trump, clearly demonstrated the fact that the rich can get away with so many things while those in the middle and lower classes cannot when he said publicly during the presidential debate that he avoided paying taxes because the system allowed him to do so.
  3. Similarly, the ICC seems very hesitant in threatening and filing charges against political and military leaders of Third World countries who have strong ties with Western nations. On the other hand, it does not hesitate to threaten, file charges and possibly arrest the political and military leaders of countries that have little or no ties with Western nations.
  4. Since Sub-Saharan African countries do not seem to have any measurable influence in the international political, military and economic arena, they are treated as semi-autonomous political entities rather than sovereign states. As a result, their political and military leaders, public officials and public figures always face a high probability of being indicted, arrested and prosecuted for alleged abuse of human rights by the ICC. The court is always eager to extend its jurisdiction to Sub-Saharan African countries at the slightest rumor or allegation of human rights violation.
  5. Following the perception that cases of human rights violations are selectively investigated, the ICC does not seem much interested in filing charges and prosecuting political and military leaders that have been responsible for the destructive and bloody wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. , Even the maltreatment of Rohingya Moslems in Myanmar did not catch the eye of the ICC when they were driven away from their communities through violence to flee into neighboring countries. On the other hand, in Africa, any slight rumor or allegation of human rights abuse is immediately investigated in an effort to file charges against someone for crimes against humanity.
  6. Due to the selective manner of enforcing of its statute, the ICC seems to redefine crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in such a manner that if a Western nation engages in such acts, the crimes are treated as non-felonious crimes, but if any country in the Third World, especially in Africa, engages in such acts, the leaders are immediately threatened with arrest. The perceived double standard prompted Gambia to withdraw from the court.
  7. Reuters reported “The government of Gambia said on Thursday it was withdrawing from the International Criminal Court , accusing the world body of ignoring the ‘war crimes’ of Western nations and seeking to prosecute Africans.”
  8. The ICC does not seem to treat the unnecessary killing of civilians through collateral damage inflicted by manned and unmanned aircrafts as constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity. As a result, Afghan, Syrian and Yemeni civilians are paying a terrible price for lack of action by the ICC to reduce the incidents of collateral damage.
  9. The apparent double standard tends to create the impression that some countries have sovereignty while others do not.   As a result, the less powerful countries are easily subjected to the jurisdiction of the ICC as soon as an allegation is made against them. Similarly, individuals from the less powerful countries, especially in Africa, are easily indicted for crimes against humanity. This is why the list of individuals that have been charged with crimes against humanity is mostly filled with African political and military leaders, public officials and public figures. The list includes: 1. Bahr Abu Garda (Darfur, Sudan, 2. Abdalah Banda (Darfur, Sudan, 3. Omar al-Bashir (Darfur, Sudan, 4. Ahmed Haroun (Darfur, Sudan), 5. Abdel Rahim Hussein (Darfur, Sudan, 6.Saleh Jerbo (Darfur, Sudan), 7. Ali Kushayb (Darfur, Sudan), 8. Mohammed Ali (Kenya), 9. Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), 10. Henry Kosgey (Kenya), 11.Francis Muthaura (Kenya), 12. William Ruto (Kenya), 13. Joshua Sang (Kenya), 14. Jean Pierre Bemba (Central African Republic), 15. Germain Katanga (Democratic Republic of the Congo DRC), 16. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, DRC), 17. Callixte Mbarushimana (DRC), 18. Sylvester Mudacumura Bosco Ntaganda (DRC), 19. Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui (DRC), 20. Charles Ble Goude (Ivory Coast), 21. Laurent Gbagbo (Ivory Coast), 22. Simonne Bgagbo (Ivory Coast), 23. Muammar Gaddafi (Libya), 24. Saif al-Islam (Libya), 25. Abbdullah Senussi (Libya), 26. Joseph Kony (Uganda), 27. Raska Lukwiya (Uganda), 28. Okot Odhiambo (Uganda), 29. Dominic Ongwen (Uganda), 30. Vincent Otti (Uganda), 31. Ahmadi al-Mahdi (Mali). Of the list, three individuals have been tried and convicted after trial in courts organized by the ICC. Those convicted are: Thomas Lubanga Dyilo (DRC), 2. Germain Katanga (DRC) and 3. Jean-Pierre Bemba (CAR). Of course, President Omar al- Bashir of Sudan is still a wanted man by the ICC.
  10. The performance of the court, so far, also tends to create the impression in the minds of many Africans that it is a tool by Western nations to control their former colonies and countries that are not friendly to the Western world. Thus Russia, like the African countries, is increasingly viewing the ICC as a tool for the extension of Western geopolitical strategic interest. Following the perception of selective enforcement and prosecution of crimes against humanity by the ICC, three African countries, namely, Burundi, South Africa and Gambia have decided to withdraw from the court. To justify its withdrawal, South Africa indicated that the Rome Statute is in conflict with its law, which gives diplomatic immunity to sitting leaders. It should be recalled that South Africa had objected to arresting President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, as required by the Rome Treaty, when he visited the country despite an ICC arrest order. Russia too has decided to withdraw from the court. To justify the withdrawal, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that “the court did not justify hopes assigned to it and failed to act as a truly independent authoritative body of international justice.” There is no doubt that other countries might decide to vacate the ICC, strongly believing that it is biased against them. Kenya and Uganda too are in a contemplative stage, wondering whether to quit the ICC or not. The African Union too is worried of the lopsided manner in which African leaders and personalities are targeted for indictment and prosecution.

Should the International Criminal Court be Abolished?

In light of the selective manner in which cases involving crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide are developed, should the ICC be abolished? The answer is definitely No. Despite the limitations identified above, the ICC is very essential to the development, modernization and institutionalization of democracy, human rights and governance in the world, especially in Africa. While statistically, African political and military leaders, public officials and public figures have been the most targeted for indictment, arrest and prosecution dealing with human rights violations by the ICC, African leaders have not been very helpful to themselves. In other words, the behaviors of some African leaders tend to create the need for the ICC to go after them. It is a fact that more than any other continent in the world, especially in the early part of the twenty-first century, it is in Africa and the Middle East, where political and military leaders try to institutionalize themselves as leaders for life. Some African and Middle Eastern leaders have ruled for more than twenty years and continue to remain in power. Some of the leaders want to create political dynasties by making sure that their children replace them as political leaders after they vacate their public offices. Some have no qualms about changing the constitutions of their countries in order to allow them to run for office repeatedly. Some encourage tribalism and regionalism by filling critical government positions with officials from particular ethnic groups and regions and clamping down on other ethnic groups and regions. Some promote one religion against other religions and marginalize those who do not belong to the chosen religions. Some use political thugs during elections to cause violence and intimidate the opposition.

A considerable number of African and Middle Eastern leaders rely excessively on security crackdowns to maintain themselves in power. As a result, they spend substantially on security and ignore other important sectors of society in their budgetary allocations. In many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, minority ethnic groups are marginalized and discriminated. The behavior of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh clearly demonstrates the view that African leaders are sometimes their worst enemies. After initially accepting an electoral defeat following the presidential election of December 1, 2016, the Gambian ruler changed his mind and refused to step down to allow President-elect Adama Barrow to take over the leadership of the country. Now, members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are threatening to remove him by force if he does not vacate the presidential office voluntarily. The Gambian situation is similar to the situation in Ivory Coast which warranted the international community to use military force to evict former President Laurent Gbagbo from power. Mr. Jammeh’s behavior dampens the spirit of statesmanship demonstrated by former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and President John Mahama of Ghana who conceded defeat after losing presidential elections to their opponents.

Due to the tendency to abuse power in the continent, in addition to the fact that many African countries have weak governmental institutions, the only institution capable of protecting and speaking for defenseless citizens is the ICC. Therefore, it is absolutely critical for the International Criminal Court to remain in force. Without the ICC to watch over misbehaving political and military leaders in the world, those victimized might not have anywhere to go to seek justice for crimes committed against them. Therefore, it is understandable why many human rights and legal groups in the continent are pleading with South Africa to return to the ICC since it is a major country in Africa.

Thus, while it is possible to accuse the ICC of being biased and selective in enforcing human rights in Africa, on the other hand, it is arguable that the high number of African cases might have been prompted by the high number of petitions and allegations made by African citizens and governments. Thus, it appeared that out of nine cases that the ICC looked into, African governments brought six, the United Nations brought two and the ICC brought one. This indicates that most cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide that the ICC investigated were instigated by African governments. Apparently, the ICC could be pardonable of the charges that it is biased.

Suggestions for Enhancing ICC Performance

Indeed, it would be a mistake to get rid of the ICC. The world needs it to serve as the sheriff to guard behavior and encourage respect for human rights. However, there are certain measures that could be taken to make the ICC much more representative in enforcing human rights.

  1. All cases of human rights abuses must be treated equally, regardless of the country or region. This means that if an African political or military leader or public official or public figure is accused of committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, the individual should be called upon to answer questions in the court of law. Similarly, if a Western political or military leader or public official or public figure is accused of committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, the individual too should be called upon to answer questions in the court of law. The ICC can no longer close its eyes toward crimes committed by Western leaders and their allies in the Third World while subjecting other leaders to undue threats of arrest and prosecution.
  2. The ICC should extend its jurisdiction all over the world since under natural law all human beings have natural rights, regardless of whether their countries signed the Rome Treaty or not. This means paying a closer attention to all regions of the world and being willing to take appropriate action if any case of human rights violation is alleged.
  3. It is necessary for the ICC to investigate clandestine activities that foreign powers engage in through proxy wars that lead to massive violation of human rights in many developing countries. There is no doubt that many conflicts in Africa, Middle East, Latin America and Asia are tactically sponsored by foreign states. Therefore, in conflict situations, apart from arresting military commanders on the ground who are accused of violating human rights, it is necessary to investigate those who sponsor the conflicts, in the first place.
  4. The ICC need to extend its jurisdiction to enable it to prosecute arms dealers who encourage bloody conflicts so that they can sell their arms and make huge profits.   This is very important because causative factors for instability are as important as the symptoms. So far, the ICC seems to be only treating the symptoms while ignoring the causative factors that breed conflict, which ultimately results in the violation of human rights in many developing countries. The United Nations too could be accused of ignoring the causative factors while dealing with the symptoms.
  5. Additionally, if a foreign power supports a dictator or an authoritarian leader who violates human rights of its citizens, the leaders of the foreign power should also be held accountable as the dictator since the dictator is encouraged through the support of the foreign power to act in ways that lead to the violation of human rights. This is one area of international politics that needs to be explored juridically in international law.
  6. African political and military leaders should think critically before signing any international treaty or protocol or convention. International or multilateral treaties, protocols and conventions should only be signed after carefully weighing the implications.
  7. African leaders, from now on, should make the effort to ensure that any proposal for international treaty or convention or protocol includes a language that reflects African cultural perspective before signing such a proposal. Quite often, African political and military leaders sign many bilateral and multilateral treaties, conventions and protocols without paying attention to the cultural and political implications. This is why the African point of view is rarely given credence by the international community before drafting binding resolutions, conventions and protocols that carry the weight of enforceable law.
  8. The ICC must take proactive steps to eradicate the impression that it is discriminative in the selection of cases involving crimes against humanity, otherwise, it might end up with no credibility and defeat the purpose of its creation.

 

References

Ba, Oumar. (2016, February 3). Who is Laurent Gbagbo and why is he on trial at the ICC. The Washington Post. Retrieved on December 30, 2016, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-c

Chan, S. and Simons. (2016, October 21). South Africa to withdraw from International Criminal Court. The New York Times. Retrieved on December 30, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/22/world/Africa/

U expresses regret at Russia’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (2016, November 17. Premium Times. Retrieved on November 17, 2016, from http://www.premiumtimesng.com/foreign/world-f

Gambia announces withdrawal from International Criminal Court. (2016, October 26). Reuters. Retrieved on December 30, 2016, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-gambia-icc-idU

Origin and purposes of the ICC. (2012, April 5). Invisible Children. Retrieved on November 18, 016, from http://www.invisblechildren.com/blog…/origin -and-purpose-of-the-international-criminal-court.

Understanding the ICC. (n.d.) ICC. Retrieved on November 18, 2016, from https://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/pids/publications/uicceng.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Syrian Conflict and the Difficulty of Defining Who is a Terrorist

The Syrian Conflict and the Difficulty of Defining Who is a Terrorist

By Priye S. Torulagha

priyet@hotmail.com

torulaghareports.com

 

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to explore the relationship between the Syrian conflict and terrorism by identifying and analyzing the non-state armed groups that are fighting for or against the Syrian regime, and the countries that support them. In doing so, the definitional problem of determining who is a terrorist and which group is a terrorist organization is discussed. It is strongly believed here that the Syrian civil war is going to produce a large number of highly trained and experienced military veterans that might fill the ranks of future non-state armed groups. It is also believed that the Syrian conflict is going to generate enormous quantities of arms that would eventually end up in the arms of Al Qaeda, ISIS and other violent non-state armed groups if the situation is not well managed.

Indeed, the ongoing Syrian conflict has brought to the fore the complexity of dealing with terrorism. While terrorism can be defined as the use and or repeated threat of using violence to achieve a goal, it is much more difficult to identify or determine who is a terrorist and what entity constitutes a terrorist organization.

The reason is that terrorism is like beauty in the sense that it is in the eye of the beholder. While one individual might view the use and or the repeated threat of using violence to achieve a political or religious or an economic end as terrorism, another individual might view the same act as an instrument of liberation or freedom. Similarly, while an individual who uses violence or the repeated threat of using violence to achieve a political or religious or an economic goal could be regarded as a terrorist, another individual might view the same individual as a freedom fighter who is fighting to bring change or free people from political or religious or economic bondage. Likewise, while an organization dedicated to using violence to achieve a political or religious or an economic end might be viewed by an individual as a terrorist organization, the same organization could be regarded by another individual as a freedom fighting entity. As a result, while some people might regard Al Qaeda, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Boko Haram, Al Shabab, Taliban, Hezbollah, Houthie Rebels, and so on and so forth, as terrorist organizations, those who support them tend to regard them as freedom fighting organizations.

Thus, there seems to be no middle ground in approaching the issue of terrorism. Hence, an individual who uses violence to achieve a political or religious or an economic goal is either a terrorist or a freedom fighter. Due to the zero-sum manner in which the subject matter is dealt with, historically, it has always been a great challenge to resolve or eradicate terrorism. It continues to be so in the twenty-first century.

Hypotheses

1.The Syrian civil war dramatically shows the difficulty of defining who is a terrorist and which entity constitutes a terrorist organization. (2) The war against international terrorism is not winnable since the countries that fight the war also indirectly contributes to its proliferation, as the Syrian situation clearly shows. (3) The Syrian civil war is likely to contribute to the proliferation of sophisticated military weaponry in various parts of Africa, Middle East, Asia and Europe.

The difficulty of determining which group is a terrorist organization and who is a terrorist is demonstrated by the disagreement between the United States and Russia over the characterization of the non-state armed groups in the Syrian conflict. The disagreement arose following Russian effort to assist Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s National Defense Forces (NDF) to push back rebel forces that threaten his hold on power. To reinforce the NDF, Russian Airforce planes started bombarding rebel positions in September 30, 2015 (Zorthian, 2015, October 7). It turned out that some of the rebel forces that the Russians targeted in their military operations were members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The FSA included some rebel groups that the U.S. recruited, trained and armed to fight against the Syrian regime and the ISIS. The US reacted to the Russian bombing by saying that the Russians were bombing moderate Syrian rebel forces rather than the fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In response to the accusation, Russian officials replied that they were attacking terrorists. The Russian response indicated that it regards all militant or armed groups fighting against the Syrian regime as terrorist organizations. On the other hand, the US tends to view the armed groups it supports as moderate rebel forces rather than terrorist groups, hence, was puzzled that Russia bombed them, instead of ISIS fighters. Again, in June 2016, Russian Airforce was accused of attacking rebel forces supported by the United States. The U.S. Defense Secretary, Mr. Ash Carter, reacted to the Russian attack by saying “Here’s a case where they actually attacked forces that were fighting ISIL. And if that was their intention, that’s the opposite of what they said they were going to do, if not, then it says something about the quality of the information upon which they make airstrikes” (Schleifer &Starr, 2016, June 17).

On the other hand, the US military carried out an air strike that ended up killing 60 or more members of the Syrian military forces around September 16 or 17, 2016 when a cease-fire was supposed to take place. On realization that it had struck a Syrian military force rather than the ISIS or al Qaeda, the United States immediately rendered an apology through the Russian government to the Syrian state (Fox News, September 17, 2016). In reaction, Russia decided to invite the United Nations to investigate the matter, perhaps, suspecting that the bombing was a tactical effort to gain rebel advantage over Syrian forces during the cease-fire. Here again, it is evident that the Syrian conflict is increasing mutual suspicion between the two most powerful military states, thereby, reinforcing the Cold War between them.

The disagreement between the two great military powers concerning which group should be treated as a terrorist organization and which group should be regarded as a rebel force sharpened the discussion and brought to the fore the lack of global agreement on who is a terrorist and which organization constitutes a terrorist network. It also showed why the Syrian conflict is very complicated and difficult to resolve. Indeed, in Syria, the military situation is so muddled up that it is difficult to make any sense of the conflict as the parties to the conflict continue to unleash violence and destruction, thereby, forcing millions of Syrians to flee as refugees.

The Armed Groups Fighting in Syria and Possibly Iraq

It might be necessary to identify some of the groups fighting in Syria and their backers in order to shed light on the complex situation. The multitudes of armed groups fighting in the civil war can be divided into six main factions: (1) The Free Syrian Army (FSA), (2) Predominant Syrian Islamist Groups, (3) International Islamist Groups, (4) The Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), (5) The Shia Groups, and (6) the Syrian Democratic Forces.

  1. The Free Syrian Army : The Free Syrian Army was the first armed group to challenge the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Many Syrian military officers and men who deserted the Syrian regime joined the FSA. It was supported by Qatar, Turkey and some Western governments. Despite the hope placed on the FSA to help topple the al-Assad regime, it was unable to do so due to squabbles among various factions and men within the FSA. Eventually, the Islamists became dominant militarily within the FSA and eventually split to launch their own effort to overthrow President al-Assad.Syrian Islamist Groups
  2. Syrian Islamist Group:  As stated above, the FSA included Islamist groups. Around 2013, the Islamists became the most successful groups in fighting and capturing territory from the Syrian government military forces. The success led them to become the most dominant opposition armed groups in Syria. They split from FSA and started waging war against President Bashar al-Assad. Some of the Syrian based Islamist armed groups include Martyrs of Syrian Brigade, Northern Storm Brigade, Ahrah Souriya Brigade Islamic Front, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh Al Islam, Suqour al-Sham. (BBC News, 2013, December 13). These groups are Sunni by religious orientation, hence, their support by the Arab Gulf states of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and possibly Turkey.
  3. The International Islamist Groups: The three main international Islamist groups fighting in Syria are the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Nusra Front and Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa al-Ansar. The Nusra Front split from ISIS in 2013 and is an affiliate of Al Qaeda. The ISIS seized territories in Iraq and Syria to declare an Islamic caliphate which it is running as a government. The ISIS offers the biggest military threat, not only to Syria and Iraq but throughout the world as it continues to expand its operational areas to Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and so forth. It also has an alliance with Boko Haram in Nigeria and possibly with Al Shabab in Somalia and militant Islamic forces in Mali.  The ISIS is globally considered as the most threatening terrorist organization, considering its violent tactics. However, in 2015, in an attempt to consolidate the Sunni groups fighting against the Alawite regime of President Bashir al-Assad, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey established a unified group known as the Jaish al-Fateh (the Army of Conquest). Both the Ahrar al-Sham and Nusra Front became part of this coalition. The coalition is fighting against the Syrian regime as well as the ISIS and Shia-related armed groups.
  4. The Shia Groups:   While the groups described above fight with the intention of overthrowing President al-Assad, there are Shia-affiliated groups that are fighting to protect and sustain him. The Shia affiliated groups support him because they share a common strategic interest in maintaining Shia beliefs and influence in Syria, Iraq, Yemeni and some parts of Lebanon.  (a)  In Syria, two main Shia groups come to mind. They are the Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib (LAAG) and Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas. Other groups fighting to support the Syrian regime are the National Defense Forces (NDF), Ba’ath Brigade and others (Friedland, Jawad al-Tamimi & Landis, 2016). (b) Shia armed groups from Iraq that are involved in the Syrian civil war include the Kataib al-Imam Ali (KIA), Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), Harakat Hezbollah al-Nulaba (HHN), Badr Organization, Kataib al-Muqawama al-Islamiyah fi al Iraq, Kataib Aimmah al-Baqiyah, Kataib al-Ansar al Willahay and so on and so forth. ( c)The main Shia armed group from Lebanon that is heavily involved in the Syrian conflict is the Hezbollah organization. It has about 20,000 to 30,000 fighters.  (d)There are also Shia armed elements from Iran that are fighting in Syria to support President al-Assad. The most notable are the Al-Quds Force and Basij Militia (Friedland, Jawal al-Tamimi & Landis, 2016).
  5. The Kurdish Groups:  In the Syrian conflict, Kurdish fighters contribute immensely toward fighting against the regime of President al-Assad and the ISIS, in both Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, the Peshmerga (Iraqi Kurdistan forces) has been very active fighting to contain and push back ISIS. It participated in some of the major battles to retard the expansion of ISIS. In Syria, the Kurdish Peoples Protection Unit (YPG) has also been contributing extensively in pushing back ISIS from the territories it captured (Zavadski, 2015, October 15). Likewise, there is also the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) which has been battling Turkey to create a Kurdish State. There are concerns that the YPG might join the PKK to fight and create a territory in some parts of Turkey and Syria to establish a Kurdish state after the Syrian war ends.
  6. The Syrian Democratic Forces(SDF) :  The Syrian Democratic Forces receive aerial military support from the United States. The SDF are particularly associated with the battle which drove out the ISIS from the city of Kobane (Lund, 2016, January 22).The Syrian Democratic Forces are a coalition of armed groups made up of Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Syrian Christian fighters. However, the SDF seem to be dominated by Kurdish elements known as the Popular Defense Units (YPG). There is also a women’s unit known as the Women’s Defense Units (YPI). There is a strong belief that the Syria Democratic Forces are affiliated with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) which is also fighting to create a Kurdish state.

These are only a few of the multitudes of armed groups fighting in Syria. Some estimate put the number of non-state armed groups in the hundreds while the number of fighters runs into more than one hundred thousand (Sinjab, 2013, December 13).

Apparently, the Syrian civil war is like a mini-world war due to the fact that many states, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, the United States, France, Russia, China and others are involved either directly or indirectly in supporting, financing, training and arming assorted armed groups. Each state does so with the sole purpose of enhancing and reinforcing its strategic interests in the Middle East. The states compete fiercely for hegemony over Syria and the region. For instance, while Turkey supports Sunni-affiliated armed groups which are opposed to President al-Assad, it is wary of the Kurdish armed groups, due to fear that they might grow in strength and redirect their military effort at creating a Kurdish state. On the other hand, U.S. and its Western allies support the efforts of the Kurdish armed groups. Turkey is also antagonistic to the Shia-affiliated armed groups since the Syrian war tends to pit the Sunnis against the Shiites. Iraq and President al-Assad tend to share the same strategic interests as they fight to maintain a Shia presence in both Iraq and Syria. Thus, they are opposed to the Sunni-affiliated armed groups. Iran is aligned with Iraq and Syria and have a common interest with Russia, China, and the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon because they want to sustain the presidency of President al-Assad and the Shia dominance of the political landscape in Syria. The Arab Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Sunni-oriented states, including Turkey, want the hegemonic predominance of Sunni Islam in the Middle East and North Africa. Jordan bears a huge burden in catering to a large number of Syrian refugees. It is working frenetically to prevent a spill-over of the Syrian conflict into its territory.

Consequently, the Syrian civil war is a four-headed strategic monster. First, President Bashar al-Assad wants to remain in power and ensure the Alawite predominance of the political landscape of the country. Second, there is an intra-Islamic power struggle between the Sunnis and the Shiites. The religious struggle is extended to Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, and possibly Nigeria. In Nigeria, the majority of the Moslems are Sunnis but there is a growing Shia presence. In fact, in a clash involving the Nigerian Army and a Shia group in December12 and 14, 2015 (Bamgboye, 2015, December 23), over three hundred Shiites were killed, thereby, compelling Iran to make a comment about the massacre. The leader of the Shia group in Nigeria, Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky, is still in detention. Saudi Arabia and Iran are the two major backers of the ideological divide between the two branches of Islam. Third, al Qaeda and ISIS are engaged in a power struggle to become the most dominant international Islamic jihadist movement. They are extending their tentacles everywhere, including the Middle East, Africa, some parts of Asia, North America, and Europe. Fourth, the United States and Russia are reenacting the Cold War as they compete to establish their preeminence in the Middle East. China technically is on the side of Russia while France and Britain are on the United States side.

In this titanic struggle to control the heart of the Middle East, using Syria as the theater, the states are pouring in arms, training and supporting multifarious armed groups. Each state hopes that the non-state armed groups it support would prevail militarily to enhance its strategic advantage over other states. As a result, they do not seem to pay attention to the fact that they could be setting in motion, non-state armed elements that could turn out to be the next groups of fighters threatening the peace of the world.

Thus, it is almost impossible to define who is a terrorist and what group is a terrorist organization in the Syrian conflict. The reason is that each state regards those armed groups it supports as freedom fighters and not terrorists. Although, ISIS and al Qaeda are generally regarded as terrorist organizations, nevertheless, it is not easy to describe the other armed groups in such terms because the states that support them do not agree that they are training, arming and supporting terrorist organizations. This is why they call them rebel forces. The inability of the states to define who is a terrorist and what group is a terrorist organization creates an environment that allows more armed and dangerous groups to emerge, not only in Syria but also in other parts of the Middle East, North, East and West Africa, and Asia.

Since the countries, including the United States and Russia, could not agree in categorizing which armed group constitutes a terrorist organization, the United Nations attempted to solve the definitional problem by setting up a committee made up of European and regional countries to define, determine and establish criteria that could be used in doing so (Hassan, 2016, January 10). However, it is doubtful whether even this approach will solve the problem since sovereign states have a tendency to define their national interests in a manner that makes it difficult to establish unanimity in dealing with global terrorism.

Implications of the Syrian Conflict

The implications of the Syrian conflict are far reaching. First, due to the fact that various non-state armed groups fighting in Syria are being supported in one way or another by various countries, a sizable number of individuals have been trained in the use of military weaponry to fight either conventionally or unconventionally in the Middle East and elsewhere. Second, based on strategic and ideological reasons, various countries are motivated to intervene in the Syrian conflict by training, arming and supporting various armed groups to extend their influence. Third, a sizable quantity of highly sophisticated military weaponry has poured into the Middle East, some parts of Africa and Asia through Syria. Fourth, an increasing number of young men and women have graduated as military veterans in the Middle East, Africa and Asia following their recruitment to fight for various factions of non-state armed groups. Fifth, there is no guarantee that some of the individuals and groups that have been trained to fight in Syria and possibly Iraq would not resort to terrorism in the near future. It should be recalled that both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were organized, financed and trained as freedom fighters (Mujahedeen) to fight against the Soviet Union during its occupation of Afghanistan. During that time, the two groups were not regarded as “terrorist organizations” by Western and Islamic nations, but they are now treated as such. Sixth, the signs are beginning to show that many of the armed groups in Syria would go their separate ways, thereby, developing their own agenda and operating like the al Qaeda, Taliban and ISIS. In fact, it was reported that a U.S. supported and trained group known as Division 30 refused to fight against al- Qaeda despite being encouraged to do so by the United States in 2015 (The Guardian, 2015, August 15). It was also widely reported that some rebels backed by the U.S. and its allies were not comfortable with the cease-fire deal arranged by the United States and Russia recently (Associate Press, 2016, September 11). Some groups referred to the cease-fire as a ‘trap.’ This means that the countries that are training, financing and arming the armed rebels are not fully in control of the groups. Seventh, even if the Syrian conflict, as well as the Iraqi situation end today, there is no guarantee that there will be peace in the region as thousands of young men and women would be left to roam the region, some parts of Africa and Asia looking for ways to utilize their vast military expertise. This means that the ending of the Syrian and Iraqi wars might not put an end to the possibilities of terrorist incidents taking place as thousands of trained military veterans roam about looking for ways to make good use of their military skills. Eighth, the Syrian conflict has generated enormous quantities of arms for non-state armed groups fighting in the country. These arms would eventually find their way into other parts of the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Ninth, as can be seen, the more the states make attempt to fight terrorism, the more they create circumstances that breed the proliferation of non-state armed groups that engage in terrorist acts. The reason is that as the states recruit, train and support various elements to fight against supposed terrorist organizations, the more they inadvertently create more terrorist producing opportunities. Tenth, therefore, the war against international terrorism is not likely to end in victory since the war requires recruiting, training and arming non-state armed groups to do the fighting since most countries do not want to commit their own armed forces to get directly involved in the war. Eleventh, the more non-state armed groups are recruited, trained and armed by various countries to fight the anti-terrorist war, the more terrorism thrives as arms and fighters profligate to feed the scourge.

Conclusion

Obviously, it is a catch 22 situation, as far as the war against terrorism is concerned. It is impossible to solve a problem when there is no general agreement about defining what constitutes a terrorist organization and who is a terrorist. Similarly, it is impossible to win the anti-terrorism war since the same countries that are fighting to eliminate the scourge are also indirectly responsible for germinating it through the sponsorship of non-state armed groups that have no loyalty to any country. The Syrian civil war has provided ample opportunity for many non-state armed groups to acquire sophisticated military weaponry that might spread to other parts of the world. Indeed, the Syrian war is like a witches brew with very complicated alliances.

To solve the problem of joblessness that might arise after the Syrian and Iraqi conflict end, the countries that have been responsible for creating, training and arming various non-state armed groups should prepare a plan of action to strategically demobilize, disarm, rehabilitate and retrain the military veterans so that they can adjust to civil society peacefully. Failure to do so might result in the repeat of what happened in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union withdrew. It should be recalled that in Afghanistan, the veteran Islamic fighters were left to take care of themselves as soon as the conflict ended. Well, the fighters regrouped and formed the Taliban, Northern Alliance and al-Qaeda. The al Qaeda in Iraq later changed into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

References

Bamgboye, A. (2015, December 23). Zaria clash –civil society urges Army to chief to step aside. Daily Trust. Retrieved September 25, 2016, from http://allafrica.com/stories/2015122305.

Fox News. (September 17, 2016). US conveys ‘regret’ for anti-ISIS strike that killed Syrian forces, official says. Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/09/17/us-halt.

Hassan, H. (2016, January 10). Iran won’t surrender militias that conduct Assads war. The National Opinion. Retrieved June 23, 2016, from http://www.thenation..

Lund, A. (2016, January 22). Origins of the Syrian Democratic Forces: A Primer. News Deeply. Retrieved June 14, 2016, from http://www.newsdeeply.com/syria/articles/201

Scarborough, R. (2016, February 3). U.S. finds Russia focusing fight on Syrian rebels, not Islamic State. The Washington Times. Retrieved June 15, 2016, from http://www.washingtontimes-

Schleifer, T. & Starr, B. (2016, June 17). Russia bombs U.S. – backed Syrian rebels near Jordan border. CNN News. Retrieved June 20, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/17/politics/russia-airstrike-

Shaheen, K. (2015, August 6). US-trained Syrian rebels refuse to fight al Qaida group after kidnappings. The Guardian. Retrieved September 17, 2016, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/.

Sinjab, L. (2013, December 13). Guide to the Syrian rebels. BBC News. Retrieved June 15, 2016, from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-244c

The Associated Press. (2016, September 9). Syrian rebels leery of cease-fire plan. (2016, September 11). WHDH. Retrieved September 17, 2016, from http://whdh.comm/news/syrian-rebels-leery-of-ceasefire.

Zavadski, K. (2014, October 17). A guide to the many groups fighting in Iraq and Syria. New York Magazine. Retrieved June 16, 2016, from http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/guide

Zorthian, J. (2015, October 7). Who’s fighting who in Syria. Time. Retrieved June 15, 2016, from http://time.com/4059856/syria-civil-war-explainer/

 

It is Time to Restructure Nigeria

Priye S. Torulagha

priyet@hotmail.com

torulaghareports.com

 

More than any other time in the history of Nigeria, this is definitely the time to restructure the country territorially and constitutionally in order to legitimize it as a true sovereign state.  It should be noted that since about 200 to 300 ethnic groups were forcefully put together by the British, Nigerians have never been allowed to decide the manner in which the country should be structured and governed.  Therefore, technically, Nigeria is not an independent country despite the claim of sovereignty until the ethnic groups which constitute it are allowed to freely decide the nature and fate of the country. “Independence” will only take place after Nigerians freely determine Nigeria’s existence.

Nigeria has not been able to move forward due to the fact that it has many structural and governance problems that inhibit its growth. As a result, whenever it takes one very positive step forward, it ends up taking three steps backward.   This is why Nigeria is still being described in terms of its potential rather than by its actuality.  The following provides the reasons why restructuring is absolutely essential for the development and modernization of the political, economic and social institutions and governance of the country:

  1. Nigeria is a product of British military conquest.  Thus, 200 to 300 ethnic groups were forcefully incorporated by the British without their permission.  Obviously, Nigeria, like a vast majority of the modern African states, is a jail house or a detention center where 200 to 300 African ethnic groups are detained against their will. As far as the ethnic groups feel detained or trapped in a cage, they are not likely to cooperate in building a harmonious country.
  2. The Sir Arthur Richards 1946 constitution turned Nigeria into a tribal and regional confederacy. The 1946 constitution embedded a mechanism which has inhibited the country’s ability to create a homogenous united nation out of the diverse ethnic groups.  This is why there is not one Nigeria but many Nigerias, depending on ethnicity, religion and regional affiliation.  As result, every national policy issue is looked upon from a zero sum perspective with one side winning and the others losing.  For example, the South-South and the South-East wants resource control and the Upper North opposes it.  The South-East, South-West, South-South and the Middle Belt want a national referendum and the Upper North is not willing to go that route.  The South and the Middle Belt insist on true federalism but the Upper North seems to be inclined towards the unitary system where the national governments is in total control and the states are given less freedom to maneuver. The Christian and traditional South and the Middle Belt incline toward the Western world and the Islamic North inclines towards Arabia and the Islamic world.  This creates a problem for Nigeria’s foreign policy.  The Upper North wants national grazing reserves for one ethnic group to do cattle business and the South-East, South-West, South-South and the Middle Belt are not eager to grant such a wish to a particular ethnic group to have the right to settle in every territory of the country.  Thus, there is rarely a national consensus on anything.  Sir Richards and the British colonial strategists, perhaps, did not want Nigeria to succeed as a vibrant political, economic and industrial power, hence, a constitutional tool was used to tactically disunite the country through the 1946 Constitution.
  3. Geographically, the manner in which the country is divided into the North and South is flawed. It is only in Nigeria where a country is physically divided into the North and South in such a manner that one region is much larger than the other.  Generally, when a territory is divided geographically, it is supposed to have equal territorial space, using the North, South, East and West configuration.  In other words, it is weird to have regions where the North is two times larger than the South.  This is a fundamental structural flaw in the distribution of territorial land mass.  If those who created Nigeria had wished the country well, they would not have established a country in which one region is twice the size of the other region.  It is obvious that the Middle Belt would have been part of Southern Nigeria.  In this case, states like Kogi, Kwara, Benue, and Plateau would have been placed in Southern Nigeria to create a geographical balance between the North and the South.  The physical imbalance in the distribution of the regions creates distrust, frustration and instability as the Northern region seems to overshadow the Southern region.
  4. Another geographical flaw in Nigeria’s physical structure is that the smaller South is further divided into the East and West with a Mid-West sub-region while the giant North is allowed to stand alone as one region, even though the Middle Belt does not belong to the North.
  5. Before independence, the smaller ethnic groups insisted upon the creation of states during the Willink Commission’s Hearing. The suggestion was rejected. So, the small ethnic groups became vassals of the large three ethnic groups.
  6. On independence, Nigeria adopted federalism which in theory, requires the sharing of power between the national and regional governments. In practice, the country operated as a confederacy in which the regions functioned almost independently. This was why the regional premiers were almost as powerful and influential as the national prime minister. An individual like Ahmadu Bello was even more powerful that the prime minister of the entire country.
  7. When the military came after the January 15, 1966 abortive military coup, the military adopted a unitary system of government which took away the powers of the regions and later the states to make independent decisions. The unitary system centralized political and administrative power at the center and made the states dependent upon the national government. Even while the military regimes centralized political and administrative authority, they still pretentiously viewed the country as a federal entity.  Thus, like in the First Republic, the military era too continued the practice of calling Nigeria a federal state while suffocating federalism through excessive centralization of power.
  8. During the First Republic, since the three major ethnic groups dominated the three regions, national resources were distributed based on derivation. The regions were largely responsible for producing and generating income for themselves using the resources in their territories.  However, as soon as oil became a major economic commodity and it was found mostly in regions dominated by minority ethnic groups and the Igbos, the Petroleum Act was passed by the military regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon. This deprived the ethnic groups in the oil region the ability to make decisions about the exploration and management of oil and gas in their territories.
  9. As stated above, due to the geographical imbalance between the North and the South, the South is compelled to serve as a junior partner, rather than as an equal partner in the political management of Nigeria. The North dominates the entire country in so many ways.  For instance, Lagos States is more populated than Kano State.  Recent statistics indicate that Lagos City has a population of about 21 million people.  However, Kano State has 44 local governments while Lagos State has 20 local governments.    How did this come about?  It is exceedingly difficult to explain or rationalize why Kano State with a lesser population has more local governments than Lagos State with a much larger population.  Similarly, due to the fact that the North is two-third of the entire country, in terms of geography, it has 19 states and the South has 17 states. Additionally, out of the 774 local governments in Nigeria, the North has 419 while the South has 335. Of course, the fact that the North is physically larger than the South does not mean that it has more people than the South.  There is a general believe that the South is actually more populated than the North, yet, the North has more local governments.
  10. Following the geographical imbalance, the North tends to act as the dominant region in the country. This is why most of the country’s leaders have originated from the Islamic North.  It is much more difficult for someone from the South to rule the country.  For instance, whenever, an individual from the South tries to serve as the leader of the country, the person is expected to unduly appease the North as if the individual does not have a constitutional right as a Nigerian citizen to rule the country like someone from the Islamic North.  A would- be-presidential candidate from the South must pass the North’s Litmus test, otherwise, the individual has no chance of succeeding.  Moreover, the Upper North can literarily reject a Southern presidential candidate if the person does not dance to the strategic interest of the North.  As a result, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo from the South-West never had a chance to rule the country.  Similarly, when Dr. Alex Ekwueme was supposed to be the presidential candidate of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), there was opposition from the Upper North.  Hence, he was dropped from consideration as a presidential candidate, even after serving as a vice president.  When Chief Moshood Abiola appeared to be winning the presidential election of June 12, 1993 against a Northern candidate, the election was abrogated.  In other words, the Upper North (Islamic) did not want Chief Abiola to become the president.  When the military decided to quit the political business and return to barracks in 1998, the preferred candidate of the South-West region was Chief Olu Falae.  The North opposed Chief Falae and selected Chief/Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo as the presidential flag-bearer of the Peoples’ Democratic Party PDP). When he became the president, he had to give three critical ministerial positions to the North as the region demanded.  Being a Southerner, former President Obasanjo was powerless in stopping the Sharianization of some Northern states.  Thus, Sharia Law was installed without any legislative discussion in the National Assembly.  When Dr.  Peter Odili decided to contest the presidential election of 2007, he had to spend vast sums of money to attract support from the North and the Southwest.  Even then, he was unceremoniously dropped as the presidential flag-bearer of the PDP.  When the late President Umaru Yar’Adua got sick, the Upper North refused to allow the vice president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to take over the leadership of the country.  As soon as he eventually became the president, threats of making the country ungovernable started to saturate the media.  Jonathan had to spend a considerable amount of time and effort in appeasing the Upper North while attempting to run for reelection.  He actually devoted more time throughout his tenure to persuade the North than the South to support him, yet, various tactics of ungovernability were deployed to shipwreck his administration.  Alhaji Aliyu Gwarzo, a prominent Fulani leader from Kano, did not hide the intention of the Upper North when he said “No Goodluck or anyone else will stop us from taking back our power next year.  We will kill, maim, destroy and turn the country into Africa’s biggest war zone and refugee camp if they try it” (Pointblanknews Magazine, October 2, 2014)
  1. As a result of the predominance of the North, the South is increasingly looking like a conquered territory of the North since most critical national decisions tend to favor the North. This is why Southern legislators in the National Assembly are almost voiceless and inactive.  They are seen but rarely heard from.  The governors and religious leaders in the Upper North have tremendous national influence while the governors and traditional rulers in the South have very little national influence. In fact, due to the overbearing influence of Northern political elites in the country, Southern political elites are very cautious in expressing themselves, fearing that if they talk too much, they could be punished.
  2. Apart from the pre-January 15, 1966 period, the Nigerian armed forces are dominated by the North, so much so that Southern military officers are barely noticeable.  Almost all critical military and national security positions under President Muhammadu Administration are held by officers from the Upper North.  In some circumstances, some junior military officers from the Upper North have more influence than some senior military officers from the South.  A Southern military or police officer, to safeguard his or her job, would not take any action without getting approval from an officer from the Upper North.  This was why former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Solomon Arase did not mobilize the police to stop marauding herdsmen from mobilizing and attacking Agatu community in the Middle Belt and Nimmo community in Igboland, even though everyone knew in advance that the herdsmen were about to invade those communites.  The same reason could also be given for why the army remained quiet. They did not act because they did not get clearance from President Buhari to prevent the invasion, killing and destruction of Agatu and Nimmo communities.
  3. A vast majority of the military and police training and educational institutions are located in the North. Similarly, it is much easier for someone from the North to join the armed forces than someone from the South. A letter from an Emir can make a whole difference whether someone is admitted into the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) or get a lucrative employment.
  4. The fear of Islamization is a constant worry among non-Moslems in Nigeria. This follows a statement made by the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, to the Moslems to spread Islam throughout the country. He was seconded by the late prime minster of Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar Tafewa Balewa.  Alhaji Aliyu Gwarzo, electrified the agenda for Islamization by saying:

It was either the Koran or the sword and most of them chose the Koran.  In return                   for the good works of our forefathers, Allah, through the British, gave us Nigeria                    to rule and to do as we please.  Since 1960 we have been doing that and we intend                   to continue. (Ibid.).

  1. Even though the population is almost evenly divided between Christianity and Islam, Nigeria is not a member of any international Christian dominated foreign political or economic or religious alliance.  On the other hand, Nigeria is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the D8 – an organization of Islamic countries, the Islamic Development Bank and the Islamic Coalition against Terrorism, otherwise, referred to as Islamic Military Alliance.  This means that even though Nigeria supposed to be a secular state, it is incrementally being Islamized through tactical joining of Islamic organizations.  Therefore, when some Northern politicians introduced a bill which intends to nationalize the Fulani cattle business by granting land for cattle grazing in every state of the country, Southerners and Christians oppose the idea, suspecting it to be a ploy to spread Islam in the South by creating permanent Islamic enclaves throughout the country.
  2. Since Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated in 1914, riots resulting in the killings of Southerners, Christians and non-Moslems have taken place in the North.  It happened in 1953 and has continued into the twenty-first century.  On the other hand, Southerners have never caused riots that lead to the killing of Northerners.  Whenever an anti-Northern riot takes place in the South, it is always in reaction to the killings of Southerners in the North.  Thousands of Nigerians have been killed and maimed due to the riots.  How can the North and South co-exist since the lives of Southerners, Middle Belters, Ancestralists and Christians are always endangered by northern riots.  Thus, for most Southerners living in Northern Nigeria, there is always the danger of being killed through religiously and politically motivated riots.
  3. Nigeria is made up of 200 to 300 ethnic groups, yet, there are some individuals from two ethnic groups who believe that they have an exclusive right to rule the country because the British gave them the mandate to rule the country. Without mincing words,  Alhaji Gwarzo stated:

When I say that the Presidency must come to the north next year I am referring to                   the Hausa-Fulani core North and not any northern Christian or Muslim minority                     tribe (Pointblanknews, Ibid.).

  1. Petroleum started to become a major source of national wealth immediately after the Nigerian civil war in 1970.  By 2015, Nigeria had almost totally depended on oil and gas for its national wealth.  Oil and gas are found mostly in the Niger Delta/South-South, some parts of Igboland and the South-West zones).  However, due to the fact that oil and gas are totally nationalized, the citizens of the oil region are very poor.  On the other hand, the greatest beneficiaries of the oil wealth are Nigerians from the non-oil producing regions. In particular, oil shares (blocks) are owned mostly by individuals from the Upper North.
  2. While for about forty-five years now, Nigeria has almost totally depended on the oil wealth, the country has refused to carry out any environmental cleaning of the region.  As a result, the South-South region is highly polluted with oil leakages, pipeline fires and gas flaring.  Even the Nigerian plan to clean Ogoni land came by way of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).  Thus, Nigeria is not interested in cleaning the polluted environment but wants to exploit the oil and gas with total disregard for the feeling of the inhabitants of the oil region.
  3. The 1999 Constitution was put together through the supervision of the military. Therefore, it was not a product of democratic discussion involving the ethnic groups that make up the country.  This accounted for why an immunity clause was included to protect military officers who had engaged in misappropriation of public funds.  Sadly, elected officials since 1999, have relied on the same Immunity Clause to protect themselves from prosecution for misbehavior while in office.  Similarly, all the decrees and acts passed during various military regimes were imposed arbitrarily without the consent of the Nigeria people.  To have a very representative democratic constitution, it is necessary to have an open debate involving all stakeholders in the country.  Perhaps, the closest exercise to a representative constitutional debate was the National Conference of 2014 because individuals from different parts of the country participated in the exercise.
  4. The coming into power by President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC political party in May 2015 has deepened the desire for a national referendum to discuss the fate of the country. The demand became strident when President Buhari made a statement that he was going to favor the 95% that voted for him against the 5% that did not vote for him.  After making that statement, he seems to have tactically decided to ignore hiring people from the South-East and the South-South zones of the country.  Even the South-West zone which voted for him in large numbers has been neglected.  In addition, he has tactically recruited individuals from the Upper Islamic North to occupy critical positions in the Federal Government.  Meanwhile, he has not taken any active step to contain the violence perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen.  President Buhari war on corruption seems only to be targeted at the officials of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and the members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) while corruption perpetrated by members of the All Progressive Congress Party (APC) are ignored and treated as non-crimes.  His style of leadership creates the impression that he is northernizing and Islamizing the country to fulfil the dream of the late Ahmadu Bello.  Hence, some people in the South-East and the South-South have revived the call for the creation of the Republic of Biafra and the Republic of the Niger Delta.  Similarly, militant opposition to the exploration of oil and gas in the oil region has been reactivated.  Thus, President Buhari’s actions tend to deepen the feeling that Nigeria is increasingly being treated as a country dominated by one ethnic group, despite the fact that it is made up of 200 to 300 ethnic groups.
  5. Due to the dysfunctional nature of the country, creativity and innovation are stifled, hence, Nigeria has not been able to develop as an industrial nation capable of competing in the global marketplace to sell finished industrial goods and services.    It is interesting to note that Nigeria tends to kill motivation, creativity and innovation.  This is why creative and innovative Nigerians tend to do very well in their professional fields outside the country but seem to do poorly inside the country.  The reason is that inside Nigeria, the politics of ethnicity, regionalism and religion intercedes to dampen motivation.  Moreover, the politics of personalism tends to force people to become “LOYAL” boys and girls to political godfathers and godmothers.  The godfathers and godmothers are only interested in how much political power and financial wealth they can acquire.  This is why loyalty is more important than creativity and innovation.
  6. As Nigerians become increasingly dissatisfied with the contradictions, imbalances, and unequal distribution of power and resources,  the level of patriotism declines.  Lack of patriotism feeds the desire to embezzle public funds recklessly to the detriment of the Nigerian nation.

Based on the enumerated points above, it is obvious that an increasing number of the Nigerian population  are no longer satisfied with the current state of the country.  Consequently, there is a need to conduct a referendum so that Nigeria’s 200 to 300 ethnic groups can discuss the fate of the country freely in a democratic manner.  Therefore, the view by President Buhari and others that Nigeria is indivisible is not a convincing one.  The argument for indivisibility of Nigeria has been shattered by the fact that the United Kingdom (UK) which is a member of the European Union (EU) decided to quit the union as its citizens felt suffocated by the policies and actions of the EU.  Based on the desire of British citizens, Mr. David Cameron held a referendum to decide whether the UK should remain in the EU or leave.  The citizens voted to quit the EU.  If the British people who created Nigeria during the heydays of the British Empire can decide to quit a political arrangement which does not seem to satisfy their need, why can’t Nigeria’s 200 to 300 ethnic groups do the same if a political arrangement created through military imposition is suffocating them?  By allowing the referendum to go through, the UK has opened the gate for the Scottish and Irish people to decide in the nearest future whether they should continue to remain in the United Kingdom or go their separate ways.

Indeed, President Buhari should adopt the attitude of Mr. David Cameron by responding to the wishes of a large segment of the Nigerian people and hold a referendum and or implement the recommendations of the National Conference of 2014.  The Indivisibility of a forced union in which some Nigerians are treated as overloads while others are treated as serfs or conquered citizens cannot hold.  A nation in which the citizens of one section of the country constantly use violence against the citizens of the other section of the country cannot be indivisible.  An imposed political association in which one section of the country feels it has a mandate to rule the country cannot stand the test of time.  This is why a referendum is needed.  A referendum does not necessarily mean the dissolution of the country, rather, it is a means to restructure or redesign the country to the betterment of all Nigerians.  Of course, some groups might decide to opt out of the Nigerian arrangement and form their own separate countries, if need be.

Indeed, a referendum is needed in Nigeria to avoid Alhaji Gwarzo’s view that:

The Christians in the north such as the Berom, the Tiv, the Kataf, the Jaba, the Zuru,             the Sayyawa, the Jukun, the Idoma and all others are nothing and the Muslim minorities in the north, including the Kanuri, the Nupe, the Igbira, the Babur, the Shuwa Arabs, the Marghur and all the others know that when we are talking about leadership in the north and in Nigeria, Allah has given it to us, the Hausa-Fulani (Ibid.).

A country made up of 200 to 300 ethnic groups can only stand united as a sovereign nation when all groups are treated equally, regardless of ethnicity, region, and religion. Nigeria must be restructured to satisfy the aspiration of all Nigerians, not just one or two groups.

The Importance of Revitalizing African Religious Cultures

The Importance of Revitalizing African Religious Cultures

By Priye S. Torulagha

priyet@hotmail.com

Torulaghareports.com

 

 

Introduction

Human beings on planet earth are currently categorized into three races. The races are: Asian, Black, and Caucasian/White. Of the three races, Caucasians and Asians are very adept in perpetuating and promoting themselves and their cultures, beliefs, values and practices throughout the world. This is why Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism are the most predominant religions in the contemporary world. On the other hand, blacks seem not to be proud of themselves, hence, do not perpetuate and promote their cultures, beliefs, values and practices.

 

Instead, they tend to deny, denigrate and run away from their cultures while unquestionably imbibing, mimicking and perpetuating the cultures of the members of other races. Thus, while the members of the two other races actively promote their religious cultures, blacks run away from theirs and increasingly identify with the religions emanating from the other cultures. This is why almost every day somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the black world, a writer is writing and or publishing a story in a newspaper or a magazine or on the web about the importance of the Bible or the Koran and or living as a Christian or as a Muslim. On the other hand, it is rare to see or read about any African or black write-up promoting or touting the importance of maintaining African religious cultures. Apparently, at the frenetic speed in which the globalized religious cultures are being spread and adopted by African people, it is inferable that in fifty or more years, most educated Sub-Saharan Africans might likely become totally ignorant of their own cultures. This means that blacks are either consciously or unconsciously contributing to the demise of their own cultures, without even thinking about the implications.

The downward trend in the black cultural world began when other races invaded, conquered and imposed their cultural beliefs and values on the black race. Today, almost every educated black person is embedded in the political, legal, cultural and religious traditions of other cultures. This is why most Sub-Saharan Africans and black people generally who have gone through the formal educational system are capable of regurgitating various sayings in the Bible and or in the Koran in a twinkle of an eye. Yet, the same individuals might find it exceedingly difficult to intellectually discuss the tenets of their traditional religious cultures.

 

Arguments

 

The need to revitalize traditional African religions, otherwise, known collectively here as Ancestralism is overdue. The word Ancestralism is used here since in traditional African religions, including Voodooism in Benin and Haiti, Candomble in Brazil and Santeria in Cuba, God is worshipped through ancestral beings. In other words, just as Christians worshipped God through the teachings and beliefs of Jesus Christ, Moslems worship Alllah through the teachings of Prophet Mohammed and Buddhists worship God through the teachings of Buddha, Sub-Saharan Africans, like Native Americans, Hindus and other Asian societies, worship God through their ancestors. Thus, the following arguments are made to support the revitalization of Ancestralism:

 

  1. Political independence without cultural and religious independence amounts to no independence;
  2. It is cultural suicide for Sub-Saharan African people and their descendants to continue to subscribe to religious cultures that have nothing to do with their own cultural heritage;
  3. Black people have no respect in the world because they allow themselves to be mis-educated to believe that their own religious cultures are satanic, idol and devil-worshipping and ungodly;
  4. Political responsibility, transparency and accountability in governance will only take place when African religious cultures become the standard for determining ethical and moral conduct of society rather than the amoral precepts originating from secular humanism that are spreading like wild flowers throughout the black world;
  5. Africa will achieve greatness when African people fully embrace their cultural world.

 

 

  1.  Political independence without cultural and religious independence amounts to independence.

 

It is self-defeating for Sub-Saharan Africans to assume that the colonially-induced political entities in the continent are independent states. In theory they are but practically they are not. They are not independent states because of the following reasons:

a.  Almost all of them with the exception of Ethiopia were created by foreign politico-military powers. However, the African countries can change their dependent status by purposely conducting referenda or plebiscites to allow their citizens to determine the nature, structural configurations, institutions and the territorial integrity of the states.

b. The boundaries of the African states were established arbitrarily, thereby, violating the natural rights of some ethnic groups to exist in contiguous territories. In other words, the natural rights of some African ethnic groups are violated through being scattered into different countries.

c.  It could be said that African political independence is meaningless without cultural and religious independence. This is due to the fact that an independent state supposed to have political, social, judicial and religious institutions and processess that are compatible with the cultures of the people. Currently, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the political and legal systems are not compatible with the cultures of the ethnic groups. This is why many educated Africans are not familiar with their cultural systems. It is always strange to see judges and lawyers in many African countries wearing wigs as if they are in European courts. It is amazing that the United States which was established by Europeans decided to do away with the wig while Sub-Saharan Africans continue to maintain that costume.   Due to the fact that some European judges wear wigs, should African judges also wear wigs? Why can’t they design official attire that reflect the African cultural world, instead of wearing those Europeanized outfits that make them look like aliens in their own countries?

2. It is cultural suicide for African people to subscribe to religions that have nothing to do with their cultural heritage.

a. Due to religious propaganda leading to mis-education, a considerable number of Sub-Saharan African people have been educated and socialized to believe that the only way they can worship God/Allah is either through Christianity or Islam. If they continue to follow this path, they risk destroying their cultures, themselves and the qualities that make them unique in the world. Already, it could be said that a sizable number of educated African people today are cultural illiterates, in the sense that they know very little about their cultural heritage. Many ethnic groups in Sub-Saharan Africa are losing their rare cultural practices because of increasing adoption of foreign religious and political cultures. No other part of the world can be compared to Africa when it comes to music and dance, yet, the cultural richness is not appreciated by most educated black people in the continent and elsewhere.

b. Indeed, there is a symbiotic relationship between culture and religion. The culture molds the religion and the religion molds the culture. Both must go together in order for social equilibrium and psychological and spiritual compatibility to take place. It is not possible to be an Amhara or Aka or Baka or Banda or Chewa or Gbaya or Ijaw, or Igbo or Hausa or Yoruba or Kikuyu or Fulani or Masai or Ewe or Ashanti or Shona or Zande or Zulu by claiming the ethnicity while ignoring or denying the culture and religion that go with the ethnicity. Currently, Sub-Saharan Africans are probably the only people in the world that live in a state of suspended cultural hibernation. They claim their ethnicity but generally tend to run away from the religious cultures that are intrinsically associated with their ethnic groups. As can be seen, religious crusades emanating from the two globalized religions are increasingly creeping into Black Africa as the adherents of the religions extend their age-old rivalry. This is why many African countries now have religious fault lines that lead to violence and political instability. Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Central African Republic and so forth, are a few of the countries in which the two major globalized religions are breeding hatred and sowing seeds of violence.

c.  It is interesting to note that while Sub-Saharan African people are encouraged to reject their religious cultures, the Europeans, Native Americans and Asians embrace their cultures without any hesitation or reservation, even while adhering to the globalized religions. This is why a visit to Cambodia, England, France, Ireland, India, Russia, Germany, Italy, Greece, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Peru, Mexico and so forth, is like paying a visit to the historical, political and cultural past of these countries and societies. The citizens of these countries are very proud of their Pre-Christian, Pre-Islamic and Pre-Buddhist past and celebrate the achievements of their ancestors with exuberance. Similarly, the Mayans, Incans and the Aztecs of the American continents too celebrate their cultures with eagerness, even though they have lost much of their cultural and political existence after the bloody Spanish conquest of the Americas.

d.  In countries like Mexico and Peru, some aspects of Native American Ancestralism have been incorporated into Christian religious rituals. This is done to legitimize Christianity in the eyes of many Native Americans, who also worship God through their ancestral deities, like the Sub-Saharan African, Japanese, Indian and Chinese people. In Brazil, especially in Salvador, Bahia, traditional African religious practices are also incorporated with Christian practices. In some cases, the practitioners of Candomble are allowed to carry out their religious services in proximity to Christian churches. In many parts of Asia, particularly in Indonesia, some elements of Ancestralism are merged with Buddhist and Hindu practices.

Thus, while people from other societies consciously continue to perpetuate and promote their cultures, Sub-Saharan African people risk becoming cultureless if they follow the path they are embarking upon. The proclivity towards avoiding anything having to do with African cultures and the tendency towards doing everything possible to embrace everything that has nothing to do with African cultures means that they are incrementally committing cultural suicide and would end up with no culture at all.   Therefore, it was very timely when Prof. Christopher Orubiu and Dr. Emmanuel Biri of Delta State University in Nigeria “condemned the demonization of Urhobo culture under the façade of Christianity” (Egufe Yafugborhi, Vanguard, January 7, 2015).

3.  Black people have no respect in the world because they allow others to convince them to believe that their own religious cultures are satanic, devil-worshipping and ungodly.

a.  Of the three races in the world, namely, Asian, Black and Caucasian/White, it is only the religions that are associated with the black race that are characterized as satanic, devil-worshipping, and ungodly even though these religions are similar to Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, and various traditional religions among Native Americans. In short, there is not much difference between Hinduism, Shintoism and Taoism because they are all based on Ancestralism and are characterized by many deities. Yet, it is only the religions that are associated with Sub-Saharan Africans and their descendants in the Americas that are stigmatized. Why?

b. In fact, Ancestralism, which is the African traditional religion, is also the religion of all traditional societies in Asia, Europe, Native America and the Middle East. In other words, the worshipping of God through ancestral deities is the most widespread and practiced religion in the world. Yet, it is only the African version that is condemned as being satanic and ungodly.

c.  While the Asians, Europeans and Native Americans embrace Ancestralism, it is only Sub-Saharan African and black people who have accepted to deny their own religious heritage by running away from it. The question is, why is it that the Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thais, South Koreans, Japanese, Native Americans and others, have no qualms about paying homage to God through their ancestral deities while Nigerians, Ghanaians, Kenyans, Congolese, Cameroonians, Chadians, Senegalese, Zimbabweans and so forth, are running, hiding and rejecting their own ancestral religions? The answer lies with the educational systems in the African sub-continent and in the black world which continue to produce deAfricanized educated class of citizens.

d.  As a result of the fact that many educated Africans tend to run away from their ancestral religious cultures while working so hard to embrace other peoples religions, they have no respect in the world. The Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thais, Koreans, Japanese, Native Americans are respected because anywhere they go, they carry along with them their religious cultures, foods, attires and other important characteristics of themselves while Sub-Saharan Africans and black people generally are not respected because they find it difficult to carry their own religious cultures, foods, and attires along with them.

In terms of clothing in the African continent, it is North and West Africans who wear their traditional attires proudly, without any hesitation. The Central, Eastern and Southern African regions are devoid of any recognizable formal traditional attire. This is why the political leaders of the countries in these regions always appear in Europeanized suits during major conferences or gatherings. In other words, in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Central African Republic, Angola, Mozambique, Kenya, with the exception of the Masai, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, etc., there is no formalized traditional attire. Hence, the leaders always appear in suits whenever they attend major conferences or travel overseas. On the other hand, North Africans, like other Arabs in the Middle East, have a formalized traditional attire and the leaders wear them proudly. West Africa is filled with very colorful traditional attires and the leaders wear them. In Nigeria, it is expected that their political leaders and important personalities wear traditional attire most of the time when they attend major conference. In fact, in Nigeria, people wear their traditional attires to the office very proudly.

e. Similarly, African states have no respect in the world because African leaders and political elites do everything in their power to embrace the political, judicial, religious and cultural systems of other societies while ignoring and denigrating African political, judicial, religious and cultural systems. It is not surprising that not a single African country has made a conscious attempt to Africanize the political and judicial systems. As a result, they force their citizens to embrace systems that are alien to their cultural world.

f.  Whenever the leaders of Britain, France, Russia, India, Japan, China, South Korea etc. travel to any other part of the world, they carry along with them their cultural worlds or perspectives. The Indians, Japanese, Chinese, South Koreans, Thais and so forth, build their religious temples, spread their foods by establishing specialty restaurants, publicize their cultures and actively promote their existence. On the other Hand, African leaders travel to other parts of the world with nothing of African value to show. This is why it is very rare to see or hear of an African country that actively promote African cultures as part of its diplomatic effort to create a better understanding of black Africa. Similarly, Sub-Saharan Africans travel to other parts of the world without promoting themselves and their cultural world. As a result of the failure to actively promote African cultures, the image of black Africa is very negative in other parts of the world. This contributes to the perpetual violation of the rights of black people in many parts of the world. Africans in the Diaspora pay severely for the failure of African countries to promote and perpetuate black cultures in the world.

History shows that the globalized religions have been the most destructive to peaceful coexistence and godliness. Their imperialistic tendencies have led to brutal wars of conquest and conversion. On the other hand, iniquities committed under African Ancestralism pale in comparison to the evils that have been committed in the names of the globalized religions. Even the Holy Bible, especially the Old Testament, is filled with gruesome wars in which people were massacred aimlessly. In some instances, even the name of God was used to justify the need for one ethnic group to massacre another and claim the ownership of land that belonged to the massacred group. African Ancestralism is considered to be so sacred, hence, forceful conversion of people is not encouraged.

Yet, despite the historical facts, it is African religions that are generally condemned for being evil. The sad thing is that African people buy into this erroneous twisting of historical fact by running away from their religious heritage in the hope of catching a ride to heaven through some other cultural bandwagon.

4. Political responsibility, transparency and accountability in governance would be enhanced when African religious cultures become the standard for determining ethical and moral conduct in governance.

Sub-Saharan Africa is bedecked by massive political and financial corruption as public officials embezzle public funds to enrich themselves and their immediate families while subjecting the rest of their citizens to perpetual poverty. Similarly, the continent is filled with political and military leaders who want to rule for life. They do so by rigging elections and intimidating the citizens to allow them to remain in power endlessly.

Due to the aforementioned ills, the law enforcement and judicial systems are fractured, corrupted and toothless, in many instances. As a result, highly connected individuals tend to act as if they are above the law while the politically and financially powerless individuals are subjected to the full weight of the law. Thus, the elite can embezzle with impunity while the rest of the citizens cannot. In Nigeria, for example, about twenty to thirty individuals are given oil blocks (shares/stocks) while the rest of the population are rendered poor. Those with the oil stocks make billions of dollars without even doing anything and the rest of the population scratch their heads and watch helplessly. The elite are able to beat the law enforcement and judicial systems by the hiring the best lawyers and using technicalities of the law to frustrate the legal process. This is why many public officials are not afraid of the law because they know that they can beat the system.

a. It is strongly believed here that as far as Sub-Saharan African countries continue to mimic political, judicial and law enforcement systems that are borrowed from other cultures, Sub-Saharan African countries would always remain unstable due to the contradictions that exist between the African cultures and the foreign cultures.

b. To ensure political responsibility, transparency, rule of law and accountability, it is necessary to compel public officials to swear their oaths of office based on the traditional African religious cultures. If appointed or elected to office, the individual should swear in the name of his or her ancestors to uphold the law and the obligations of the office. Similarly, when someone is suspected or arrested for allegedly committing a crime, the person should be obligated to swear in the name of his or her ancestors to tell the absolute truth. This is very important since no Sub-Saharan African will lie while swearing in the name of his or her ancestors.

c.Swearing in the name of the ancestors would result in the minimization of corruption and an increase in political accountability and transparency.

d. It would also increase integrity, thereby, lessening the threat posed by the two major globalized religions on the national security of many African countries.

5.  Africa will achieve greatness when African people fully embrace their cultural world.

 

It is strongly believed here that as soon as Sub-Saharan Africans realize that it is not possible to exist culturally as Africans without embracing the African religious culture, they would begin to change the world in a dramatic way. Indeed, it is not possible to live in one culture while embracing religions and political systems that originate from other cultures, for the following reasons:

a.  As stated above, the culture molds the religion and the religion molds the culture. Both have symbiotic relationships and must always go together in order to avoid psychological, spiritual, political and cultural incongruity.

b.  Both the culture and the religion that goes with the culture are molded by the environment and the spiritual forces that members of the society experienced in their lives.

c. The culture and the religion help to establish moral and ethical norms that guide the behavior of the members of any given society. Thus, Sub-Saharan Africans are traditionally molded to embrace certain norms by their religious cultures.

d. When people embrace a religion that is quite different from their cultures, cultural and psychological incongruity takes place immediately. They begin to act in ways that create social disequilibrium. As can be seen, corruption is endemic in Black Africa. Similarly, the countries are very fragile because the structures and institutions of the states are embedded in cultures that have nothing to do with the African people. This is why any African country can experience instability due to the cultural contradictions that exist. Similarly, an increasing number of black people are bleaching uncontrollably to lighten their skins. Similarly, artificial hair has increasingly replaced the natural hair for most black women throughout the world.

e.  Indeed, Chinua Achebe was very prophetic when he wrote Things fall Apart.

The Rationale for ReAfricanization of African religious Cultures

To prevent the disappearance of African cultures, after centuries of practicing religions that came to Sub-Saharan Africa through conquest, imposition and colonization and decades of experimenting with political, and judicial systems embedded in secular humanism, it is time to re-traditionalize by consciously revitalizing African religious cultures. African religious cultures should serve as the basis for achieving true cultural, spiritual, psychological and political independence. Moreover, it is essential to use African cultural normative values as the basis for determining ethical and moral conduct and maintaining social equilibrium in society.

Re-Africanization is necessary for the black world to make its presence and its contributions to the world clearly known and appreciated.

 

It is sad that in the 21st century, Sub-Saharan Africa and the black world have no global cultural identity. This means that black people simply exist by mimicking others instead of proactively contributing to the advancement of the world through their own religious and cultural experiences and perspectives.

As a result of the lack of a global cultural identity, a considerable number of black people in the world seem to suffer from racial inferiority complex. The inferiority complex leads to low self-esteem which is a major motivational factor for skin bleaching, the wearing of synthetic hair by most black women, and the caucasianization of beauty today. It also contributes to the reason why many educated African people run away from their traditional religious cultures and embrace imposed religions as if their own cultures are irrelevant or non-existing. They do so strongly believing that their traditional religions are not worth studying and practicing. It also contributes to the reason why almost all post-colonial Sub-Saharan African countries continue to practice and perpetuate political, judicial and governmental systems that have no resemblance to traditional African political, judicial and governmental systems, even though they claim to be sovereign states. How can any state claim to be sovereign when its governmental philosophy, structures, institutions and processes are embedded in foreign cultures?

Indeed, contrary to the negative characterization, African Ancestralism is a very sacred religion which espouses absolute truth and spiritual purity of mind, body, thought and action. It abhors devilish acts through laws that can be described as spiritual commandments, just as the Ten Commandments in the Bible and the Islamic Sharia. This is why every ethnic group in Sub-Saharan Africa has normative rules which divide behavior into acceptable and unacceptable deeds. The unacceptable deeds are generally typified as “Abominations” or ‘sacrileges” or “taboos”. If African religions were so devilish, why do they have stringent rules concerning acceptable and abominable behaviors?

Suggestions

After roaming in the wilderness of cultural confusion, following conquest and colonization, it is time for Sub-Saharan African people and the black world to reinvent themselves by reawakening the African cultural world. To do so, the first step is to rejuvenate African religious cultures that are collectively referred to as Ancestralism. In this regard, the following suggestions are made:

  1. Sub-Saharan African children, starting from the primary school, should be exposed to the tenets of the triple cultural heritage, namely, Ancestralism, Christianity and Islam.
  2. As part of civic education, primary school children should be exposed to African cultures and languages through the school curriculum.
  3. In the secondary schools, students should be encouraged to study National History, African History and Comparative Global Religions, including Ancestralism.
  4. At the university level in the continent, every student should be required to take African Philosophy, African Cultures and Religion and African History as part of the university-wide core courses. These courses should encompass both African and Diasporic African educational curricula for students to develop a comprehensive knowledge about their existence.
  5. To accomplish the items suggested above, it is necessary to change the existing educational curricula which are non-African centered. It is not a secret that due to the foreign-centered nature of formal education, most educated African people are schooled to embrace religious cultures of other societies and not their own.
  6. African governments should gradually introduce African cultural systems into their constitutional, political, legal and governmental institutions and administrative processes. Currently, it is a violation of the natural rights of the African people for African countries to operate constitutional, political, legal and governmental systems that have no affinity with the beliefs, values, norms, processes and practices of the African people.

Conclusion

It might be appropriate to end this article by showing that Judeo/European/Western Christians have no problem acknowledging their pagan past. This is why the month of January is named after the Roman god of the doorway (Janus), March is named after the Roman god of war (Mars), May is named after Greek goddess Maia, and June is named after Roman goddess Juno. Similarly, Judeo/European/Western Christians pay homage to their pre-Christian deities by naming important milestones, inventions and crafts after them. This accounted for why important inventions, military vessels and missiles are named after Poseidon, Jupiter, and Hercules. The spacecraft that went to the moon was called Apollo. Even the Christian Easter is named after Eastre, a pre-Christian Saxon goddess.   Thus, if European Christians have no problem paying homage to their ancestral deities, why are Sub-Saharan Africans running away from their pre-Christian and pre-Islamic ancestral deities? Why are Angolans, Chadians, Congolese, Rwandans, Tanzanians, Togolese, Gabonese, and other Africans running away from their cultural heritage?

While Jewish, Western, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese scholars are busy conducting research studies to uncover the facts about their pre-Buddhist, pre-Christian and pre-Islamic past, a considerable number of African scholars shy away from conducting research studies to find their pre-Christian and pre-Islamic past, fearful of criticism or condemnation for being ungodly and satanic.

Surprisingly, Sub-Saharan African Christians and Moslems have no problem acknowledging the pagan names of the Western calendar, yet, they would not even make the attempt to acknowledge the existence of their ancestral religious heritage. No wonder, the black world has no respect anywhere in the world. While they condemn their own for being paganistic, they eagerly accept paganistic rituals such Christmas Day and Easter.

It is time to launch the African Renaissance. It is time to reawaken a sleeping cultural world. Mr. Ezeana Igirigi Achusim deserves recognition for writing about the power of Dim Orioha in stopping crime and punishing offenders.