Sometimes in constructing a road, you come across mountains. It becomes essential to get such a mammoth hindrance out the way in order to access the free lying landscape beyond. In doing this, the construction experts usually adopt three approaches; in some cases, it’s easy to negotiate course and avoid such an obstacle. But in others, you need must cut through it. Finally, some dig a tunnel beneath it for access to the choice destination.
In Africa’s quest for development, religion is proving to be a similar formidable obstacle, not in itself per se, but the manner in which it is being deployed. As usual, our intelligentsia are seeking to address the problem by adopting the common approaches. Negotiate round it or cut through it. However, with time, the endemic poverty and its concomitant need for psychological succor by the people clearly shows that an attempt to negotiate religion will be foolhardy, if not a senseless venture.
Another group seeks to cut through it. This group attempts to denigrate the entirety of religion or try to question the intelligence of those who subscribe to one form of religion and not the other. Politically speaking, this people will only succeed in cutting themselves off from the people they seek to lead.
In order to address this religious ham shackle on the African, I suggest burrowing through the mountain. Religion, like education, agriculture, commerce and science has become an integral part of society. But just like the other fields of endeavor, the quality of structuring and administration determines the sort of result they’ll yield for a society.
Allowing religion to continue as a grey area where every John and Jane Doe can set up shop and deliver all manner of snake oil potions to the masses becomes the problem. While the logical purists may argue that the subject of faith and religion is basically flawed, there can be no gain saying the fact that this enterprise provides a priceless asset for delivering various forms of secular learning, including civic education, which are instrumental in any nation’s success. It is also important for the African intelligentsia to understand that Logos by itself is neither exclusive, nor logically sufficient in building a civilization. From where we stand, there could be no more effective an institution placed to lace our mental faculties with the elixir of patriotism, as well as other forms of social intervention than our churches and mosques. But when they are reduced to visa distribution centers and training camps for flimflam artists without as much as a finger lifted, then go figure.
The church and Mosque, as well as various forms of Traditional worship can become great sub economies for national transformation, if well directed and managed. In the meantime, we are allowing this sector to run on autopilot just like any other aspect of the general economy. Here again, we have planted weeds but seeking to harvest well-formed fruits. Only in this case, we have a “good “excuse; the church doesn’t allow people to think, hence they are the genesis of all our troubles.