There is no doubt that religion is an integral part of Nigerian society. Children are given Biblical or religion-related names such as Abraham or Olufunmilayo, which means God gave me joy in Yoruba. Nigerians also spend a lot of time in church, with services lasting 3 or more hours. Nigeria also churches and mosques on almost every corner, with some churches having the most amazing names like Guided Missiles Church or Fists of Fury. Additionally, religious leaders are extremely influential, commanding congregations in the thousands.
But despite these facts, there remains the question of whether Nigerians should truly be considered a religious people. There are some who advocate the murder of children deemed to be witches. Others mislead young ladies and their families to traffic women as prostitutes in Mali, Italy and elsewhere. In fact, Nigeria is now considered a top country in trafficking. Leaders use Allah and God's name to create violent frenzies and divisions. Poor children are used as domestic help instead of being sent to school. Kidnapping has become a way of life in some parts of the country. Old men rape and molest young girls sometimes in the name of religion, tradition and even nothing at all. Corruption and its impact lead to death and misfortune for millions. And yet, the average Nigerian considers themselves religious, can pray extremely well and believes that their reward will come, if not now, then in the afterlife. And for the many that do not participate in the practices that cripple the country, not enough actively discourage such behavior and thus sanction it with their silence.
Given that context, what does it mean to be a religious society when the basic facets of religion such as kindness, integrity, truthfulness and much more are increasingly becoming scarce? Granted there are many in Nigeria who despite the challenges, do the right things, live well and are honorable in a manner that is above reproach. But are there enough of these people for Nigerians, as a whole, to qualify as being religious and by implication, good? That is a tough question that may remain unanswerable, but what is obvious is that Nigerians must learn to dismiss their cloak of religion and replace it with actual religious-like behavior if they really are as committed as they would like to think. Only then will it be truly appropriate for the nation to consider itself religious. With the Islamic New Year just beginning and Christmas around the corner, now is as good a time as any for Nigerians to do better.