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Civil Disobedience By Religious Groups As Ticking Time Bomb



Religion, especially the two major monotheist religions in Nigeria (Christianity and Islam) is supposed to be an instrument of social harmony. Their respective holy scriptures advocate for the love for God, purity, high moral values and peaceful coexistence within the society. Invariably, religion is not supposed to promote civil disobedience.

Unfortunately, religion has continued to serve as a motivation for civil disobedience. I am not referring to the simple issue of erecting of noisy loud-speakers within and outside worship places that generates noise pollution to the annoyance of neighbors or even the blocking of public roads during  worship. I refer to serious cases where clerics hide under the cloak of religion to challenge state authority by inciting their members against the state.

We all can remember the violent clash between the Nigeria Army and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) on 12 December 2015. It was nothing other than civil disobedience. The utterances and pronouncements of some clerics in relation to the politics of the nation while using religion as cover gives me some serious security concerns.

We know the mobilization capabilities of religion and how it can drive its adherents towards senseless acts of civil disobedience and ultimately violent destruction of lives and properties. Videos have gone viral where preachers on the pulpit used hate speeches against individuals and government and even went as far as ordering their respective congregations to kill in a supposed democratic state where the rule of law prevails.

The public uproar that follows each time attempts are made to invite these individuals for interrogation gives a clear picture that we are toying with a time bomb. In my opinion, the religious groups and their respective leaders understand the emotional and mobilization power of religion. They also understand that a significant part of their target audience lack ability to critically examine the issues. So they are emboldened by the fact their members will always blindly support their actions no matter the threat it may pose to the system. What I can say is that these clerics are increasingly overstepping their boundaries and creating room for disregard for legitimate state authority in Nigeria. Their respective acts, if allowed to endure, could create a parallel authority within the Nigerian state and ultimately degenerate to violence that will consume the Nigerian state.

Religious groups ought to be seen to respect the existing laws of the country and help the government in the social reengineering effort. However, this seem not to be the case in Nigeria as a lot of religious groups are themselves lawless hiding under the cloak of spirituality to undermine national order and stability. The government on its part seem to be creating room for the narrative of the clerics to flourish because it has not fulfilled its own part of the social contract with Nigerians. Religious groups must however realize that in as much as freedom of worship is a constitutional right, it should not be seen to undermine national security.

The security agencies, especially the Nigerian Police need to rise up to the occasion to arrest any clerics or persons committing offence under the guise of religion. The moment strict enforcement of law and order commences, it will serve as deterrent to other groups. In order to avoid future reoccurrence, the Public Order Act which provides for proper and peaceful conduct of public assemblies, meetings and processions need to be activated and strictly enforced. Nigeria is a democratic state, which operates within the ambit of the law and respect for fundamental rights of the citizenry.

No religious groups should be excused to circumvent human rights. It is a step towards anarchy. We have seen what northern Nigeria has turned into because we condoled the excesses of religion. Today, people are dying and thousands of families displaced in the name of religion. We should learn from history. All the acts of infringements by religious groups should not be tolerated. What we need in Nigeria is genuine peace and stability built on the altar of respect for human rights. 

– Mamud is an expert on security issues





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