By Sani Sa’idu Baba
More often than not, religion has always been used as a vehicle to create tension amongst people of different faith, especially in our blessed country. This move is what the late Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman tagged the ‘manipulation of religion’, and it is always promoted by those in power, the clergy and more importantly, the owners of the means of production. This is more elaborate in Marx’s philosophy of religion as the opium of the masses. Through this process, the vast population of this country is made to wallow aimlessly in the ocean of abject poverty and squalor.
It should be noted that tolerance is not only related to religious issue as it cut across the ethnic, and the political. Established historical, sociological and anthropological researches have proven the fact that a society with little knowledge, civilization and inter-group ties are prone to develop intolerance in its truest sense across all the facets mentioned.
The question of intolerance is not a new phenomenon in the Nigerian history. For instance, during the 1940s and 1950s, the presence of a serious confrontational politics in Yoruba land supported by their politicians led to familial and communal killings and hatred. The Northern part of the country as well, is not an exception as the supporters of Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) often took up arms to defend themselves from the aristocratic Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC). This may be identified as political intolerance.
Similarly, religious intolerance between the Christian and Muslim Nigerians paved way to many bloody encounters, which ended up destroying not only the infrastructure, but also the cordial relations that once existed between many communities. Classic examples of such feuds and chaotic incidences in the timeline of this country are that of Kano in the 1990s and early 2000s, Zangon Kataf in Kano State, Jos, Benue, Wukari in Taraba State to mention a few.
Religio-political, cultural and economic tolerance create a purely serene environment where people of different cultures, norms and values come together under one umbrella. This is supported by the saying of the most popular African writer, journalist and philantropist, Chief (Dr.) Dele Momodu, that our strength as a nation is enshrined in our diversity vis-a-vis ethno-religious and cultural differences.
This also ensures national development and economic growth as peace is the building block of a successful notion. For instance, despite the diversity of the Americans in terms of demography, language, faith, philosophy and race, they live peacefully and every one of them strives to make not his ends meet, but that of the United States. This concept and unwavering belief is justified in their famous slogan of pluribus unun (from many are one).
To develop our great nation, which is the only one we should, tolerance in all respect must be promoted. Measures must also be put in place to bring those promoting division, nepotism, ethnicity, violence and the breakdown of law to book. United we stand, divided we fall.