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The Church, Ethnicity And National Redemption


Steve Orji, United Kingdom

Anyone who has worked in the public or private sector in Nigeria would have had a taste of “ethnic victimisation”, however short-lived. In my case as a serving National youth Corp member, in Delta state, my first taste of it gave me a rather rude shock.  It took place in a most unlikely place, “the church”.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan

The Nigerian Christian Corpers Fellowship (NCCF) was a massive national carriage of youths from all parts of the country, held together by a common vision to reach the interior places in the host communities, with the gospel. I recall this in part, mainly as a personal reflection on what I term “profanity” of the highest order. My sincere expectations as a fresh Nigerian youth had its first tragic brush on this wrong side.

What was is that went wrong?

Some of my compatriots had held secret plots to express their sentiments in rather very strong terms against my being elected a leader, in a group in which their ethnic group held a majority. I was from another ethnic group, and that meant a lot. I was from a “wrong tribe”.

We often point wrong fingers at corruption, as the chief cornerstone of the many troubles of Nigeria. For Instance the state adopted practice of putting down ones state of origin or tribe in every document provides more than a national endorsement on ethnicity than it seeks to serve good purposes.

This might have been brought into use by leaders who needed to balance out certain resource deficits in their local territories of extractions, without bringing into world view, the shrinking pressure such narrow formulations exert on the economic and social spectrum of the entire society. This practice was initially a wholly public service idea crafted by ethnic-driven leaders. But do you know what?

The private sector driven arm of the economy adopted a more covert prototype of this ethnic charter. The Human Resources departments of most private organizations in Nigeria are successfully primed ahead of take off, would have the backings and patronage of directors and captains of such organizations to only admit certain number of people from a target ethnic group. Encapsulated within this practice are the stratagem and frameworks of ethnic domination.

Corporate dominance has become a potent strategy for surviving in a nation whose cohesive strands are subject to the whims and devices of ethnic politics. What happens to those minority peoples and weak individuals, who though, have latent abilities for optimal performances, are forced out through the narrow cracks of ethnic biases? What hopes do such people have if they have no single person to “voice” their employments in a structurally deficit-economy?

The Human Resources departments of these organizations play the game of “proportionate advantage” with the recruitment processes, lets in certain ethnic groups in higher numbers, while certain groups are further suppressed and “out witted“ by clever underhand procedures that are better left to the imagination.  In times of structural downsizing, typical Human Resources departments act against clearly professionally-advised positions. In most cases, a power script is further executed:  “wrong tribes” are shown the way out, while the “favoured groups” sit back to savour the benefits of their success”.  If success would mean coming from the “right tribe” this time.

The back lash of this kind of ethnic indulgence is the cumulative loss of the culture of excellence in our national experience. Language and personal affiliations becomes the standards for an exercise that should have otherwise been merit-driven.

America, despite its evolutionary diversity, has managed to bring together in one dynamic space people from every part of the world to help them “cook the meal of national destiny and prosperity”. Bound by the spirit and energy of free market enterprise: “what you can do” has supplanted “where you come from”. You may wish to live and work, and thrive in any part of America without the monster of ethnicity, putting you to flight. Could that account in part, the stupendous prosperity of its people?

Nigeria must this time expunge from its national charter the symbols and tokens of ethnicity. Starting with the church and religious groups. Should certain spiritually qualified individuals not entitled to get to certain levels of the church leadership hierarchies simply because they are from another tribe?

The General Overseas of some churches in Nigeria must first institute by personal examples, the culture of love and oneness, by taking away the silent, often hidden clause of ethnic exclusions from their leadership set ups. The leadership succession plans have to have a transparent order and must be seen to be fair to all stakeholders. Often times the most hardworking and productive ethnic groups are suppressed, often subsumed as second class citizens. This is against every known ethic of justice and good conscience.

The impact of a good example by the church, and its leadership, will become viral, naturally cascade into the lowest ladder of the majority who thrive solely on the impressions and standards set by the visible leadership.

Nigeria is providentially blessed with an enviable cream of influential religious leaders who are now good-will ambassadors to Nigeria’s fledgling image. We need such leaders to bring the weight of their influence to bear in setting important national landmarks.

This is important because the present Nigeria system is religion-energised. Nigeria has powerful footprint In terms of religion. Good number of Nigerians would rather take to the words of their spiritual “papas” and “mamas” than anyone else. Nigerian’s are people with soft spot for religion. This becomes an important watershed in the moral and value transformation agenda of the nation. Since the political leadership seems to be faltering in their search for a value identity for Nigeria, God has found an easy way out. He has tinkered with the “soul and spirit” of Nigerians, with a huge “terminal benefit”-it has produced very loyal citizens, which are very easy to lead.

Nigeria becomes the first nation in the world capable of staging a moral and value revolution from the “Holy places”-I mean from the places of worship, through its transformed teeming followership. That transformation we all seek finds an epicenter and rallying spot in the inner sanctum of the church, as least from the outward zest of the followership.

Addressing the many issues that beset our progress as a nation can never be rightly achieved without consent and cooperation of the majority. In this instance, religious people are now in the majority.

That is by far a good advantage. But why are we just as depraved as other places in the world that does not have as much immense spiritual goodwill and religious sentiments as Nigeria? Could that be a tacit indication that Nigerians are hypocritical with their religion?  Does it add up to the fact that lack of love and unity in the spirit has robbed the church and nation of an imminent national redemption?

The aim of this piece is most principally aimed at the prospect of a national redemption, made possible by  genuine, heartfelt repentance toward God and to one another, that which will help us as individual participants of the Nigeria project in putting on the virtues of godliness and love for one for another (2 Chronicle 7vs 14, 1John 2vs9-11)

We cannot hope to build Nigeria as a divided spiritual entity. From indications, Nigeria’s fate and redemption sits squarely on the platform of spiritual grace and mercies from the Almighty God (Psalm 127vs1)

Winning this war against ethnicity in the church and in other religious bodies is one right foot at the door to national redemption.

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