We Desire Only The Good: A Reply To Leo Igwe's Article

Cornelius Ewuoso

Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.


My attention has been drawn to a certain article, Africa needs development, not God, written by Leo Igwe and published in the Guardian newspaper of Wednesday, 11th March 2009. In the said article, Leo contended that God-talk is delusional, misleading and totally irrelevant in Africa. In his own word,

Africa does not need God or a re-invasion by missionaries. Africa needs the Good. Africa needs good governance, good infrastructure, good roads, good schools, college, and universities. Africans need a sound education and training system that would make them to think, create, criticise debate, invent, and innovate freely. (Guardian newspaper of Wednesday, 11th March 2009).

Anyone who has taken the time and patience to study Africa, her leaders and people, would readily appreciate what Leo is trying to do here. Africa is a continent plagued with all sorts of social, economic and political ills. There is wide spread embezzlement across the continent; corruption, bad leadership, absence of good healthcare delivery system, war, injustice, absence of good education, tribal clashes, poverty, underdevelopment, Military coups, civil unrest, enmity, fear, anxiety, uncertainty, insecurity etc, so why talk about God in the face of these ills. Why talk about God or re-invasion of religion especially when the cause these ills is identifiable. We all know the cause, it is bad leadership.

The leaders of many African countries, driven by greed and insatiable desire for money, have plundered and reduced Africa to a shadow of itself. They have stolen, maimed, exploited and forcefully taken away what was meant for the development of the continent. As a result of this, many Africans are living in abject poverty, misery and frustration. Many go to bed hungry and wake up without any hope getting something to eat. There is fear and uncertainty across the land; fear of the unknown; fear of tomorrow.

Additionally, why talk about God or re-invasion by missionaries when religion, especially in Africa, as I have argued in some of my articles, has been reduced to mundane and selfish purposes of men and women who will never cease to use it as a means of exploiting the unsuspecting masses; for perpetrating grand injustices and crime. Hence, we can understand Leo Igwe's frustration, his concerns and anxieties. His concerns and anxieties echo what many of us have always argued and would never stop agitating for, good governance. We cannot talk about sustainable development in this continent when there is an absence of good governance. Good governance necessarily precedes qualitative development. There cannot be one without the other.

But except that in agitating for this, Leo moved a little too far by excluding God-talk or religion in our search for ‘the good'; good governance, good infrastructure, sustainable development etc. and this is my concern.

The young man must be lauded and appreciated for his sincere effort to arouse in us the desire for the good, but his hard talk must not be allowed to go by, without correcting him. Friends, we can afford to spare the rod here and spoil the child at this stage of our historical development. It was the French philosopher, Voltaire, who said, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him". Albeit this may sound too difficult for many, Voltaire's reflection provides us food for thought. Permit me, to draw some parallels here between the human person and he-goats. The human persons are like he-goats, very stubborn and strong headed. It is exactly those things you discourage them from doing that they find pleasure in doing. If you drive a he-goat away from a place, it would go back there. In the same way, if you tell man not to be corrupt; that corruption is bad for the future of any nation, he will never listen. Tell him not to steal, he steals. If you tell him not to maim, he maims. If you tell the human person not to commit crime, he would commit crime.

But imagine what life would have turned out to be, if there were no human beings constantly driving away and beating the he-goats, they would have made a mess of our environment. Consider what life would have been for a farmer if there were no scare-crows in his large corn farm, the birds would have made his bountiful harvest only a thing of imagination. In the same way, consider what many Africans and indeed many Nigerians are going through presently with their leaders because there is no Ribadu championing the anti-corruption campaign in Nigeria. Life in Nigeria today has become a synonym for frustration, poverty, misery, insecurity etc for the average Nigerian. Because there is no Ribadu in Nigeria, there is so much impunity, wide spread corruption, embezzlement, maiming, injustice, hatred, clashes etc. Similarly, oh! my dear young man, Leo, imagine what life would have turned out to be if there were no God or Allah or Supreme Being, the good you seek and which everyone of us desires would remain only an abstract concept, and never a thing of reality. So my dear young man, Leo, you understand now why God-talk must continue, if we ever want the good to become a real thing and not simply a mental conjecture; a thing of our imagination.

God, therefore, at least from this perspective, must be seen as the traffic light at a T-junction, ensuring order and harmony. He is like a dedicated Police man, the thought of whom alone would make a thief think twice before he commits a crime. But except that to say this, is to say the least about God. It is nonetheless, important to mention it.

Furthermore Leo you bear a religious name, you attended a religious school and you still do not understand the importance religion or God-talk in the face of these social and economic ills which bedevil us. You remember this song, "John Bull my son, I sent you to school, you don't know how to spell your name". I was taught this song in primary school (by the way, I finished my primary school education in 1996). It showed me the importance of education. Similarly, Leo, were you not equally taught in school that even with the present God-talk, there is still injustice in the land. Now consider what life would have turned out to be if there were no God-talk at all, the world would be chaotic. Imagine Leo, if there were no talk about a God who rewards good deeds and punishes crime in full measure, we would have succeeded in giving the African man the license for committing all sorts of atrocity. Hence, the reason why God-talk must be included even in our search for the good.

The problem we have is not religion or what religion has been reduced to, but our inability to whole-heartedly integrate the values of religion. The problem is with us and our greedy human nature. Religion offers us good moral instructions on the basis of which alone, the good can be achieved. It teaches us friendliness, love of neighbour and country, concern, uprightness, dedication and all those things which direct us to the good. If only our leaders would imbibe these values, we would have no reason to agitate for justice, good infrastructure, good education, good healthcare delivery system, good governance, good security system, good road networks, good schools, colleges, and universities. If only the African man would imbibe these values, the talk about the good would simply be irrelevant, inappropriate, old, stale, obsolete, old-fashioned and inconsequential.

More than ever, I strongly advice that God-talk should not be excluded from the realm of those things which can help us establish justice and good infrastructure in the continent. Put differently, all those things which offer us knowledge of how we can deal with our problems and ills, should not be overlooked if we ever and truly desire success and the good. Religion offers us knowledge of how we can deal with our problems. It discourages injustice, embezzlement, maiming, robbery, prostitution and sin by constantly reminding us of God who knows all things and rewards good deeds or punishes sins. Hence, God-talk should not be excluded from the realm of those things which can help us establish justice and the good.

The challenge, therefore, Leo and my dear friends is to re-discover in this age and time the values which God-talk offer us. It is the starting point for curbing many of our excesses in this continent. The danger which we need to guard against as we strive to discover how religion can help us in curbing our excesses, is that of not losing the distinctiveness of religion albeit it informs the various aspects of our life-reason, political, social, economic etc,. This point brings me to another claim of Leo Igwe. Leo sees a disconnection between reason and religion. These two are not mutually exclusive; they compliment each other. Reason informs religion as it is informed by it. These two, as I have shown in one of my articles, The Supreme Being and Politics, The Nigerian Politician's Mistake (published in this site) are not unconnected. They are supportive of one another.

It is equally sad to learn that Leo Igwe sees abortion as a woman's expression of her freedom. What significantly affects others negatively is no freedom but vice. Abortion affects us negatively and significantly because, as I have shown in one of my articles, In Defence of Our Future (published on this site), it threatens the propagation of our human species. Hence, it should be discouraged. This is not the good we desire and surely this is not what will help us in achieving the good.

Re: We Desire Only The Good: A Reply To Leo Igwe's Article [Hold]
Ozoodoo posted on 03-13-2009, 16:46:30 PM
Because there is no Ribadu in Nigeria, there is so much impunity, wide spread corruption, embezzlement, maiming, injustice, hatred, clashes etc.

The above is a fallacy. While Ribadu was at EFCC there were "so much impunity, wide spread corruption, embezzlement, maiming, injustice, hatred, clashes etc". Our newspapers were full of the news.
Re: We Desire Only The Good: A Reply To Leo Igwe's Article [Hold]
Sammyduyo posted on 03-14-2009, 05:45:33 AM
I do not agree that God talk as you claim, is a necessary requirement for the good - good leadership, governance, infrastructure, blah, blah, blah. The absence of chaos, does not translate to the presence of God or God talk! The absence of chaos, is due to the presence of law and government! There are many contemporary examples, of very religious societies that have descended into chaos, because of the failure or absence of government. Leo Igwe's article is balanced, well thought through and timely. In africa, we need freedom, freedom from mental enslavement, freedom from religious dogmas, freedom that will only result from education and enlightenment!
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