Nigeria, a country of about a hundred and fifty million people is undoubtedly one of the most religious countries in the world. All over the country, religion plays an important role in the daily lives of her citizens; the way we interact with each other, our choice of dressing, food, and politics are mostly affected by religion. I will try to concern myself with the two most prominent brands of religion in Nigeria, Christianity and Islam.

The aim of this essay is to try as best as possible to delve into why religion plays such an important role in our lives as citizens of a free country and why I think religion is killing our country. Before I proceed any further, I will like to state clearly that I have nothing against religious people; people who seek for salvation by choosing to follow the teachings of any of the afore-mentioned religions. It will be wrong and impertinent of me to condemn anybody who so wishes to improve his/her spiritual essence. I strongly believe that it is the right of every individual to worship any Deity he/she so fancies.

However, there are certain beliefs which I hold dear; a belief in enlightenment, the beauty of science and technology, the immense power of the human intellect and the conviction that all forms of foreign religions being practiced in Nigeria appears to be leading our people astray.

Presently, Nigeria is going through the routes of electing leaders into various positions of authority. Again, we are all witnesses to the ugly occurrences stemming from the processes, the most absurd being the killing of innocent citizens by over-zealot individuals. It is hard for me to understand why a fellow primate will want to kill another for no other reason than to express his displeasure at his candidate losing out in an election. Again, our penchant for "one Nigeria" is being exposed as one big liar owning to the fact that the killing of fellow Nigerians in the Northern part of the country was targeted at Nigerians of Southern extraction. I am yet to see that fellow that could convince me that the rampaging miscreants in the North of Nigeria were not hiding under the canopy of religion while carrying out the dastardly acts. Reportedly, it is a Muslins vs. Christians scenario.

The horrors carried out in the North is simply too gruesome to describe here. Innocent Youth Corpers were murdered for no reason at all; there can be no reason why an innocent person should be killed. But then, the seed for this wickedness was already sowed by opposition parties when they started using religion as a veritable campaign strategy. General Buhari was painted as a religious bigot, a Muslim extremist who must be stopped from occupying the highest office in our country, an office he has every right to aspire to. Knowing how gullible our people were to issues of religion, this was a very sad strategy to adopt by those who felt threatened by the General's aspiration. Thus, most Southern Christians were goaded into having goose pimples at the thought of having him elected as president. We are still witnessing the madness taking place across Nigeria as a result of this.

Which brings me to the crux of my essay; why is religion being used to stifle our growth as a nation? Politicians know how to employ this tool. Voters who are already brain-washed are being deceived into voting for a particular candidate because he is "a member of our church" or faith. This is very evident in the South East, Peter Obi of Anambra state being a glaring example. Catholic priests in Anambra state openly enjoined their members to vote for him because of his religious inclination. He always clutched his Chaplet tightly in his hands to demonstrate to the Catholic faithful that he was certainly one of them. And they accepted him thus.

Religion does not make people good. On the contrary, it is being used as an instrument of oppression and deceit in Nigeria. People are not being enjoined to use their intellect to seek for answers to their numerous problems, rather rogue Pastors and Imams exploit the most bizarre human weakness to make them perpetually subservient! That weakness is the fear of the "unknown" and death. The number of religious people in Nigeria runs into millions, yet the level of hunger, disease, ignorance, poverty, avoidable deaths, and immoral acts is mind-boggling. The amount of crimes committed in God's name in Nigeria is staggering; past leaders who have robbed us blind as a nation are all people of faith! The armed robbers, the kidnappers, the pen-robbers, the civil servants, and artisans are all people that profess one faith or the other. Is God really anywhere near Nigeria?

I strongly believe that we should be focusing more on developing the human intellect in Nigeria rather than churning out millions of religious bigots who are so blind to the realities around them. We should be worried as a nation when we have a sinfully stupid religious group that goes by the moronic name "Boko Haram". While other countries are investing huge amounts of resources in education, this sinister group goes about lamenting that ‘Western education is evil" and insists on hacking innocent citizens to death to prove their pluck. This is in the Northern part of Nigeria. What do we have in the South of Nigeria? Loads of churches littering both sides of the Lagos-Ibadan highway all praying for Armageddon! The churches being fathered by some smart Pastors are all in the business of pauperizing their adherents, setting up many lucrative businesses, buying up choice estates outside Nigeria, acquiring private jets while encouraging their wretched followers to "fast and pray" ceaselessly. It is crazy.

Of course, people always argue that the problem with Nigeria has nothing to do with religion. But then, I am quick to point at the ways religious leaders and groups try to manipulate the rest of us. The lie that is being perpetrated by religious leaders in Nigeria is a major factor speeding up our decay as a nation. Rogue politicians always rush to Mr. Adeboye's Redeemed Camp for "anointing" which is always shown on National television. I am yet to read or hear of a time when this popular pastor chastised those politicians who came to "seek the face of the Lord" in his office. Rather, what we see is a pastor who prays for rogue politicians, "blesses" them and poses for photographs with them. James Ibori who is currently cooling his heels in Wandsworth jail, London is a typical example. Pastors like Adeboye who control millions of followers would do well by using their church as an avenue to enlighten Nigerians rather than encouraging them to live wretched lives on earth while aspiring to end up in some heaven.

The Christian Bible enjoins followers to "have no thought for tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself…" I think that this is a very wicked sermon. Any religion that encourages her adherents to surrender their thinking faculty ought to be discarded at once. Though some Christians would be quick to interpret the above statement differently, the fact is that it has helped in no small measure in making millions of Christians to accept mediocre situations as being some sort of Divine Will that should not be questioned. Many otherwise avoidable deaths are daily being shrugged off as the will of God, many politicians rig themselves into office and we soldier on with the belief that "all power come from above". Islam on its part enjoins Muslims faithful to accept every situation as "the will of Allah", this is really sad. What one sees in the Northern part of the country is a population that is being strangulated by man- made misery! This is criminal to say the least. Religion is really poisoning everything in Nigeria [apologies to Christopher Hitchens].

It is evident from numerous bizarre happenings in Nigeria that religion as is being bandied about is not helping us. Religious leaders employ the services of stone-age religious books that are at most, inaccurate collections of alleged events that took place in the vast waste lands of ancient Palestine and Saudi Arabia to bamboozle our compatriots. Foreign religion is preventing us from growing to our full potentials which is possible as a country. It is an insult to our race as primates to accept that the teachings contained in both the Bible and the Koran will make us better human beings. It is unimaginable to assert that we did not know that such crimes as stealing, killing, lying, coveting our neighbour's property, slander, adultery, envy, etc are wrong on its own! Before the advent of foreign religions, our forefathers had certain unwritten laws and rules that included the wrongs listed above.

Education is what will set us free as a nation. Hence, I weep when I see the vast amount of resources being wasted in Nigeria in the name of building "a befitting edifice for the Lord" while our schools are left to decay. Bible clutching religious fanatics abounds in Nigeria, all ambushing fellow citizens with threats of "an eternity spent in hell fire"! I have always maintained that any religion that coerces one into submission with threats of hell fire is simply absurd. I do not think it proper for any religion to employ play ground bullying tactics to force people to accept its teachings, what we see in Nigeria is a situation whereby people attempt to do good deeds because of a promised reward of a place in heaven. This is simply self-serving and a false attempt at piety.

Finally, I wish to re-state that I hold nothing against any religious person. What troubles me is the evil that is being marshaled out in Nigeria in the name of religion. The greatest threat to our survival as a nation is our level of ignorance. The literacy level in our country is shocking, our level of morality is too faint, and the depth of the decay brought about by religion in Nigeria is unbelievable. In this jet age, our people are still obsessed with ‘witches and wizards", weird stories of child-witches, talks of principalities and power [in high places], blood sucking demons, spiritual attacks, ancestral spirits, familiar spirits, "mammy-water spirits", monitoring spirits, spirit of poverty, and other stupid human wishful evils! We certainly do not need ‘Prayer Warriors" in Nigeria, we don't need "General Overseers'', Imams, Priests, Monks, Nuns, and all the hysteric virgins of many religious sects to move our nation forward. What we need is an enlightened populace, a collection of human beings that will aspire to grasp the knowledge and education that will set them free. The type of citizenry that would come together to elect a president based on his achievements rather than on his tribe or religion, a citizenry that would stand up collectively to chase away the political leaders that wreck our lives, an enlightened population that would resist mediocre leadership at every level of government. We certainly do not need religious leaders that own four private jets while their followers die of malaria, we do not need General Overseers who build expensive schools that most of their members cannot afford to send their wards to, and we do not need Imams that own choice properties in Dubai while their misguided Almajiris beg for alms.

I will end this piece by reminding us of what Karl Marx said years ago, "Religion is the opium of the masses". Nigerians are really high on that opium and this is why we remain a country filled with mostly ignorant religious bigots.

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