DrTajudeen Abdul-Raheem is Director, Justice
+44 207 354 8400
Email: Tajudeen28@yahoo.comor Thursdaypostcard@justiceAfrica.org


Christmas is upon us again with all the attendant
spirituality, religiosity but more pronouncedly,
the banalities of blatant vulgar commercialism
that is emptying the season of any religious or
spiritual meaning. How is it that the celebration
of the humble birth of a carpenter’s son in a
tent no more salubrious than a manger is now
taken over by multi billion dollar consumer
industry with no more interest in your spiritual
revival than the profits they can fleece from
your pockets? Christmas is not the only religious
occasion that has been commercialized. The Muslim
fast in the holiest of holy months of Islam,
Ramadan, that is supposed to bring believers in
the Muslim faith closer to Allah and their fellow
human beings especially those less well-off, has
become the most expensive month in many Muslim
families and communities and a whole month of
gratuitous consumption with an even more
ostentatious end. The Muslims seem to be trying
to out do their Christian counterparts in trying
to commodify and commercialise their Eid.

It is not just the religious festivals alone that
have been taken over by crass commercialism. The
temples, Mosques, Churches and other places of
worship have not been spared. Indeed Religion as
a whole has become a terrain for those in power
and control of society to justify their economic,
political and ideological hegemony over the less
privileged, the poor and the powerless. Just look
around you and see how many religious leaders are
living in opulence while their congregations are
emaciated by poverty, want and disease. The more
churches and mosques we build the less Godly our
societies become. If you look at the construction
boom in many African countries their main
catalysts are either Public and Private money
launderers or religious communities building
houses for God who does not need it on the backs
of their followers who are homeless or leaving in
houses not fit for a manger!

It will seem that God only hears the prayers of
the founder or leaders of the church, not that of
the groaning mass of followers. Or are we
witnessing what Marxists call ‘opium of the
masses’? The Late Afro beat King, Fela Kuti
popularized this in one of his more popular songs
as ‘ Archbishop na Miliki, Pope na enjoyment,
Imam na Gbaladun’ (meaning the Arch Bishop, the
Pope and the Imam are enjoying themselves) while
their congregations are ‘suffering and smiling’.

There is no place where this manipulation of
religion is more pronounced than in our public
spaces. People in power appropriate God and
organised religion to justify their rule and
misrule. People who are in office as a result of
mass bribery of the electorate and pervasive
rigging say ‘Its God’s will’. If God wants you as
President, Member of Parliament, Mayor or
Councilor why must he do it through rigging?
They use and abuse their public positions to
amass stupendous wealth and claim its ‘God’s
blessings’. Why is God blessing those who are
taking from those who do not have, people who are
denying the masses drugs in their hospitals,
schools for their children and good roads to walk
God’s earth?

Have you noticed how many ‘born again’ Presidents
and First Ladies we have across the continent of
Africa? Yet can we say there is any Godliness in
their behavior in office? They are putting God to
the service of their secular greed.

Governor Alameisigha of one of Nigeria’s Oil
producing States who recently jumped bail in
London on money laundering charges and now
impeached and awaiting trial for massive
corruption in Abuja arrived home shamelessly
proclaiming that it was by ‘God’s miracle’ that
he escaped from London dressed as a woman! Which
God was aiding him other than the incompetence of
the British police and intelligence service who
did not see him escaping and the reciprocal
incompetence of their Nigerian counterparts who
did not spot him on arrival?

Too many things are put on God because this
omnipresent and omniscient Being has no defence
lawyers, He does not talk in His own defence and
has no instant rebuttal department. Therefore He
is open to abuse, misuse, and subversion. For
instance no African leader will say that God told
him (or her, now that Serlief –Johnson of
Liberia will join the Club) to go to the IMF or
World Bank or any other foreigners and foreign
institutions to whom they pawn the national
economy. However when it comes to them remaining
in office in perpetuity they concoct
conversations with God
and their unfinished ‘missions’ on His behalf as
excuses for not leaving power. A courageous
priest recently reminded his congregation in
Abuja during a State house sponsored end of year
service there are things people want to hear and
there are things God want people to hear. He
chose to give God’s message rather than dance to
the tune from those wishing Obasanjo to do a
Museveni. There were contorted faces and feigned
indifference but the priest spoke for God in the
presence of Caesar.
In this yuletide season, amidst all the
festivities and crash commercialism, we need
priests, religious leaders and public
intellectuals who are able to speak truth to
those in power and encourage their flocks to do
the same and stop God’s house of worship from
becoming a den of thieves, charlatans,
opportunists, exploiters and oppressors.

When you attend Church services this weekend ask yourself a few questions:
Am I here for God? Is my pastor serving God or
serving him/her self? Or worse still, is he
putting God at the service of those in power?
Merry Christmas.

"Forward Ever Backward never" Kwame Nkrumah