By James Ogunjimi
Since the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai sent a bill to the Kaduna State House of Assembly seeking to amend the Kaduna State Religious Preaching Law of 1984, several reactions have trailed that announcement. But the most disturbing reactions have come from the leaders of both faiths who are deliberately misleading their followers as to what the bill really entails.
It is unfortunate that the same preachers who travel out of the country, see the way things are done, see how religious activities are regulated, get permits to hold crusades, are the same ones screaming blue murder and alleging persecution here, thereby deliberately inciting their followers and members towards challenging a policy that can only calm the already raging waters of religious violence in the country.
Kaduna State has a long history of clashes and violent uprisings arising from crises that take on both political and religious faces and boil to a point where they can no longer be separated. For anyone who wants a genuine end to clashes in that state, that religious law should be a welcome development.
Kicking against that bill might just mean that the religious leaders only appear to want an end to the crises caused by religion in the state but in actual fact, their actions speak otherwise.
Majority of the followers alleging persecution have not even read the bill. They do not know that CAN is part of the regulatory bodies. They do not know that JNI is represented in the regulatory body.
The religious leaders should be cautioned. Government has a responsibility to protect lives and properties and if it has identified regulation of religious activities as one of the steps that need to be taken, religious bodies should not be a hindrance to that.
Ironically, most of the religious leaders alleging persecution and inciting their members to kick against the law have security details assigned to them. They have DSS operatives following them around. If there is a religious crisis, they would be safe while their followers who they incited to kick against a law that would protect them will be consumed.
The onus lies on every individual to use their head. Regulating religious activities is nothing new. It is done everywhere. The only reason why it has taken this long is because we have left virtually every aspect of our national life to chance and luck; as such we have brewed avoidable crisis and watched it consume countless lives. I look forward to the day when that law would be enforced nationwide.
Besides, with the way religion is being practiced in this country, with the way preachers are being caught duping, raping, swindling gullible folks, with the way religious folks create public nuisance by blaring songs, messages and calls to prayers and keep people up at night in the name of vigils, it is a miracle that religious activities have not been banned completely.
Every right-thinking Nigerian who has not been blinded by religious bigotry and is not a slave to the herd mentality must throw their weight behind that bill and call on the House not to allow itself to be bullied by market noises created by agents of confusion who speak with both sides of the mouth, or the next time a life is lost due to religious crisis, they should take full responsibility and realize that the blood is on their hands.
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