Poor Governance Forced Nigerians to Run to Their Gods

“…when the government can not do anything, God has to do everything.”

The average Nigerian depends on his God for practically everything. Lives and properties are not secure: he depends on God for security. The roads are death traps, the vehicles are bad, and the drivers are crazy: a Nigerian depends on God for ‘journey mercies’. Access to quality health care is poor: a Nigerian depends on God for sound health. The economy is harsh: he depends on God for divine provisions. Sunday mornings, everywhere looks deserted because everybody has gone to church to thank God for everything and plead with him for everything for the following week. Every Friday, all the roads leading to the major mosques are blocked for similar reasons. On Friday evenings, the churches are filled up again for night vigils for the same reason. But you can’t blame them: when the government can not do anything, God has to do everything.

Human beings love to have control over their situations. We want to put a cup on the table and come back to find it there, start a business and make profit, travel and return safely, get pregnant and get delivered safely, sleep at night and wake up the following morning, have a 5-year plan and see the plan come to fruition in 5 years’ time, etc. We can not cope with chaotic, unpredictable lives. The comfort of this feeling of control makes us tick. The funny thing is that it doesn’t matter whether the control is real or fake: a conviction of having the control is just enough sometimes.

Social scientists have observed that citizens of countries with stable, responsible, governments have a feeling of being in control of their own situations. Citizens feel more in charge of their lives when they trust their governments. But in situations where citizens feel that their governments are irresponsible and unstable (whether real or just perceived), they begin to feel that their lives are chaotic and unpredictable. At this point, they try to look for another locus of control and what they turn to is their God.

In a 2010 study, a group of scholars were able to establish that belief in God and belief in government are both external sources of control that serve the same purpose and that in situations when one is considered to have failed, the citizens can fall back on the other for psychological survival. In fact, under experimental conditions, they were able to establish this hydraulic relationship between both beliefs. In other words, the more you feel that your government is reliable and responsible, the less you depend on God for your life and vice versa. And this has been true about Nigeria. Well above 90% of Nigerians are either Christians or Muslims and this trend is evident in both religions as they are being practiced in Nigeria.

Today in every typical Nigerian metropolis, there is a church standing on every 0.1 hectare of the earth’s surface. In fact, there are situations where three or four different churches share the same plots of land standing directly next to each other. This was not the situation in the 1970’s and 80’s when the country enjoyed a slight political and economical stability. But as the hardship levels increased in the 1990’s, the number of churches per unit area increased and both parameters have increased at the same rate ever since.

In Nigeria, Christian churches are commonly classified into orthodox and pentecostal. The orthodox churches are those with broad international networks who operate through complex organograms. They are not indigenous churches and examples include the Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, and the Baptist. Their global headquarters are not in Nigeria. Pentecostal churches are indigenous churches that started Nigeria in the 1970’s and beyond and their headquarters are in Nigeria, mostly Lagos. The founders and leaders are Nigerians and they are mostly run like business enterprises with emphasis on erecting massive auditoriums and running expansive outfits. Such churches include the Deeper Life Bible Church, Winners’ Chapel, Christ Embassy, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, etc. Of course, apart from these big guns, smaller similar denominations litter the whole landscape of Nigeria.

“Churches have increased in number, public schools have remained the same and factories have reduced in number. When the Nigerian economy was vibrant, we could not boast of a single pastor on the Forbes’ list but today when Nigerian economy has deteriorated severely, Nigeria has succeeded in producing half of the richest pastors in the world.”

The message preached by both groups of Christians are different. While orthodox churches have stayed more around moralistic themes, pentecostal churches have emphasized miracle claims, prosperity, and supernatural powers. These churches were inspired by the parent American faith movement which spread like wildfires among the struggling black population in America. Similarly, the pentecostal message became an instant success among Nigerians whose individual prosperity was nosediving in the harsh atmosphere of an imploding economy. Thus the sharp increase in churches per unit area statistic is due to an explosion of the pentecostal movement while the orthodox Christian movement has shown very little or no sudden growth. In less than 2 decades, one of the pentecostal churches has achieved its vision of establishing one of its branches ‘within five minutes walking distance in every city and town of‘ Nigeria.

But here’s the disturbing trend. Churches have increased in number, public schools have remained the same and factories have reduced in number. When the Nigerian economy was vibrant, we could not boast of a single pastor on the Forbes’ list but today when Nigerian economy has deteriorated severely, Nigeria has succeeded in producing half of the richest pastors in the world.

And the Muslims are not left out. ‘Pentecostalism’ also began squeezing itself into Muslim groups all over the country. There are Nigerian Muslims that now brand themselves ‘evangelicals’, conduct miracle services, do night vigils and even worship on Sundays. In a country where access to quality healthcare is low, Nigerians have turned to their pastors and Imams for healing. In a country where opportunities for economical survival are low, Nigerians have turned to Jehovah and Allah for ‘a way where there is no way’. The hydraulic effect discussed earlier can not be more obvious than what we have in Nigeria presently.

Why should we be bothered about this? Why should we lose our heads over how people express their personal rights of freedom of religious expression? It’s because once you get into that web, you may find it difficult to come out. Remember the hydraulic effect? When your trust in your government is high, your trust in God reduces but when you repose all your trust in God, your concern about the government evaporates. And when you become nonchalant about the government, you can’t contribute your own quota to development and your overall situation worsens even further.

“Taxpayers who are supposed to demand for access to quality health care from their misruling leaders have gone to God to demand for their miracle healing.”

There is a vigor that builds in the citizens that stimulate them to demand for change from their leaders. We have seen this happen in a number of nations in the past. But the Nigerian situation is worrisome. The small-scale business man whose business has capitulated due to the harsh economic and infrastructural condition is supposed to be fired up to demand accountability from his leaders. In Nigeria, he has left the government alone and turned to God for succour. The irresponsible leaders now have a field day continuing the misrule having received a help from the belief in God in keeping the potential protestant calm. Taxpayers who are supposed to demand for access to quality health care from their misruling leaders have gone to God to demand for their miracle healing.

Poor governance have turned Nigerians away from government to their respective Gods. To give this country any chance of restoration, we will need to reverse this ugly trend.

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4 Comments

  1. Olabisi Olanrewaju May 8, 2016
  2. Victor Okosun May 8, 2016
  3. Free Classifieds April 16, 2016

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