By Busuyi Mekusi
Parables, like proverbs, are rich sayings that help deepen and enrich conversations. They are usually short, narrative in nature and illustrative enough to convey a lesson. They are mostly religious and moralistic, achieved through comparison or analogy. Jesus used parables in the Bible, very copiously, and contemporary religious leaders, mostly of catholic extraction, draw on biblical parables to spice their sermons. In an obsolete sense, parable could mean that which is easily prepared, procured or obtainable.
Some of the 38 important parables Jesus used in the Bible are those of: the Lamp, the Mustard Seed, Hidden Treasure, the Lost Sheep, the Budding Fig Tree, the Heart of Man, the Good Samaritan and the Rich Fool. In all, the parables foreground the ideals of a Christian, relationship between God and man, and man with other humans. To this end, they remain potent in the spiritual pathway of grass to grace, and to the grave!
Abass Obesere, the Nigerian Ăsàkasà Fuji maestro, was very clear about his brand of music and the popularity that his venturing to socially absurd and morally corruptive propensities in his content got him, given the proclivity of Nigerians for such tendencies. It is, therefore, not surprising that people go into queer acts, and stage uncommon idiocies, to attract attention, or get people talking.
Some have taken celebrity to very ridiculous extent in their actions, with critically-minded analysts ascribing reasonable madness to such individuals. Religious leaders across the various strata are not excluded from this negative stubbornness in the face of atrocious deployment of religion for the subjugation of unwary or gullible worshippers. From groves to churches and mosques, various types of desecration take place, notably being the defilement of underage, supplanting of other’s wives, and poaching of people’s finances.
Interestingly, religious speculators have also joined in the opinion polls about the possible winner of the forthcoming presidential election, veiled in spiritual prophecy. The sustained attacks of bandits and other extremists on churches across Nigeria in the recent past threw up discussions about the need for individuals to defend themselves, apparently because of the perception that governments at all levels were not doing enough to protect the people.
Governor Bello Masari, who presides in Katsina State, where PMB belongs, at several times canvassed for resorting to self-defence in mitigating the attritions of bandits and terrorists. This calls for self-help coexisted with assurances made by PMB each time blood baths occurred. A few Christian leaders similarly referenced the combat-readiness of Nehemiah and his team in the Bible who had to defend themselves against the attacks of the enemies, as they undertook the reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem. Others, however, called for restraints, citing the advice of Jesus to Peter that those who kill by the sword would die by the sword.
The decision of Uche Aigbe, the presiding pastor of the Abuja chapter of House on the Rock church, to mount the altar during a recent Sunday service carrying an AK-47 rifle introduced an assorted assault to what church pulpits are used for in 21st century Nigeria. Church altars have been turned to theatre stages, as against the space for God, with strange performances that are close to role-playing, mimicry and comic relief. The old Spartan access to the altar before the liberalisation of space achieved through the death of Jesus forbade boisterousness, not to talk of the flippancy that Pentecostalism precipitated.
Uche Aigbe was quoted to have told worshippers in his church that they needed to carry guns and defend themselves against preachers with the gifts of divination that were duping people, stating, perhaps jocularly, that he would particularly be coming for some of them sleeping in the church. He further urged them to guard their heart against false teachers. The priest was said to have been arrested for this act that is considered inciting, illegal and suggestive of violence, but the leadership of the church rose to tactically defend him as a non-violent person that was simply committed to using an illegal weapon he bore to illustrate his teaching to the congregants. Musa Audu, the Police Inspector whose rifle Aigbe used was also being considered for dismissal.
The radicalism of postmodern Christian spirituality has succeeded in igniting the regeneration of orthodox sets, with shifting lines introduced to old restrictive blocks, like the issue of same-sex relationship. Islamic and Christian leaders are today, similar to what obtained in classical periods, found of using the pulpit to make commentaries on contemporary socio-political and economic conditions, with such combustive posturing and outbursts done often without restraints.
T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral mirrors the estranged relationship due to religio-political conflicts between Archbishop Thomas Becket and King Henry II. Becket amidst this imbroglio abandoned the suggestion of three tempters on how to balance his religious and political views in order to stay out of trouble, but preferred pleasing God and attaining martyrdom and sainthood, which would not come without tortuous hardships.
Unlike the sacrificial decision Becket takes in this text, renowned clergies in Nigeria are allies to people in power, and are well protected against onslaughts of state and non-state agents. Ironically, their followers are vulnerable to life-taking elements, pushing them to avoidable martyrdom that might be devoid of sainthood. The socio-political and economic disillusionments in the country have further worsened the susceptibility of Nigerians to religious manipulations, and expanded their political gullibility.
The illustrative teaching of Uche Aigbe is, no doubt, a desirable model that would help curb abstractness in learning. It is only in Nigeria that students of Biology, for instance, theoretically relate to Amoeba, and internalise its characteristics through regurgitation rather than interface with it practically. This and many other reasons account for why we still have illiterate graduates in Nigeria, some of whom the Vice Chancellor of UNILORIN, Wahab Egbewole, said could not write ordinary application letters for employment.
Arguably, AK-47 has become a metaphor for the performance of violence in Nigeria, as killer herders and bandits are the best users. The name has also been corruptly used within select social community as slang to mean male genitals, even as other groupings have designated it to discreetly reference situations and ideals that are yet to enjoy popularity. Uche Aigbe may have erred but he is not legitimately as culpable as other illegal bearers of arms in the country. Hooligans, criminals and cult members freely peddle small locally-made and sophisticated arms for nefarious activities today, debilitating the peace of their communities, and shortening the life expectancy of their victims. They pull guns at the slightest provocation and maim anytime they are on the edge. The worsening political attacks heralding 2023 elections similarly underscore the culpability of the political class in the promotion of violence.
At another level, the unprofessional conduct of Inspector Musa Audu who handed his allocated official rifle to Uche Aigbe is symptomatic of the casual approach of designated personnel to specific assignments and lines of duty. It was also an instance of the personalisation of national/state institutions. Arguably, an empty unused AK-47 in the hand of an amateur teacher in Aigbe may not be as dangerous as those notorious herders and bandits use to maim and kill helpless Nigerians across the country.
Certain parables of Jesus are very instructive to us as individuals and a nation today. The Lamp parable enjoys Christians to shine to dam darkness, that of the Speck and the Log calls on critics to also carry out self examination, New Cloth on Old Garment underscores the need for proper alignment, the Divided Kingdom reminds us of the dangers confronting the ruling party, the Sower emphasises the need for diligent commitment, the Weeds among the Wheat portends wrong association, the Mustard Seed stresses how big ventures start as small dreams, the Hidden Treasure points to the great endowments in Nigeria, the Heart of Man explains the sepulchre-like sick hearts of people, as against their glamorous faces, the Lost Sheep talks about disillusioned Nigeria youths, the Budding Fig Tree suggestive of the periled attitudes of postmodern civilisation, the Ten Virgins points to the imagery of poor preparation, the Net remarks on the conflagration that could follow political miscalculation, etc.
Nigeria’s wilful amnesia about the implications of the illustrative parables of Jesus is not as disheartening as ignoring the spirit and letters of the national anthems. Nigeria is calling, but no one is arising; God of creation is directing the noble course of unwilling leaders and followers; Nigerians pledge to the country without being faithful, loyal and honest, as God is no longer willing to help stubborn ungrateful goats. What is AK-47 to you, which is, like parable when used in an obsolete sense, easily obtainable in Nigeria by criminals?
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