By Busuyi Mekusi
Holidays come in different shades and tenor, as they relate to; moments or days when festivals or religious events or national celebrations are observed, days declared free from work by governments, days taken off work by employees for leisure, periods when pupils or students do not attend school, etc. Metaphorically speaking, holidays could refer to a moment of absence from assigned responsibilities or undertaking. This last one is negative to the extent that a vacuum would be created in the discharge of a duty. The attendant implication is that potential recipients of certain benefits would be hurtfully endangered. Such holidaying from responsible placement has played out in leaders not being able to live up to their callings, or parents failing in their parental commitments to the children. Most leaders and parents in African nations are on holidays!
Nigerians are seen as lovers of holidays that would take them away from work, but are very poor in seeking pleasurable funs. Most of their socio-cultural events that take them away from predictable work hiatus are physically and financially burdensome, leaving them with more anguish than before the break away from their routines. While some have interpreted the proclivity of Nigerians for holidays to laziness, others are of the opinion that such predilection is informed by the informal economy that majorly defines the national landscape.
With annual holidays averagely put at 22 in Nigeria, there are national holidays meant to celebrate religious events, like Islamic and Christian celebrations, political landmarks, such as democracy day, workers condition and wellbeing, like the Workers’ Day, and children and students’ events like the Children Day. The prodigious dispositions of the Nigerian government is entrenched in her decision to vary any religious holiday that falls on a weekend, to allow its observance on a working day, when people would stay away from work.
Religious malleability, volatility and the abusive place of religion in Nigeria national life reverberated recently in the: banning of the celebration of Ĭsèse in Ilorin; the call by Wole Soyinka for national holidays for traditionalists and the revulsion shown by some Islamic clerics about the decision of Lagos State government to fix examination on a Friday. It is worth noting that Friday, which is a day for Jumat prayers, has almost become a free day, as people engage merely on half-day work before heading for prayers. Social events have also benefitted from the day, as most burial ceremonies are slated for Friday by most churches. Sunday is believed to be a conventional Greco-Roman day for rest and stay off work, unless for people on essential duties. This is as some over-sensitive religious people are pushing that Friday should enjoy the same status with Sunday in work reckoning.
The banning of Ĭsèse festival in Ilorin by an Islamic organisation, with approval by the Emir of Ilorin, Dr. Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, attracted scathing criticism from Soyinka, who described the development as an expression of religious bigotry within a space he referred to as “a confluence of faiths and ethnic varieties”, terming it “the truncation of a people’s traditional festival…a crime against the cultural heritage of all humanity”. While comparing what happened in Ilorin with what is obtainable in Abu Dhabi, an Islamic Emirate that invests in inclusivity and humanised community, Soyinka blamed the former on religious bigotry and malformation. It is on the strength of the foregoing that Soyinka demanded public holiday for traditionalists in Nigeria, in line with the two other religions are enjoying.
Nigeria is home to different festivals like; Eyo in Lagos, Igogo in Owo, Ojude Oba in Ijebu Ode, Olojo in Ife, Osun Osogbo in Osogbo, Orò in many Yoruba settlements, Sango in Oyo, etc. Most of the traditional festivals that were in place before the arrivals of Islamic and Christian religions have been stultified, with vestiges of such melting into the minority that still subscribe to them. At the deep centre of Conrad’s ‘heart of darkness’ from which blacks were condescendingly rescued by Europeans, the people related with the Supreme God within the limits of their knowing, and it would be redundant to think that God did not accept them the way they were, with ignorance and naivety becoming an alibi. The competitive preponderance and combustive dispositions of both Christianity and Islam within the Nigeria space have created more troubles than peace, as the country struggles with the push and pulls of constitutional democracy and Sharia Laws at the same time. Sokoto remains the epicentre of the Stone Age, with Deborah’s symbolism of scapegoat and mob killing hurtfully haunting.
As nuances of traditional religion continue to be scandalised to sustain their automatic rejection, amidst flagrant abuse by some self-serving practitioners, a few subscribers to both Islamic and Christian religions in Nigeria are reliving the opium nomenclature that has been given to religion. With variants of Islamic order that perpetuate mass killings and rejection of science for human enhancement, and Christian sets that do not only support polygamy but same-sex relationships, it is obvious that the pictures painted about the Supreme God are more a product of the shifting sensibilities of the ardent merchants, who would ‘kidnap’ the minds of the unwary, and manipulate the thoughts of the gullible to reduce the Supreme God to their peripatetic dynamic notions. When one interrogates the many religious simulations that are the stock in trade of bigots, it would be advisable that one sees religion as a personal affair, based on the faith directed towards the Supreme God, through the spiritual connection attained in mutuality.
People of the older generation in contemporary Nigeria life have not only been ‘kidnapped’ by religion, members of the younger generation have been ‘kidnapped’ by greed, criminality, stray bullet, modern slavery and drug abuse. We were shocked recently by the new dimension introduced into one of the menaces around, kidnapping, when two female secondary school students were arrested for kidnapping themselves for ransom. The 13 and 15 year old Oka-Akoko JSS 3 and SSS 1 students had lodged themselves in a hotel to extort their mother and the traditional ruler of money.
It is intriguing that this happened few weeks after our memories were assaulted by the identity debauchery and falsification of Mmesoma. I had warned Nigerians against profiling criminals along ethno-religious lines, with the argument that these bad products are merely a chip off our old blocs. The generation of youths and teenagers have been ‘kidnapped’ by the greed and corruption as well as the irresponsibility nurtured by older brigade who killed local refineries and export locally-produced crude for processing. God must be ashamed to have created Nigerians!
In a most worrisome semblance of ‘kidnapping’, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) has said that 1.6 million Nigerians are living in modern slavery daily. There are reports of people being chained by enslavers or exploiters, as well as parents who could no longer tame the ravenous behaviours of their deranged child or ward, whose mind has been ‘kidnapped’ by societal dysfunctionality. Such was the case of Samson Sikiru, a 32-year-old man who was arrested in Itanrin, Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, for allegedly strangulating his mother to death.
Youths are not only being denied parental care by impoverished parents or of societal support by a morally bankrupt society, but they are goaded to deploy any means to climb the economic ladder and banish poverty from their lineage. Sufficient instances are of parents who invest very expansively physically, materially and spiritually in the criminal enterprise of their children, such as buying sophisticated phones for them to ply their scamming trade, or seek spiritual helps for them for ‘fortunes’ to smile on them. The ‘kidnapped’ generation are now a menace too daring to challenge!
Ivan Omhonrina was ‘kidnapped’ prematurely few days ago in Okpanam, Delta State. The two-year-old boy got killed by a strayed bullet during the raid conducted by operatives of NDLEA. Even though PBAT has ordered the probe of the unfortunate incidence, one would wonder why a toddler would pay for the offence of an older unreasonable generation, that lack decorum and sanctity. This little boy remains a personification of the future that was ‘kidnapped’ and caged yesterday, leaving people in the present with pains and anguish.
As we continue to face the contradictions of democracy and civilisations globally, and relate to the complications of fluid transcendental sexualities all over the world, as seen in the video recording in Brazil of a cross-gender person with male genitals using female restroom, who got severely beaten, Nigerians must be aware of the proliferation of strange sexualities within their spaces, and must be open to newer religious thinking, rather than fixated on using imported religious beliefs that are summarily often abused to haunt and oppress people with constitutional rights, as long as Nigeria is not under theocratic rule. I wish Soyinka well in the quest for national holidays for traditionalists, amidst many existing holidays, beyond what Aregbesola did in Osun State for Osun Osogbo in the past, maybe for UNESCO accreditation. Have you not been ‘kidnapped’?