“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of the soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” –Karl Marx (1844)
In the space of just one week, there were reports on social media of about four attempted and successful suicide cases in Nigeria. The subject of suicides has nevertheless been a touchy one as some people cannot bring themselves to understand what could push youngsters and even adults to such a gory ending. But, whether we like it or not, whether we believe it or not, suicide, and the assisting conditions which pushes humans towards taking their own life, is real– in Nigeria or elsewhere.
In a recently released Department of Homeland Security report, statistics have shown that Nigeria has one of the highest number of percentage visa overstays to the U.S.A. It is not that these set of travelers forgot when their visas would expire or that they could not find their return tickets. It is rather because they had no intention of returning to their home country.
While some have found the good life, others are stuck with suffering and are simply taking every day in enduring strides. Most Nigerians who are stuck in this country are only holding onto the metaphysical concept of Hope and are the ones of whom Karl Marx, the late German philosopher and economist, once referred to as the victims of religion’s opiate. A very small fraction of those who are stuck back home here, who have nowhere else to go, and who can no longer bear the frustration which visits their life daily are often the type who commit suicides. Amidst this group are those who are fraught with anxiety, depression and other mental conditions; they are barely existing.
Whether we hate it or not, we cannot begrudge the fact that religion has stepped up to fill the gaping holes left by the failure of governmental institutions. If the government is neither stepping up nor rising to the occasion of its administrative, regulative, and social responsibility, what would the fate of the Nigerian society be without recourse to religion?
Essentially, the church in Nigeria has had schools, hospitals, and industries run pari-passu with or in place of the government’s, since the colonial times. We have had cases where the church was the succour which people ran to when they faced great tribulations. Wouldn’t the people prefer religiously run schools which provide subsidized quality education? Wouldn’t the masses prefer hospitals with the best facilities which cater to their health needs promptly? Wouldn’t the people gravitate towards an institution which provides support system and therapy to their loyal adherents?
It is no accident, therefore, that a lot of Nigerians respect their pastors, priests and imams more than they do politicians. It is not strange realizing the fact that most Nigerians only court political leaders for the crumbs and pieces of the national cake which they are able to ferret after a copious amount of sycophancy has been showered on these leaders. It will not be surprising if Nigerians are asked to vote in a referendum if they would prefer a theocracy instead of democracy, and they vote en masse for theocracy. There is absolutely no more serious trust/loyalty left between political institutions, politicians and the people.
So next time when atheists and Marxists quip and fret about the fate of the Nigerian masses, they may also be good to think twice and factor in all the interactions, and the robust relationship between Nigerians and religious leaders and institutions, before they lampoon religion as being the opium of the masses.
Not until our political leaders start instituting steps towards returning Nigeria to the path of greatness will the people begin to dump their dependence on drugs, stop running away from Nigeria, quit seeking a death-escape by suicide and even stop considering religion as their go-to saviour from the hands of their oppressive masters and frustrations of life.