Last two months, the state house of Assembly of Kaduna state passed the Religious Licensing bill before they ended their tenures, putting into effect the controversial religious bill proposed by Governor El-Rufai, despite protests from the Christian quarters. Also, currently trending now is the proposed action by the federal government of Nigeria to establish cattle grazing areas in all the states in the federation. Now, I confess that I have not taken time to study these actions and so present informed opinions based on perfect understanding of perspectives, motives and rationales behind these actions. However, I will present my own biased opinion, based on understanding, then I must go on to talk about the more important issue- how we should react.
A brief study of efforts by governments all over the world to control religious actions, speeches and movements had shown that the Christians are usually the ones who bear the brunt of it, even though the bill may be targeted at other religions. Thus, no matter how we try to look at it, I believe that the area of religious control should be out of the reach of the government. This is what is known as separation of church and state. The principles by which religions run are spiritual, and not sometimes clear to common sense. Hence, when we try to enforce certain guidelines on religious proceedings as a government, we gradually become a force for the trampling of men’s fundamental human rights, no matter how noble our motives are. This does not mean that a religious leader who incites violence against another, or who commits acts of crimes should not be arrested and prosecuted by the government, but it means that no government all over the world should tell people who would and would not preach on their pulpits, nor regulate their freedom to express themselves in public, so long as it is not to the hurt of others.
On the matter of grazing areas for cattle herders, though I am yet to fully study the government’s arguments for this proposed action so that I can bring an informed opposition, but as I meditated on this matter, I could not find a rationale behind any government forcing other people to relinquish their lands so that an individual can do his business, which is not connected to the public or government purse. Cattle rearing is not being done by the federal government of Nigeria, and is not a government business, hence I do not see a reason why a fellow human being would be forced to relinquish his/her lands for cattle herdsmen. If the government is so passionate about helping cattle herdsmen, they should empower them financially to purchase lands for cattle grazing. This is how it is being done in saner climes, and in advanced societies. Just like no government should force a people do give up their lands just because an individual wants to build a house, or a school, or start a farm (which is not government-based), so also, there is no sense in the fact that a fellow Nigerian will be forced to give up his land, just because another man (who we even claim that they are not Nigerians) wants land to rear cattle, which will not even benefit the man giving up the land, nor the government. I do not desire to take the argument beyond here.
Now to the main reason I am writing this article. What if the government of Kaduna goes ahead with the proposed Religious Prohibition bill? What if the present administration goes on to enforce, with military might, the takeover of citizens’ lands for the sake of cattle herdsmen? What would be our reaction? How then should we live? Should we lose hope and begin to plot warfare? Should we pray that everyone connected to this administration should die? What exactly should be our reaction? This is the burden behind my write-up.