25 September 2011
Sent to AAI from its Affiliate the Nigerian Humanist Movement. Originally published in Sahara Reporters.
Stupendously wealthy Nigerian Pentecostal preachers and clerics have come under serious attack at the two-day national convention of the Nigerian Humanist Movement (NHM), which ended Saturday afternoon in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
The forum brought together students, children, scholars, government officials, atheists, sceptics, rationalists, agnostics, freethinkers and professionals from different fields to discuss Humanism as the next step in Nigeria.
Declaring open the forum which marked the 15th anniversary of the birth of the NHM, Leo Igwe, the administrative secretary of the Oyo State –NHM, told participants that many people across Nigeria and the world were looking up to them. “Meetings like this should spread message of reason, science and free inquiry, and usher in an era of positive and progressive change, hope and light,” he charged.Speakers and participants after one another slammed the various rulers of the Nigerian state, past and present, as well as citizens for allowing a great nation like Nigeria to tumble into a chaotic religious jungle with poverty, disease, ignorance, corruption and crime to rule.
In the first paper, “Invitation To Humanism? What’s On Offer ? Dr.
Tunde Arogundade, a UK-based politician scientist and humanist,
revealed that he had obtained information about the forum on June 8,
2011 from SaharaReporters, which he declared to be his church. He
advised all to always visit the online site, which he described as, an
“authoritative, reliable news source.”
According to Dr. Arogundade, “Youths instead of going to church should befriend it. We need change that will bring good, peace for us all.”
Expressing shock that there were humanists in Nigeria, he said, “Evangelists in Nigeria have developed serious business acumen that is the envy of many non-spiritual entrepreneurs. The trick of business diversification has not been lost to the likes of David Oyedepo, Chris Oyakhilome, Chris Okotie and Mattew Ashimolowo etc.”
He noted that in combination, their churches have cornered a significant percentage of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “Super pastors own a variety of businesses,” he stressed. “The sheer opulence of some of the most successful churches has given rise to the calls that the churches be taxed like a company, a money making enterprise.”
Steve O. Okecha, a distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the office of the Minister of Education, Federal secretariat, Abuja, also presented a paper entitled, “ Science and Superstition in Nigeria; A Lop-Sided Partnership “
Okecha attributed the slow pace of development in the country largely
to superstition and ignorance, arguing that Nigerians over the years
have not lived up to scientific ideas.
The Delta State born scientist described superstition as a national cancer in Nigeria. In his view, “Most Nigerians of all age-grades and different levels of education and exposure are superstitious. You can have a degree in any of the science subjects. That doesn’t make one a scientist. But one without any science degree can be scientific. A scientist must ask critical questions”.
Also at the forum, 86-year-old Sheila Solarin, widow of Dr. Tai Solarin, the popular Nigerian civil rights campaigner, writer and atheist, sent a strong and well-written solidarity message to participants.
The unapologetic British atheist, who could not appear on account of health problems, challenged Nigerians to reject religion, stating that it has done more harm than good to Nigerians and the nation. He called upon young people, in particular, to pursue good knowledge, science and reason, to doubt, and to criticize.
Like Mrs Solarin, many people around the world also extended their solidarity to the NH on its 15th birthday. They included Norman Allen, secretary of the Institute of Science and Human Values; Tanya Smith, President of Atheist Alliance International, a global network of atheists and free-thought groups and individuals committed to promoting atheism, secularism and related issues; Dr. Bill Cooke, Director of international programs of the Centre for Inquiry; and John Dowdle Mafrsa, President of Watford Area Humanists