“Religion has become the number one problem for Nigerians” – Wole Soyinka

Nigerian veteran writer and Nobel Prize laureate, Wole Soyinka says religion has become Nigeria’s number one problem and its excesses must be treated as a “crime against humanity.” According to him, the Practice must be dealt with “for people to be liberated as rational beings.”

The writer expressed the view point that, religion has become an excuse for the violation of laws in Nigeria. “All over the place, I find that religion has been cosseted too much. And liberty has been taken by religionists, which would not be considered to other movements which are considered secularists. If you put on a garb of a religious leader, you can close up the expressway between Lagos and the rest of the nation, simply because you are having a religious celebration,” he said.

The award-winning writer who spoke during an interview with Dr. Louisa Egbunike, a professor of African Literature added that, “religion has become the number one problem for Nigerians. Hope is all very well; but hope itself can become putrid. Especially if it is hope for unearned advantages in society. If religion becomes an excuse for flouting the law, then that religion has got to be tackled head-on.”

Soyinka further said “religion has got to be put in its place in order for people to be liberated as rational beings, beings of volition, who can tackle the problems of existence in a rational, collective way, rather than by insisting that it is only along one route that society can be transformed.”

“Take a religion, practice it at home, collect around you anybody you want for collective celebration or religious seasons, nobody quarrels with that. But when you use religion to subvert the rights of others, to the extent of primordial rights, to kill, not just singling, but collectively, to burn down the places of worship of others; then it is about time we treated religion as a crime against humanity; it’s reached that level in societies like Nigeria.” He added.

His speech has so far attracted mixed reactions. Whilst some people agree with his position, citing their experiences about religion, not only in Nigeria but across Africa, others hold contrary views. According to the opposing faction, the country faces challenges from a combination of factors with corruption being a common concern. What do you think about his position?

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