By Rudolf Okonkwo
I will say this straight up. The day I discover that the God I worship designs evil things for his children, I will hand him my two weeks’ quit notice.
Speaking at the palace of Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai Al-Amin El-Kanemi, in Maiduguri, a few days after the Nigerian military accidentally killed 126 people in Tudun Biri village in Kaduna State, President Bola Tinubu said, “We must take this as a tragic event designed by God – otherwise, it wouldn’t have happened.”
This statement about the accidental killing being God’s design was missing in the press release issued after the visit by Chief Ajuri Ngelale, the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity.
Most media reports of the day omitted that same statement. Even the video of the president saying so took a lot of work to come by. Anyone looking for the exact statement from the president had to look far.
People were coming on news platforms denying that the president said such a thing.
But the video is out there.
Nothing Bola Tinubu has ever said troubled me as that statement that God designed that tragic event. It goes to the heart of Bola Tinubu’s essence. Anybody looking for Tinubu’s philosophy of life must start from there. A man’s lifestyle, political doctrine, and approach to governance are all derived from his essence.
I don’t know how Bola Tinubu arrived at the personality and attributes of his God. I only know that it is of concern to me. And it must have been of concern to the Special Adviser to the President on Media & Publicity that he omitted that quotable quote in his press statement.
As Africans, we must resolve this foreign God conundrum that has left us with a distorted sense of responsibility, justice, and relevance if we are ever going to establish an organic, sustainable indigenous philosophy.
Irrespective of any foreign religion we have embraced, we should at least agree on a few things about our relationship with God. Here are a few that I have deduced.
God must be crazy to design evil for us, the weak beings he created. Is he expecting us to clap for him after the evil he designed broke and bruised us?
God must be crazy if he expects us to grasp the concept that he takes credit for the good things that happen to us and assigns Satan the blame for the bad.
God must be crazy to make us in his own image and expect us not to create things that were not here before we came and say things that have not been said before.
If you are still reading and have not declared this piece sacrilegious, there is hope for you. For soldiers of God already beside themselves, fuming at mere humans “woefully ill-equipped to assess God” or tell him how to “do his stuff,” please accept my apologies.
No group of people insults God as brazenly as those who fight for him. If you want to thoroughly offend God, arm yourself with AK 47, bombs, and shoulder-fired missiles, and go out there to fight for him.
Eventually, God has to make a straight choice. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Is he merciful or vengeful? He cannot be a different thing to different audiences, centuries,
and times. This generation has no patience for such complexities. With them, God is risking irrelevance.
It is not as if God cares. Yep, I hear you. It is entirely possible that God is on sabbatical. Imagine that.
If God’s plan for humans is abundant living in an ever-expanding universe, aren’t the skills he gave us grossly inadequate?
What if God is just a trickster bored by life in heaven and only visits the earth to entertain himself and his family with mere props called humans?
How do you beg a perfect God to forgive your sins when God himself has committed far more horrific sins than you? How does that even work?
God made his biographers document his sins inside his authorised biographies and then turn around to frown at us, his creatures, following in his footsteps.
God’s biographers did a big disservice to him. They really damaged his reputation. Considering their limited knowledge, you could forgive them for belittling God by painting him in their own image. Unfortunately, God is too modest to denounce or discredit these books without damaging the basis of his unique relationship with humans.
We in sub-Saharan Africa were doing well, eating our fufu and any insect we could grab. Then, the merchants of foreign religions brought us spaghetti and hot dogs. We dropped our fufu and rushed to spaghetti. We were not literate enough to know that they were both carbohydrates.
We need a paradigm shift. I’m sure that God is shocked by how much we trust him. He has spent all his political capital trying to tell us to get hold of ourselves and pull ourselves up by our shoestrings. But we have refused to be weaned off God’s breast.
For your information, God’s love for us is not dependent on whether we do right or wrong. His hands are tied. He has to love us as part of the contract we signed. And that is where you begin to pity God. Looking deep, you can see the source of the confusion about this special relationship.
And that confusion continues to spread.
Evelyn Underhill famously said, ‘If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshipped.’
This is another justification for not knowing how much we need to know before we know how little we know. It is baffling for people who know so little to assume so much about the things we know so little about.
Growing up, I observed villagers at funerals singing their hearts out, trying to console people who lost someone that “heaven will pay.” I don’t know if they still do it today.
It didn’t make sense to me then. And it doesn’t make sense to me now. I was sure those adults looking up to the heavens to console and compensate for their loved ones must be crazy. I didn’t say it out loud, though.
One day, I heard a song by 77 called “Long John.” In the song, he proved I was not crazy for questioning the debilitating posture of abandoning our responsibility to the heavens and demanding compensation when something goes wrong.
The narrative about the plights of the non-educated song’s main character, Long John, 77, asks why church members cry that heaven must pay for the dead deceptive bicycle seller in his story.
“Is heaven an insurance company,” 77 sings.
It is time to wean us off God’s breast.
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo teaches Post-Colonial African History at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He is also the host of Dr. Damages Show. His books include “This American Life Sef” and “Children of a Retired God,” among others. His upcoming book is called “Why I’m Disappointed in Jesus.”