Ochichi Nke Uke (Peerism-Communalism)
Let us use the opportunity of the Internet to share thoughts with a critical, analytic and academic world out there on the subject of Religion and Politics, because no subject can be more relevant to our present circumstances and more deserving of rational evaluation now than this.
We will begin by asking and answering two preliminary questions: -
What is religion?
What is politics?
Then we will examine whether they are radically incompatible or fundamentally compatible, and thereafter proceed to examine what relationship lay between religion and politics in ancient Africa.
What is religion?
In philosophy, religion is now a word that cannot be given a precise definition because of the different human traditions that it expresses. But when you acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being, and accept your dependence on the Supreme Being, religion has become a factor in you.
It becomes a factor in you because in this awareness, the desire to seek Chineke, Oludumare; Ubangiji; Allah; God, etc, to offer thanks for goodness to humanity, and to ask for more blessings; and to be in the image of Chineke with attributes of spirituality and perfect morality, gets aroused in you as a regular wish and commitment. Religion, which in this definition is a search for Chineke (God) , in its ordinary usage, simply means a duty you have to do regularly.
What is Politics?
Politics is the science of state management, and a state is a combination of various households of humans within a geo-political definition.
Now the question arises: Religion and politics-are they radically antagonistic to each other; are they strange bedfellows in human societies, incapable of lying together in happy companionship for the world to be a paradise?
Both of them share a common purpose in human society, which is to hold us in peace to promote civilization. Civilization simply and basically means living together, and living together presupposes the cultivation of the minds of those who so live together to love, tolerate one another and live in harmony. If this gregariousness is non-existent, a human has become sub-human. It is therefore to promote human civilization that religion and politics had existed since the primitive times of human history.
Religion began when the first two humans, Ifenta (Iventa) and Adam, in the Igbo original revelation about the beginning, or Adam and Eve in the version of it in Hebrew mythology, became aware of the Supreme Being and began to communicate and seek to walk in the way of Chineke in spiritual and moral qualities.
Politics had begun also with the first humans when they had children and made a household, and then began to teach family discipline and organize their welfare.
Since politics is the science of state management, and a state is a combination of households within a geo-political definition, they who were managing their households were, at that, in politics at its foundation level. Thus, politics is as old as humans and religion, and also a cobweb from which escape is difficult, if not impossible.
A human is made up of body and soul, so body and soul have to be together to be human. Religion deals with the soul, which is the higher and spiritual self of a human. Politics takes care of the body, which is the lower self of physical and material well being. In this fact, religion and politics are intertwined features of our humanity, inseparable and mutually complimentary, useless each without the other in any effort to organize humans and civilization in any given geo-political definition.
For us to live is to keep our body and soul together, and so to organize human society is for both to work together, religion and politics. Love spiced with the numerous ingredients of spirituality is the food of the soul, which religions provide in their sermons and gospels. The lower self which is our physical and material body, and which houses the soul, sustains existence on the food of materialism, which conducive political systems and leadership provides.
At this point, let us quote from a sermon delivered by the Ogbaja at the fourth assembly of the United Nations World Conference on Religion and Peace, held in the Jomo Kenyatta International conference Center in Nairobi, Kenya, in the month of Anyanwu, 16 D.T. (August, 1984): -
“Religion concerns itself with the welfare of the human mind, its morals are food for the soul, and given the saying—mens sana in corpore sano—which means that a healthy mind must live in a healthy body, religion can no longer shy away from concern about the kind of social systems in which the body, which houses the souls and minds of humans for which religions are seeking salvation, dwells".
For otherwise, religions can never, no matter what morals they preach, produce healthy souls that can survive in body-casings badgered by corrupting socio-economic and political systems—thereby making it not an extraneous concern for the W.C.R.P., to project Peerism and Communalism as a substitute for ballot box democracy, partisan politics and the gun totting ideologies of capitalism and communism. This would guarantee healthy physical bodies as dwellings for the healthy minds and souls which religions have been struggling to produce in with their sermon of love”.
Religion cannot and must not stand aloof from politics!
From the beginning of time, the Eze (King) of an Igbo community was the Spiritual Head of the community as well as secular authority, with the Scepter of "Ofo na Ogu”, which is Consciencism, Truth and Justice-whose motto is “My hands are clean, my conscience is clear, I have done nothing”. Thus, religion and politics was wrapped together in one personality. The spiritual aspect of authority tempered exercise of political power with a touch of truth, mercy, morality, compassion, caring, sharing, humility, justice and fair play-all of which are ingredients of spirituality.
The Eze’s cabinet was made up of Ndi Ichie or titled elders who live ascetic and spiritual lives, thereby making politics and religion one and the same. They worked with a selected age group as the executive arm of their traditional politics. As with the Igbo, so it was among many ethnic groups within the Nigerian area of Ok’ebul’ani.
We will again quote from a sermon of the Ogbaja, delivered at the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, in Isale Eko (Lagos), Nigeria, in the year 23 D.T. (1977): -
"The traditional spirituality of Africa animates every aspect of our culture and civilization. It is the fundamental and central element, its dominant aspect that made our culture a spiritual civilization: -
In the process and in the course of the education of the individual, religion comes in, charged with a mission for man and society.
It demands that society thrash out the contradictions within it by adopting a system of exchange based on compulsory hospitality and solidarity on the one hand, and the spirit of tolerance and respect for the human person on the other.
It demands that society embraces sexuality for the benefit of the social order, as reflected in marriage, for social reproduction.
It demands the organization of production, trade, distribution of goods and the satisfaction of needs. It achieves this by setting up a legal system based notably on taboos relating to the days for certain activities; to the moral conditions to be met before undertaking some activities, i.e.-sexual continence on the eve of an important festival or spiritual event for men and women; and rules relating to the natural environment.
Our spirituality as a way of life accompanies us all through our lives-at birth, while eating, drinking; while educating the community, when setting out on a journey, and when you depart from the physical world only to re-incarnate.
As a doctrine, our spirituality is our means of ensuring equilibrium with ourselves, with the society and with the universe.
As a reference for our code of conduct, it is an ethic, and therefore a means of protecting society."
Thus, in the traditional society of Africa, it was impossible to find a point at which to apply the knife to separate religion from politics.
Religion can have either a cohesive or divisive influence in the politics of a nation for three principal reason: -
Origin: Every religion is always within a particular culture. Chiism (Godianism), which is the traditional spirituality of Africa, was molded in our cultural values and the greatest of the values being spiritual balance or extreme religious toleration. This is why it played a cohesive role between religion and politics in the traditional societies of Africa, because our people had intuitive responses to its norms.
The now dominant religions are historically foreign impositions upon Africa and not molded in our cultural values, but with a culture of intolerance from inherent prejudices. This served to split our once love suffused political systems into mutually acrimonious religious factions, thereby setting religion and politics against each other in Africa.
Faith endures only if it is a living faith, and it lives only if it acts upon the culture of the community it permeates. It is a fact in philosophy that if you alienate a people from their culture, you render them either stupid or violent.
This is the situation in Africa in the matter of religion and politics.
Morphology: Chiism (Godianism) is the spirituality of Chineke (God), creator of the universe, who is accepted by humanity and who cannot be identified with any race, tribe or nationality, and had the salutary effect of holding traditional communities together in harmony in politics and religion.
Precepts: Chiism (Godianism) teaches that every one is a child of Chineke (God), and its focus is the universal unity of humanity under the parenthood of one Chineke.
Philosophy gathers all the various facets of a peoples culture and presents them as a complete whole to reduce different ethnic groups within a geo-political definition to a common behavioral pattern and thought system and distill one nation out of them .In philosophy man is behavior, and behavior itself stems from thought. So ultimately, in philosophy, man is thought.
So that to unite a people, you need to reduce them to a common behavioral pattern and thought system woven from the strands offered by the socio-economic traditions common to all of them such as Chiism (Godianism), communal land tenure system, extended family system and Peerism or the ultra democratic government of the Age Grade.
In 1975, the then Head of State of Nigeria, Brigadier Murtala Muhammed, appointed a Nigerian Constitution Drafting Committee, within a political program of his Supreme Military Council which set October I, 1979 as target date for returning Nigeria to civilian rule. On October 18,1975, he inaugurated a Constitution Drafting Committee and gave the members guidelines.
Of all the guidelines given to the Committee by the then Head of State, Brigadier Murtala Muhammed, the one which struck the masses of Nigeria most as the wisest was one where he said:"Indeed the Supreme Military Council is of the opinion that if during the course of your deliberations, and having regard to our disillusionment with party politics in the past, you should discover some means by which Government can be formed without the involvement of political parties, you should feel free to so recommend". Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida was at the time also a member of Murtala Muhammed's Supreme Military Council when this challenging guideline was given to the C.D.C.
Challenge To Original Thinking.
The guideline challenged all Nigerians to research out a new political system that would suit our national and racial peculiarities: it challenged us to reflect back upon our traditions and ask ourselves what political systems sustained our traditional societies before the ballot box democracy of the western world.
The guideline cried that for many years we have borrowed and borrowed from others their ways of life, and demanded that we must now look into our traditions to be resolved whether we cannot from its strands weave out a political system which can eliminate all the ills in the body politic of Nigeria that pushed Nigeria into the chaos of a civil war.
But rather than accept these challenges, the Constitution Drafting Committee took the line of least resistance and of mental indolence, and copied America for us-only to bring doom upon the second republic within the first four years of its existence.
On January 15, 1986, the history of October 18, 1975 repeated itself. The then Head of State, President Ibrahim Babangida, in inaugurating the political Bureau of Nigeria with a charge "to bring about a new political culture which, like a veritable fountain head, would bring forth a stable, strong and dynamic economy", sternly said to the 17 members of the Political Bureau-"I would like to warn that my administration does not want a regurgitation of the political models of the so called advanced countries of the world. If this were our desire, we would not have wasted your time and ours inviting you here. We simply would have turned to the many volumes and various encyclopedias on these alien constitutions. We cannot, indeed we must not, lift foreign constitutions and political models. We share neither the political history nor the political cultures of these lands".
In the spirit of this charge, a memorandum was sent to the Political Bureau by The Ogbaja, Kama Onu Kama Onyioha, titled "Peerism - The Government Of The Age Grade". This was a memo on a political system inherent with all the objectives, which President Babangida had outlined to the Political Bureau.
The political bureau, after deliberating on it, applauded it as a very inspiring memo, but claimed that they could not recommend it because "the political system had never been tried!!!” What happened after this blunder is history.
You cannot forever hold people together at bayonet point!
We must be fools not to recognize this truth now, and seek an entirely new political system that can give no chance for tribal and religious politics, and that can be coup-proof. So that instead of putting embellishments on the thought pattern of others, to give impression that we are incapable of original thinking-talking glibly of liberal democracy, democratic socialism, pragmatic socialism, capitalism or communism; welfarism or neo-welfarism, which has no specific locus in the socio-economic traditions of our people-we should be talking in Africa, of Communal Democracy or Communalism.
Instead of talking of the electoral system and party politics as the political system of our borrowed capitalism, liberal democracy, democratic socialism and pragmatic socialism, we should be talking of Peerism as the political system of our Communalism or Communal Democracy, derived from the political history, experience and wisdom of our ancestors, and woven by the intelligence of the black man.
This course of action is imperative, if Africa must rise above the present stagnation we find ourselves in now, because economic growth is possible only if given a conducive political climate.