21st October 2021
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God help us

Schooling in Europe means that I have interrogated different cultures all over the world. This multiculturalism offers you a perspective of life that you can’t find by schooling or living in Nigeria. I have come to understand various ways people view life. In the process, I have confronted my own beliefs and cultures that shaped me. Last year, one interaction I had with a Chinese classmate radically changed my perspective about the Nigerian culture. One time, he had challenges in his course work and we discussed about finding solutions. After that particular discussion, as a typical Nigerian, I ended with “pray about it”. He was immediately confused and asked “what do you mean pray”. I was shocked. You mean don’t know how to pray, I replied. He said he didn’t know how and then he suddenly remembered and demonstrated by bowing in the typical eastern prayer posture.  Yes, I smiled. You should pray. It lifts up your mood.

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I became more curious and asked why he didn’t know how. In my mind, everyone knows what prayer is and must have at least said a word to the Deity they serve. He responded to my question by saying the Chinese model does not believe in God nor religion. They are not taught to pray. I became really interested. So, when you have personal problems, how do you solve them given that you don’t pray, I asked? His response got me thinking deeply and is the subject of this article. He said, we just keep working at it until we find a solution. And then I remembered how I always saw him in the library studying despite the difficulties. He was all about finding solutions to his challenge without complaining or blaming anyone.

This conversation made me ponder about our Nigerian religious culture. You know, when we are going through challenges as a people or individually, we are told to pray. The thought process is that God is in charge of the world and he has to help us. For example, given the political turmoil we have had since the creation of the country, our response has typically been “God help us”. In pidgin English, we say, na only God go fit help us”. Oh, how I hate that saying now.

“God help us” has made us relinquish all forms of responsibilities and feel so helpless that we think we can’t do anything on our own. There is no deep seated agency in the average Nigerian, instead, God has to somehow help us. Again, in our typical Nigerian mode, when we achieve anything such as getting a new job, car, house etc, we ascribe it to God. When asked, we don’t bother to give a detailed process of how we actually achieved it – the hard work, the patience and perseverance etc. What we are unknowingly teaching is that these values are unimportant. That, the only important ingredient to a successful endeavor is God.

If an average Nigerian doesn’t have a job, the solution is, God will do it. We need to elect good leaders? God will help us. Can you imagine if we had a deep sense of responsibility where we keep going at a challenge until we found a solution instead of putting it all on God? When we have this deep seated sense of taking charge, we will begin to ask the “how questions”. For example, we know we need to elect good leaders. The next question will then be, how? Not, God help us.  As we ask the “how”, collectively as a country, we seek the right type of leaders and ensure we get them elected. Or at a personal level, you need a job. The question will be how? You will begin to find various ways to apply for jobs, go for interviews or create one yourself. There will be no more sense of helplessness whereby a spiritual entity always has to come save us. Na only for Nigeria God dey exist?

This is not to say I don’t believe in God. I am a Christian and a practicing one at that. I believe in the saving power of Jesus Christ whom God sent to save mankind. However, I also know God has placed man on this earth to take charge. When I first became a practicing Christian during my undergraduate days, our mantra used to be, pray as if your success depends on prayer and work as as if your success depends on your hard work. I sincerely think that if the average Nigerian has a right mindset towards our challenges, if we shun this overwhelming sense of helplessness where we feel like we can’t do anything because the situation is so hopeless or one where God has to save us in every situation, Nigeria will be far more developed than it is today. It’s what development practitioners’ term having “a sense of agency”. We need to own our responsibilities and take charge. It is time put this phrase, “God help us” to rest.

From the same Author: Opinion|Dear Nigerians, Please Tell Us How You Really Got That Job

Ides Ofune

Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at info@desertbloomadvisory.com