The cocktail of horror and bizarre stories being served daily by the media shows the significant descent of our country into the devil’s abyss.
And this is in spite of the significant rise in the level of religiosity in the country be it of the Christian faith or of the Islamic faith and a variety of others in between them. All these divine calls have one thing in common – a clear determination to fight the devil to a standstill and turn their respective adherents unto the path of salvation, the path of God.
But as we can see, the call to faith and salvation is losing its divine gravitas and its moral compass not necessarily because the leaders of the faithful are losing control. The reason for this may lie in the fact that the variety of tongues and tribes as represented by the multiple ideologies of the two great religions have sowed more confusion in the minds of the faint hearted.
A few of the religious leaders now preach salvation and forbid evil practice while a great number of them preach the virtues of prosperity sans morality from the mountain top.
I don’t know what faith Blessing Stephen belongs to. Blessing, in case she needs any introduction, is the only lady in the gang of child kidnappers who along with members of the gang was apprehended recently for stealing 30 children. She admitted to the police a few days ago that she is truly a member of a syndicate that specialises in the abduction of children for mercantile purposes. She appears like someone who has no business with any pastoral admonition to stay in the narrow but straight path of salvation instead of damnation.
Her behaviour was contrary to that of other women who have great love for kids and go to any length to have them, even one. She confessed that at various times, she was blessed with three kids for different men. But she sold them one by one as they came. In each case, she informed their respective fathers, her serial husbands that the children had died.
With a straight face, she exhibited some uncharacteristic honesty. She did not blame the devil for her action as others in similar situation are wont to do. Instead of falsely accusing the devil, she blamed poverty and the remorseless hunger in her stomach.
The story of her exploits in the company of her accomplices – including a self- proclaimed doctor and other nondescript characters – as told in the Punch newspaper, reads like a thriller. But it was a thriller of horror. She operated from Lagos to Ibadan with a stolen four year old boy. The prospective buyer of the boy was in Akwa Ibom State. After the sale, Blessing returned to base to plan another offensive. But suddenly she got a call from the last buyer. She was requested to come and take the boy away. The buyer could not handle the boy’s persistent cry.
She obliged the man and took the boy all the way back to Lagos and dumped him in a nearby church hoping the parents, who had reported the matter to the police, would come around to pick him. For her, this was one escapade too many. Police grabbed her. And she squealed on other members of the gang.
Somewhere in the outskirts of Lagos police last week uncovered a baby factory. Baby factories, because they have become two a kobo, don’t represent any strange phenomenon anymore. Like kidnapping, it is also threatening to become a growth industry.
All the same, kudos to the Lagos police and the vigilant neighbours who blew the whistle on those running the factory. A pretty young girl was lured away from Akwa Ibom State with the promise of a job. She arrived in Lagos into the dingy centre that served as a baby factory. She came with a bouncing baby and another pregnancy to boot. The operators of the centre immediately relieved her of her baby. Some good Samaritans also helped to deliver her of her pregnancy but the baby did not survive. After the police rescue, what was left of her earthly possession was the dress she wore and her life. She returned home from the baby factory without any baby to her name.
The previous week the police in Kaduna busted the devil’s den where more than three hundred youngsters were held in captivity in very degrading and inhuman condition. Many of them were in leg chains and they had the scars of their routine torture in the hands of their handlers to show the BBC as well as the local media houses. The most disgusting thing to say was the claim that the victims were brought there to learn the words of Allah as taught to humanity in the Holy Qur’an.
But pray, which chapter and which verse of the Holy Book prescribes torture and other inhuman methods of conducting Islamic teaching and learning? Their handlers, some of them roughly attired as if this was also the divinely prescribed mode of dress, claimed that these miserable fellows were there to be weaned from drug addiction. What a primitive way to rehabilitate the body and the soul of those who have fallen victim of the viciousness of an uncaring society.
Even as President Muhammadu Buhari, imbued with sufficient indignation, was condemning this egregious abuse, some parents of the freed slaves put up a strange but robust defence of this gross inhumanity to man. They claimed that they brought their children and wards there for rehabilitation as some of them, drug addicts, had grown wings and become uncontrollable.
The centre may have committed no offence requiring legal action. In fact its legal representative claimed the centre had been of tremendous assistance to Kaduna State Government and the public at large. Whatever good the centre was up to, these gratuitous humanitarian gestures accompanied by leg chains and bodily harm appear too good for the health of the society and the government should not be persuaded to turn the other cheek by closing the matter. There may be more of such hell holes in other states that will need police intervention and government rehabilitation.
The truth is that as a people we have become too religious and too far removed from God. Ironically some of the evil things the society promotes today are done in God’s name. We pay too much attention to prosperity at the expense of salvation. That is why some Imams minister more to the mundane needs of the rich and neglect the poor faithful in dire need of moral admonition and the wherewithal to cope with the vicissitudes of life occasioned by official neglect and unwholesome government measures. And the pastors with an eye on healthy tithes are most likely to look the other way when some wretched members of the flock cry out to them for attention.
A society that is less caring is more likely to breed the Rigasa type of destitute victims chained to car rims to prevent their escape from what looks like the devil’s inferno, or the Akwa Ibom job seeker who came to Lagos in search of greener pastures but ended up in a baby factory. Blessing, who sold off her three children to avert poverty, may have to contend with poverty for life. Greed and avarice – the pull and push of the vicious society – had turned her into modern day Lady Macbeth.
This woman of Shakespearian tragedy, who amply possessed the milk of human kindness, knew what it felt like to “love the babe that milks me… I would while it was smiling in my face have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed his brains out.”
Blessing, you may say, was pushed by inordinate desire for money and like Lady Macbeth, she literally dashed out the brains of her three children by selling them off. A super religious society like ours can do better than this – with less hypocrisy and more fear of God.