Thursday, 24 November 2011


I was travelling – very slowly- by car in Ilorin today when we were passed – almost equally slowly by a minibus full of people. On the side of the bus were painted the words ‘Saints on the Move’. To me it did not look much like the sort of tour bus that staff and players of either St Helens rugby league club or Southampton FC (nickname the 'Saints') would have chosen – unless those clubs were in dire financial straits. There were no  shining haloes, no cherubs strapped into their seat belts, no feathered angel wings nor wizened old men who looked as though they had come to a gruesome end  amongst the luggage bulging out of the back of the bus. As the bus eased past, it read across the back window: ’Missionary bus’.  I may be misguided or over-sensitive, but I feel somewhat uncomfortable about a level of missionary zeal that declares its own proselytizers to be saints! 
So who are these wondrous people, I wondered? They might indeed have been 'chosen' as their line of traffic seemed to be progressing a lot faster than ours, but I guess I'll never know.
It reminded me of that other window sign I saw that stated  ‘Jesus Saves’ and then underneath the team badge, ‘Chelsea’. What chance do the rest of the Premier  League stand if Chelsea have the Almighty playing for them.  In previous blogs I may have hinted at the observation that in general Nigerians are deeply religious – not necessarily spiritual.

My car journey ended in the office car park but before leaving the vehicle I was quizzed by the driver as to my own religious persuasion. He was greatly surprised by my reply and ended up laughing uncontrollably at my suggestion that some people don’t take the Bible literally and that heaven doesn’t lie somewhere high above the clouds.  VSO warns against getting involved in deep religious discussion, especially given current tensions in the country,  but I didn’t initiate this conversation and each answer I gave to his barrage of questions only seemed to produce more mirth and disbelief. 

There has been a spate of suspected ritualistic killings in Ilorin recently; although nothing has been reported in the local press, most people know about it by word of mouth and there is a feeling of unease and tension when you try to find out more. We know there have been four rapes/ murders in Sabo-Oke which does not make us feel too good and has confirmed to us that we are doing the right thing in leaving next month.  I briefly discussed this with my driver but his grim experssion told me not to go there so I just put up with his remaining questions : Was I a Christian? Did I believe in Allah? I answered ‘Yes’ to both. In the stunned silence that followed I said ‘Odabo’ (goodbye) and made my getaway.

For many people their faith is literal and unwavering and any attempt to follow through with a conversation on say, gay rights will result in quotes from the Bible and a complete, assured and unalterable belief  in their own position which leaves you a bit non-plussed. Anyway, in a country such as this, to have a firm belief in a higher power must be a great comfort - and I don't mean the government!

No comments:

Post a Comment