Nigeria which prides itself on being the most populous black nation on earth, has another unpalatable achievement under its belt: it is the capital of the world's poorest. Aside this unenviable record, Nigeria is bedevilled by a multiplicity of challenges - corruption is endemic, ritual killings are daily occurrences, unemployment is at an all-time high, the cost of living is sky-rocketing, fulani herders kill rural community dwellers with impunity, banditry is the order of the day; abductions for ransom is rampant, bad roads cause accidents that result in hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths daily. Accidents that can be averted if a government official who fears God, as Nigerians would say, decides not to help himself to funds earmarked for road construction and maintenance. Nigerians have a million reasons to throng the streets in protest.
Nigeria's president, Muhammadu Buhari, has not only reneged on his promise to grow the economy, improve security and overhaul the country's healthcare, he is proudly Nigeria's number one medical tourist to the UK, a damning indictment of his ineptitude. Nigerians tolerate their government's excesses and it is unfathomable. Half of the challenges they face and endure would cause political turmoil in other countries. Why are Nigerians so accepting and forgiving of their leaders' glaring incompetence? One answer lies in religion.
In a country where there are more places of worship than schools and companies combined, religion is the reason for the docility of Nigerians and the unlikelihood that they would protest against their grossly inept government.
Nigeria's incumbent Muslim president is hero-worshipped in the predominantly Muslim North and most Muslims condone his failures and excuse it even though the country is in dire straits. Buhari's supporters claim sixteen years of misrule by the opposition precipitated the country's decay despite the fact that the country is going on a downward spiral on Buhari's watch.
Any call for protest will not garner the support of Muslims and if such a protest were to go ahead regardless, it would breed tension and culminate in sectarian violence and political unrest. Likewise,if the incumbent president were a Christian and there were calls for protest against him, Christians would denounce it as an anti-Christian campaign. That's how much Nigerians are blinded by religion. They baulk at demonstrations when the person at the helm of affairs professes their religion.
Judging by precedents, the Nigerian government will not brook any protest and ,most certainly, will not hesitate to use lethal force in the event that one occurs . The government is ruthless and high-handed and Nigerians are acutely aware of this. In 2015, Nigerian soldiers killed hundreds of Shiite protesters in the city of Zaria, Kaduna. In another incident last year, Shiites protesters demanding the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-zazaky, illegally detained by the Nigerian government since 2015, were dispersed with deadly force and casualties were recorded. Despite court rulings that El-zazaky should be freed from detention, the government has blatantly refused to comply. The government's high-handedness and ruthlessness strikes fear into the hearts of Nigerians and dissuades them from demonstrating. The fear Nigerians have for their government is further compounded by the inaction of the international community as regards human rights violations by the Nigerian government. This has emboldened the government and undermined the people's confidence.
Caged by fear, blinded by religion and ignorant of the leverage they have and the power they would wield if they set aside their differences and collectively demand for positive change, Nigerians give their grossly inept leaders a free ride and enable mediocrity and until they awaken to the realization that they can hire and fire their incompetent leaders, their hope for a better country remains a wishful thinking.