In Edo State in particular and perhaps most parts of Nigeria whenever an individual is involved in something that isn’t quite normal we say that they have “home problem”. Normally such people aren’t taken seriously and simply told to go away and solve their problem inside the house.
Most of us should have realized by now that the controversy surrounding the alleged forceful conversion of a twenty-five year old adult female Charity Uzoechina to Islam which eventually wasted the time of officials from the Presidency, courts and the Christian Association of Nigeria as well as the Etsu Nupe, is simply a case of home problem blown totally out of proportion.
Her father had severally accused Etsu Nupe of hypnotizing and abducting his daughter because the Royal Father has been the person in custody of the lady. A Shari’a Court in Bida gave the custody order of protection to Aisha (Charity) against her parent consequent upon her allegation that her father might harm if she returned home. Based on her complaint the Sharia Court issued an order barring anyone from removing the lady from Etsu Nupe’s palace till the determination of the suit. It must be made clear that Aisha is by law an adult who can make her own choices in life. It must also be understood that the lady did not to complain to anyone about her conversion to Islam as it was her free choice and the only complaint she did make was that her father would not respect her decision and that she should be protected from him.
There are many families in Nigeria that have both Christian and Moslem members who live in harmony and prosperity. Unfortunately for Aisha who is said to be a student in the Federal Polytechnic Bida she is the daughter of Pastor Raymond Uzoechina of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) so it isn’t difficult to see why she would be afraid of her father’s reaction. The truth is that the whole hullabaloo isn’t about her at all. It’s all about him. The implication of a Pastors daughter converting to Islam would definitely affect his standing in the church as it would imply quite simply that he is unable to keep his own house in order much less acquire converts or at least keep the membership intact. The fact that he could quite irrationally openly accuse the Etsu Nupe of hypnotizing and abducting an adult only shows a level of desperation that tends to confirm the suspicion of home problem.
As a parent did he not know that his child was at an impressionable age and in the process of learning about life? Did he not know that by allowing her to study in Bida she would be subject to the influences of the community? If in her personal development she decides to change her religion for self fulfilment, is this so objectionable? ” The Pastor who we have no reason to believe is not a man of God should ask himself whether by converting to Islam his daughter has renounced God? In case Pastor Uzoechina does not know although a version of their history claims that they originally lived in Egypt, the more common tradition traces the origin of the Nupe people to Tsoede who fled the court of Idah and established a loose confederation of towns along the Niger in the 15th century.
The proximity of Nupe to the Yoruba Igbomina people in the south and to the Yoruba Oyo people in the southwest led to cross-fertilization of cultural influences through trade over the centuries. It is said that the famous Yoruba Oba Sango who was once an Alaafin of Oyo before being deified following his death, was the son of a Nupe (Tapa) woman. Many Nupe were converted to Islam at the end of the eighteenth century by Malam Dendo, a wandering preacher, and were incorporated into the Fulani Empire established by the Jihad led by Usman dan Fodio after 1806.
However, the traditions of Nupe were retained; hence the ruler of Nupe is the Etsu Nupe rather than being called Emir. There is nothing in the Nupe culture or tradition that points to their being involved in forceful conversion of anybody into Islam at any point in their history. In contrast their history is one of cultural integration. After a closed-door meeting convened by the Niger State Government, the National General Secretary of CAN said that the noble role of the Etsu Nupe had been misrepresented by Aisha’s father.
It is only hoped that Pastor Uzoechina rendered the traditional ruler and his people the required unreserved apology. There are several lessons for all of us to be learnt from this story not least of which is that parents have to respect the rights of their adult children to make life determining choices and learn to support them and be there for them if they should fall. Parents must also learn to accept that they cannot live their lives vicariously through their children. On a religious note the Pastor must also realize that the Redeemed Christian Church of God was founded in 1952 by Pastor Josiah Akindayomi after he had been involved in several other churches. It has become one of Africa’s most vigorously expansionary churches.
Part of its mission statement is to have a member in every family in every nation on earth. Good luck to them but surely this means that they accept that people should be free to change their church and their religion? Or is the church now a cult that people can only join but cannot leave? Finally I would advise the Pastor that in future he should endeavour to be more circumspect by reminding him of a proverb which says “don’t bother to tell people your problems because half of them don’t care and the other half are happy that you have them!”
The biggest lesson for all of us is to learn to keep our home problems to ourselves.