It was an interesting day yesterday. I experienced a whole range of emotions. I was elated, I was sad, I was flabbergasted, I was amused and I was, finally, sober.
Nigeria got exposed yesterday.
There is a fundamental flaw in the way education works in Nigeria, from the training of the ordinary lay person to that of professionals.
Science education and critical thinking are dead in Nigeria. Religion and superstition have crept into every cell of academia, taken over every organelle and the entire machinery of the Nigerian public life, and held it firmly by the neck.
Promoting religion ahead of reason does have its own drawback. Inability to question patently wrong ideas because they’re being peddled by a pastor or imam is not the mark of an educated mind. The Nigerian has learnt from childhood through fear and indoctrination to make his intellect and reason totally subservient to the whims of religion and superstition, such that he doesn’t even notice them anymore. The subjugation is total and complete.
When pastor Adeboye claimed to have driven 200km without fuel and was not challenged by the engineering community in Nigeria, the body of engineers lost its soul and legitimacy. Every engineer and automobile technician in Nigeria just got called a fool and they all said yes.
When doctors sit in church and pastors tell them that demons are responsible for infertility, for cancer, for depression, for diabetes, for hypertension, and they keep quiet, it is a national tragedy. The pastor just told them to use every epidemiology and clinical medicine textbook they ever read in their lives to wipe their asses and they all said yes.
The problem began very early. Instead of teaching children to examine every idea, every proposition critically for validity before admitting it to be true, we force children to partition their brains into two compartments, one for religion and the other for empirical knowledge. Much of life’s information go through the filter of the empirical knowledge compartment and come out sound and refined but religion and superstition escape the filter unchanged, unchallenged, viral and potent. There are pastors and imams all over our educational institutions feeding the two compartments simultaneously without experiencing any conflict of interest or cognitive dissonance. We are a nation of intellectually dishonest people.
It is for this reason that a Nigerian engineer learns that all internal combustion engines run on petrol with the empirical compartment of his brain but is willing to admit that one would not run on petrol but air because pastor Adeboye said so. It is the reason why a Nigerian gynaecologist would learn the causes of infertility and accommodate demonic attack as a valid category, despite its non-inclusion in the gynaecological body of scientific knowledge. Idiopathic (yet unknown causes) simply means that. To a critically trained mind, it means we don’t know yet. We are still researching on it. To a Nigerian gynaecologist, the pastor has helped to fill the knowledge gap. Idiopathic means demonic possession. That information does not pass through the doubt filter. It stays permanently locked up in the superstition compartment and no amount of training can dislodge it.
In the medical profession in Nigeria, religious and superstitious coloration to knowledge is a greater tragedy. Ignorance has been baptised to demonic possession. The gynaecologist does not believe fibroid is due to demonic attack. He knows this stuff. But he is more likely to believe schizophrenia is due to demonic possession. He doesn’t know this one well. The paediatrician is more likely to believe both can be due to demonic possession. But he doesn’t for one minute believe childhood epilepsy is due to demonic attack. All the gaps in knowledge have been seamlessly bridged by religion and superstition, despite zero evidence for validity.
Nigeria just got exposed.
Ayinde Olatunde Olayinka, a psychiatrist, writes from Ibadan, Nigeria.