Critical Thinking and Superstitions Among Young People in Nigeria
The subject of critical thinking and superstitions among young Nigerians can be explained with the help of three pictures. The first is the photo of young Nigerians in custody holding female pants. Did they steal these pants not to wear them? Not at all. They stole the underwear in hopes of using it for a ritual sacrifice that could make them rich. Other young Nigerians have been caught with human heads and private organs. Many have been arrested, prosecuted or are on the run for killing and removing human body parts for the same purpose.
Another image is of young Nigerians surrounding an alleged witch in Lagos. The woman is believed to have been a witch, who was on a plane ride to a meeting but eventually crashed in Oworonshoki, a suburb of Lagos. The forced landing of so-called witches often occurs in overcrowded slums and bus stops; in places where it is difficult to know what happened. In many cases, young people are the mob that often attacks or inflicts jungle justice on so-called witches. Many young Nigerians undoubtedly believe that human beings transform and can transform into birds, snakes, dogs, cats and insects.
Another image is of young Muslims who allegedly dragged a suspected blasphemer, also a youth, and burned him in Bauchi in northern Nigeria. These young Muslims, who numbered over 50, stood up and watched this alleged blasphemer burn to ashes. No one tried to save or save the life of the alleged blasphemer. A few years ago, Muslim students lynched their teacher for allegedly desecrating the Quran in Gombe State. Young Muslims have become the face of beheadings, attacks, murders and other atrocities linked to allegations of blasphemy, insulting Islam and desecration of the Koran.
Now these images illustrate the tragic hold of unreason and extreme religious beliefs on the minds of young Nigerians. They eloquently bear witness to the destructive impact dogmas have on their lives. Incidentally, some facilities in Nigerian society frustrate the exercise of critical thinking and predispose young people to believe in an irrational and superstitious manner.
The first facility is the family. Families are the foundation of social life and development. Unfortunately, many young people are born into families where they dare not question ideas, especially religious and cultural beliefs and practices. Young people grow up in a religious environment where they are not encouraged to question the claims of their parents, elders or clerics. They are brought up mainly by pious and dogmatic parents. These family members identify themselves as Muslims or Christians or traditionalists. They regard an unconditional disposition towards Islamic, Christian and traditional beliefs as a family way of life. Young Nigerians live in communities where the art of questioning or doubting claims is seen as deviant or a sign of disrespect for parents and elders.
Schools are also among the engines and fuelers of youth superstitions. In Nigeria, most schools are no longer providers of knowledge and enlightenment. Schools are institutions for the indoctrination and brainwashing of children and young people. Schools are primarily based on faith and not on reason. They discourage critical examination of beliefs and traditions. School authorities block any activity or program that could offend or give the impression of offending the religious and cultural sensibilities of the population. Thus, schools produce young people who are afraid to think or have independent opinions; individuals who cannot openly challenge ideas or critically question their beliefs. Students graduating from schools prone to blind faith; students who commit acts of fanatic and superstitious violence with impunity.
Religious organizations are also among the catalysts of superstition and dogmatism among young people in Nigeria. Every religion claims to be true and aligns itself with anyone who questions its doctrines. Religions have well-oiled machines and personnel dedicated to indoctrination of young people and their mental hostage. Religious organizations encourage blind faith and reward unconditional obedience. Incidentally, a lot of young people have questions, but they cannot ask them. They find many teachings absurd, objectionable and untenable. But they can’t tell. Many young people have doubts, but they cannot publicly express their rebellious thoughts and feelings due to fear of sanctions and penalties, including execution and incarceration by religious organizations and their theocratic allies.
Superstitious fears and acts of violence will continue to ravage Nigerian society and destroy its young people until critical thinking becomes a permanent feature of the daily life of family, school and religion.