By Oge Igboegbunam | 24 January 2017
Church and State
Bayo walks down the staircase, fiddling with his iPhone as he tries to open the padlock. At the door, he appears distracted, but quickly collects himself as he opens the burglar door with a smile on his face. He excuses himself as he wanders through his three-bedroom apartment to put on a pair of flip flops and quickly returns to sit on the sofa. Now composed, he is ready to talk about his journey to atheism.
Opadeyi, 41 is a Nigerian atheist, a rarity in the ultra-religious country. According to Gallup, irreligion in Nigeria is measured at two percent of the population. The Nigerian population is estimated at 182.2 million people, according to the latest census figures. Of this figure, 48.3% of the Nigerian population are Christians, 48.9% are Muslims, while the remaining 2.8% are either adherents of other religions, or unaffiliated, according to the Pew Research Centre’s 2012 report on religion and public life in Nigeria.
In his childhood he was surrounded by cooks, gardeners and drivers, he grew up wanting for nothing. He says, “I had an obsessive interest in chess as a child. I also loved knowing about how the world works as a child.” With the rising rate of poverty in Nigeria, and over 61% of Nigerians living on $1 a day, according to the National Bureau of Statistics report in 2010, most Nigerians turn to religion to offer solace. According to BBC.com, an increasing number of Nigeria’s 70 million Christians are followers of the prosperity teachings – the belief that prosperity is a sign of spiritual blessing.
In his quest to get a better understanding of the world, he set out on a religious path in his teenage years and he had to take many detours. “I decided to read the bible from Genesis to Revelations and I was shocked by what I saw. The story of when Saul was asked to kill the Amalekites shocked me. I had to ask my elders why God ordered the killing of women and children. The answers were unsatisfactory.” This led him to worship in several Pentecostal churches and unconvinced by what he saw, he decided to read up on the history of the Church and other religions. “It was in 2011 I used the word atheist and didn’t look back.” Bayo said.
Despite his laid-back mien, it turns out that he has had to wage battle with some of his family members and associates, who were unable to grasp how a person could live without a god, any god. His sister, Tayo, says, “Truth be told, Bayo had faith in Jesus. He lost it. He alone knows where, why and how. He should have a good idea about the details. He needs to find it.”
His Catholic wife, once opposed to his atheism has had to come to terms with it. “In the initial stages of our marriage, my atheism caused some friction but she now understands that I came to my atheism out of a search for truth. She has now resigned herself to it.” He said as he smiled to himself. His wife declined to comment on his atheism when approached about it.
Does he love being an atheist? As he says, “I love that I don’t give tithes and offerings to make pastors richer, I have met lots of interesting people who question generally accepted beliefs. I have accepted death and I am now interested in leaving the world a little bit better for our children.”
Bayo is concerned about the sway religion has over the Nigerian masses. In 2003 imams in northern Nigeria advised their followers not to have their children vaccinated with oral polio vaccine, perceived to be a plot by Westerners to decrease Muslim fertility, as reported by nbcnews. While in 2012, the Federal Government of Nigeria rejected the proposal by the Presidential Committee on the Restructuring and Rationalisation of Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies’ report on April 16, 2012 recommending that the government should stop sponsoring pilgrims and pilgrimages with effect from 2012 Fiscal year. He would very much like the vast majority of Nigerians to be irreligious. He points out that “a lot of people go to churches/ mosques instead of hospitals when they are sick, religion encourages laziness as they teach children to pray instead of working hard for what they want. Religion prevents people from fighting for change as they believe our corrupt leaders are chosen by God.”
He does not rest content with hoping for change in the Nigerian society. He founded a software development company, Clear Code Labs, whose vision is “to do little things that will make a maximum positive impact in people’s lives.” Bayo has developed an android app, now available on Google Play Store called MedInfo for helping “those in need of a transfusion locate people who are willing to donate blood.”
Driven by the desire to show people that an atheist can still be motivated to do things that benefit other people, he tries to be kind to others. His employee, Emmanuel Okorie says this of him, “Mr Bayo is a nice person who treats people well, motivates and encourages people and does his best to bring out potentials in them.” His friend of fourteen years, Tunde Famakinwa who is aware of his atheism says that, “He is simple, free spirited and I cannot remember him getting angry at anything. He is a good person I respect a lot.” However, his atheist friend Dr. Williams Oluwafisayo, has this to say, “He has this bias…especially towards me…might be because I’m a hardliner when it comes to atheism. He indulges bullshit too much.”
With a strong support group of family and friends, relatively good health, and financial independence, Bayo credits his success in life to “hard work, my education, my ability to appreciate diversity in human beings, my realism, which makes me plan for my future, my ability to creatively think up solutions to existing problems, my ability to get on well with people, my conscientiousness, because all my jobs were gotten by myself.”
An avid reader, he enjoys reading nonfiction books. He cites The Martyrdom of Man by Winwood Reade and A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian as “books that have influenced my worldview.”
What Nigerians think of people who do NOT believe in God
Akintoba – An Atheist in Nigeria
Nigeria’s Story: A Nation was Born Nearly 100 Years Ago
Be sure to ‘like’ us on Facebook