On Irede Road, Abule Osun, Ojo local government area of Lagos State is a Chinese-owned Yiwu Baolian Import and Export Company Limited.
But Nigerian employees in the company are putting up with what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced in Babylon during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar who ruled Babylon from c. 605 BC – c. 562 BC.
Just like King Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image and commanded everyone to fall down and worship it at the sound of horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, Yiwu Baolian’s female chief executive officer, Fanni Lijuan, has introduced Buddhism as one of the ‘conditions of service’ and coerced Nigerian employees to worship Buddha.
However, unlike the three Hebrew children who were cast into a blazing furnace for refusing to bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden stature, Lijuan simply sacks Nigerian staff who refuses to practice Buddhism.
According to The Punch, Lijuan, who introduced Buddhism in the company allegedly, compelled staff to bow down and worship her Buddha and those who refused were summarily fired.
One of the employees, who simply identified himself as Olaniyi said: “The problem is that Fanni Lijuan brought Buddhism to the office; she introduces us to a projector that showed us how to practice Buddhism, and we were asked to bow to the teacher. They also read us some books, but before reading we were asked to bow three times.
“Employees who refused to bow were dismissed. Last week on Monday, two people were dismissed and the company’s apology was that it was a restructuring and the workers involved were no longer needed. The workers were fired because they did not want to bow; and after the company dismissed them, management threatened other employees that if we did not bow to the teacher, we would also be fired.”
Peter added: “She (Lijuan) usually says that bowing is a sign of respect and that the practice is good for us. But does that mean that the people who employ them have no respect before? Do adults who graduated from the university have no respect? She tries to convert us to Buddhism. That is wrong and against our religions and traditions in Nigeria, where religious freedom is guaranteed.
“For instance, when we were in school, they would tell us to join social clubs and before you know it, you are into cultism; that’s exactly what she is doing and we are trying to avoid it. Even the manager, who is supposed to stand up for us, gave in because she threatened to sack him.”
It was learnt that some of the workers, out of fear of losing their jobs, had started bowing, while those who refused were allegedly being sacked.
One of the sacked employees, who asked to remain anonymous, alleged that Lijuan introduced Buddhism in 2017.
The former employee said: “Our madam started this Buddhism practise in the office last year; she started by giving us lectures and asked us to be taking notes. We also listened to voices we didn’t know. Recently, she got to the stage of asking us to bow, but I refused. So, she gave me one month’s salary and sacked me and some others.
“When they laid me off, I was not bothered because I am not ready to bow to anything other than God. Even if she didn’t sack me, I would have quit. But the danger is that some workers have already compromised; they have bowed because they don’t want to be sacked; and now, they are working in fear.
“This is bad; we can’t be in our country and be treated like that. In Nigeria, nobody can force you to worship their gods. It is only in Nigeria that a foreigner will come to do something like that. The reason you still have some people in that company is because there are no jobs outside there; we are suffering.”
Another sacked employee, Raphael Ewiri, said Lijuan got angry with him when every effort to cajole him to adopt the practise of bowing proved abortive.
The former storekeeper of the company said: “Mrs Fanni Lijuan told everyone of us that there was a new way of showing humility according to the Chinese tradition and that we had to bow three times before and after lectures in appreciation of the Chinese sages that brought about the wisdom that had been in existence for 4,000 to 5,000 years. I felt like why should I bow three times before and after lectures?
“She feels not bowing is a sign of pride; she called me to her office one day and asked why we were not bowing. She was trying to cajole me that it was not religious, but a sign of humility.
“One day, Mrs Lijuan brought me out in front of everybody; the auditor said we should all bow to the ancient, saying she was expecting me to bow. I didn’t because I never promised her that I would bow. So, when she took the first bow, she was surprised that I didn’t bow; she was very annoyed.”
The Delta State indigene, who charged the government to investigate the matter, said Lijuan knew he was supposed to go on leave but postponed it and eventually sacked him.
However, Lijuan denied introducing Buddhism in the company, adding that she wanted the employees to bow as a sign of humility, because they were arrogant.
She stated that she never sacked anyone because of religion, adding that she had fostered harmony among different religions.
“I never introduced Buddhism; they are just lying. What I observed is that some of the workers are very arrogant; even their body language shows that they are not respectful. So, we are learning some ways of living; humility and respect; and what I want them to do is a sign of humility – bow your body and stop being arrogant.
“I did not sack anyone because they did not bow; it is totally wrong. I never told anyone to leave Christianity or Islam to practise any other religion. We have Christians and Muslims in the company; I am a Buddhist and I want to create harmony among the different religions; that’s what I want to do in this company,” she said.