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Nigeria in 2015: Is There A Way Out of The Wilderness?
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There is the history of the Jews on their way to the Promised Land, which they were told was flowing with Milk and Honey. The generation that left Egypt was caught up in the wilderness and never made it to the Promised Land.Why? They could not claim that they had bad leadership, in fact they had a good, inspired leader in Moses, a courageous leader, who faced down Pharaoh the ruler of the greatest  Empire the world had ever known.  Moses their leader was chosen by God Himself but the people decided to go their own way. Moses could not have been accused of bad leadership, of corruption or favoritism. In fact when he faced accusations, God Himself vindicated him. Recently our former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo agreed with Pastor Adeboye, the Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God that Nigerian  needs God intervention The remaining content of his remarks were not reported.  

 

This phrase of God's intervention is well-intentioned and it seems everyone in Nigeria agrees with it.  However, God is not going to violate the choices made by  the people. People make their choices, but God determines the ultimate outcomes. The Israelites that left Egypt had Divine Intervention, to be able to escape bondage, but they never made it to the Promised Land. They chose not to go in when it was time to go, even when they confirmed with their own mouths that it was true that the land did flow with Milk and Honey. They could not make the courageous decision required. They did not want to face the difficulty required to achieve their vaunted goal. Instead they effectively made a choice to turn back into the wilderness and God agreed with their choice, with disastrous consequences.   

The venue for Chief Obasanjo's comments was auspicious , because all levels of society was represented. Apart from the former President, and the  renowned  Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, there were  traditional rulers, social, cultural and political groups, student groups, artisans, market men and market women.   The Theme seems to be the need for God's intervention and Chief Obasanjo agreed with the Overseer. They even sang a song of worship "Do Something New in My Life, Do Something New in this Country". The sentiment is admirable, but singing and worship is not enough.  God requires that, worship must be done in  Spirit and in Truth.  That phrase in "Spirit and in Truth"  is loaded and only God himself can determine the true worshipper.

It is instructive that Chief Obasanjo, who had ruled  Nigeria twice and longer than any other person should express the need for God's intervention. He obviously knows the need. He had the opportunity to call on God to intervene and give him wisdom needed to rule Nigeria, when he had the responsibility to govern Nigeria. Maybe he did at the many services in Aso Rock, that is between him and God. If he did then may be God chose not to intervene, because the time was not right, or may be God spoke and no one listened. God speaks sometimes not in the way we expected or want or we may not like the messenger that God decided to send  His message through. We cannot know which one it is, since we are not in the Counsel of God. However, we should learn and heed the warning of history. God told the Israelites that the sin of the Canaanites had not reached its full measure and therefore  God was not going to overthrow them, till their cup was full. God also allowed the Israelites to suffer hash bondage in Egypt for four hundred years, a very long time indeed from any human perspective. However, God only acts in the fullness of time. God's intervention may bring judgment. What we need foremost is  genuine repentance, to turn away from our current ways, then we can pray for forgiveness and grace. Just as it is known to everyman that, you reap what you sow, it is also true of nations.  Sometimes we make mistakes, that is inevitable, but we need to admit, and change our ways, then we can face the future with nothing holding us back. When we are there we can expect God to do something new in our lives and the life of our nation.

Nigerians make choices each day. Some are small choices made by individuals, choices that seem  not to be of much consequence, but may lead to big consequential and systemic results (the so-called butterfly effect .).  Individuals decide to take bribes rather than carry out  the duties they are obligated to perform as public officials. Other individuals decide to bribe public officials so that  they may obtain what is not lawfully or rightfully theirs. Others are forced to pay bribes just to get only a pittance of what they are entitled to. The individual who takes bribe or who gives bribes, thinks it does not matter, I am not the Chairman of the Local Government Council, I am not the State Assembly person, I am not in the House of Representatives, I am not the Senator, and after all I am not even the Minister or the President, responsible for the development of the Nation. In fact the rational, is everyone is doing it.  What is man to do?  Yes, let us admit our leaders don't set a good example. We are not accusing anyone of taking bribes or misappropriating money.We need concrete evidence to convict, but circumstantial evidence is enough to convict in some cases. If anyone is living above their official incomes, with no evidence to show there is a legitimate source for all their expenditures and bank balances, then that is enough to convict. Even without getting into that morass of individual corrupt practices. What is the moral or even economic justification for the salaries and allowances of legislators in Nigeria? Why do we need Thirty-six States, many of which are not viable economically and we have to have a bicameral legislature and so many Ministers? This obscene display of irresponsible governance is then replicated  and magnified a hundred fold at the national level. The people clamor for more states, even now there are those clamoring for more states and leaders with no vision or of questionable motives are quick to fan these desires and even oblige to create weak states that they can rule as their personal fiefdom. There is surely a  way to bring governance and democracy to the people even at the village level without these obscene expenditures, just for the structure of government, with nothing left to actually effect any meaningful development. Our choices so far as a nation, say we prefer to wander around in the wilderness than to enter the promised land. We lack the courage to face our lack of resolve to tackle corruption, so many people are benefiting from the corrupt practices. Our leaders are hiding under the guise of balancing the political constituencies and not holding people to account for their misdeeds, by pardoning even those convicted by our weak, corruptible and  institutionally ineffective justice system.  We are definitely turning back into the wilderness for sure.

The elections are coming and there is the rumor that money is floating around.  There is so much attention paid to how many millions and in some cases billions the Presidential candidates or other candidates have raised.  A good question to ask is, why does electioneering  in Nigeria need these obscene sums of money, when money is not available for development? There may be people at the local level who are waiting for the crumbs the politicians will throw their way, as their share of the so-called  "national cake"  As it was said in a recent election, when people were told how much development and infrastructure one of the candidates has effected while in office, one of the common responses of the people  recorded by reporters was "Are we going to eat infrastructure?". Of course there is a need to make sure the people are not suffering under grinding poverty, but this response shows a level of ignorance that those who are benefiting from this ignorance will like to continue. It was several years ago when it was also reported that one of the political leaders, when told of the suffering of the people responded that no one was eating from the garbage can. As if we have to see people eating from the garbage can before any action can be taken.  Anyway, WeI am sure there were people eating from the garbage can even then, though the politicians cannot see this in their exclusive neighborhoods or as they zip past the slums in the cities in their limousines.

This being an election year there is also the nostalgia factor of looking for a "Messiah" and the response from those trying to cut the "Messiahto size, or burst the balloon of those being nostalgic, that their "Messiah-candidate" is neither  the "Messiah"  that Nigeria needs nor is looking for.   We need to stop looking for a "Messiah" or be investing any leader with a "Messiah-complex".  We have had many "Messiahs"  and the result has been utter disappointment.  We need to get back to basics.

How do we get out of the wilderness?  We need a revolution not just from the top, but from the bottom. The opinion leaders in our communities at all levels must stop pandering to ineffective, rudderless leaders in any capacity from the village level to the President. We must find a way to incorporate accountability into our systems and institutions. If our past leaders since the first coup have shown the type of leadership needed and/or  have been held accountable for their actions we will be half-way out of the wilderness by now. Of course leaders like human beings will make mistakes and cannot get everything right.  However,  many of our  leaders have made pronouncements which show that  they know what is right and in many cases they obviously ignore what they know is right to pursue their own agenda, which contradicts their own pious public pronouncements. At this point we do not want to go into every detail of each regime since the first coup in Nigeria, suffice it to say that most of the time the words of our leaders have not matched their actions.  Of course it is possible to point out a few exceptions, but that has not been the rule. We need a few good men and women of integrity, who can bring transparency into how our institutions are run and bring some sunlight into the corridors of power from the village level to Aso Rock.

We have avoided mentioning Boko Haram  up to this point, because the Boko Haram phenomenon is just a symptom of the rot in the systems and institutions of Nigeria. In the same article where Chief  Obasanjo is cited there was a quote from the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Chris Okoye  at the 2014 Law Week,  that "the Government should divorce politics from terrorism and take right and courageous actions in the interest of generality of Nigerians" .At this same Law Conference, a lecturer at the Lagos State University, Mr. Gbenga Ojo, observed that "the recipe for combating terrorism is enforcement of the law" We could not agree more, but rather than limit law enforcement to policing , it should encompass the rule of law in the society as a whole. Is the law enforced fairly across all strata of society? Or is it that some are above the law and can act with impunity, even against the justice systems and the law, based on their connections to the political power structure?  Is justice done and is it apparent to the populace that justice is done and  sanctions meted out fairly. These are some of the root causes of insurgency in Nigeria.   

The fact that the government seems incapable of containing  the Boko Haram menace and scourge is not surprising and it is a manifestation of the lack of resolve to tackle other critical problems in Nigeria. The lack of accountability, the lax enforcement of laws and the flouting of basic laws and decency with impunity. There has been many ideas bandied around comparing  the Boko Haram to the Maitasinne episode of some years back and the supposed solution that was implemented to rout out the scourged.  It is now obvious that the Maitasinne problem was really never resolved. It just metastasized. Military force is obviously not to going solve this issue. There must be strict adherence to the rule of law at all levels of society. The society must be equitable and fair to all its citizens. Neither is accommodation of an ideology that is contrary to the existence of Nigeria, as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious state going to be a solution to this problem. Those advocating negotiation with Boko Haram need to show that Boko Haram is ready to negotiate a political solution in a pluralistic Nigeria.  Pluralism is essential if Nigeria is to survive and that pluralism must be harnessed if we are to emerge out of the wilderness.

It is easy to see that our leaders have failed us. When we say leaders we are not just talking about political leaders. We are talking also about spiritual leaders from the small churches and mosques to the mega houses of faith,  the leaders in the civil services, in civil societies, in professional organizations, in cultural organizations, at the village level, city level, the state and regional levels and the national level. If we are praying, our hope is that God has reserved for Himself in the midst of all these corruption and rottenness a few men and women of integrity, at whatever level of society, who will stand up and proclaim the truth. We need "new" men and women in Nigeria. Men and/or Women who have decided that enough is enough.  We have tried the same thing for over fifty years and it is not working.

They should make up their mind that in this coming year they are prepared to do the following:

  • They will not put up a defense for questionable practices even of members of their own family or  their village or their ethnic  group.

  • They will not defend the indefensible for material or any other gain

  • They will not be sycophants, singing praises of people who should hang their heads in shame

  • They will not seek to pervert justice for any reason

  • They will stand for justice not just in fact, but that justice must be apparent

  • They will speak forcefully against injustice and refuse to abet  it

  • They will raise their voice and support all those seeking justice and integrity in public life

  • They will lend support to defend the least able in society and plead the cause of the down trodden.

  • They should not quietly go along with corrupt practices, just to get along

  • They should speak truth to power, if they are in the council of the power structure in the society

  • They will not give or take bribes and if forced to give bribe, they should make it known that they are giving it under duress and keep a record of it. It can be reported anonymously to bribery reporting web sites (e.g. www.bribesspot.com  or any other site).

  • They will be advocates for meaningfully education for the masses as to their responsibility in a democracy, so that they cannot be kept in ignorance and exploited.

This is a call to arms for men and women  of integrity. To practice the above in their houses of worship, in their offices, their businesses, and in their homes and everywhere in their communities. Evil continues to thrive because those who should stand up refuse, those who can lend their voices keep quiet and those who can act refuse to lift a finger. It requires courage, not just physical courage, but moral and spiritual courage.  May Nigeria find courageous and faithful men and women. Shine the light in your own corner no matter how little it is.

Returning to the history in the wilderness. In that story, there were two people who stood for the truth and had the courage of their convictions to proclaim it, when no one else was willing. They were a great source of support to each other against overwhelming odds and they were able to stand. Of all the people in their generation only those two made it out of the wilderness, while the others  perished.  

May the coming generations find us faithful and bless those who  in their own way lead  Nigeria out of the wilderness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR


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