AT THE MAY 2018 MONTHLY HOLY GHOST SERVICE:
AVOID WAR IN NIGERIA ADEBOYE CALLS FOR RESTRAINT
These are very unusual times in Nigeria, given the spate of killings and assassinations that seem to portray helplessness on the part of the government and also the citizenry, that are now viewing the situation as hopeless. Whoever has related with Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God Worldwide would attest to the fact that he abhors sounding alarmist, and hardly makes negative utterances. The last time I saw Daddy Adeboye in a pensive mood that was reenacted at the May 2018 edition of the Holy Ghost Service was when he visited Benue State recently, to commiserate with the people of the State on the large number of killings recorded in the State.
It was the first time I heard Daddy Adeboye go rather deep, in sounding a note of warning to Nigerians. He said: These killings must stop, otherwise Nigeria may not live. A content analysis of the yearly prophecies from the Throne of Grace released by Pastor Adeboye would reveal that he carefully crafts his messages to somehow avoid saying anything evil. That is the hallmark of a prophet who has the responsibility of interceding further to avoid calamities whenever God speaks. In reality, it wasnt a message from the Lord, but the feelings of a concerned religious leader who felt and saw an ominous signal.
The situation is so horrible that Pastor Adeboye, who said he was reasoning and not prophesying disclosed his recent discussion with one of his spiritual children, (A Bishop) during which he expressed the fear (personal opinion) that elections might not hold in Nigeria next year (2019) if this state of despair and reckless termination of human lives continue unchecked. He went philosophical: There is nothing good about war. A nation may survive a civil war; but no nation may survive a religious war and remain the same. He then led the usual large congregation to plead with God to halt the very dangerous development of killings.
Pastor Adeboye said he didnt hear from God concerning next years elections. Let us appreciate all our religious leaders that have continuously stood in the gap for Nigeria. We are lucky to be blessed with several priests that hear from God, in their regular walk with the Creator. Without any doubt, divine instructions will still come for people to fast and pray for Nigeria, so that our dear nation is not plunged into avoidable crises. Religious leaders have their reasons, as the Book of Amos: 3vs7 states that God would never do anything without revealing these secrets to His prophets. God controls the universe. And to mankind, the Holy Bible, in 2 Chronicles 20vs20, enjoins us to believe the Lord and His prophets so that we may be established and prosper. God has His principles. This is one of the reasons why Nigerians, irrespective of political beliefs and religious inclinations must come together to salvage the situation.
WHERE DOES OUR NATION STAND?
I am unable to make informed comments on any security architecture because of lack of information upon which I would draw conclusions. But I know very well that the Constitution says that: Governments owe it a duty to provide a secured environment for the populace and this is one of the prime reasons why government is in place. This very important function is carried out through various organs, some, very complicated for the ordinary mind to understand. And it is logical to emphasize that nobody has the right to terminate human lives with impunity and go unchallenged. A constitutional lawyer, Professor Akin Oyebode in an interview in the Nigerian Tribune of Monday 8th December, 2008, described the development as barbaric, primitive and senseless. According to him, Those who are misguided, mischievous and don’t wish Nigeria well, at the slightest opportunity, would resort to using their arrows, machetes and bows to vent their frustration on their compatriots. Prof. Oyebode went further to situate the blame for the country’s inability to develop a viable political culture at the doorsteps of opinion and political leaders, saying Those people who can call the nation to order now are very few; they don’t have the gut and they lack the courage. Even, when they have the intellect, they are afraid to talk. We claim to be operating democracy, but we are operating it without democrats. This is the real problem.
The situation is redeemable. The Holy Bible enjoins us to: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Emotions have run very high several times, leading to loss of thousands of precious lives and property on account of religious, ethnic, tribal and political differences. And most of these problems have been caused by illiteracy and the elites in the society who have successfully led the largely illiterate and poor population by the nose. Arising from the foregoing, I wish to most respectfully implore the leadership at all levels for find enduring solution to those issues that are currently potentially explosive. Apart from applying the Rule of Law to curtail these unfortunate crises, it is also important for everybody to know that the citizenry must play active roles to support moves to treat the festering sore and arrest the unfortunate crises. The issue has definitely gone beyond arguing that: I belong to Political Party A or B, or Religion A or B. It is about the survival of Nigeria. Some close to our leaders who are simply opportunists and power-hungry people will always confuse leaders as a result of personal gains. Those with workable suggestions and ideas are fenced off and correspondences would be stopped from getting to leaders at all levels because of selfish reasons. Patriots would be branded saboteurs for no just cause. Leaders must be circumspect and weigh official advice and actions because the buck stops on their table.
The suggestion of terminating careers of military chiefs might not be the answer. It is like asking Members of the National Assembly that have served two terms not to recontest elections to allow fresh minds with fresh ideas to come in. There must be cogent reasons as to why they should be sacked, because only a few people including the Commander-in-Chief have access to security reports. In every setting, there are political considerations and moves; even within where those security chiefs serve. Security issues are too sensitive to be handled in a just like that manner. Those who know the history of the exploits of the Nigerian Armed Forces would point out that our soldiers are trained, exposed greatly respected in Peacekeeping Operations. I read Col. Tony Nyiams (retd) newspaper article three years ago that Nigerian troops in Somalia in 1992/1993 led by Col. Olagunsoye Oyinlola (as he then was) did what the American troops could not do in Somalia because of the terrains. American troops could not operate in terrains where Nigerian troops excelled. And Olagunsoye Oyinlola and his troops got a United Nations commendation for their excellent performances. Security breaches form part of a war being fought on all fronts with the belief that several destabilizing agents from outside Nigeria are involved.
It is possible that these killers just want Nigeria to disintegrate as pointed out by my friend, Frank Akinola in his book on the ECOMOG war in Liberia. I have the feelings that what we are facing has external influence because there is no reason why Muslims will murder fellow Muslims in thousands, while others will enter churches to kill innocent people. It would certainly profit the first line leaderships at the three tiers of Government to be more focused and determined to end all these human induced problems by taking more concrete actions to attack the multifarious security problems facing the nation. The truth remains that all these killings may be targeted at forcing Nigeria to go to war by local and external forces to make Nigeria disintegrate. It is a very serious development. It is better for the killings to stop, as pointed out by Pastor Adeboye in national interest. And it is a situation that demands the support of collaboration of all well-meaning Nigerians.
An Exhortation to the Argumentative Nigerian
By: Femi Adelegan; Published in the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper in January 2015
At the risk of being immodest, this writer can claim to be zealous about peace and forging peaceful coexistence, particularly among the constituents of Nigeria. Apart from public presentations, I have quietly taken it as a duty, since 2014, to quietly write our religious leaders on the State of the Nation and the need to maintain peace. A few articles conveying similar messages have been authored and published in Nigerian Newspapers. In consideration of Pastor E.A. Adeboyes admonition cited above, this writer has dug into the archives to bring out a piece written a few months before the 2015 general elections, when the political space got heated up and there were serious fears of horrific occurrences. The piece provoked commendations from Cardinal John Onaiyekan, and the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Saad Abubakar and it is still relevant today as it was almost four years ago.
Peace cannot exist without justice, justice cannot exist without fairness, fairness cannot exist without development, development cannot exist without democracy, democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity and worth of cultures and peoples. This piece opens with Rigoberta Menchú Tums, a 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner, (at the age of 33 years) winner of the Prince of Asturias Award in 1998, and Glamour Award for The Peacemaker, as a political and human rights activist from Guatemala. She is known globally as dedicating her life to publicizing the rights of Guatemala’s indigenous feminists during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (19601996), and to promoting indigenous rights in the country. She is also currently a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.
The intention here, as the title of this piece suggests, is not to find faults with any individual or organization, but to point out some pertinent steps that could at least mitigate wrangling, and enable us avoid pitfalls of the past, that have drawn our nation backward by several decades. From Pastor Adeboyes reaction, one could conclude that the problems of insecurity as witnessed in Nigeria in recent months are becoming dangerous for peaceful coexistence, just as it conveys pleas to well-meaning opinion and religious leaders to step up interventions, in order to tone down the strong influences of animosity that have unfortunately pervaded the political atmosphere. The bond that ties us together stipulates that Nigerians must have an agenda, setting out how they want to co-exist, and the obligations and responsibilities of the State to the organized society. This gave birth to the constitution, which according to Aristotle, is an arrangement of citizens, or as he says elsewhere, a kind of life, which the State is designed to foster.
The decent nature of the State, not only dominates, but, so to speak, completely overlays its political and legal landscape. Therefore, since Nigerians have agreed to come together under a common banner, we must be bound by common rules and regulations, which demand respect for the constitution and the rule of law. I say so because differences in thoughts and opinions occur in every organized political setting all over the world and there must be regulations that must be respected by all and sundry. I refuse to accept the notion that we are all unaware of the dangers inherent in recent killings of innocent people. These are very difficult periods, when steps must be taken to reduce incidents of friction to the barest minimum.
THE POLITICAL TERRAIN
The truth is that the political terrain is currently very slippery. But we can do with lesser tension and strife. In Nigeria, the problem of state or place of origin, religion, ethnicity, tribalism, nepotism and related ills, have combined to constitute formidable barriers to development. We have not been able to give expression to politics without bitterness, and imbibe a spirit of tolerance and sportsmanship, in accordance with the philosophy of a political theorist, Edmund Burke, who once asserted that our patience will achieve more than our force. Our inability to eschew bitterness is undoubtedly a potential catalyst for conflict, underdevelopment and destruction. If the truth must be told, embers of religious, ethnic, political and tribal prejudices have sadly been fanned, fundamentally by those who should encourage and promote national unity and development, as well as those who understand political history of the developed world, which we are copying.
Nigeria is expected to be a land where all men are born equal and have access to the same opportunities without any form of discrimination. Avoidable conflicts have encouraged deep-rooted and congenital hatred among the political class which should lead the populace. Ostensibly, those who fan the embers of disunity, particularly within the political, religious and elite classes, profit from this dangerous development and would always be happy to promote issues that divide, rather than unite the nation. Against this background, our values and norms require a thorough examination. What for instance causes separatist intentions? Why have some of our pronouncements and actions been very disturbing, even in the face of the attendant possible unpleasant consequences? The answer has to do with self-seeking concerns and sincerity of purpose.
As the political arena assumes higher levels of activity, we have been unable, in many instances, to avoid and resist the temptation of promoting those issues that divide us, above those that unite us. In doing this, we have not put aside sentiments that have torn Nigerians apart, and resolve to build a progressive polity, which is possible if we re-examine our ways and resolve to play the game according to the rules and avoid dangerous pitfalls and landmines. For this to happen, there must be unanimity of purpose, in line with Nelson Mandelas statement that A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. Is it not possible for political leaders across the divide to come together periodically, to discuss the way forward, in order for Nigeria to attain greater heights in national interest?
OUR COMMON PROBLEMS
Our problems are multifarious and go beyond constitutional reviews, creation of areas, delineation of constituencies, balkanization of local governments, and creation of additional states. The dangerous trend of ethnicity, religious intolerance, state of origin, advancement of sectional interests, feelings of mistrust and intolerance pervade the atmosphere. Restiveness and political conflagration that have occurred in various parts of the country are partly attributable to the influence of the elites who have benefitted profoundly from these ills. The good thing is that all these problems are surmountable. Some examples would buttress this postulation. Some of the reactions of the elites have been driven by personal and selfish interests. For instance, people are still clamouring for the creation of more states and local governments without considering its effect on the economy.
How many states in Nigeria today are economically viable apart from Lagos State? Creation of additional states based on sentiments would invariably upset the economy, with the possibility of the nation producing failed states. It is even better we reconfigure the nation and merge several states so that resources could go to the provision of amenities rather than servicing huge overhead bills of elected and appointed public officers. We must resist the tendency of taking decisions simply because we originate from certain locations, as only a few, stand to benefit from such actions. Besides, if every town or hamlet is given its own local government in the country today, there would still be more protests and demands for more, to cater for selfish interests and other matters that are not really in public interest. It is, therefore, necessary, for the society to eliminate myopic views and considerations, which would not be in the interest of the overall majority.
No leader must tolerate sycophancy and inability to speak truth to power that is supposed to be held in trust for the citizenry. Sadly, some top public officers maintained at tax payers expense, who hold in top leadership positions fail in their responsibilities. The only thing they perceive and work on without any embarrassment is to view people as enemies of the government, particularly the big boss; forgetting that the whistle could be blown anytime by the big boss. And this attitude does not in any way help at the three tiers of government even, as the people are the greatest losers. Hypothetically, I am a leader, and you refuse, as a political appointee, to tell me the truth and advise me appropriately and dispassionately, you are not expected to be a member of my cabinet or function in any capacity. Whoever offers tainted advice with intent to mislead his or her principal is not fit to be in office. The buck might stop at the table of the boss; but in administration, a subordinate could be queried for misadvising the big boss. Many, by their actions create problems for the big boss through arrogance. At the level of policy implementation, it is important for political appointees at all levels to make honest and dispassionate presentations to their principals.
It is in youths that the process of societal renewal is embedded. It is important for the nation to address the problems confronting youths, particularly unemployment, creation of an enabling environment for youth development, and the eradication of some social vices in which youths are involved. There must be attitudinal changes, propelled by good policies and programmes, designed and implemented to promote national development. It may be impossible for leaders to know the interests of all, but I think the best leaders look to, as wide an audience as possible, before taking decisions. It is important that we dont just look to maintain our own interests, or those of our immediate neighbours, but imbibe the culture of being cosmopolitan, that would allow functionaries from the local government to state and federal levels to take rational actions directed at developing their areas of influence, in the overall interest of all. We must have broader outlooks and understanding of how our actions would assist our societies to grow.
Politicians of the first Republic were very cosmopolitan in outlook. The trend of seeking elective offices on account of region of birth and religion actually started in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, politicians now capitalize on Christian and Muslim beliefs and partnerships for political offices. This development has also crept into the selection and appointment of cabinet members, with heads of government at the tree tiers perfecting the delicate act of balancing, for fair representation of adherents of the two major religions in government. If I may ask, what is the gain of the ordinary Christian or Muslim on the streets in representation in governments? Certainly, cabinet members and other political aides at all levels, are not in office to protect the interests of religious organizations, and even their States of origin, in a Presidential system, as against the practice in Parliamentary or Westminster model that makes cabinet members belong to both the executive and legislature and are, therefore representatives of their constituencies.
Any political appointee that bases his or her actions on narrow considerations is not fit to be in office. Ministers should ideally regard the constituencies of the President as their own for the purpose of taking decisions. State Commissioners must also adopt the constituencies of Governors as their own. Whoever takes decisions based on selfish considerations deserves to be sacked. The responsibility of representing constituencies is vested in the legislatures. The pattern has been extended to the appointment of public servants to top career positions in the public service; when ordinarily, the public service should harbour the best brains on account of its being the hub of government business. One can never be sure that traditional religious worshippers would not very soon start negotiating for lucrative positions of Senate President, Speaker of Federal and State legislatures, or Secretaries to governments on account of religious beliefs. Ideally, competence, merit and inherent capabilities ought not to be pushed to the background.
Another important issue that demands attention is citizenship, which must override all other claims in a plural society, so as to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging, no matter where he or she might have originated. No Nigerian should be an alien in any part of the country. These are problems that have periodically led to heightened fears about the possible dismemberment of Nigeria. This problem permeates all strata of the society, down to the local government level. Forget the expressions of Igbo nation, Hausa nation, Yoruba nation, Fulani nation or Ijaw nation. It doesnt work and never happens that one state would throw its doors open to indigenes of another state within the fold, without discriminating. The Book of Jonah: 3vs10 tells the story of how the people of Nineveh turned from their evil ways and God repented from destroying them. All Nigerians must, therefore, be fervent in prayers for our nations growth.
May I, with the greatest respect, request our revered Pastor Enoch Adeboye, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Prelate Emeritus Sunday Mbang, Primate Peter Jasper Akinola, and Baba Mike Oye to prayerfully consider this suggestion for them to call their children in the fold of top politicians and elites in the country, counsel and pray for them, and direct them to make peace with one another; and to also rule with the fear of God. The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Saad Abubakar, the Emir of Kano and others are also humbly implored to take the same step by calling leaders of the Muslim faith to prevail on their children to behave. Certainly, their children in top positions who rule at various levels would respect divine instructions. We all know the effects of disobedience to divine instructions. But it is to be noted that our royal fathers, even as public officers, must be neutral, impartial, and be honest in their dealings with politicians to be able to command the respect of their people and carry out their responsibilities as the chief mobilizers of their societies in furtherance of the objective of peaceful and harmonious coexistence.
It is to be noted that some well-meaning Nigerians with weighty opinions have either spoken or are currently taking steps to promote peace. Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi have spoken. Prof. Ibrahim Gambaris NGO is taking some steps all in the interest of peace-building. These are in line with Rigoberta Menchus counsel that: Instead of giving a rifle to somebody, build a school; instead of giving a rifle, build a community with adequate services. Instead of giving a rifle, develop an educational system that is not about conflict and violence, but one that promotes respect for values, for life, and respect for one’s elders. This requires a huge investment. Yet if we can invest in a different vision of peaceful coexistence, I think we can change the world, because every problem has a nonviolent answer.
Conclusively, it is pertinent, for the sake of the living and the dead, to recall Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwes dawn address to Nigerians in December 1964, in his capacity as the ceremonial president, immediately after the dissolution of parliament. In the address, which was delivered in preparation for the federal parliamentary elections, Azikiwe stated that I have one advice to our politicians. If they have decided to destroy our national unity, then they should summon a round-table conference to decide how our national assets should be divided before they seal their doom by satisfying their lust for office. I make this suggestion because it is better for us, and for many of our admirers abroad that we should disintegrate in peace and not in pieces. Should the politicians fail to heed this warning, then, I will venture the prediction that the experience of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be a childs play, if ever it comes to our turn to play such a tragic role.
Unfortunately, Nigeria went to war three years after Azikiwes warning. It must never happen again in our dear nation. Nigeria has a bright future and her potentials for development are enormous. We must avoid disintegration and conflagration; and we must conduct ourselves with the fear of God.
Femi Adelegan, author, publisher and consultant in diverse fields served as an image manager and spokesman to four successive governors of Osun State, Nigeria 1994 to 2000. He also served (2003-2010) as Chief Private Secretary/Special Adviser on Policies, Programmes and Plans Implementation to the Governor of Osun State.