Monday, September 26, 2011

Of Auto Pilot, People Pilot, God Pilot and the Challenge of Visionary Leadership in Nigeria

“Someone had written in the papers: is Nigeria on auto pilot? I tell them
that Nigeria is not on auto pilot, God is in-charge and God will take us to the
destination he has destined for us” –President Goodluck Jonathan

According to one of Nigeria’s burgeoning online newspapers, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, recently waxed philosophical on who is in charge of our dear country. In an address at an interdenominational service ahead of Nigeria's 51st Independence Anniversary in Abuja, he absolved himself of any blame as God is in charge. Even though he initially cautioned himself before addressing such an important issue before a largely Christian gathering, he made some highly inflammatory statements that we need to dissect “seriatim”.

One would have wished that the president had heeded his own words and just attend the service without making any remarks. Sadly, his voice of reason was crowded out by the tug of faith and now he might have created more problems for the country through his ill-advised philosophical rant. First of all, he stated: “You have been praying for us but others are praying that we shouldn’t move an inch, especially those of us who are politicians.” So who are those praying against his government: Moslems? Atheist? Bloggers? Critics? Journalist? Make your pick. When viewed in context, “others” here could only mean those who are non-Christians i.e adherents of other faiths. But is this what the president of Nigeria really has in mind? I seriously doubt that. After all one of the oaths he sworn to uphold is to an unalloyed fidelity to the Constitution of Nigeria which places strong emphasis on the secularity of all its institutions including the presidency.

The second thing that jumps at me from reading the text of the president address is this amorphous claim that it was not the vote of Nigerians that got him to Aso rock. Here I quote him again: “But God knows why I am here as the President even though I don’t have any of these attributes or characters. But through your prayers, God placed me here.” In other words, those Nigerians who went to great length to vote for him and many who stayed back in the rain and sunshine to protect their vote did all that for nothing, as he only got to Aso rock thanks to the prayers of Christians which in turn moved God to placed him in Aso rock.

Again I asked if this is what the president really meant and I doubt that. Let me say I am no theologian, but I seriously doubt God has a hand in Yar’adua’s death. Even if the good Lord did, I doubt he likes Goodluck better than Pastor Tunde Bakare! I seriously doubt God will want to have “neither part nor lot” in a political party such as People’s Democratic Party. In short, if Christians truly desires to see change in Nigeria, they are better of heeding the admonishing of Christ to “watch and pray”. Any politicians telling them to close their eyes and pray will soon take off with their loot while they and their children’s children pay the debts.

As Fredrick Douglas once remarked, “I have found that to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.” Herein lays the tricks of modern day religious purveyors. Again as Douglas reiterated in his clarion call to reason against blind faith, “I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clear case of stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in”. Those who profit from the perfidious religious tote bags of Nigeria will want Nigerians of all hue to focus on the religious and ethnic differences between them even while they loot the country. They anoint themselves as bearers of religious symbols and standards even while they commit the most heinous crimes against the people of God. Douglas hatred and contempt for similar ilk in his days is worth repeating: “I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He, who sells my sister for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity…We see the thief preaching against the theft, and the adulterer against adultery. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! All for the glory of God and the good of souls! The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. The dealer gives his blood stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other-devils dressed in angels’ robes and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.”

Next, the president threw a red herring: “don’t need to be a lion. I don’t need to be Nebuchadnezzar. I don’t need to operate like the pharaohs of Egypt. I don’t need to be a military general. But I can change this country without those traits.” I don’t know where the president got this “delusion” from, but I have never read any newspaper in and outside Nigeria where anyone enjoys him to be a pharaoh, a military general or a Nebuchadnezzar. All we asked is for him to uphold the oath he took to enforce the laws of Nigeria, no matter whose ox is gored. All we asked is to bring culprits of religious riots to book be they Christians or Moslem. All we asked is for the president to act as commander in chief of Nigeria! If he likes he can use servant leadership or commander leadership, all we asked Mr. President is for you to lead! Enough of sending your godfather to placate law breakers even as dissidents shoots and kill innocent bystanders. All we asked is that Nigerian government under your leadership moved quickly to rescue Nigerian traders of “Igbo extraction” from Libya before you kow towed to Western demand to recognize Benghazi’s rebels murdering every black person in the street of Tripoli. Mr. President, we do not care if President Obama offered you praise or Ban Ki Moon gives you an award, your loyalty is not to these masters but to the Nigerian people and the earlier you realized that the better for your regime!

By far the most revolting of all the statements made by the president is this: “Some people were saying; is Nigeria on auto-pilot? And I say yes. Nigeria is being piloted by God himself. There is no pilot, no matter the number of hours he has to his credit flying an aircraft that can take an airline to a destination if God wants to stop it half way. God is in charge and God will take us to the destination he has for us. It is not going to be easy but God using you and us; we will go to where we want to go.” We all know the folks who flew jets to the Twins Towers on 9/11 believed they were been used of God! You can be sincere in your religious belief and still be sincerely wrong! Many have proffered that God was using them in the name of religion even while they make their adherents to drink poison. Even the good book says “Where [there is] no vision the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy [is] he” Mr. President, stop hiding behind God cloak and start keeping the law so and you and all of us can be happy! It is almost six months into your term, and yet there are no clear directions or vision on how we are going to generate more electricity, repair our epileptic power supply, rebuild our dilapidated infrastructure, assure security for every Nigerian in every part of the country, restore the faith of all Nigerian citizens in the Nigeria experiment, educate our citizens for the challenges of the twenty first century, and provide in a succinct form a foreign policy direction for the whole country.

Mr. President, our greatest concern should not be, as Abraham Lincoln rightly once said, whether God is on our side, it should be that we are on God’s side, for God is always right. It is not right for a country that is the fifth largest producer of oil to lagged last in income generation and poverty. It is not right that a Nigerian citizen with southern progenitor, born in Zungeru cannot claim to be a citizen of Niger state. It is not right that corrupt politician who supports your election can walk freely and flaunts their ill gotten wealth while the common thief that stole his neighbor’s goat for hunger linger in jail without trial because of a corrupt judiciary. More than anything else, God may be counting on you to steer the ship you thought was on auto pilot, but was actually heading to disaster. This is because all we currently see in the driver’s seat are rogues on steering wheels, save for a few smart technocrats who have no say in the party that controls the pilot’s license, more appropriately described as people’s destroyer party! Mr. President, God is counting on you to steer this ship to safety.