Let us illustrate the futility of reform when freedom is at stake. Consider the case of Mr Rich Heartless, a plantation owner of South Carolina in the 1860s during the Civil War in America. When Mr Heartless perceived that the Federal troops were advancing and may soon reach his plantation he decided to reform the conditions of his slaves. In so doing he hoped to persuade the slaves not to give in to the federal propaganda that promised to set them free. His reforms stated that each slave would have a pair of boot, two pairs of Sunday best wears, and a new modern cabin with partitioned rooms instead of the dormitory presently in use. Moreover, every slave would have the use of a small plot of land for his/her personal farming. Each slave would have an hour to tend his own farm after the regular 15-hour shift on the plantation. And he declared that Sundays should now be taken as a free day of rest.
Now for any of the slaves who has had his eyes opened by knowledge to the truth of existence – the truth of equality of persons, the truth of the injustices done to his human dignity and the truth of liberty – would this reform package satisfy his hunger for an inalienable and unconditional right to freedom? This is what we are trying to say to all Nigerians. That Nigeria is still a slave colony. That the British owner of Nigeria merely stepped out of the throne putting carefully selected puppets on the throne under a remote supervisory arrangement. Therefore, any reform package that fails to answer the question of equal opportunities for all Nigerians, of equal rights to justice and of equal rights to freedom and self-determination can no longer be good enough.
We understand the role of culture and religious belief in the affairs of societies. Our general or specific attitudes to life flow from our beliefs. If an ethnic group believes it is superior to all other ethnic groups in a polity, there is a tendency to uphold and teach this ‘truth’ as a divine oracle to its members. The onus is on the other ethnic groups who believe otherwise to reject any imposition such belief might force on them. The Middle East is in crisis today because each of the warring party is claiming to have some peculiar revelations, promises and injunctions from God. When a nation allows religion to dominate the political space, there will always be trouble ahead for such polity. Nigerians need to separate the truth of Islam premised on peace, equality and justice from the culture of Arabia. The truth of Islam is a universal truth but the culture of Arabia is peculiar to the Arabs and should be allowed to remain that way. When we import the cultures that contradict the revelation of truth we have inadvertently perverted the revealed universal truth.
When we introduce a family dynasty as a legitimate principle of political succession and of governance, we have perverted the truth of equality of persons before God. When we accept the superiority of one ethnic group or of sex or of belief or of language or of colour of skin over others who are different from us then we have perverted the truth of equality. When we practice a political arrangement that continuously hoards the wealth of the nation and the juicy political posts among selected family members we have perverted the truth of justice as well as the truth of peace. When we use a different measure in the judgement of others outside our family we have perverted the truth of justice. “Woe to those who deal in fraud – those who, when they have to receive by measure from men exact full measure. But when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due.”
The larger picture is to help both the oppressor and the oppressed to understand the truth of life. It is glaring that both the oppressor and the oppressed are guilty of the sin of ignorance. While the spirits of vanity and greed drive the oppressor the oppressed is cowered by the spirits of fear and ignorance. The oppressor needs help to understand that vanity and greed do not lead to a successful life. These vices corrupt people and societies and drive peace away. And without peace and stability the oppressor cannot enjoy the loot and booty he/she has acquired fraudulently. Although, the fear manifested by the oppressed is not unfounded it is from a vivid historical account transmitted by the ancestors of the oppressed who witnessed the callousness and wickedness of the oppressor in the past. The seed of fear passed from generation to generation as a historical experience has since become one of the received knowledge that are transmitted by superstition or folk tales to the next generation. It is a fact that the oppressor’s claim of divine right to the leadership position of the society is borne of fraud and banditry. The only ways that the oppressor can hold on to such illicit power is by a continuous display of unbridled brutal force on members of the oppressed class. As well as by the occasional dangling of bread and butter, carrot, gold and lucre in the face of the poor to lure the oppressed into perpetual servitude. Knowing and understanding all these strategic political devices of manipulation are the first steps to freedom.
As Prophet Mohammed and other ancient wise people have advised, there is a need for each of us to ‘seek knowledge to the end of the world’. Knowledge is the only natural activity that can empower the spirit. Courage comes shortly afterwards to stiffen the resolve of the oppressed to stand up and fight for his/her inalienable rights. From experience, we know that the oppressor succeeds because the oppressed is riddled with inherited fears. Fear is written all over the oppressed when he/she comes in contact with the oppressor. With this psychological advantage, the oppressor is given a free licence to kill. Seeking knowledge is the only way out of the mess. The oppressor understands this and that is why the system of education is rigorously policed when it is allowed to operate but in most cases serious education is deliberately killed off. When the oppressed refused to seek knowledge either out of share laziness or carelessness then he/she has simply given away his/her birthrights to the oppressor forever.
The battles between darkness and light, ignorance and knowledge, and hate and love have started in Nigeria. The battle is between Nigerians who just wish to enjoy their lives without a care in the world and the awakened Nigerians who are saying you cannot enjoy something you don’t understand. It is a battle between those who want to sit on the fence and watch the show and those who want to be at the centre of the battle. Each Nigerian has a duty to choose either to be an observer or a participant. However, for those that decide to fight in the dark corner, the truth is that when light shines darkness is mandated to disappear. This is the natural law. In the season when knowledge and revelations were in short supply in Nigeria, it was then that the rule of darkness was supreme. Now that the season of light has come, it will be advisable for those fighting in the dark corner to throw in the towel honourably.
Nigeria is destined for greatness but first the healing of the spiritual ailments in our personal and political bodies must be performed. It is important to emphasise that the problems of Nigeria can not be fully understood in pure academic terms. It is fundamentally spiritual. Again, we need to clarify this. To be spiritual does not necessarily mean one has to be religious. It is possible to attain a spiritual state of existence with or without any of the established religious institutions. We shall recommend the spiritual path that is fundamentally routed on the love of knowledge. We believe God is knowledge or Knowledge is God. Therefore, the love of knowledge is the love of God. The issues facing us are not the kind that can be cleared with one lengthy sermon. Every awakened Nigerian should continue to seek knowledge, understanding and wisdom about the truth of our existence. It is under this intellectual engagement that the knowledge and revelation of what we need to do to be free to pursue the goals of equality, justice and freedom can be realised.
Let us remind our eminent personalities in the political arena who are presently braying for the blood of their political opponents that there is nothing in life worth losing a soul for. Neither Nigeria nor political positions nor fame nor fortune is worth the price of a soul. When you keep telling Nigerians that the evil you are engaged in is for our sake, for the unity of Nigeria, for the progress of Nigeria, we are now more than aware that you are just a filthy liar. We can now say to you, ‘Tell that cock and bull tales to the Marines’. Now, we know you never had a single thought for our well being. From the beginning it has been me, me, and me. You wanted everything for yourself even the whole country. You are totally devoid of the spirit that shares. All the pacts and deals you have so far made were made just for your own benefit. And for this useless honour, you were willing to offer your soul to a fellow mankind. It is a shame.
To fellow Nigerians please stand clear and allow the fools in our midst to continue with their electioneering, with their character assassinations, with their murderous engagements, with their bullying and terrorising. When they have fully destroyed themselves, then the coast shall become clear for the meek at heart to take over. The meek are destined to inherit the earth. In the meantime let every awakened Nigeria accept the truth that he/she has a job to do, the job of touching and waking up other Nigerians from their careless slumber. The light of Nigeria shall shine when all the sleeping souls are awake and alert to their responsibilities of just being a little light and salt in their various communities.
Let us keep the light of the Sovereign Conferences burning in our hearts. The suggested phases of the conferences are still valid. Again, as mentioned earlier, we must not wait on government or on the calibre of self-serving political deal makers to liberate Nigerians. We must accept the truth that governments and their agents are part of the problem and so they cannot be the solution. We must creatively learn to by-pass them as we fashion a new approach to governance. This is the time to urge creative and thinking Nigerians to set their horizon higher and beyond the American or British or Russian or Saudi Arabian models of government. Let us recognise that each of these models is a perversion of noble ideas. It is possible to make Nigeria an oasis of new values, new culture and new institutions in our present confused world for the pursuit of true human happiness. It is therefore very important for our thinkers to see the obvious and hidden flaws in the present global order. It is under this revelation that we would be able to appreciate the great challenges facing all the awakened Nigerians.
We must not accept to be pushed into a blind-alley of global inevitability; into believing that there is no alternative to the present political and economic abracadabra on the ground; and into accepting as gospel truth the pronouncements on justice, equality and freedom from the western and middle eastern pulpits. Let us pull our intellectual resources together as we crack the seemingly complex yet simple jigsaw puzzle of true governance that can bring joy and happiness to the many rather than the few in our societies. This is what the Sovereign Conference is promising and this is what it shall deliver when we decide to give it a chance.
Nigeria cannot find peace and progress by duplicating the existing models of economics and politics of the western and middle eastern worlds. These models were not designed to provide for the happiness of all peoples and nations but for few people and few nations of the world. Under this model the only option opened to the disadvantaged is to use brute force or sophisticated violence called competition to displace some of the careless few in positions of power and wealth before the dispossessed can have access to the good things of life. This model is disaster prone. It is a war-enhancing model. Peace can never be assured under this model.
Definitely, Nigerians love peace and that is why we must reject the present global economic order. There is much work to be done in the realm of knowledge acquisition. Nigerians cannot sit on their oars when it comes to the issue of knowledge. It is in the desire to seek and search for knowledge that we can come to a better understanding of the problems facing humanity and Nigeria in particular. And until then Nigerians cannot do better than what we are doing now all over the country – assassinating, killing, maiming, murdering, robbing, stealing, slandering, terrorising, torturing, etc. This is the price we have to pay for collective ignorance. However, the sickness of ignorance is curable and we must cure it. Let us remember the popular Serenity Prayer as we embark on the Sovereign Conferences project. The prayer says:
God grant me [us] the serenity to accept the things I [we] cannot change; The courage to change the things I [we] can; And the wisdom to know the difference.
In The Spirit of Truth
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
A Concerned Common Nigerian