Nigeria: Between The Pulpit And The Podium!

by SOC Okenwa

Nigeria is a country of contrasting phenomena, a nation whose socio-political complexity is simply amazing. I spent some months in Nigeria since last January when I left my location for the burial of my late mother in the village east of the Niger. She was buried on the 28th January and given the ugly political events in Abidjan coupled with a personal problem back home I had to stay back for weeks running. The funeral went well though it was a melancholic occasion in which a supposedly ‘hard man’ wept and saw the tears of other close relations. May her soul rest in peace! Fare thee well, Akuehute!!

Before I left my location for Lagos I was told by my elder sister that in my village an old woman whose son is the richest in my community based in Lagos had been kidnapped and released days later after a huge ransom was paid to the kidnappers. Fear gripped me as I was entering Lagos through the now famous ‘NADECO route’. In Lagos I settled for a hotel in Old Ojo Road Maza-Maza as I waited patiently for dawn for a further trip down south: Benin City where my sister and her husband are resident.

While in Benin City the Oshiomhole transformational giant strides shook me as I drove from New Benin to Airport Road through Dawson Road and Akpakpava and Mission Roads. The Comrade Governor is turning Benin City upside-down development-wise. Like another ACN Governor in Lagos, Raji Fashola, Comrade Adams has written his name in gold and shown already what a good leader can do when power is given by the people. One hot afternoon on a working day in Dawson Road I had an encounter with him at very close range as a friend and I drove towards Ikpoba Hill from Cooke Road. Here he was, in his ‘khaki’ attire, diminutive and at ease with even okada riders, inspecting the pace of work going on there as the construction company expanded the road.

Contrast that with what one saw in Owerri on his way to Port Harcourt from Ihiala. There in the Imo State capital city the billboards with the image of Governor Ikedi Ohakim were everywhere announcing one ‘completion’ of a project or another electoral hype. The only place I saw any image of Oshiomhole in Benin City was on posters advertising the ‘one-man-one-vote’ initiative of the ACN opposition party. But in Owerri you must be forced to take note of the ‘king’ in town, a lord of the Manor, governing Imo State at his own image. Ikedi Ohakim rules by propaganda and exaggeration of achievement(s)! He makes too much noise for nothing; those who achieves, the real performers, never talked nor disturbed the communal peace. Ohakim is hiding something many Imolites have now discovered to be true about him: governance by terror and manipulation.

While in Nigeria I had some good and bad times generally. From Lagos to Benin City, Ihiala to Port Harcourt the sights and sounds of Nigeria remained all the same with some flashes of some economic improvement here and there. Navigating the modern jungle, therefore, was a familiar one: lack of electricity and pipe-borne water, menace of kidnappers and huge security challenges, dilapidated road networks and poor health care delivery. While it is true that more millionaires have been made in the past years especially those genuine businessmen and workers toiling day and night to ‘enslave’ poverty in their lives, politicians and pastors are smiling to the bank hitting the billion mark.

The two greatest professions in Nigeria, in my own reckoning, happen to be politics and faith. Politics because money, not ideology, is the name of the game and faith because it remains the very opium of the masses. In Nigeria the combination of the two produces a perfect communal meaning surrounding religion and authority. Faith because majority of Nigerians believe in God, the Immortal Being, whose command is beyond reproach and authority because majority have been intimidated into believing that might is right and the gun represents that bridge that leads to life and death.

From Lagos to Benin City, Owerri to Port Harcourt, Onitsha to Abuja the story was the same: politicians and pastors doing their business of profiteering from the gullibility of fellow Nigerians, preaching one thing and doing another. Whilst the former sold themselves or their party to the ‘electorate’ using millions of Naira as a ‘bait’ the latter took to the pulpit every Sunday to draw attention to the need for ‘heaven’, the hereafter unto which all mortals are destined! Nigeria is working indeed for these two groups since money is always flowing into their coffers regardless of the penury of the present.

Between the pastor and the politician in Nigeria the worst breed of Nigerians seems to have been born! Powerful political/ecclesiastical forces slugging it out for the soul of a nation. I witnessed it at close quarters: campaign billboards and posters assaulting the intelligence of discerning Nigerians and Sunday church services where loud speakers were mounted outside proclaiming righteousness and ‘prophecies’ pronounced with the assurances of a deity! Nigeria and Nigerians are glorified victims of this new generation ‘419’ aimed at subjugation and dominion. Yet we see them prospering, the men of the pulpit and the podium, at our general expense.

President Goodluck Jonathan and Pastor Tunde Bakare represent the very extremes of the politico-evangelical worldview in the complex enterprise called Nigeria. Whereas Goodluck, in a desperate bid to win back the presidency and thus legitimize his Aso Rock tenancy, had reportedly deployed an arsenal of slush funds in his national campaign to be able to beat soundly his opponents especially Gen. Buhari one wonders where all the quoted billions came from. President Jonathan may have electorally rubbished his adversaries by winning the presidential poll but a lot of questions are still being asked as to what extent the abuse of the electoral act as regards electoral campaign expenses approved by the law was perpetrated by the ruling party.

Before the electoral ‘war’ even began President Jonathan, whose ‘Good luck’ has seen him ascend to the pinnacle of power in the world’s largest black nation, had visited Bishop Adeboye for some prayers in his church. We all saw a concentrated Jonathan without his famous Ijaw hat kneeling down for divine benediction from the great man of God. After that presidential deference to the Almighty one was wondering whether a nation at crossroads like ours needed a meek and ‘penitent’ President to pull her out of the ‘grave’ of greed and graft. Of course Nigeria needs more than a President whose name is ‘goodluck’ to be able to rise from the shackles of corruption and poverty; in other words, a man of strong will and character would have been preferable at this particular crucial point in time.

While one congratulates President Jonathan for his victory at the polls, a victory the opposition are telling us was ‘digitally rigged’, a lot of challenges await him and Nigeria. Now that he has a clear mandate to rule it is hoped that leadership Nigeriana will soon find meaning in his era. No more pussy-footing and indecision, a dying Nigeria demands radical measures and courageous decision for her to be able to ‘resuscitate’ like the resurrected Christ as it were. Enough of empty promises and broken ones — the PDP is very good at that; that is why many Nigerians detest the PDP and voted for Ebele on personal basis.

The 21st century Nigeria with many challenges may not find succour in a clueless and somber President who is only trying to prove himself and make sense of his command. A ‘benevolent dictator’ who is incorruptible in the mould of Gen. Buhari would have been a better choice. But now that the Bayelsan ‘dove’ has won it is imperative we give him all our moral support in four years so that whatever his legacy will be in the end will be objectively assessed. President Goodluck Jonathan ought to succeed in one area and that priority area is electricity; if power is ‘restored’ to the Nigerian cities and villages he would have touched the

lives of millions of our compatriots living dangerously in ‘darkness’ and in bondage for ages.

Pastor Tunde Bakare on the other hand easily exposed his ambition beyond the pastoral call. Abandoning the pulpit for the podium by the fiery pastor represented the very height of power mongering. Pastor Bakare may be a patriot who believed that spiritual salvation was no longer enough for Nigerians but physical salvation through the conquest of power as number two in the system but it goes without saying that we all saw it coming via his political activism leading up to the polls. The political intrigues that culminated in the PDP victory has been denounced by the pastor while ministering to his flock in Lagos last Sunday.

Gen. Buhari cannot be seen to have been challenging his ‘defeat’ in court and at the end of the day he fails to ‘deliver’. He did it in 2003 and 2007 and he is set to do it again. The truth is that while many Nigerians believe in this Katsina man of integrity as a ‘liberator’ the corrupt establishment, the graft-friendly ruling elite see in him a man who would ‘castrate’ them with power placed in his hands, a no-nonsense man who will jail the ‘jailable’ and kill the ‘killable’. So from OBJ to IBB to the other PDP big thieves Buhari is the end of the holiday, the end of business of looting and misgovernance. So rigging him out of power becomes a communal thing in the PDP.

One only wishes, as a true patriot would, that the next four years of the PDP in power will witness a miracle of ‘Jonathanic’ proportions — one which will translate into the ‘transformation’ Good Luck Nigeria is promising us.

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