One of the reasons why Muhammadu Buhari was said to have ‘chosen’ Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, to be his running mate for president of Nigeria was that apart from being a respected lawyer, Yemi Osinbajo is also a pastor. That choice was based on the assumption that because most Nigerians saw Buhari as a closet jihadist, a pastor by his side would help put the doubts aside, and therefore sway the doubtful Thomases. Those who put their doubts aside and voted for Buhari in spite of their misgivings on Buhari, based on his draconian antecedents suddenly realized they made the biggest mistake of their lives after they came across a quote ascribed to Prof Osinbajo, just within weeks of being sworn in as Vice President. According to the Prof: Great economies and great nations, prosperity, and abundance of nations and communities are created by men and not spirits. No matter how much you pray and fast, our country cannot grow without some of us deciding to do the work that makes nations work.
A few years down the line, most Nigerians now adjudge the Buhari administration an abysmal failure. Food prices have hit the skies, critical infrastructure – universities, hospitals, roads, are down, and the perception on his style of governance initially based on his body language is now based on a conspiracy theory that the chap in Aso Rock is an impostor. Security of lives and property appear to have gone to the dogs. In October 2020, an #EndSARS protest exposed the fragile disposition of Nigeria’s nationhood, and at no time in the history of Nigeria have there been these strident calls for the dissolution of the Nigerian entity. Apart from having been adjudged a failure just within five years of governance in Nigeria, the Buhari administration seems overwhelmed, and this has ultimately rubbished Muhammadu Buhari’s vaunted invincibility.
And therefore, when it was recently reported by Punch, Cable and Vanguard newspapers that President Buhari had said that ‘only God can effectively supervise Nigeria-Niger border’, it certainly made nonsense of the Yemi Osinbajo quotable quote, and hung a question mark on the Commander in Chief’s ability to hold the Nigerian ground for Nigerians. What makes his reference to the Nigeria-Niger border very unfortunate is that Mr Buhari has championed the building of a railway line to this Niger Republic he says only God can ‘supervise’, and committed to buying petrol from that country. He has not realized that constructing a railway line to, or buying fuel from Niger Republic is in bad taste, when Nigeria’s own rail, road and critical infrastructure like the refineries are in a state of disrepair. A President doubling as Petroleum Minister has no business importing fuel from a neighbouring country, as especially when that neighbouring country is suspected to have ancestral relations with Mr President.
To pray is good. To pray when overwhelmed by circumstances is another way of drawing from the deep. A strong nation like the US called for prayers after the 9/11 attacks. But a people who pray the most, especially those without an idea of how to deploy God-given men and materials, are often weak people. To call for prayers from a people who have invested their trust in you and put their destinies in your hands as a social and moral contract easily demonstrates an appalling lack of direction and vision. President Buhari (Rtd) is head of state, president, commander in chief of the armed forces of the federal republic of Nigeria and leader of the party in power. He is invested with the control of all our resources. His call for prayers now certainly contradicts Yemi Osinbajo’s quotable quote, and means that no matter how much Nigerians will pray and fast, our country may remain stillborn.
And it comes as shock that a Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, governor of the oil-rich Delta state has taken after the clarion call from President Buhari and also has become a prophet sort of. The Pointer newspaper of Monday December 1, 2020, on its front page carried this title: Okowa to Nigerians: Seek Face of God to Save Our Nation from Retarded Socio Economic growth. We are at a loss why any editor worth his salt would be dedicating the front page of a newspaper to proceeding from the church attendance of Mr Delta state governor, unless maybe because the paper is state owned and consigned to a mere bulletin.
Prior to becoming governor of oil-rich Delta State, Dr Okowa served in the Ibori and Uduaghan administrations either as chief of staff or commissioner. From there he proceeded to the Senate representing Delta state. The man attended some of the elite schools in Nigeria, and is a medical doctor who recently joined field officers with the inoculation exercise against yellow fever in his state, The state he runs receives one of the highest allocations from the federal purse, and he sort of controls the DESOPADEC, seen by some of his detractors as the governor’s ATM machine. Many Deltans see Dr Okowa as a forward-looking politician, and this is because he seems to capture his vision for Delta State with a SMART Agenda. We are therefore bewildered that a personage of this caliber has added his voice to the other, asking Nigerian to pray and continue to pray.
But it is not only Okowa and Buhari, but other governors as well, who seem to be playing church and mosque with instruments of governance. On 19th February 2020, the BBC pidgin news also carried a news item where the governor declared fasting and prayer against Boko Haram. Another report in May 2020 carried by Vanguard, governors Aminu Tambuwal, Darius Ishaku, Mai Mala Buni, Bello Matawalle, Abdullahi Ganduje, Ahmadu Fintiri, and Samuel Ortom all urged Nigerians to intensify their prayers against the Covid 19 Pandemic.
We verily believe that these irresponsible calls for prayers from those entrusted with delivering the dividends of democracy to Nigerians is a symptom of the failure of governance in Nigeria. Under this epoch, the lot of Nigerians has taken a disgraceful plunge, and the helpless call for prayers certainly indicates that our leaders see us as a bunch of wishful thinkers who pray instead of demanding for transparent and accountable use of resources. Mr. President and governors, Nigeria is not a church or mosque. It is a secular state to be run on the basis of the rule of law not calls from the minaret of synagogues.