Speaking Truth to Power: President Yar’Adua’s Kairos Moment?

A few years ago at the National Conference of the Overseas Fellowship of Nigerian Christians in the United Kingdom, a charismatic speaker called, Bro Gideon Para-Mallam urged the gathering to grasp their Kairos moment. In this urgings he attempted to envision and motivate the gathering to visualise its own unique moment in time which comes once in a generation for any movement.

In my own limited understanding I concluded that what he wanted them to realise was that such Kairos moment only emerges when faced with circumstances which brings together the intersection of mangled plans and spiritual openness. And of course the emphasis was on deploying this as Jesus did, demonstrating that through a creative response to an otherwise disconcerting surprise, situations could be reversed and turned around for good. The essence of his message I think was to highlight that this singular grasping of the moment could launch the gathering towards its goals but also embody its goals. Since then the urgings to master the times, discover my own Kairos moment and strike accordingly has remained in my subconscious. Therefore it will inform my next attempt as operating as a constructive critic to power within the Nigerian context.

The recent times in Nigeria, in terms of its governance resembles a drama containing scene after scene with no discernable plot or any conclusion in sight. The Nigerian audience is served and presented with one period of lethargy after another. It also bares close similarity to a restaurant menu, where silences and complexities are the main courses and doldrums and policy summersaults are for the after courses or desserts. In the meantime the international audience is treated to a cancelation of a ‘state’ visit and some period of intense speculation about the health of Mr President in a far away land.

Then the President re-emerges into the country under the cover of darkness, like a thief in the night. With his re-emergence we now have what some commentators are alluding to be a sort of Kairos moment. For it appears that with the sackings of Babagana Kingibe, ‘decoration of military chiefs’, the creation of a ministry of Niger Delta, restructuring of ministries and do not forget the holding of an ‘8 hour’ Federal Executive Council meeting, the President has found his Kairos moment! And now all is forgiven in so far as his unexplained absences rejuvenate the Nigerian state and some movement forward is discerned.

I quote from a respected journalist, Dr Reuben Abati who in his article, ‘The new Niger Delta Ministry’ published in Nigerian Guardian of 12th September 2008:

The timing of President Yar’Adua’s current moves would seem to be related to affirmations, speculations and arguments in the past three weeks that he is an ailing President, in urgent need of a kidney transplant. He was even declared dead, and then resurrected. He finally returned to the country during the weekend. Since then, the President has been acting with such great bursts of energy and uncommon dynamism. He decorated the military service chiefs; he set up the Niger Delta committee, he has restructured the Federal Ministries. On Wednesday, he chaired a Federal Executive Council meeting which lasted for eight hours (!), he has also been receiving a steady stream of visitors from the states, Cameroun and elsewhere. This President has never been this busy publicly within the space of one week. It is a new-found dynamism that Nigerians would like to see sustained.”

My own take is some what similar for it appears that after varying levels of fun and games at governance and the shenanigans of many varieties that Mr President maybe seizing the moment and grasping it with his hands his legs, his feet and his entire frame. However, on the face of the evidence of this government’s antecedents I am very sceptical. It may be suggested that such sceptism is unwarranted and unjustified. I will seek however, to plead my case in the next few paragraphs. It is simply this:

The President was away for longer than specified either for religious reasons or ill health basis, he missed a state visit, postponed his return on at least two occasions. Yet even after some days have passed the Nigerian bystanders or audience are not worthy or do not deserve an explanation from its servant leader? Naively I ask why would a government feel more at home in the land of silence that breeds conspiracies, shenanigans and deceit? I query, is the audience constitutionally entitled to be informed about the state of the President’s health? In other words is the President accountable in any shape or form to the Nigerian audience? It may well be this is a private matter and no business of the audience. You may arrive at the conclusion that so far the drama presented lives up to its billing, the behind the scenes’ rehearsals are no business of the curious onlookers.

For those who hold up hope that the sacking of Babagana Kingibe hold up hope of a Kairos moment for this government I would suggest there is little basis for optimism. For a Kairos moment to be genuine it must be built on a foundation of truth. Seizing the moment in the Kairos fashion I dare suggest cannot be based on selective amnesia and silences, which may be comforting, but in the end it will prevent real progress.

I am very concerned that the President and his handlers continue their failings in their duty
to speak truth, and are hiding their knowledge in obscurely erudite terminology, losing themselves in word games and speaking the truth in secret only to his cronies and retainers. Then again who am I to push this any further since it seems the teeming intelligentsia has more priorities on their mind? Some may even ask what has truth go to do with putting bread and akara on the table.

At this I am simply unable to rest my case, for the rest comes only when I am able to speak truth to power and power is transformed for our good.

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