- Last Updated on 08 April 2013
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I am a citizen of my nation, a nation always eager to forgive. This is a nation that offers forgiveness even when it is not asked. Mine is a deceived nation, sold the counterfeit religion in which it gloats. The messages coming from the pulpits of many religious congregations are adulterated. Nigeria is made drunk from spiked religious wine. Wrong theology has made us inured to evil and hateful of reason. Many of my people believe that reason is antithetical to true religion. But reasoning is the path to true knowledge of true religion. “Come and let us reason together” is a phrase common in true religion. I call on Nigerians and friends of Nigeria to come along with me on this journey of reason.
If right living follows right knowledge, why is it that in spite of so many churches on our streets and many Islamic sects in Nigeria this nation has known neither peace nor purity in either private or public conduct? The reason is that what is taught in churches and mosques is not right knowledge. If traditional religion was the repository of pure knowledge, why is it that the custodians of culture, Nigeria’s traditional rulers, have not shown a better example than politicians do?
Religious, traditional, and political leaders in Nigeria always call for forgiveness, unity, and peace. The louder those calls are becoming, much worse have killings, kidnappings, public corruption, and private corruptions become. Religious leaders live like kings and queens while the majority of their congregation lives in abject poverty. They promise prosperity and “breakthroughs” to their congregations, but extreme poverty is the sad result. They make merchandize of the people, but the people worship and revere them. When you attempt to point out the wrong of either religious or political leaders, you are warned of the destructive fate that awaits those that dare—“Touch not the Lord’s anointed!” There is hypnotism of religion, complemented by quasi-democratic fraud.
If the primary purpose of government is security and welfare of the people, then we should not “just forgive” offenders of the state whose actions have impoverished the people, reduced the life expectancy, brought people to untimely deaths, and worsened all human development indices. Religious people parrot that we should “forgive”, that “to err is human, but to forgive is divine.” So we have cheapened forgiveness, and engaged in public distribution of “forgiveness” even to those who neither appreciate nor deserve it. But there is a fact about forgiveness that Nigerians often overlook. Political leaders are “Avengers” for God, “sword-bearers” for God, and “ministers” of God, who must reward those that do good, and punish those that do evil. They cannot forgive on behalf of the people except this serves public interest. Furthermore, restitution must follow. For instance, if a road project was paid for, and yet the road was not built, it would be a public offence for the leader, the avenger, the sword-bearer, and minister, to “forgive” without first recovering all embezzled public funds and resulting fines from the contractors and conniving thieving public officials. Even at that, as a deterrent, those criminals must be punished.
Many religious Nigerians would call for accountability from public officials, but when you ask their religious leaders to give annual account of the offerings and “tithes” that they collect, you would be branded badly by the same religious folks. They hold their pastors, overseers, and bishops like some demigods who are beyond reproach and questioning. Why do we hold different standards for different people? A Nigerian pastor would warn his congregation against “politics” and claim that “politics is a dirty game.” The next moment, you see him hobnobbing with those “dirty politicians” and collecting gifts from them. They also “bless” the same “dirty politicians” who visit them to “collect blessing”. What a contradiction! Furthermore, when you get close to their churches, you would witness first-hand the deadly politics for power among pastors and church leaders.
Politics is not a dirty game anymore than church governance is. Some players may be corrupt, but that does not make the game so. Can you imagine a world without political leaders to whom God refers as his “ministers”? Every man and woman has their calling from God, and this is a private matter. Our religious leaders have done a poor job on Nigerians, many of whom are members of their congregation. Those are left uneducated about holding their leaders accountable. Rather, they are told blandly to “pray” for their leaders. “The Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses. Don’t do what they do, for they say and do not.” These are the words of Jesus Christ who took time to teach his disciples about the position and responsibilities of leaders. A religious leader must be well-informed about the constitutional provisions (the responsibilities, rights, and privileges of citizens and leaders) of his country in addition to his professed knowledge of the scriptures. The same goes to Islamic leaders, and leaders of other religions.
Many Nigeria scholars and professors have equally failed the young that sit under their tutoring. A professor of Chemistry, for instance, can hardly comment intelligently about public issues such as budgeting, democratic governance, constitutional rights, privileges, and responsibilities of citizens and leaders, etc. They only write “research papers” for either promotion or to keep down their jobs. They are not ashamed to say, “I am not interested in politics.” Is it any wonder that Nigerian students pass through their academic care and cannot discuss intelligently their nation, but react only by spewing out vulgarities when they lack the intellectual dexterity to engage in discourses? I believe, and I have written that Nigerians must give themselves to reading for national renewal. Nigerians, thieves won’t steal your books; so why don’t you invest your money in buying books that will expand the quality of your thought? We seem not to have faith in the power of knowledge. We believe rather that with plenty of money we can buy just anything in Nigeria, including votes and public offices. This is also a deception. When the light of proper knowledge lights up Nigerians, this cannot happen anymore. The probability of lies winning in an oasis of knowledge approaches zero!
We don’t need mega parties to win elections. Every election is won locally. Have you heard of Operation 774? A Nigerian patriot told me about this idea, and I would like to share with you. Concentrate your political capital on your local government. If that is too much to start with, I suggest you start with your clan. Call for a meeting of the youths in your clan. Teach them what you know about Nigeria (Please, take time to acquaint yourself with the Nigerian constitution). Let them see the difference between reality and the ideal, and then ask how committed they are to bringing about the ideal. Take a look at the second chapter of the constitution, Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. Explain to them those wonderful privileges of citizenship. As they begin to enjoy the possibilities, open to section six and show them how their hopes cannot be guaranteed by the current arrangement except they get into the national assembly and state houses of assembly the people that would fight for them. Show them in the Fourth schedule of the constitution how it is the responsibility of local governments to build and maintain homes for the homeless and infirm. Then let them know how their governor is an enemy to this objective. Let them know that the allocations for their local government are being kept by the governor for himself and maybe for his village and family members. Paint a graphic picture of how they are being robbed by their governor while they watch like cowards. Make it clear to them that local government chairmen cannot fight the governor because they are appointees of the governor who has forced them on the people; that they (the youths) must embark on public pressure and awareness to halt the continual impoverishment of their local government and villages. More importantly, tell them that it is their responsibility to spread the information you give them.
If you need help with implementing this in your village or local government, we can help you. I am willing to travelling across this nation to help. Don’t be in a hurry; but be hopeful as you start meeting with your people, your children’s people. They may be 50 here, 100 tomorrow. But know this; one convert makes two of you. Remember, elections are a local affair.
Because there is no independent candidacy in Nigeria, you would need a political party. Don’t choose any of the parties that have destroyed your village and local government for the past decade. This is because all the neglect of the people that you will show in plain narratives before the people happened under the ruling party. Find a virgin party. People make parties; parties don’t make people. Build integrity for at least two years, and then run or sponsor people to run. Make the people understand that it is their duty to contribute to any campaign fund they believe in, and that it is the responsibility of candidates to give monthly account of how much money they have raised and how the money has been spent.
We must not forgive the misrule of the ruling parties in our various states and local governments. We shall punish it. All contractors (Enemies-In-Chief of Nigerians) who have assisted to deceive and rob us for years shall give account. All the trillions of naira that they and politicians have collected since 1999 for public projects, which have not been completed, must be recovered and not forgiven. Let us get to work. Let us reject deception. Let us arise without any more distractions.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria, Chair of the Middle Belt Alliance and founder and overseer of the Bible Clinic Ministries.