Monday, 30 September 2013

Using God to cover-up non-performance


It was Mrs. Margaret Onyema-Orakwusi, Chairman of the Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) Planning Committee that invited me to the formal launch of the autobiography of erudite scholar, foremost constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Professor Ben Nwabueze sometimes last month at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Victoria Island, Lagos. The invitation did not hold much fascination for me but I have tremendous respect for Mrs. Onyema-Orakwusi whom I have worked closely with on various committees including NIMAREX for a while. Besides, I love reading biographies and autobiographies. I have read quite a number of stories of great men and women and this has helped me tremendously in my life journey. I thank my stars that I finally decided to honour the invitation.
Apart from listening to beautiful speeches delivered by notable figures such as former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; former Abia State Governor and Chairman of the All Nigeria People’s Party, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; the Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe and Prof. Nwabueze himself; the review by the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof. Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, was the most intelligent and liveliest book review I ever listened to.
What impressed me immediately was that the book wasn’t launched. It was only unveiled and presented to the audience. Moneybags were not called to the podium to show off their wealth and make pledges of financial donations which they might not honour. What a sweet relief, I said to myself. There was no arm twisting of any kind by the organisers to raise money from the guests.
The book was on sale, the Master of Ceremony announced, and anyone interested in purchasing copies should meet the ushers outside. This was a radical departure from the typical Nigerian book launch.

I quickly bought both volumes of the former Education Minister’s autobiography at the cost of N16,000 and started reading right from the car.
I soon discovered that Prof., as Nwabueze is fondly called by his admirers, is not your regular run-of-the-mill person. He has got a mind of his own and is not under any form of pressure to conform to the norm.
I was particularly impressed about his independent-mindedness on issues and especially on religion. While he admits being a Christian, he does not attend church services simply because he believes many of our ‘men of God’ are not really Godly.
Of interest to me in this column this week is his criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan’s use of God as a decoy for non-performance.
He believes Europe has deliberately used religion to implant the mentality of subservience in Africans, including African leaders. He cited two incidences through which this mentality of subservience has manifested, one of which concerned him personally. The other incident, according to him, had a national dimension. Please permit me to quote directly from the book:

The other incident that occurred recently on 14 April, 2012 was a speech by President Goodluck Jonathan during a national prayer breakfast meeting attended by senior Christian clerics and at which the sermon was delivered by Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). In the speech, as carried in the Sunday Independent newspaper of 15 April, the President said that the election of himself, his Vice-President and the State Governors was the choice of God, and that, by their election, God wanted to use them to solve the needs of Nigerians for peace, security, health care and electric power. He further said that “there is nothing that God cannot do”; he then went on, not only to affirm his confidence that “with Him on our side, every stumbling block on our way shall become a stepping stone into national rebirth”, but also to assure that “God who begun a good work in our country will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The speech was punctuated at every turn by references to God and “supplications” to him to “transform” the country, using its elected functionaries. The speech certainly manifested a mentality of subservience implanted in the President by Christianity.
As The Patriots, of which I am Chairman, pointed out in its reaction to the President’s speech, it is a truth, sanctified by the collective wisdom and experience of humankind, that God helps only those who help themselves, not those who wait helplessly for God’s salvation, like manna from heaven. The implementation and accomplishment of the needs of Nigerians mentioned in the speech requires that the entire nation, men and women, the young and the old, should be mobilized and galvanized for the task. This first step, which is necessary before we can qualify for God’s help, has not been, and is not being, taken.
To qualify for God’s help in the “daunting” task of “national transformation”, the country needs, furthermore, a leadership whose sincerity of purpose is so transparent as to induce people to adopt the desired new patterns of behavior in place of the old ones and whose dedication to the cause is sufficiently total and selfless to inspire confidence, a leadership that is seen to be practicing what it preaches. People cannot be persuaded by the leadership to be honest, public-spirited, patriotic, faire-minded, law abiding, devoted, disciplined, and to abhor corruption, etc, if the leaders themselves do not practice those virtues. Far from inspiring popular change in the desired directions, a leadership that does not practice what it preaches, and is not seen to be doing so, creates disillusion and disenchantment among the people.

A leadership of the kind described above is what is required by “national transformation” talked about by the President in his speech; it means one and the same thing as a Social Revolution led by a person imbued with, and fired by, a revolutionary ardour; a leader highly motivated in the national interest and in the cause of national transformation, a leader prepared to commit suicide by sacrificing his vested economic interests and ambition to stay in power. Certainly, “national transformation” requires more than prayers at “a national prayer breakfast meeting”!!!
As long ago as 1937, in his book, Renascent Africa (1937), at page 191, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Great Zik of Africa, the acclaimed Father of the African Revolution against European colonialism in the continent, reproached the Nigerian politician of those days for not having the stomach for revolutionary action.
He looks to God for everything. He wants God to help in raising cocoa prices. He wants God to cause the firms to reduce their prices to suit his purchasing power. He wants God to soften the heart of Government so that his will may not be ignored by an official majority.
Today 75 years after, we are waiting for and praying to God to transform for us, our nation threatened with collapse by an all-pervading rottenness brought upon it by our greed and selfishness, aggravated by a lack of fervor for revolutionary action on the part of our political leaders.
I have quickly added Nwabueze to my list of most admired personalities. I simply love the forthrightness, candour and independence of mind of the 82-year old professor.
And his take on President Jonathan reminds me of what we are suffering in the maritime industry, in the name of God. The leader of the apex maritime regulatory agency speaks in like manner with the President. What Nwabueze said about His Excellency, therefore, aptly applies to the NIMASA helmsman. We need to get our hands dirty and stop passing the buck to God. 

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