We are Christians, em, no, we are Muslims.

Nigeria Has Been Polarised Along Ethnic Lines Since The Morning Of January 15 1966 When The 5 Majors Struck. This Animosity Is Often Loosely Clad In A Religious Babanriga, But Ethnicity Has Been A More Malevolent Factor In Many Of The Decisions Taken About The Destiny Of This Country. This Would Explain Why A Lt. Col Yakubu Gowon Was Deemed More Acceptable To The July 1966 Mutineers Than Brig. Ogundipe; Or Lt. Gen. T.Y Danjuma (a “Christian”) being made the head of the Nigeria Army in 1975. They were both Northerners, by the loose definition of the term. Other examples abound – Gen. J.N Dogonyaro, Gen. D. Bali, Gen. J.T “Jerry Boy” Useni – were all Christian of Northern extraction who rose to heights ordinarily shut out from Nigerians from minority ethnic groups.

magician-clipart-9cpnMagcE[1]Since dawn of the information age (read “gossip age”) in Nigeria, Nigerian rulers since the Independence have at one time or another been rumoured to have a retinue of spiritual advisers of all shades in their employ. The scope ranged from the aladura kind to marabouts or the occasional Okija shrine priest and of late, Daddy Bling and The Witch Slappers. It was something of a minor scandal, splashed across the pages of Prime People, Vintage People or City People. At its most harmful, it was benign gossip about the spiritual fears of our rulers

Things took a bad turn under Sani Abacha, whose  devotion to things fetish and spiritual assumed an international dimension, with marabouts reportedly imported from anywhere and everywhere to help consolidate his grip on power. Those were the dark days of the dark-goggled one. With his death, things reverted to the usual gossips and scandal of Okija and the Babalawo types.

All_Saints,_Margaret_Street_Church,_London,_UK_-_Diliff[1]

Then came Daddy Goodie and his band of merry bling men. Over the past 12 months, the President and his coterie of spiritual swindlers have raised the religious black-tarring game to heights nearly as dangerous as what preceded the Civil War in 1967.  The endless racket of APC is a Muslim party has permeated just about any political discourse over the past 12 months. With the emergence of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as its presidential elections flag bearer, the noise went from forte to fortissimo. Given the venomous propaganda spewed out, an observer from Mars would be forgiven for thinking that being a Muslim is the Nigerian equivalent of a hyena. Never mind the questionable antics of the gun-runner in cassock who accompanies the president on his now annual pilgrimage to Israel, you might be right to think the president is St. Peter’s reincarnate.

arab-man-with-turban_91-9830[1]With The Appointment Of Prof. Yemi Osinbajo As The Vice-Presidential Candidate Of The APC, The PDP Propaganda Machinery Made A Volte Face, Declaring Itself To Be The Party For Muslims. I Have Watched With Pain, Fear And Disgust, The Vice President, Mr. Namadi Sambo reiterate this whilst on the campaign trail.

This is needless depravity on the part of the president and his communication team. We are a nation already severely tested on ethnic grounds. Adding religious polemics to the mix is lighting fuse on a box of TNT. After the elections, regardless of who wins, this box will almost certainly be a conflagration. An uncontrolled one that would be more damaging than joys any electoral victories may confer.

Fear dey catch me.

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Ah-loot-ah-continua, clades ascerta!

looters_1279894278[1]It is important to state this over and over; in second-term elections the incumbent has an overwhelming advantage over other contestants. The incumbent ordinarily would have a slew of records which should serve as landmarks of his tenure to date and predictors of his plans for a continuation if re-elected. Other contestants have only two sets of things in their armoury; the first being a sack of promises – their objectives and plans if elected. The other item other contestants may have would be counter-arguments against the failings of the incumbent. Against this backdrop, on a very normal day, other contestants are at a huge disadvantage. Most rational voters would go for an established track-record over a sack of promises on most days – except of course, the track record of the incumbent is dubious. Consequently, second-term elections are primarily a referendum on the performance and credibility of the incumbent.

Perhaps the most glaring of the indices to measure Goodluck Jonathan’s failure is the fact that today, we have in the opposition Muhammadu Buhari (GMB), a 72-year old retired Major General of the Nigerian Army. A man I would not have canvassed for a mere four years ago. A man against whom there is genuine grievance in some segments of the Nigerian society. So how did we go from the euphoric mania of “Goodluck not PDP” to “Anything but Goodluck” in the span of four years? It is interesting to note that the cornerstone of GMB’s campaign has been the same anti-corruption din, augmented with a renewed focus on education and a promise to improve the lot of the average Nigerian. Put simply, GMB is offering us what he offered us four years ago with a few other things thrown in. Yet his offering has become very palatable to a vast swathe of Nigerians that he poses a very credible threat to the reelection bid of Goodluck Jonathan (GEJ).

There is an audit mantra that states that an auditor must not only be independent, but must be seen to be independent. The perception of independence is just as important as actual independence. A similar rule can be used to evaluate elected rulers; an elected ruler should not only be free of corruption but must be seen to be incorruptible. For someone who became president despite unresolved allegations of corruption dogging his heels as well as his wife’s, the perception of integrity was one he had to build – and build quickly. Like I wrote in another essay, his body language from the onset would quickly betray this expectation. This is no president in a hurry to be seen as honest.

monopoly[1]One would not need to scratch the pot to exhume allegations of corruption, passively or actively abetted by President Jonathan. The continued ascendance of Chief Bode George in the PDP fold, the dominance of Esho Jinadu aka Buruji Kashamu, unresolved EFCC case against the president’s wife, daily crude oil theft that exceeds the daily production of many oil producing countries, Stella Oduah’s bullet-proof vehicles and recurrent airport renovation, Diezani and the flighty billions, a hobbled military, the unending romance with Alameghesia… to be frank, the list is endless and each new revelation is more depressing than the preceding ones. Yet in all, I mean ALL of these cases, the president has not been a passive bystander, but an active catalysts in fostering these characters and imposing them on the nation. He pretty much issued an endless stack of “get out of jail free” cards to his cronies. The idea that Nigeria would be deemed just as corrupt as Russia and more corrupt than Pakistan is a tad mind-numbing. That however is the sad reality.

Often one encounters the argument that the main opposition groups is not any different from GEJ’s band of merry men. If we yield to that very tendentious argument for a minute, this is actually a huge indictment of GEJ’s inability to successfully prosecute criminal cases of corruption against anyone but the most hapless. This means, GEJ is not only actively abetting corruption in his own fold, but he is also unable to confront it when others brazenly loot their assigned treasuries. That, in my opinion, is exponential failure. One of his re-election campaign speeches shows the depth of depravity of this man – “how much did Jim Nwobodo ‘stole'”? None, but the most debased of politicians would utter that in any civilised society. Yet, our very elegant president did – in public!

There is a surfeit of academic publications on the adverse impact of corruption on the development of the economy and social infrastructure, but GEJ would rather ignore those warnings, but would rather create an environment that breeds plunder and more plunder; and when there is nothing left to plunder, simply plunder some more.

It would be a comedy but for its tragic consequences that this man has come back to seek our votes – with next to nothing to show but a litany of looting and misery, and a sack of promises – “I will improve”. His track record, sadly, is the direct antithesis of the promise being peddled by GMB. Indeed, the best advert for a GMB election bid has been a recital of GEJ’s track record. If GEJ loses the elections next weekend, it won’t be because GMB has done anything different, it would be because GEJ looted his electoral stock blind.

Our president, their president

mapa-conflicto-nigeria[1]The 2011 presidential election was one of the most polemic events since the Nigerian Civil War in 1967. It was also the first time that a president was elected from one of the minority ethnic groups in the country. In many ways, it was a triumph of democracy. In at least one distinct manner, it was also a harbinger of the times to come. The results showed a nation divided along ethnic lines. Regardless of the disputes surrounding the results, what was clear was that the election was won –and lost – along very strong ethnic fault lines.

Major General (rtd) Muhammadu Buhari made a clean sweep of what many would deem to be the core North, whilst President Goodluck Jonathan had a firm chokehold on the rest of the country. The electoral “heat-map” would show a virtual “war-front” from Borgu near the Beninois border to Mubi as you head to Cameroun. All the land north of this fault line was stamped “Buhari’s Land”, south of this, with the exception of Osun State was President Jonathan’s roaming field.Such a divisive electoral outcome necessitated a statesmanlike approach to governance from the first day in office; it also demanded a firm, fair hand in pulling together the increasingly acrimonious cliques that constitute the nation. Anything short of this was likely to only worsen a fairly volatile situation.

The Delta

boko_haram[1]The signs got ominous fairly early on. The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (a product of the merger of the Nigeria Maritime Authority and Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council) gave a contract to Global West Specialist Vessels Ltd, a company ostensibly owned by Chief Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo. For those who do not know, this is a man to be feared – and in all honesty, I am genuinely afraid of him. However, Chief Tompolo is not the subject of this essay. To cut a very long story short, in 2013 a sum of $326million was paid to GWSV Ltd as part of a contract to provide maritime security to the Agency. This was in clear violation of a few extant provisions and the House of Representatives started an inquiry into this.

Over the course of 2012 and 2013, lucrative oil pipeline protection contracts were awarded to Asari Dokubo, Ateke Tom and Chief Tompolo. In 2013 Mr. Kingsley Kuku, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs stridently defended these slew of contracts as “part of the lifeline” under the amnesty program initiated by the late President Yar’Adua. Whilst the legality of these acts is yet to be ascertained, the picture it created was the emergence of a new elite class – the Boys from The Creeks.

The profusion of security contracts such as this, at the expense of a sound long-term objective like developing the Nigeria Navy has invariably meant a significant swathe of the Niger Delta is under the control of militiamen. This has dire implications for the security of the country, because regardless of the knowledge of the terrain and prior experience in insurgency, none of these contractors are trained military men, equipped to defend the nation from external aggression. It also deepened the suspicion held by other people from other parts of the country that the president is only keen on pacifying those he deems to be his kith and kin.

Over the past two years, the influence of these militiamen has grown to such an extent that when Tompolo issued a threat in November 2014, regarding the commissioning of a project against his will, the President cancelled the trip. The foolhardy journalists who went ahead were, well, “kidnapped” and given a fair dose of beating for defying the de facto president of the Niger Delta.

Today in many areas of the Niger Delta, you would be foolish, very foolish, to go against the express directives of Ateke Tom or Tompolo. It may not look like it to the outside world, but the rule of the law here is one that is first dictated by Chief Tompolo or Ateke Tom. In “pacifying” his own, the president ceded control of a significant swathe of the Niger Delta to militiamen. An area that is more than the size of Wales, and with a much higher population density is so firmly under the control of militiamen that they could confidently gather themselves in the Bayelsa governor’s premises to declare war if President Jonathan loses the forthcoming elections. Think about that again – an area that is more than the size of Wales.

The North-East

000_Par7921320_0[1]The menace we know as Boko Haram today existed before President Goodluck Jonathan. It would be grossly unfair to lay the blame for the emergence at his doorstep. It would however be violently untruthful to look for any other reason for the continued existence other than his inability to deal decisively with the issue.

Madrasas have existed in the Northern part of Nigeria for ages and from time to time, the extreme elements amongst them get violent. At one time or another, previous governments have had to deploy the might of the Nigerian military against the successive reincarnations of these extreme fundamentalists.

It appears over the past four years, we have been saddled with a president who did not see anywhere north of Abuja as being part of Nigeria. What started as a series of random assassinations in Borno state slowly spread across much of the North-eastern part of Nigeria that over two-thirds of Borno State is under the rule of General “Mallam” Shekau.

The fight against Boko Haram has been one pockmarked by corruption, presidential indolence and outright mischief. Regardless of the stature of the fomenters of the insurgency in the North-East, the one Nigerian who has full control of the police, the army, the air force and the DSS is President Jonathan. He has had all what is required to mount a credible, sustained offensive against Boko Haram, but he has opted in most instances to do nothing. Nothing. Except the endless copy-and-paste “condemn, condole and continue” statements after each Boko Haram attack. His demeanour would have been risible, were it not tragic.

In failing to do his duty as the Chief Security Officer of the nation, he let over 200 girls down more than 290 days ago. He let over 50 boys down when they were killed in a Federal Government College in Yobe. He had not a scintilla of decency to even mourn the victims of the Yanya motor park bombing whom he let down by his failings.

Conclusion

The monopoly of the use of force is one of the things that confer legitimacy on nation-states. Sadly, President Jonathan misapplied this monopoly, first by ceding that right to militiamen down south and hamstringing the military in the fight up north.

 In 2011, we gave him the right to rule over 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory. He has ceded the Niger Delta to “his own” and the North-East to “them”. He lacks the integrity to admit he has failed, but has rather come back to solicit your votes – bearing 32 states and some local governments in tow.

He has failed to perform the role of a president. His performance, sadly has been akin to that of a mortician called in accidentally instead of a doctor, who having no knowledge of what to do with a living patient, hastens to smother what is left of life in the patient. Left to his devices, there might be no patient in another four years.

They don’t give a damn. You should.

frankly-i-don-t-give-a-damn[1]Leaders throughout history evoke some kind of passion in their followers. A leader who is as inspirational as a wilted spinach leaf will not last long in the saddle. The manner of passion a leader evokes, largely, determines how his contemporaries view him, and indeed, may influence history’s view. Virtually all effective leaders evoke a respect or a mix of fear and hatred. Despots “inspire” naked fear and breed sycophancy. From successful CEOs to acclaimed heads of countries, a common theme underlies their time in power. Straight out of university I had the privilege of working with Tony Elumelu when Standard Trust Bank was still small; he wasn’t the most likeable of characters in my freshman eyes back then because he made us work overnight on so many occasions – but it is difficult not to respect him. Fola Adeola perhaps has the most caustic wit when displeased, but I would wager many GTB alumni would still be diffident to speak ill of him. My former colleagues in PricewaterhouseCoopers would regale any listener of the respect, fear and in a few cases, hatred that is the legend of Nsa Harrison. On another level, why speak in glowing terms of Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, in spite of their personal weaknesses, foibles and failings?

In this first of a series of essays I plan to write about the forthcoming elections, the question I will seek to address is “what manner of passion does Goodluck Jonathan educe amongst his team”? This is important in my opinion, to understand the man as a leader and to help determine if he is the kind of leader we need to reward with our collective national trust for another four years.

For me, the first deep insight into the nature of the man Goodluck Jonathan was his televised remark – “I don’t give a damn”, when asked about his declaration of assets. The signal sent out in that moment of unrestrained emotion speaks volumes about him and what to expect of his team. If the late General Sani Abacha had made this kind of remark, I would neither have blinked in surprise nor lost a night’s sleep. That remark was firmly in character and under a military dispensation, let’s face it, our opinions are not meant to matter. However under a democracy where your tenure in office is based on the numerical strength of goodwill as measured in votes, it would be political suicide to make that kind of slip. Gordon Brown referred to one voter, just one voter, as “that bigoted woman” and his goose, or whatever was left of it, was cooked. Except, perhaps, in the case of Goodluck Jonathan, it was not a slip. Maybe truly the man does not give a damn. A man who does not give a damn is a dangerous man. Scratch that, he is a highly dangerous man. It connotes a man who believes he has a grip on power that is not legitimised by democratic acceptance.

Having made that theme clear, his immediate team went to work – not giving a damn. I dare say from that moment on, the passion stoked amongst his immediate followers in his team was one of insensitivity. On more than one occasion, his advisers have acted in a way that reinforces the notion that under this ruler, there is ample amplitude to be reckless. Abba Moro is the minister saddled with the internal security of Nigeria. In August 2013, quite in the face of the regular bomb attacks carried out by Boko Haram, he told the BBC that Boko Haram is no threat. Barely six months later, 59 boys were killed in a Federal Government College in Yobe. A year later he vicariously supervised the murder of 16 Nigerians whilst carrying out an incompetent recruitment exercise. For the records, to date he has not resigned. He was not prosecuted for his failings. He was not relieved of his duties. He does not give a damn. All under Goodluck Jonathan’s watch.

Over the course of 2013 and 2014, various allegations were made against the NNPC and the Petroleum ministry regarding defalcation of public funds and discrepancies between the revenues expected and revenues accounted. The most strident of these was made by the erstwhile CBN governor. In a rare display of speed from an otherwise lethargic president, the CBN governor was removed and Mrs. Allison-Madueke who supervises the petroleum ministry has been ring-fenced by a presidential shield against summons by the National Assembly. Never mind prosecution. The fact that a minister can be brazen enough to publicly state the House of Representatives cannot summon her without the president’s consent again resonates of that first theme – I don’t give a damn. I will not speak much on this as there is a case pending in court.

In the aftermath of the allegations by the former CBN governor, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the supervising minister for the economy promised a forensic audit report. None has been produced almost a year after Sanusi was “suspended” from office. The need to even inform the citizenry of the progress, or even commencement, of the forensic audit is hardly necessary – after all, I don’t give a damn.

Late last year, someone actually had the barefaced guts to announce a ceasefire with Boko Haram, knowing fully well that none existed. The country was the laughing stock of the international news community – see the BBC link here, the Wall Street Journal and another from The Guardian. That “someone” who announced the ceasefire is still the Chief of Defence Staff. A curious addendum to the announcement of the ceasefire was a directive to “to immediately comply with the agreement”. Being fully aware that there is no ceasefire, a commander directs his men to stand down; this has dire implication on soldiers who could have been killed believing indeed that there was an agreed respite. But then, the man in the fedora does not give a damn.

The utterances and deeds of the people that form the executive team resonate with two clear themes – reckless callousness or opportunistic lethargy. These are two traits exuded in abundance by the president himself. At one point or another, the utterances of folks like Nyesom Wike, Doyin Okupe, Reno Omokri, Reuben Abati have all been emblematic of the executive apathy towards the opinions of the citizens. I can safely say the fact that they did not lose their offices, nor suffer any public reprimand means they are doing the bidding of their team leader or he is too indolent to be bothered.

Perhaps the most damning indictment of President Jonathan’s reckless disdain for Nigerians is best encapsulated by his denial of the Chibok abduction for over two weeks and his refusal, or inability, to even pay a visit to Maiduguri until a week before this round of presidential elections campaign. The last Nigerian ruler I can recall who avoided going to a certain part of the country was Sani Abacha who stayed away from Lagos right from the time M.K.O Abiola was arrested till he died. I digress, but the theme is the same – here is a president who does not give a damn. Not only does he not give a damn, the passion he evokes in his team members is the same – do not give a damn!

To entrust another four years of our collective well-being into the hands of such a man is suicidal.

The Long March to Nowhere

The civilians corrupted the judiciary… we kept quiet. Then the soldiers came and incapacitated the judiciary, we cheered them on – bloody corrupt judges. The soldiers all but destroyed the essence of the police force. We cheered them on, after all the police force is nothing but a gang of brutal bullies. The soldiers left.Today, the civilian government has all but emasculated the military… we dey there dey mumu ourselves. Many are still cheering…! Slowly, but surely the nation unravels… first at the seams, now a discernible tatter.

c3d5f-minyak-drum1We legitimised violence in the Niger Delta, we said they had valid grievances. No culprit was brought to book, save for a man jailed by the South Africans (spuriously?) on our behalf. We neither addressed the infrastructural failures in the region (the ostensible root of the disturbances), nor gave judicial redress to victims of the Niger Delta violence. No. We gave them contracts, amnesty and piles of cash. We signed the protection of our waterways over to them. And we moved on.

Since then, Tompolo has shown us who is the boss in the Delta. The C-in-C in the Delta certainly is not Dr. Jonathan. When Tompolo warns us not to tread, where he warns us not to walk, we dare not. Bros, tuale!

Nigeria_Boko_Haram_attacks[1]Boko Haram was deemed in the eyes of many, to be a minor skirmish somewhere so far off from “us”, that we ignored it. Borno. Adamawa. Yobe. We might as well be honest, they are already excised from the C-in-C in Abuja. Gombe is under assault, same as Kano, Bauchi… yet we keep quiet. Some condemn, then move on. Others mindlessly cheer – “it’s the Northerners, let them kill themselves.”

The US slowly withdrew her support, citing corruption; but our oga-with-a-bowler-hat told us “ordinary stealing, they call it corruption.” Some, more brilliant than myself, even hastened to defend this assertion, after all, stealing is not corruption.

Each successive government has sought to destroy the civil, legal and military structures that serve to define statehood in this age. All on the altar of self-serving avarice. But we egg them on… the military trampling condescendingly on bloody civilians; the ethnic jingoist heralding his incompetent kinsman, the benighted religious bigot rooting for his favourite charlatan. This is how we have come to define nationhood.

When are we going to wake up and realise we have all but lost our country? When are we going to realise what is at stake goes beyond religious affiliations, ethnic interests and village pissing contests?

We are on a long journey to nowhere.

Our Failings and The Clergy

So how did Nigeria get here? I am sure that question is fit to be the subject of many doctoral theses in universities across the world and I will even wager further that there will be as many answers as the number of dissertations written on the subject. So, without any pretensions to scholarly loftiness, I will be writing on how we got here – and examining different facets of our march towards the precipice.

I will be direct here, I am not enamoured of the clergy class. In my opinion, and from a study of history, the clergy class has been riddled with more hits than misses, more charlatans than the genuine article. I am not encouraging atheists and agnostics to come here for a pissing contest, but some home truths have to be told. The clergy class in Nigeria is a monumental failure; one whose misdeeds have contributed in no small measure to perpetuate the rot and the rut in which we have found ourselves. I opted to start my series of essays with the clergy class because, with the decay in the educational sector, they are the single group with the largest captive audience in Nigeria – an audience they should educate on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship amongst other things. Sadly our clergy class is “cock-in-condom” with the State (pardon the explicit language, but that is the best figure of speech to describe the relationship).

I write with the bias of my Christian faith, and I would reckon parallels exist in just about every other religious system. Here is a quote from the Bible “Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on his throne as king to rule for the LORD your God. Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness”. Put simply, God made Solomon king because of His love for the citizens and Solomon’s responsibility was to maintain justice and righteousness. That is the gold standard to which rulers must be held. Rulers are meant to rule for the benefit of the ruled.

When last did any of the limelight-hugging, jet-flying Daddies and Mummies remind their congregation that the government’s primary obligation is to rule with equity and provide a conducive framework for every citizen to aspire to be better? Which of the tongue-speaking, Bible-thumping bishops and metropolitans has held training sessions to enlighten the congregation about civic rights and responsibilities? If a general overseer is willing to publicly pray for a kneeling president, why is he unwilling to publicly reprimand the president over abject misrule?

Sadly, the message from the pulpit – if it can be called a message – is one of witches and wizards, tithes and offerings as the toll pass to paradise, an amorphous message of grace that the preacher measures by the fleet of his private jets, the balance of his bank accounts and his conquests in bed. Lest I forget, there is the perennial populist rabble-rouser who is always claiming visions of doom from God. I will call a spade a spade, these are no servants of God. These are self-serving men, whose interests are defined by their megalomania – bigger congregations, more “branches” and minimal disruptions to their cash flow empires. From such, we should learn to flee.

In the weeks after the kidnap in Chibok, there was a loud silence from the clergy quarter. Oh, I’m sorry, there was the token “pray for the families affected”. Which of the “notable” psychedelic clerics called the government to task regarding its obligations towards recovering the girls? The first 50 that were kidnapped a few months ago just vanished like mere statistics. When the international community latched onto the #bringbackourgirls hashtag, like zombies jolted out of their revelry, the usual noises were made from the usual camps. The P-Diddy wannabe chaplain of Aso Rock was quick to politicise it, whilst another clergyman in Ogba, in a round of demagoguery over the weekend informed us that it was all a plan by the Americans to weaken Nigeria. Three weeks after the girls were kidnapped. That is the depth of truth and sincerity that obtains in the Nigerian church.

Talking about the problem is not enough though; let’s pause for a moment and think about this. Every weekend, Nigerians flock to their prayer houses and places of worship. Shortly after praise and worship in the average church, there will be a prayer session that would consist of something like this… every “witches and wizards” of my father’s house that is blocking my way, die by fire! I know Nigerians love this mode of prayer; the frantic fervency would appear to be prerequisite for answered prayers. There is something flawed about this though, because the problem might not be “a witches and wizards”, supposing they are gnomes and fairies? A more pertinent prayer would be “let every leader that will not rule this nation in justice and righteousness fall down and die by fire”. However, is there any “man of God” who is bold enough to do this? What with import duty waivers at stake?  What about the honorarium for accompanying the president to Israel, or the private jet that was promised for being supportive?

Many churches organise seminars on financial breakthrough. This would be a good thing, if the message were not premised on one line of action – tithe yourself into prosperity. How many entrepreneurial classes are taught compared to the tithes, offerings, first fruit and liberty offering sowing classes? Would life be different if the citizens of Lagos were informed about voting themselves into prosperity? If votes in Lagos were properly utilised, maybe the economic blight known as Ojuyobo might not be as dominant. Or he might be less brazen. Or perhaps, a more effective governance structure might have been in place. Just saying.

In a country where citizens put a lot of stock in what “my pastor said” or “the G.O said”, the failure of the church in telling the truth is far more debilitating than depriving the poor of their money to fund the bishop’s bling-bling. The kissing cousins relationship that epitomises the relationship between the State and organised religion perpetuates an atmosphere of ignorance and bigotry where elections are viewed from the prism of “believer” or “unbeliever” or from the binary viewpoint of Islam or Christianity, leaving in the dust the more important principle – “to maintain justice and righteousness”. Nation-building in the 21st century involves a lot more than a man’s mode of worship. No serious nation does that and succeeds. It will be madness to think we can.

Next time someone comes to campaign in your church, if your pastor does not pray “Let every leader that will not rule this nation in justice and righteousness fall down and die by fire”, it is time for you to leg it. Send your tithes to me, I will pray for you.

One day e go happen!

Lord keep me alive long after 2020,
When GEJ would have become a “nonentity”
Like the rest of us, “the ethnic majority”
Whom he asserts, hate his “minority”

Lord keep me alive, past 2020,
When GEJ will write with some “sincerity”
That Naija’s problem is “egunjerity”
And social insecurity, founded on barbarity

Lord, keep me, past the turn of next decade
When GEJ will be shorn of the cavalcade
Of Reuben, Labrador and the rest of the parade
When he’ll seek to be a progressive renegade

Baba l’óke, I pray Thee, overlook my presumption
And let me live to hear GEJ say that corruption
Is the putrefied and hellish foundation
That has bedevilled the life of this nation

Ah! On that day, I swear his mouth shall decay!
For I shall gladly match to Otuoke!
Armed with a holy slap from Baba l’óke
To make his mouth dance kedike!

Random thoughts on worship and prayer

I’m an amateur keyboard player and in this capacity I end up playing or attending a wide variety of Christian worship events. Whilst I try not to engage in religious comparisons, certain events hit me smack in the face that make such comparisons inevitable.

In the past 12 hours I have had to attend two such events. One was the biannual Festival of Life (FOL) at the Excel Centre in London and the second was at a more fiery gathering about 4 miles west of Excel. I have come away from these events with a slightly better understanding of things wrong with the Nigerian brand of Christianity. My pastor friends and “employers” will have to bear with me here.

At the FOL, a certain Christian Conservative Baroness was asked to pray and in the five or so minutes she prayed, I was privileged to see what it means to pray. There was absolutely no repetition. She articulated her points, prayed for the Queen and for the first time in my life I saw Mama Charlie as a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, who is subject to the same maternal emotions all women share. She prayed for the Government, that God should help David Cameron and his cabinet not to take decisions in folly, pride and fatigue. She prayed for Ed Milliband, the Labour Party, the Judiciary and asked that God should not let us take our privileges for granted. That was part one.

Part two, a Nigerian pastor then mounted the rostrum and the macabre display started. “I want you to shout at the top of your voice, Faaaaada, I want fresh hoil”. (The hoil is not a spelling mistake). There the emotive drama started, hoarse, sweaty shouting and demands that were barely articulate, interspersed with Bible verses supporting the “demands”. I had to leave somewhere in the middle of this call and response litany so I could prepare for the second church where I had a keyboard engagement.

Part three, an even more fiery liturgy in another church. Prayer comprised a ferocious scream for mercy, killing ancestral enemies, roasting contemporary ones, burning Satanic lists, killing star-killers, “killing” poison deposited in our belly-buttons, parting our Red Seas and killing our Pharaohs.

In a surreal moment of reflection, I realised if all of the Baroness’ prayers are answered by God, Britain would be a better country and we all will be better for it. Imagine for one, MPs passing legislation based on their personal biases without any regard for equity? All half-legal immigration cases will find themselves in Lagos very quickly, ancestral enemy or not.

I also realised, all the incoherent shouts demanding “hoil”, killing enemies and poisons, even if granted, will not result in a better society (read Nigerian society). Without an improved society, we will be back in 6 months from now to ask for Fresh Anointing – not to say “Thank You God” – and we will be back next week to kill more enemies.

I simply concluded, the problems we face as a people are deep. Very deep. In our thought process.

I have always been suspicious of vain repetitions, my resolve to avoid wasting time in vain repetitions has now hardened even more.

Henceforth my prayer life must change, by faya!!!! O ya, every power making me say vain prayers, somersault and dieeee!!!!!

TOUCH NOT MINE ANNOINTED, OMO WA NI E JE O SE!

Nigerians are ever predictable, so much so that if someone of average intelligence were to be paid a dollar for every correct prediction of the “Nigerian reaction” to a scandal, he would sit at the top of the Forbes Rich List. I kid you not.
 
The template is basic and goes thus:
 
Who is the offender and is the offender one of “ours”?
This is a very important aspect of the template and it determines how the rest of the thought process will go. You see, before the Nigerian takes a stance on any violation, crime or scandal, he needs to ascertain that the offender in the said event is not one of “ours”.
 “Ours” here being one of my tribe, or one of my political affiliation, or one of my religious persuasion. Truth be told, I have encountered very, very few Nigerians who are capable of objective analysis devoid of the taints of tribe, politics and religion. Do not be baffled that these three scourges will torment us until the planet runs out of human life.
 
The Offender is One of Ours
If the offender is of the same ethnic extraction as me, quickly I adopt the Ibadan “alamala” politics stance – “omo wa ni, e je o se”. [He’s one of our kinsmen, let him be.] Regardless of how egregious the crime, you will be surprised at how many people still flock under the banner of tribal stupidity to justify it; ready to play the ethnic victimisation card as part of a “reverse psychology” tactic if need be. Pushed to the wall, this Nigerian would remind you that Nigeria is an artificial contraption created for the administrative convenience of the British Government.
If the offender has a broom stamped on his political ID card, believe me he could siphon ALL of the local government allocations for a state, impregnate 20 undergraduates, have an undischarged criminal conviction in some foreign jurisdiction, yet the benighted Nigerian who believes that the broom is holier than the umbrella will see no wrong in it. The same goes for the Nigerian who believes in the “umblerra”; you may produce every evidence of a criminal act against his overlord, yet he will tell you, with a conviction that stuns the mind, that there is nothing overly amiss; it is just the handiwork of their “political detractors”.
If you think the two above are comic enough, wait until what should be a religious scandal hits the news. There are three standard retorts here –
    1.   An outright violent response – mosques burnt, churches burnt, babalawos beheaded… (maybe the last bit is hyperbolic, but you get the idea)
    2.    “Touch not mine anointed”….      
    3.     A very lame “it’s the Devil at work, let’s pray against the Devil getting a foothold”.
If the issue is so scandalous, it usually starts with the last excuse, when that fails to work, the religious Nigerian then takes umbrage and tells you “touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm”. If there be a hint of “legitimacy” to the stance of the offender, it more or less results in a violent outburst.
  
 
The Offender is not one of ours, who is the victim?
No consideration would ever be given to the victim or the nature of the offence at all if the offender meets any of the criteria listed above. Having whittled out each criterion, consideration is then shifted to the victim or the nature of the offence. Here the analysis very quick. Using the same tribal, political and religious framework, is the victim someone like me? If yes – boom! The Facebook, Twitter and blogosphere vituperations pour in. Bear in mind, there will be other Nigerians lined up on the side of the offender using the same yardsticks.
If by identifying with the victim, the Nigerian cannot get good publicity, we quickly shrug it off and life moves on. “Ko kan mi” [It’s not my business]. This attitude, by the way, it the “default setting”.
Post-yarn
I wrote this in light of the blog posted by a certain Ese Walter regarding her affair with her erstwhile pastor, and the comments it has since attracted. I have friends who are pastors, whom I respect for who they are – and they’ve had to earn it, not for some unseen halo over their heads and definitely not for their titles. Whether as a result of cultural conditioning or paucity of education, we have become a people largely disinclined to probe for accountability by those in positions of trust, be it religious or political. What I seek to examine here is not so much the veracity of the tale, but the paucity of objective response. Sorry, “touch not mine anointed” is not adequate.
One “elder statesman” after another makes utterly foolish pronouncements day in day out and we keep mute. A newly formed political party of current and ex-PDP malcontents issues a mindless 8 point “plan” not worthy of the paper on which is was printed and we simply trudge along behind them because the party leader is a septuagenarian Yoruba man, whom I must not “insult” because according to my Yoruba culture, he is “old enough to be my father” – till he leads me into the pit.
A sitting president, bereft of any scintilla of financial integrity, squanders my patrimony, yet I egg him on because as a bonafide Kalabari man, it is my turn to share in the national cake; never mind that I am still living in squalor in Joinkarama – the president is my Ijaw kinsman and his wife is my Okirika kinswoman.
And dear Ese, [no, I do not know her] is vilified for being a willing tool in the hands of the devil; never mind that the said “shepherd” ostensibly abused a position of trust, and we are urged, “touch not mine anointed”. A Nigerian pastor went to jail in the UK for sodomising members of his congregation (including the under-aged) and some mindless dimwit still said “touch not mine anointed”. Sorry, I don’t buy it. Similar to what the Catholics say about the Pope’s infallibility – Mr. Clergy-Man, you are anointed only when you act “ex-cathedra”.  That toga falls off when you do not comply with your anointing. I still await the day when religious adherents will question objectively their leaders
But then, this is Nigeria, we simply wait for the next newsworthy “scandal”. 

Death by a thousand cuts – amnesty by another name

To my Nigerian friends, before we start frothing at the mouth whether Boko Haram is entitled to any amnesty, I ask the following questions:

 
1. Has any Boko Haram terrorist been apprehended?
 
2. If the answer to 1, is a yes, has he (or she) been brought to justice through the judicial system?
 
3. If the answer to 1 is yes and the answer to 2 is no, what does that say about a) the reliability of the justice system to provide assurance that the Nigerian judicial system is superior to jungle justice, for seeking redress?
 
4. If the answer to 1 is no, what assurance can the military give that all the “terrorists” that they have killed in their gallant effort to combat Boko Haram are indeed criminals? Where innocent lives have been lost (and I mean innocent here, not those habouring “Boko Haram”), has anyone thought about the potential of such losses to radicalise the fringe elements in the societies where those innocent people have been killed?
 
By the way, I do not support amnesty for criminals under any guise; but what steps [apart from shooting] has the  Nigerian presidency (past and present) taken to ensure that the structures that are responsible for the maintenance of civil order were adequate to forestall (or at least minimise) the prevalence of insecurity as it is in Northern Nigeria today?
 
Does anyone really place faith in the immigration services [to ensure the integrity of our borders]; the Customs services [to prevent smuggling, amongst other duties]; the police [for maintenance of domestic law and order]; the justice system [for prompt, transparent and fair dispatch of justice]; the legislature [for providing an enduring legislative framework that engenders security] and the executive arm for the overall responsibility for the welfare of the country?
 
Lest you snicker, does anyone reading this piece pay some money to OPC for “security” regularly? If the police were adequate, would you need OPC? Good thing, perhaps that OPC is yet to start bombing government establishments in S/W Nigeria. But the presence of an armed militia called OPC is an aberration that underscores the failure of the police. Should OPC wake up tomorrow to demand for some obscure resource control and commences a bombing campaign to force the government to accede to its requests, perhaps you will realise then that terrorism is not as remote as you imagine.
 
I am no expert in human psychology, but I have read enough to recognise that there will always be all shades of radical (and criminal) ideologies, seeking converts for their nefarious objectives. In the absence of readily available and legal options for economic empowerment and legal redress when rights are infringed upon, radical ideologies that offer promises of an alternative would easily garner adherents [which is why you pay OPC]. I can safely say that the repeated failure of these organs of the state that have, amongst other factors, precipitated all shades of militants and terrorists – and more importantly, given them the critical mass in membership that has seen them afflict such damage to the nation.
 
Amnesty to criminals sends a message to others – be sufficiently and persistently brutal in your agitations and your rewards will be in oil lifting allocations and presidential pardon. Truth be told, by granting amnesty to criminals without addressing these issues of state failure, what the nation faces is simply death by a thousand cuts.