Statesmen, not prayer warriors

As the nation moves dangerously towards the cliff with mounting daily harvest of deaths from bandits’ assault on Nigerians across the land amidst ethnic profiling by Nigerian ethnic nationalities, Obasanjo last Saturday in Abeokuta during the 16th edition of prayer Breakfast organised in his honour by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ogun State chapter, recommended prayer to God by Nigerians as the answer to the “overwhelming challenges” confronting the nation on many fronts.

Because the challenges according to him are beyond “what we can handle”, we have to cry to God. “Our land needs to be healed; those in government, executive, legislators, public servants, civil servants, private sector, are overwhelmed, God cannot be overwhelmed. He is omnipotent, omnipresent. I believe God will heal our land”, he had declared with a sense of righteousness.

OBJ unarguably is a man of great faith. Having missed death by the whiskers during the February 13, 1976 Bukar Dimka-led coup that claimed the life of Murtala Mohammed, his boss and also escaped the fate that befell Yar Adua who was poisoned while both were jointly serving jail term for a phantom coup, Obasanjo has continued to admit receiving an undeserved special favour of God. Who would have been responsible for his change of status from a prisoner to president but God?

It is therefore understandable why OBJ, in power, chose to listen to only God’s voices even for government policy thrusts rather than official advisers paid through taxpayers’ sweat. He once publicly declared that the God that brought him out of prison to presidential palace would punish him if he fails to listen to his voice. Unfortunately, Obasanjo was the only one who was hearing God’s voice.

But Obasanjo set out early at dawn because he knew God does not work for man but help only those who help themselves. After trading away MKO Abiola’s pan-Nigerian mandate for Babangida’s illegal contraption called Interim National Government, he started hearing God’s voice assuring him of becoming president in place of the jailed winner of the election. Because he wanted to make sure it was the voice of God, he had to run to Nelson Mandela of South Africa who advised him to follow his instinct and also Desmond Tutu, also of South Africa who told him ‘you have served God, you have served your people, are you now saying you are tired of serving God and your people?”

Not satisfied, he sought the spiritual intervention of Pastor E. A. Adeboye who he said later told him “God said you should go.”

In office, it was difficult to know if all of OBJ’s actions were the result of God’s voices. But what was not in doubt was that he also embarked on self-help. For instance, unable to wean himself off his Yoruba peoples love of the Mosaic love of “an eye for an eye” law, he fell back on Yoruba traditional management of power which probably predates Niccolo Machiavelli, the arch apostle of ‘naked force’ and politics without morality which recommends elimination of all your political enemies along custodian of the secret of your rise to power after victory (afobaje ni oba npa).

First Obasanjo descended on Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural group responsible for his rejection in the Southwest including his ward during the 1999 election. Using military strategy, he went for Bola Ige, the group’s deputy leader who he said was the only Yoruba he feared in the run-up to the election. He lured him into PDP where he was murdered in his room while serving as Attorney General and Minister of Justice by unknown persons. He completed the humiliation of the Pa Adesanya, the Afenifere leader by luring his daughter to join his government.

In 2003, he did not wait for God’s voice before out-foxing the Yorba socio-cultural group by rigging all its AD governors except Lagos State out of office. In 2007, following his third-term fiasco, he rigged terminally ill Umaru Yar’Adua into office as president. Besides establishing himself as an ardent student of Machiavelli while in office, out of office, he has also correctly identified mismanagement of our crisis of nation-building as the sources of our social dislocations.

In this regard, he had in an 18-page letter titled “Before it is too late”, dated December 2, 2013 accused President Jonathan of spawning a support base of ethnic militants, corrupt politicians and armed militia, all for the personal agenda of political survival. He went on to pitch his tent with President Buhari who later defeated Jonathan in the 2015 election.

Following his fall-out with President Buhari, he in another letter dated July 2019 had warned “we are on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold danger at bay because government treated herder/farmers crisis with kid-glove instead of hammer allowing it to develop into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and killings all over the country”.

The mindless killings, kidnapping and banditry are but manifestations of the fate that Obasanjo predicted would befall Nigeria if Buhari failed to properly manage our crisis of nation-building. His call for prayers, coming on a day Nigerians were assailed with newspaper headlines such as “Bandits kill 93 in fresh Kebbi, Kaduna attacks; 25 killed by herdsmen in Igangan Oyo State and 53 killed in Ebonyi State, were attempts at playing the ostrich.

Today out of office, Obasanjo talks of mismanagement of our crisis of nation-building. In office, he heard many voices except that which would have directed him to restructure the country by devolving power to the states. It will therefore appear our leaders only resort to prayers to cover up their failures as politicians. Obasanjo heard God’s voices and was a regular guest at Pastor Adeboye’s prayer crusades. Jonathan in office moved from church to church in Nigeria and to Synagogues in Israel sometimes with indicted ministers. He conveniently forgot to implement the report of the National Conference he set up.

We already have too many prayer warriors. Gowon has been going around the country praying for our redemption in the past 40 years. Vice President Osinbajo hardly missed any prayer crusade at the Redemption Camp. President Buhari himself prays five times daily. We are told he sometimes leaves guests waiting in order to fulfill his prayer obligation. Besides Redeemed Church and its well-respected overseer, Pastor Adeboye, there is Oyedepo presiding over Canaan land which boasts of the biggest church in the world. There are the Deeper Life Ministries, Mountain of Fire and T.B Joshua’s Synagogue of all nations. Our own Catholic Church has the biggest seminary in the world located in Imo State. Besides our Bishops gave us “prayer for Nigeria” which we recite during mass since June 12 crisis in 1993 and all through the Abacha dark years.

I think instead of playing the ostrich, Obasanjo should mobilise Nigerians of goodwill and leaders of Nigerian ethnic nationalities to educate unbending the president that politics is not a civil war but a process of bargaining and accommodation on the basis of agreed rules and procedures between cultural groups that have agreed to live together harmoniously; that separatist movements, revolts and insurrections are but manifestations of alienation of aggrieved groups and that retracing our way back from the brink starts with ensuring the nation-state serves as arbiter between competing ethnic nationalities as against the current perception where the aggrieved believe it serves the interest of only the privileged Fulani ethnic group.

Obasanjo has demonstrated he understands ‘heavens help only those who help themselves’. Those we today urgently need are not prayer warriors but statesmen.

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