So tomorrow May 29th is Democracy Day here in Nigeria, a day created by our former President, Olusegun Obasanjo to celebrate democracy or more accurately celebrate his ascension to the throne of the Nigeria nation because in essence that is what the democratic experience in Nigeria has become, a monarchial system with the president at the head. It is a system whereby a strong willed president can get his way most of the time. This is not to discredit the role of the opposition in the Nigerian democratic experiment or the role of the people. The legislature for the most part has remained a rubber stamp for executive policies. It is perhaps of recent that I have seen some semblance of a sign that the legislature is making an attempt to do its job (third term dismissal, subsidy scam probe, pension scam probe, etc). With that said, I sat down yesterday and watched the church service in commemoration of democracy day.
It was an event filled to the brim with who is who in the current administration; it had the president and his entourage in attendance, senators, some governors, representatives, generals and chiefs of the armed forces and paramilitary services. Not to be counted out of the festivities was the acclaimed godfather or our president, Chief Edwin Clarke. I spotted him dancing and jiving with a mien of self-satisfaction that his boy is at the helm of affairs albeit a dilapidated state of affairs. I am sure the billions in his account might be a more accurate reason for his satisfaction. Ole/Thief/Barawo knows no ethnic group or tribe, for all have chopped in our nation and come short of the glory of God. Perhaps that is just conjecture. There was the unmistakable presence of a group of Christian clergymen from several branches of the Christian family. From what I gathered, these were the group of pastors and men of God who had the president’s ear. Of course they had every right to be there after all, this was a church service.
The clergy men went on and I was amazed to see that it seemed that they were in a competition to see who could pray the most and for those who were able to give a sermon, we witnessed the cushioning of criticism of the government and the state of affairs in Nigeria today. This is not to say they did not lament the state of affairs in Nigeria today. I remember the prelate of the Methodist church I believe couching some criticism in his over an hour long sermon! Yes you read that right, ol’ boy was speaking for more than hour. It was almost like each clergyman that came on was being paid by the hour or minute and hence proceeded to give the type of long, wordy and boisterous prayers. This reminded me of what Jesus said about the Pharisees and Sadducees in the bible,
“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with verses of scripture inside and they wear extra-long tassels on their robes. And how they love to sit at the head of the table in banquets and in the most prominent seats in the synagogue!” – Matthew 23:5-7
“Two men went to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a dishonest tax collector. The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed the prayer, ‘I thank you God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income. But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even life his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored.” – Luke 18:10-14
I am not a fan of the president but I do feel like he is surrounded by sycophants who don’t tell the poor man some hard truths and I feel that there is nowhere where this is more evident than in his relationship with the clergy. Our president was acclaimed to be God’s choice for Nigeria by many of our pastors who showed religious bigotry in the last election, some with subtlety. Basically, they implanted a sense that voting for Buhari was akin to voting for the Devil’s choice. How true that is, I raise my hands in ambivalence. Some of these clergymen surrounded themselves around the president after his election and proceeded to reap the fruits of their labor. This labor however is not labor in the lord’s vineyard; it is labor in an earthly vineyard, yielding wines of power, prestige and wealth in some cases. Based on hearsay, people even give contracts to some of these clergymen to give to the president. He listens to their advice more than some of his ministers. Ladies and Gentlemen, which way Nigeria? They pray with the president every Wednesday and Thursday yet we are not seeing any results. Are these men praying to God or to Mammon?
Before you label me antichrist, I am not against prayer in the corridor of power. I was just a little annoyed and disgusted by what I see as the president’s need to press upon the Nigerian populace that he is a religious man. He puts together these showy services every democracy day, Independence Day and so forth. He has it televised and broadcast for all to see. I riddle him this, kai Mr Azikwe (any self-respecting Nigerian will demand our president remove Azikwe from his name, we no gree!) when are you going to televise your governance. In fact we should have cameras follow you everywhere like Big Brother so that you won’t be able to engage in corruption. If anything going by the current state of affairs in Nigeria and insecurity, the president should engage in prayers asking for God to have mercy on this nation for indeed a lot of things are going to shit. Mr President, we don’t need to see you on tv engaging in prayer, pray in private and deliver results because if I were to go by the correlation between the amount of prayers we see from you and the progress in this country, I will give up on faith and become an atheist. Yes, I was that offended by the service.
Democracy they say is a government of the people by the people for the people. This was what I was taught in primary school. Out of the 51 years since independence, Nigeria has experienced 23 years and counting of democracy. So in reality, that is almost half! We are no longer a nascent democracy. We should demand from our government good governance, transparency and performance in all areas of endeavor. I am not Ezekiel, so I won’t bore you with the litany of problems present in the country. If you live here or read the news, you know it. This is not lamentations. Our government should listen to the truth and stop all this perambulating like headless chickens. It is a government and party that is afraid of the truth that will engage in exchange of insults with Buhari who basically said using a hausa proverb that rigging won’t be tolerated in 2015. Mr President focus on the present, let 2015 be. If we are truly in a democracy, the people will decide if they want you to stay longer. Shikena. Heck, if you perform a miracle turnaround of Nigeria in the next 2 or 3 years, I will campaign for you. I swear by all that is good in this world. As for the legislature, when a former president calls you armed robbers he knows what he is talking about. You accepted bribes in the past to pass his executive policies so of course he has the guts to confidently say what he did. Your dignity is already soiled in the minds and hearts of the Nigerian people, there is nothing you can say that can convince us otherwise. Through your actions, win back the Nigerian people.
Forgive my rant, it is my style. Democracy in Nigeria today for me means high handed people in power who fail to listen to the people until it is too late. Democracy is power to those who can afford to have a voice. It is not power to the people, the people are busy trying to survive and make it while the dividends of democracy have been insecurity, higher cost of living and poverty. It should never be the case in a country that the cost of dying is cheaper than living. Dear clergymen who surround our president, do not obfuscate the truth. Speak the truth and it shall set you free. Dare to be that lone voice in the wilderness much like John the Baptist crying, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” I truly believe that this democracy is heading to hell in a hand basket unless we all stop lying to ourselves and speak the truth and demand service from our rulers. For in our democracy today we have rulers and kings not public servants.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the reading public, what does democracy mean to you? What should our democracy be like? Is the force feeding of the Godliness of the president not a subtle way of suggesting his infallibility?