I always get excited about election seasons in Nigeria. The action and inaction on the gruelling political gridiron are both amusing and bemusing. Keep your eyes wide open, you will see a lot. Keep your ears to the ground, you will hear plenty. You will see the ugly and hear the disturbing. Some of the things you see and hear may make you hop-skip-and-jump in excitement. Others may drop you down on your knees in a crumble as you grow downcast from oozes out of a depressing polity where millions of people are still unjustifiably hungry. Be warned! Do not let what you see and hear slide you into a lingering disconsolateness and dispiritedness. They are all signs of the times. Signs of the times on the gruelling gridiron. Signs of the times that are here to stay with us for as long as Nigeria remains a flummoxing contraption.
On Saturday, February 16, 2019, Nigeria’s presidential election will hold. The sitting president, Muhammadu Buhari, is swinging for four more years. Mr. President is bubbling with confidence that another victory lap is a few feet away. Why is he confident? The handwritings! Rising foreign reserves have peaked at $42bn, the highest level in about four years. Plummeting headline inflation which has fallen for 20 consecutive months. The administration’s determined implementation of the Treasury Single Account has helped stop the haemorrhaging of the treasury. The elimination of “ghost workers” has saved the nation some N120bn. Railroad Revolution is sending coaches and locomotives roaring down the train tracks around Nigeria. You can see the handwritings on asphalted new roads twinning around the country and on the faces of excited downtrodden, petty traders enjoying government freebies called “TraderMoni” to boost their business. If you are a Buhari tub-thumper, these testaments should make you bloat up in ego and superego.
But if you are around the President’s arch-challenger and his surrogates, keep the rodomontade to yourself. The Peoples Democratic Party’s Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is also publicly exuding an equal or greater-in-size confidence that the time is now for him to wear the presidential crown. Atiku has pointed out that under Buhari’s watch, despite humongous funding for security, the dreadful terrorist group, Boko Haram, lunatics are still killing; and the North-East remains in the shambles from pervasive insecurity. Atiku says Buhari is too draggy and crudely analogue in his approach to solving the people’s problems. Atiku is the true full-blooded Fulani and Buhari is not, so said the Turakin of Adamawa. What that means in the context of Nigerians’ untold suffering I still don’t know. The former Vice-President opines that Buhari is unaware of many goings-on around him because two or three people Nigerians did not elect drive the titanic ship of government for him. Atiku taunts himself as the best hope for unemployed and unemployable Nigerian youths, and that his vast business experience will help jumpstart Nigeria into a refreshingly new parlance. He has promised much more.
Some of the winds behind Atiku’s wings are some prominent pastors and bishops. What is wrong with men in cassocks campaigning for candidates? Nothing! Pastors are Nigerians, and they also want the best for Nigeria and Nigerians. Politics determines policies that rule our lives. Politics determines the food we eat and the roads we travel on. It determines if we become rich or remain interred in penury. It determines everything about life in a lifeless nation and one with bubbly life. Politics determined yesterday, it determines today, and will determine tomorrow. When wise men get involved, a nation evolves. A country marked for greatness may die when patriots are on the sideline goofing off. It is a great thing when men and women of God get involved in politics and government.
Some bishops clapping behind Atiku are venomously angry with Buhari. These people have more hatred for our Pastor-Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. They have called the VP many ugly names publicly on a few occasions. I sit around in Pentecostal circles and wonder why these bishops are trying to shoot down one of their own. I don’t believe them when they claim to stand in vehement and combative opposition because of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen killing Christians in the north. That is a cop-out. It is much more than that; and some of us know why.
A bishop recently stood before his congregation and read a newspaper article to buttress his arguments that my President is a commanding clone called Jubril from Sudan; a name that only exists in the imaginations of the unlettered and unschooled. This gabfest has been swirling around town for a while. The bishop riled up his church members in prayers gone amiss that Nigeria is now in the enslaving shackles of the family of Jubril from Sudan who want half of Nigeria’s wealth to keep quiet. It is Pentecostal inanity when a newspaper article now becomes a recited replacement of the infallible word of the living God on His altar. It is a clericalist campaign of calumny against Truth to embrace satire as the infallible words of God. When Nnamdi Kanu’s backdoor jabbers and chatters become edifying sermonettes a man of God has chosen to live by, this sure is the end time. For those who have joined in the jangle, if you or your friend believes that the man presiding today in Nigeria over 200 million people, a Commander in-Chief over an active duty personnel in three armed services of the Army, Navy, and Air force totalling approximately 200,000 troops and 300,000 paramilitary personnel is a fraudulent facsimile, this is a clear symptoms of a disturbing beginning of psychosis.
But our big bishop never told his sheep that for many years, he and his manipulative cohort have become part of the enslaving machines of the Nigerian poor. Some of us know why they are furious and unhinged. We are privy to their musings and talks behind closed doors in the purlieu of political power. Offering has depleted, and tithe is now tight. Importation exemptions have been excised; and honoraria are no longer coming in honourably. Building funds have bottomed up; and no more free milk and honey from donations of funny money. Jet-fuels are low, and, alas, our bishops are angry. When pastors owe as much as N1bn in taxes and dues, and they now like Nicodemus, crawl cap-in-hand begging for amnesty from the government they publicly chastise, and a President they want dead, we should be alarmed about the future of the church in Nigeria.
We are not unaware of these clerics’ persistent and nagging appeals to be exempted from paying personal income tax and parking fees for their $70m jets. They have enjoyed this unwholesome privilege in times past; and they hanker to continue the stench while Nigerians are dying of hunger. But how can a nation grow when its citizens don’t pay taxes and dues? How can Nigeria grow if pastors bringing in trillions in a year as income don’t pay their fair share in taxes and dues into government coffers? Jesus saw the importance of it; he commanded the fish to vomit Peter’s dues lest he incurred the wrath of Caesar. Man of God, why aren’t you willing to give unto Caesar what is due Caesar’s? The altar of God has become an abattoir of boisterous wind of corruption against Nigeria’s greatness. Characters driven by avarice and bandied by greed are innumerable on the pulpits. A sad story of the church in Nigeria.
Written by Fola Ojo
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