“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the cleft of the rock, whose dwelling is high, who says in your heart, who will bring me down to the ground? Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, there I will bring you down, says the Lord.” – The vision of Obodiah.
On 18th June, 1980, the Rev Paul HA Noren, Chaplain of the Senate of Colorado, USA, offered this opening prayer he entitled “Our Prodigal Ways”: “Father God, we confess that we are the restive son who came to you and said ‘Give me the share of the property that now falls to me’ ”But we have been greedy enough to ask for posterity’s share too. With this largesse we have gone off into the far country of waste and wastralism, of high profits and base pollution… and we have squandered our property in loose living. And Lord, we begin to see the end of our resources…and the time comes when we shall be in want. Before it is too late, we pray that we may come to ourselves lest we perish in impenitence and hunger. Give us grace to arise and go to our Father and say to Him Father, we have sinned against heaven and earth and against you… make us, yes make us good managers of Your resources… after having placed self over service and personal and corporate prodigality over the common good”.
Coincidentally, this happened to be the day some States and National Assembly staffer from Nigeria, comprising Clerks and Hansard Chiefs on a study tour of some selected capitols and the Congress in Washington were present in the Public Gallery and their presence was specially acknowledged by the President of the Senate. The Rev. Paul Noren in an interaction with us later outside the Chamber had told us that “Democracy is not the means of controlling either by coercion or by artifice, but rather the vehicle of freedom.”
Thirty-six years today, I recall this prayer which copy I had got from the Senate registry, and it reminds me vividly of the state of Nigeria as it had been and still is. By the mighty Grace of God I have lived to witness a new dawn and I ask: who says this is not Nigeria’s finest hour?
I have been young, now I am old and have lived to see the party in power unprecedentedly upstaged by the opposition in Nigeria which until recently had seemed an impossibilty. It is such that the one who, while in power in his state, had betrayed fierce intolerance of even afission, a simulation of opposition, visiting it with dire consequences and had warned his followers against the futility of belonging in opposition, and therefore to resist by all means every possibility of the opposition coxing to power. Today he finds himself leading opposition, by the American Presidential system euphemistically termed minority party. That is not all; he has been severally reported as extolling opposition as sine qua non in a democracy all over the civilized world. Who says this is not Nigeria’s finest hour?
The difference in their kind of opposition, however, is that they cannot afford to throw stones because they live in a glass house. They cannot rake the muck without the ants and the flies swooping on them. This is what I wrote recently about opposition living in a glass house.
People who, a few years ago, had made the Aso Rock Villa their regular resort even for carousels now watch it from afar and occasionally steal into it like Nicodemus of the Bible.
Recession is here with us in God’s good time, and I am reminded of that prayer of Rev. Noren stated earlier, “And Lord, we begin to see the end of our resources… and the time comes when we shall be in want.” We had long needed to redirect our focus from the purely utilitarian to something durable. This land of ours, richly endowed by Nature, had been turned into a depreciated coin, spoiled by affluence from crude oil, and jaded by self-indulgence, chasing after fleeting values and overstated.
We squandered our riches, ignoring warnings from experts, that the oil boom days will someday be over. Whereas our natural endowments if well-harnessed, could have afforded a life of satisfying plenty for all, our leaders rather chose to draw prodigally upon our munifiscence. If they gave thought to posterity at all, it was of their children and relations nuclear and extended, and even their in-laws.
Then someone led a regime to halt us in our track before we drift further, having as mantra the cleansing of our polity through fighting the hydra-headed monster called corruption.Any leader that sets out with this mantra is bound to step on toes, some very powerful. This is why some people who in the days of Jerry Rawling’s Ghana, should have undergone advanced stages of putrefaction in the hangman’s cemetery, are still swaggering and devising subtle ways to ridicule the regime in the eyes of the unaware and ignorant.
It is not because President Buhari comes from the military domain, but any responsible opposition after upstaging the party in power cannot act differently, having inherited the kind of rot he found.
No sacred cows have been nor will be spared. No sector has been adjudged untouchable. Whoever, therefore, is raging about the siege on the Judiciary, since suspected as another of Nigeria’s Augean Stable begging for cleansing, let him rage. At least, let ethics and morality triumph over legalism. Let whoever contributed to the rot in the system from any sector be put to shame. After all, who ever thought the Military will be touched in the effort at cleansing. The Policewill someday have their day. Even the man of God whoever proclaimed peace, peace from their pulpits and at different fora when peace was far from sight, all in expectation of valuable considerations from the powers that be, let their Lord and Master judge them.
At last, Nigeria has found recourse and consolation in the surest and unfailing source of happiness in a sector that elusive oil boom had blinded us to for years. This is the agrarian option, an Agricultural revolution. When Governor Victor Attah of AkwaIbom State in 2005 recommended what he termed “”the greenery option” as capable of taming our angst, nobody listened.T oday, every leader both at state and national levels is focused on this option. Governor Victor Attah spent his juvenile years in Moore Plantation, Ibadan, as son of a consummate Agriculturist, late Obong Bassey Attah, first Nigerian graduate of Agriculture from an American University. He knew exactly what he was talking about.
Delivering a speech at the Fourth Annual Senator Abraham Adesanya lecture on Monday 25th July, 2005, he espoused as follows: “I find it pertinent therefore, to state right away and underscore the fact that a major reason for the persistent national anxiety or fear for tomorrow is our deliberate neglect of our well-endowed renewable wealth of our land and the scourged earth strategy in the exploitation and total dependence on crude oil”. He entitled this lecture “Taming our Angst – The Greenery Option”.
In primary school in the 50s we had been made to recite daily the words of a Chinese author who wrote: “The happiness of a nation is like a tree; farming is its roots; manufacture and commerce are its branches and its leaves. If the root is harmed, the branches break off, the leaves fall and the tree dies.”
Now the meleorist in me takes over, that everything is tending towards the better in Nigeria. If everything seems to be going well, says Murphy’s Law, you have obviously overlooked something. Things had seemed better in the past because we had paid scant regard to some critical sectors, in our profligacy and want of visionary leadership. Today, these sectors are being given studied attention. If the wheel does not seem to grind fast enough, it is because of heavy rust that has formed over the years, which need serious lubrication. President Buhari and the APC did not create our present situation. They merely inherited it at its terminal stages. Even so, this administration is surely, certainly leading us to the promised land after years of wandering in the wilderness. Come wind come weather, this is Nigeria’s finest hour.
* Eno Ikpe wrote in from Etinan. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, 08023560727