As our executive prayer ‘warriors’ visit Jerusalem By Yomi Odunuga

The psychological damage that insincere people in leadership positions use organised religions to perpetrate on the younger generation is beyond comprehension.As I write this, a select group of very important personalities is in Jerusalem, Israel joining their ‘faith’ with that of President Goodluck Jonathan to pray for Nigeria. Even the greatest enemies of this 53-year-post weaned toddler wouldn’t deny it the right to seek God’s intervention in tackling its multiple, self-inflicted crises. With churches sprouting on a daily basis in every nook and cranny; with astronomic increase in mosques at every available corner and with clerics of all faith, denominations, shades, and forms, Nigeria can’t be said to be lacking in religiosity even if a huge question hangs over whether the millions of faithful are truly religious. Ours is a contradiction in faith and fate. We are surrounded by the abundance of the Creator’s mercy but fate seems to have bequeathed to us a generation of leaders who lack faith in their ability to push us to our full potential. Oftentimes and with benumbing recklessness, we fritter away Mother Nature’s free gifts. With a docile population wreathed in ignorance and too scared to demand fairness and equity, the ruling elite has crossed the bend with the dexterity with which it deodorises poverty with an allure of futuristic hope. It is one hope that is always so near yet too far. For 53 years, the cravings for that hope have yielded nothing but despair!

Surely, the faithful among us know that the unenviable trajectory of our nationhood couldn’t have been for the absence of prayers or supplications to the Alpha and Omega of all creations. Today, Nigeria has more clerics than medical doctors, lawyers and technocrats put together. What more, most of them are well-educated, urbane and politically-exposed. That should not be surprising anyway. Many in the professions have jumped ship, heeded the esoteric call and ‘ported’ to the other side of life where it is now a fad to move in convoys of bulletproof cars and get “blessed’ with private jets. This communion of religionists is brimming with men and women who claim to have received His call to fish for more lost souls which would make this world a better place to live; incorruptible men that cannot be bought with silver of gold. These are men who will tell the leaders the bleeding truth without genuflecting. I speak of men fated to live for the faith so that the faithful can reap from the blessings of the land. Question is: are we progressing towards that reality today? I seriously doubt.

Unfortunately, the hyped pilgrimage by the President and the usual retinue of court jesters does not give one any hope. From the tone of the statement issued by his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, it is obvious that Jonathan would spend more time doing business than he would share with other pilgrims in a solemn assembly. What this means is that he may barely have the time to reflect on why Nigeria is in dire straits. Perhaps, he may not even understand why some of us think most members on his entourage need special deliverance so that they can truly work for the good of all. They need to be exorcised of an ancestral greed that has impoverished most Nigerians. They need to be washed and cleansed before they can begin to see how they have become a major part of the problem. It is for this reason that no one takes them seriously when they preach the mantra of being a critical part of the solution. Have they been weaned of endemic greed and avarice? Have they been purged of a sickening mentality of grabbing and more grabbing?

Interestingly, Minister NyesomWike, wearing a very pious look, stood in for Mr. President during the 4th National Prayer Breakfast meeting organised by members of the National Assembly at the International Conference Centre in Abuja on Thursday morning. He audaciously stood at the pulpit and spoke of how God has used the administration to touch and transform our lives. Ha!

I couldn’t help giggling when I stumbled on Abati’s statement that it was ‘fortuitous’ that Nigerian pilgrims to Jerusalem this year would be doing so with Jonathan. From the clustered itinerary, Jonathan may jolly well be on a working visit to Israel rather than on pilgrimage. In any case, we are aware that not all JPs are worthy of being addressed as such. Even if we concede that chance has a role in the arrangement, how does that affect the price of Okporoko? How much of spiritual interface can Jonathan spare to commune with God on a pilgrimage where he was billed to meet with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset; parley with Israeli government officials on the enhancement of bilateral relations in areas including trade, economic development, infrastructure, transportation, agriculture, communications, culture, education and tourism; and thereafter meet with the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas?

With a delegate list crammed with names of who is who in his cabinet including the National Security Adviser, Col. SamboDasuki (rtd), there should be no prize for guessing where Aso Rock has relocated. And since we have been told, when president Olusegun Obasanjo was at the helm of affairs, that our President can ‘rule’ from any part of the globe, we should appreciate Jonathan’s magnanimity for sparing the time to interact with “some other Nigerians who are already on a pilgrimage to Israel.” Aren’t they lucky? I guess it provides the rare opportunity to ask the President some burning questions. Why the widening gulf between the rich and poor? Why has corruption become the template of governance? What is responsible for our developmental woes in 53 years of independence? And, like ObyEzekwesili recently asked, is bad governance by the political elite the most reasonable explanation for why the massive revenue from oil has resulted in massive sorrow, estrangement and alienation of the citizens? Is this country truly the best example of the African paradox of an old man in diapers?

Perhaps, Jonathan, his entourage and the state governors on the tour would learn one or two lessons from the resilience of the Israeli government over the years. Unlike here where corruption has blighted the vision for a great nation, Israel has continued to rub shoulders with the world’s best in all spheres because of the patriotism and dedication of its leadership. For a country that is always in perpetual war with its neighbours, that is not a feat that should be brushed aside. It is a place where leaders wear their thinking caps on their heads and not tucked in the pockets!

And so, if and when they find the time to pray for this country, may they have the courage to ask God to deal mercilessly with the evil men who continue to kill the dream of this nation no matter how highly-placed or influential they may be. May they be bold enough to crave the wrath of His judgment on the heads of those who blindly loot our commonwealth and expose the vast majority of the people to the vagaries of poverty.As they kneel to pray, may they see visions to guide them through how they can immediately resolve the crisis in the education sector, the paralysis affecting our health institutions, the epilepsy that has gripped power reform, the dwindling economy and cluelessness in governance. And above all, may they understand that, as mortals, serious leaders do not need to live in bunkers, move around in armoured cars or private jets to etch their names in the hearts of the people. Al they need is to be true to their conscience, work assiduously for all and implant their footprints in the sands of time!

Like Governor GodswillAkpabio noted shortly before joining the President’s delegation to Jerusalem, this junket should afford our leaders the opportunity to pray for the progress of the nation. But how can the nation progress in a situation where the direct beneficiaries of Akpabio’s hyped “uncommon transformation in partnership with an uncommon God” are less than ten per cent of over 170 million Nigerians? Or do they serve a God that is different from the one and only God who insists on fairness, equity and love among brethren? Again, William Hazlitt has something to say on hypocrisy: “The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy.”Are they prepared to listen to the admonitions of the sage?

About the author


Lanre Olagunju is an hydrologist turned freelance journalist. He has a degree in hydrology from the University of Agriculture Abeokuta and a professional diploma in journalism from the American College of Journalism. Lanre advocates on several international platforms for the prosperity and absolute well-being of the African continent. He's @Lanre_Olagunju on Twitter