Of Absalom, Tobiah And Politicians —Isaac Asabor


To some of us, the names Absalom and Tobiah may sound strange while to those who are familiar with the Bible, it may not. The dictionary of the Bible compiled by D.M. McFarlan briefly describes Absalom as the “Third son of David, a favourite with his father, handsome, vained and spoiled. Absalom ‘stole the hearts of the men of Israel ’ and led a rebellion against his royal father. David had to flee from Jerusalem, but his Commander-in-chief, Joab, defeated the rebel army. Absalom fled on a mule but was caught by his long hair in the branches of an Oak tree. Joab killed him as he hung there.”

The same dictionary of the Bible also describes Tobiah as “An Ammonite, partly Jewish leader who, in company with Sanballat, did everything he could to prevent Nehemiah from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Tobiah taunted the builders, derided their work, plotted an attack, and wrote letters to his influential relatives to stir them up against Nehemiah. But all in vain.”

No doubt, the two biblical personalities described in the foregoing paragraphs were politicians. While Absalom erroneously believed that the easiest way to clinch political position or step into the grandeur of the royal court was to become rebellious,Tobiah believed that to remain relevant in the political equation of Jerusalem at that time was to become a saboteur, a schemer, engaged in McCarthyism and political horse trading as well as taunting Nehemiah’s men and deriding their works and plotting attacks against the government of Nehemiah.

How mistaken and naïve both Absalom and Tobiah were. If they knew they would have followed the way of peace, and we would have been reading them today in the Bible from the perspective of peace and the fear of God.

However, it is not an exaggeration to say that we have thousands of Absaloms and Tobiahs among today’s politicians if the way they behave is considered.

Through inflammatory speech some few politicians have exactly behaved like Tobiah without them knowing. Most of our politicians, like Tobiah, are wont to make speeches or political comments that can inflame popular feeling, rouse their followers to anger against innocent Nigerians and to some extent inflame with passion some “Almajiris” among us to pick up arms against innocent Nigerians. To such politicians, there is no problem as long as they are cheered with “Rankadede” or “Sai baba”.

This piece is not a Bible study manual but suffice it to say that in the book of Nehemiah chapter 4 verse 3, Tobiah made an inflammatory statement that what Nehemiah’s men built was not strong enough and that “…even if a fox climbed up on it, it would break down their wall of stones!” In verse 4, the builders became incensed at Tobiah’s unpatriotic comment.

In my personal view, most of the political comments or speeches which some politicians have made in the past are nothing short of incendiaries. Were our country to be a country where the law is not obeyed in the breach, most of our politicians would have gone to jail for opening their mouths to utter anything that comes out from it. Our politicians should be very cautious on how they open their mouths to speak against the progress of the nation. Napoleon Hill once said: “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

Permit me to partially deviate from my point of view by saying that writers are always careful when they are making their choice of words. This is because they are trained to always have at the back of their minds that press law exists. It is only for this awareness that writers choose to always behave like bricklayers who are wont to select only good blocks when building. Good writers make use of good words to express themselves. Politicians should also learn to always choose good words while making speech at political rallies or when responding to questions from political correspondents.

A glimpse into our political past reveals that a politician once used the word “capture” in a military sense to express the state of preparedness of his party ahead of elections that were conducted in the southwest part of the country.

Another politician, now deceased, once described the entire political constituencies in Ibadan , Oyo state as a garrison. Therefore, little wonder that he was derisively referred to as “Garrison Commander” by many.

Also, another notable politician in a reply to a question thrown at him by political correspondents ahead of an election, said that the election would be a “do or die affair”. Since then, the phrase “do or die affair” has become an egregious political jargon for some political extremists.

Be that as it may, all the references cited in the foregoing paragraphs are inconsequential when collectively placed side-by-side with what General Muhammadu Buhari said concerning the 2015 elections.

Our politicians should stop thinking like Absalom who thought that one can only get to the seat of power through violence. They should understand that it is only God that has the power to promote whoever he chooses to promote. Psalm 75 verse 6 to 7 says “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”

They should remember that the way and manner Absalom died is still possible for those who want power at all costs in our present generation. At least, the deaths of Samuel Doe of Liberia and Muammar Ghadaffi of Libya are good examples for any power-hungry politician to learn from.

Finally, some of our politicians should also realise that violence has never been said to be good. In condemning violence, Mahatma Ghandi said: “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” In this context, “An eye for an eye may only make Nigeria blind in 2015.” God forbid!

•Asabor wrote in from Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]

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