21st January, 2015
By Akido Agenro
The Nigeria society has often been described by a number of commentators as a theatre of the absurd on account of strange occurrences that frequently find expression in the actions and utterances of the citizens. For its only in the comic world as dramatized by comical characters who like puppets under the manipulation of external forces are prone to illogicality and irrationality on stage to the amusement of the audience does one find the type of bizarre acts prevalent in this part of the world where a man will exhibit an attribute that is totally out of tune with human nature. Some times the attitude could be the exact opposite of what the individual professes in life. It’s in sync with this trait that a party leader can hobnob with the opposition party and still retain his position and continue to enjoy all privileges due to that office. In the same vein, an ex president will publicly disparage his successor without recourse to the need to preserve the sanctity of that office yet feels no sense of qualms just as a father can donate his own daughter to insurgents to be deployed for suicide bombing mission.
Clergymen the world over are noted for their genteel mien and quiet disposition. They tread the part of tranquility to avoid attracting unnecessary controversy since the church, a conservative institution is averse to mundane issues. The men of God were an embodiment of meekness, chastity, purity and love as they exuded charm, goodness, liveliness, moral probity, fairness, justice and equity hence they were held in high esteem in the society. No condemnation proceeded from their mouths true to the admonition that “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye”. [Matthew 7: 1-5]
Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka’s New Year eve homily in his Adoration Praying Centre, Enugu was more of a manifesto declaration by a political party than a church sermon. The venue for the crossover service had all the trappings of a political rally except for the absence of posters and banners bearing images and insignia of candidates and their political party. The man of God virtually adorn the toga of an opposition politician the night that he went for the jugular of Mr. President abandoning the parishioners who craved a message with spiritual edification to equip them for the new year. He left no one in doubt as to his mission of recrimination against President Goodluck Jonathan. Burning with rage he threw caution and decorum to the wind. He was neither restrained by moral scruple nor did he exercise tact in deference to the office of the president. He just fired on and on like deranged man denied of his ration.
His message entitled from Goodluck to Bad luck was filled with bile from the beginning to the end as the Reverend picked hole in the Jonathan’s Administration right from its inception in 2010 following the demise of President Umar Yar’Adua, an incident which the catholic priest blamed on Goodluck Jonathan. His other sins include rising fuel price, insecurity in the country arising from insurgency, the kidnapped Chibok girls, corruption, high cost of living, bad roads etc. He capped his critique by accusing the president of deviousness when he claimed that President Jonathan feigns an Ibo man at the approach of elections by adopting Ibo names of Ebele and Azikiwe only to drop these names when elections are done with. Suffice to say that Rev. Father Mbaka took the president on an all-night appraisal of his stewardship in office since the past six years and awarded him abysmally low marks to the cheering of the congregation. In rare display of emotion mixed with sentiment the man of God spilled venom. According to the American essayist and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson [1803-1882], “The corruption of man starts with the corruption of language”.
But Father Mbaka should have considered the matter carefully before making his pronouncement. If blame is to be apportioned, the church and other religious organizations ought to take a greater share of the corruption ravaging the country, a development which he placed squarely at the doorstep of the president. The church should accept its failings, as other faiths should do as well for being unable to raise Christians who pursue righteousness above material gains, men and women who ought to be shining lights in every dark alley in the society such that those who see their good work will give glory to Jesus Christ in Heaven. It is easy to condemn corruption. But who are the perpetrators of corruption in government and private organizations? Are they not the same worshippers who populate the churches on Sundays and mosques on Fridays? This will necessarily be so since prosperity gospel is now the vogue in Nigeria with valuable time devoted to eulogize then supplicate for material and financial blessing before yet another part is used to do hatchet job on politicians and little time is left to consider the spiritual wellbeing of the congregation.
Ironically again, while claiming to have received a divine message to speak, Father Mbaka harped on insecurity in the country, a phenomenon that was foisted on the nation by his fellow travellers, the Muslim fundamentalists, the men who spread radical Islamic doctrine the very same type he is wont to introduce to Christendom. The insecurity that is at the moment troubling a large part of Nigeria stemmed from this same claim of a divine obligation to obliterate infidels from the face of the earth. Based on such false doctrine Islamic radicals take advantage of the young people who are brought to them for mentorship to responsible adults who end up as agents of death and destruction having been brainwashed to see the government and its agencies as institutions that are organized to oppress and denigrate him.
Had the Reverend Father expressed his tirade in a private forum it would have been conceded to him as his personal opinion which he is entitled to in a democratic society, the model that Nigeria is striving to build. But it is against democratic norm for any individual or group except politicians and association of persons who share common interest as political parties, interest and pressure groups to persuade any citizen on the candidate or party to vote at an election. Given this standard, it’s only those who have attained a certain level of maturity (18 years in Nigeria) and of sound mind are thus in a position to appraise the political cum socioeconomic situation that are eligible to vote. The church is an assemblage of people with different political affiliations, ethnic backgrounds and professional callings with spiritual wellbeing as the common interest hence it’s not the ideal place to spread political ideology or engage politicians in verbal combat.
Being an ordained Christian minister like the chief priest of old who was the diviner of the oracle, the guardian of the natives in traditional African society similar to the prophet of the ancient times who intermediated between the Almighty and the Israelites, the congregation is not in a position to disagree with the priest on issues he raised on the pulpit. Their silence should not be mistaken for consent rather their civic right should be respected with the understanding that life goes on outside the four walls of the church.
The attitude of running down political leaders is unbecoming of men and women in Nigeria. It is alright when criticisms are issue-based to the effect of pointing out areas of weaknesses identified in the official in the discharge of his brief but to seek to ruin the political career of an elected or appointed government official on account of perceived shortcoming is mischievous, unjust and an overkill. Senator Iyabo Obasanjo lamented this state of affairs with regards to her own experience in government when she noted inter alia, “Nigerians are people who see corruption and self-service in everything because I think they believe everyone is corrupt like them. Nigeria is a nasty place that pushes people to lose their compass. The whole system including the public themselves want oppressors not people working for their collective progress”. (Open Letter to My Father, published 18 December 2013).
Considering the volatility of the Nigerian society care should be exercised not to mix politics with religion. Democracy has its norms and values. Democracy thrives where the citizens are disposed to applying restraint in their actions and utterances. In the pursuit of their rights, the recognition of their limits is crucial otherwise society regresses to the Hobbesian state of nature where life was nasty, brutish and short. Rev. Father Mbaka’s outburst verged on democratic license.
•Comrade Agenro is Coordinator Movement for Democracy and Civic Orientation, 18 James Street, Iju-Ishaga, Lagos. Phone: 08055410516, Email: [email protected]