Posted on: 2014-06-09

Righteousness exalts

“Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a disgrace to any nation” (Prov. 14:34) How very often we hear those wise words, a Biblical truth which is not easy to appropriate. No ruler or nation easily admits moral bankruptcy. When last did you hear any leader apologize for anything? Even if majority of a nation’s citizenry raises alarms, leaders raise defenses and shun self-condemnation, no matter how salutary it promises to be. An exuberant preacher in the United States once publicly denounced his country, “If God does not punish America, he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah”, he exclaimed. He sentenced “god’s own country”, in such apocalyptic language because as he said, its leaders claim to be right in everything. Indeed, the “mea culpa’ act requires enormous spiritual energy. When Saint John Paul II apologized to the entire world for the sins of the Catholic Church during the Jubilee Year 2000, not a few people recoiled at what they saw as an act of betrayal of the Church. The late pope has since been vindicated by the purifying effect of that act on the entire Catholic Church.

On top of the situation

For many years before the Boko Haram debacle, Nigerian leaders pretended that nothing was happening in the country that we could not handle all by ourselves. They welcomed prophecies and visions that spoke of a great future but scoffed at calls for repentance and conversion.  Even intellectual and scientific analysts’ warnings were taken with a pinch of salt. Then by 2009 it all exploded in our faces in terrorist bombings and killings. Even then our ostrich game continued unabated. About 2 years ago, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, called on the Federal Government to seek outside help to deal with our security challenges. Many voices nationwide did the same. The government, buoyed by its advisers, prophets and psychophants, thought differently. The swansong then was “Nigeria is okay! We are on top of the situation”! Well, it turns out that we had to wait for the situation to “get on top of us” before calling for help. Perhaps, had we done so earlier, Chibok could have been avoided. Just Perhaps!  

Crashing from the High Horse

The abduction of over 200 Nigerian girls at Chibok by the murderous Boko Haram blew our cover and brought us to our sinful, self-conceited knees. All of a sudden our doors, formerly sealed by the platitudes of propaganda and conspiratorial complacency, have been thrown open to all comers with any guise of helping out. The Americans, English, Canadians French, Israelis, name them all offered to come, And why not, given that we can no longer help ourselves. At Chibok, Boko Haram abducted our very honour and dignity as a nation. But how ever did we come to this sorry pass?  Jesus did say to his followers “your worst enemies will be the members of your own family” (Mt. 10:36).  Could that abduction ever have happened without help from inside Nigeria and from Nigerians? In reality I think that Nigeria itself had long been “abducted” before Boko Haram took our girls. For such a brazen act to succeed, the ground had been well prepared by our chronic sinfulness. Institutionalized Corruption, structural injustice, oppression of the poor, abuse of power and brazen immorality have all for long become our national character.

Like Tyre and Sidon

Sin abducted Nigeria when we embraced corruption and theft of public resources by officials flaunting their ill-gotten wealth in the faces of the poor with no consequences. Sin gripped Nigeria when we gave our highest national honours to world-renowned thieves and tyrants and protected that affront with obnoxious theories of national sovereignty. Yes, sin abducted Nigeria when the sweat of the brow of public workers and pensioners was pocketed by a few individuals who got only chieftaincies and accolades and returned to office to “do the honours again”. Undoubtedly iniquity abducted Nigeria when we abandoned the development of our educational institutions and our youth and chose instead to reward thugs and pacify kidnappers in the name of amnesty. All that while our thirty or so years of indulgence exposed our tender backsides to inevitable restiveness and insurgency.

God is still a savior God

But the mercy of God is everlasting and there is nothing he cannot forgive (Ps 117). God says: “Come let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (Is.11:18ff). We need to truly repent as a nation. Praying to God with no resolve to change our ways only mocks his mercy. “These people claim to worship me but their words are meaningless…” (Is. 25:13) We need honest, courageous leaders who would take the right steps for rehabilitating Nigeria, leaders who would listen to right reason and speak with forthrightness and integrity. Winston Churchill, the great British wartime leader once said “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; it is also what it takes to sit down and listen” As protests and marches for the return of the Chibok girls increase in momentum we Nigerians would also do well to march against our personal greed, superstition and laziness, against religious fanaticism and do-or-die politics our country. We would do well to protest against institutionalized mediocrity and misuse of power too. Our country is ailing, and we all must admit our role in its ailment. We all must work harder to bring back honesty, respect for the rule of law, accountability, leadership-by-service and integrity to our land. These were the first values to be abducted in Nigeria. Logically, they should be among the values we march and protest to bring back to Nigerian life.