By Pastor Gabriel Olalekan Popoola
Politicians’ desperate appeal to religion as a resort of last line of hope when confronted with firm failure is at once ubiquitous in nature and repetitive historically. Ordinarily, politicians ought not to be thugs and rogues; they ought to be leaders chosen by the larger society to administer the land on behalf of all members of the given society. The constitution and other extant laws of the land make that otherwise difficult administrative job a very easy one. Unfortunately, as events have revealed over the years, particularly in our nation Nigeria, politicians, because of their materialism and acquisitiveness, are more of problem-creators than problem-solvers.
They fail again and again where they should have succeeded; they steal where they should not have stolen; they lie where simple truth should have been told; and they deceive where acting in a straightforward manner would have sufficed. This is the tragic situation of our shameless and dishonourable politicians in Nigeria. Then, when it becomes certain that the failed leader is about to be thrown out of office, having incurred the justifiable anger of the electorates, he suddenly begins to appeal to religion. He claims that he is a Christian or Muslim; he openly identifies with some religious leaders of his proclaimed faith, and in turn, expects all adherents of the faith he bogusly lays claim to, to support him. And this just for political benefit.
This is President Goodluck Jonathan’s situation at the moment as he faces a more than cloudy presidential election in 2015. It is clear that Nigeria, a not so fortunate country with regard to qualitative leadership, is terribly divided along politically created religious fracture lines. The fact remains that no President, in the history of this nation, has succeeded, through complicit actions and inactions, in polarising the nation as much as President Goodluck Jonathan. This fact is already in the public domain. My concern however, is to expose the underbelly motivation of Mr. President’s handlers’ religious hoodwinking of Christians in Nigeria. Christians need to know that they need not rush to give support to just any leader who mouths Christianity, without carrying out diagnostic examination of such a leader. The Bible enjoins us to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
To begin with, there’s nothing wrong with Christians in Nigeria giving wholehearted support to another Christian who aspires to any political office in the land, provided that the said Christian is a Christian indeed, and that he possesses leadership qualities to move the nation in the right direction. As a matter of fact, in our pluralistic nation, just anyone who, irrespective of religious affiliation and inclination, has character, wit, insight, generous spirit, self-control, resolve, honesty and a clear picture of where the nation ought to be, as well as the understanding of how to get there, can aspire to be anything in the country and get the support of the electorates.
In President Jonathan’s case, the undeclared reason for his appeal to religion is simply to take advantage of the numerical strength of Christians among the Nigerian electorates. This is sad. The rush and push currently going on in certain quarters within Christian circles in Nigeria today is totally political and shameful; and all is being done to give undue support to a non-performing president because he is supposedly a Christian. This is not the Bible. The God of the Bible, in actual sense, hounours only responsible people. He demands that leaders be accountable and faithful (1Cor.4:2). Therefore, Christian leaders ought to help Mr. President become more accountable, and rescue him from terribly political pettiness being displayed at the moment.
Let’s consider this important question: should we even consider President Jonathan a President with Christian character? I think not! But wait a minute; am I in a position to determine whether or not an individual is a Christian? Scripturally speaking, the simple answer is yes. In Matthew 7:21, the Lord Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”. The implication of this passage is that open declaration of one’s religious standing, church membership, hobnobbing with credible and influential Christian leaders, as well as financial donations to churches does not confer Christianity on anyone. In fact, the above is totally useless without the heart and attributes of Christianity. To know who a Christian is, the Bible recommends that you look at what he does, and how he does it; check his character.
And then, the Holy Scripture also tells us that we know people – genuine Christians, fake Christians, genuine leaders, not-so-genuine leaders, totally corrupt leaders etc. – by their fruits. The Lord Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:18 & 20). The Lord Jesus simply said, just look critically at people, see what they do, how they do it, check the fruits they produce, and you will easily understand where they belong. They may claim they are God’s, but when you check the fruits of their lives, you will understand to whom they belong.
The word of God then explains how a Christian – and this, all the more, applies to a leader – should conduct himself. The first of these points to be considered here is that a Christian is expected to keep his word. His word should be his bound. He should keep his promises and not be given to frivolities. This is how the Bible puts it: “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:12). This is God’s standard. Do what you say or promise with your own mouth. Now does Mr. President keep his word? I’m sure he does not! I’ll give some examples shortly. But before the examples, please understand that he can still be supported by those who still wish to support him; however, that support should not be based on the fact that he says he is a Christian. Not at all! This is so because he’s not a man who keeps his word, and Christians, real Christians, do keep their words.
In 2011, while going around begging for votes, these were the words of Mr. President: “I do not make empty promises in my campaign because whatever I promise to do, I had already carried out adequate study to make sure I can accomplish it in the next four years.” This was on the 27th of February in Onitsha, Anambra State. But the truth, as available to us all, is that he did promise, but then he failed to fulfill his promises.
On the 12th of March, 2011 in Abeokuta, he promised to revive ailing oil refineries and build new ones. The available fact, as at today, is that Mr. President merely deceived people into voting for him with that empty promise, because as we all know, no ailing oil refinery has been revived, not to talk of building new ones. I know his supporters can come up with a million and one reasons why he didn’t fulfill that promise; but the fact still remains that he did not fulfill his promise. Then on the 31st of March, the same year in Abuja, he promised to expand and develop the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry to provide about one million jobs. Today, we are still waiting for these jobs in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry.
Earlier, in Awka on February 26, he said he would construct all the major roads which link Anambra with its neighbors; complete the ongoing aero-dynamic survey of gas in the Anambra River basin; complete the second Niger Bridge; and complete the Onitsha Inland Port. Nigerians would not be talking about generators by the time his four years in office would have ended, he guaranteed. It is about four years since these promises were made; however, if a Nigerian today does not have his own generator, it is because he is financially incapable to procure one. The promises were largely unfulfilled. Did Mr. President lack anything he needed in fulfilling these promises? Did he lack money, hands, time or occasion? None that I know. He just won’t do what he said he would do.
The above are few of the many unfulfilled promises, pledges and vows of Mr. President. I want to say that no Christian in Nigeria should be deceived into voting for Mr. President in 2015 because he lays claim to Christianity; he should simply be judged by his performance in office. He should be seen as a person – the current President of the country, who made several promises in 2011 while campaigning, and who failed to fulfill those promises – and be treated as such. This is the foundation upon which his re-election or rejection in 2015 should be based, not some useless religious mawkishness.
But then, there are other two important points we need to consider in this discourse: integrity and skillfulness. As far as God is concerned, these two qualities are central to leadership, and without them, no one in any leadership position, in the eyes of the Almighty God, could be considered successful. Hear the Bible: “He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: from following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands” (Psalm 78:70-72).
That’s the Bible talking about David. In this passage, David’s background as well as his emergence to leadership was examined. God took David from following animals and made him a King. He named him His servant and empowered him for just a reason: to feed His (God’s) people, the Israelites. Now this is one important purpose of leadership: feeding, supporting, sustaining, nourishing, nurturing, encouraging, maintaining, strengthening and bolstering the led. Can we say this is what is currently obtainable in the nation under President Goodluck Jonathan? I think not. With the very basic requirement for meaningful living in the 21st century – electricity – almost totally missing in most homes, it is clear that the major focus of this administration is not to feed the poor, but to feed on the poor.
King David, having understood his assignment, settled down to lead his people, employing two important qualities in the process. First, he led his country with the integrity of his heart. He was a man in possession of very firm principles; wholly dedicated to his business, and displayed uncommon veracity in his dealings with his followers. Integrity requires that a leader be open and truthful. Integrity drives a worthy leader to eschew corruption and fight it. It equally demands that the leader be true to the laws of the land and not try to circumvent any aspect of it. A leader with integrity has nothing to hide from his followers, and he constantly fights and punishes, according the laws of the land, those engaged in sleaze. Can we say this is the situation in our nation under President Jonathan? Again, I think not.
Nigerians have not forgotten the recent stinking revelation of how the current Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, squandered 10 billion naira while junketing around. In the revelation, which the House of Representatives later passed a resolution to probe, it was alleged that the minister spent the amount to charter and maintain a jet for her personal use. As shocking as the embarrassing news was, the President has not found any reason to reprimand the minister for spending 130 million naira per month to maintain the aircraft in just two years. Were we blessed with a President who understands integrity and deals with us in the integrity of his heart, this reckless act would have been thoroughly dealt with. There won’t be any reason to bother you with other well-known corruption issues and cases around this government. But what is plain and obvious to all is that this is one administration that lacks integrity.
Now if President Jonathan willingly and consciously flouts important scriptural requirements and recommendations; if he chooses to scoff at the divine principle of integrity, should I then blindly follow him, simply because he claims he is a Christian just like me? This is my point. No Christian anywhere in the nation should allow himself to be sold a dummy. We should not be herded into wrongdoing simply because we have a “professing”, but in actual sense, a scripture-breaking Christian as our president. However, if an individual Christian, given his own conviction of the president’s performance and integrity, decides to vote for him next year, fine. The issue being that the Christian is voting, not because he is glad that the aspiring leader is a “Christian” and not a Muslim, but because the would-be leader is worthy and owns integrity.
The second virtue employed by David in his leadership adventure was skillfulness. Political and administrative skillfulness is possessing competence, adeptness, dexterity and proficiency in handling issues and situations in a way that avoids sloppiness, clumsiness and wastage. It is the hallmark of very capable leaders. It is a virtue that a nation like Nigeria needs in her leaders because of the inherent ability of this singular virtue to clean up built-up political muddle and clutter. Where unfortunately this quality is lacking in a leadership endeavour, as is currently the case with President Jonathan, disorder, disarray and chaos ensue. It is lack of skillfulness that causes a president to confer unconstitutional powers on ex-militants, freeing them to move around in convoys with security men, while reputable men are being hounded for saying their mind.
Imagine the one big ball of mess the nation has suddenly become, all because political and administrative skillfulness in missing. The way political issues and other sundry happenings in Nigeria have been handle by this administration really puts mud on the faces of Nigerians. It is the case of continual falling into one scandal after another, with the most recent one usually being more potent than the previous. Consider the latest in the series of misadventures of an administration void of political dexterity and steeped in error – the invasion of the National Assembly by security men.
While this act has been roundly condemned by people of wit and imagination in the country, the President is yet to see anything wrong with that assault and insult. And why would he? The unfortunate blitz obviously serves hisF purpose. It makes one to wonder whether the President have people who advise him at all. After all, even when a president is not particularly skillful, he still can tap into the skillfulness of brilliant and able souls within the country. With the way things stand at the moment, it is clear that the nation is being ruled by someone with shortage of political and administrative skillfulness, and Christians need to be reminded that God demands skillfulness in leaders that must deliver.
As a function of the above, the important question all Christians, indeed all Nigerians, need to ask before being goaded into voting based on religious or political sentiment is whether we are ready to withstand and stomach another four years of unproductive, completely messy political space dominated by shoddiness, corruption, unresponsiveness and a sense of despair never known to Nigerians since the end of the civil war. The crucial question is whether we are willing to endure President Goodluck Jonathan till 2019!
That idea, that thought alone, for me, is frightening! A president who doesn’t keep his own words, fights dirty, institutes and promotes ethnic racketeering, unable to manage rather commonplace and uncomplicated situations is, undoubtedly, not the person Nigerians need for the next four years of our national life.
Pastor Gabriel Olalekan Popoola, a former University of Port Harcourt Students’ Union Leader, worships with Living Faith Church and can be reached at [email protected]