Pius Adesanmi: Prayer is a Nigerian political gimmick

by Pius Adesanmi.

That is how you will maintain your lane jejely and they will make you begin to yarn opata about God and prayer. There is no way to talk about what they are doing, how they are underdeveloping their country, without appearing to sub God and shade prayer. Even if what you are saying is not directly aimed at God, the mud spatter could be flung in his direction.

You are a gainfully employed civil servant. Brilliant young man, leading a normal Nigerian life of oscillation between half salary and no salary. Yesterday, you told me you were off to an all night vigil with some of your colleagues. I asked about work the following day. You said you’d head out to work from the vigil.

I told you that your vigil on a Thursday night – a week day – means you will rob Nigeria of Friday – a half day as it is already. I told you that you’d not be mentally alert and in a shape to work properly the following day after a religious all nighter – with all the screaming and shouting.

Now you are at work on Friday sending me whatsapp snippets from your all nighter. Chances are: while you are at work, you are also sending testimony from yesterday’s vigil all over Facebook and asking other morons like you to type Amen – morons because they are also typing the Amen from work and were also probably at other overnight vigils just like you.

The tiredness, the exhaustion, the stress from sleep deprivation and all night physical exertion at the vigil. You probably spoke in tongue and rolled on the floor. Then you headed to work. At work you will still spend the first few hours in devotion: government work or private sector, the disease is democratic and spares no sector in Nigeria.

Imagine what Nigeria will lose today, just today, because a work force spent the night of a work day at prayer vigil and can therefore not give her best. Not only can this work force not give her best, she is also spending billable working hours sharing testimony from last night’s vigil and asking people to type amen.

I think Nigeria needs to learn from General Yakubu Gowon. If God makes one of the authors of your tragic condition a living example of how not to do things, you better learn quick quick.

General Gowon is a living example of the wrong use of prayer.

Work and pray, says the maxim.
God will work with you, not for you, says the maxim.

Not General Gowon whose maxim seems to be: play now and pray your way out of the damage later.

So he played with the stupendous wealth of our oil boom, frittered it away, helped by an unbroken chain of irresponsible successors.

Then he decided to pray us out of the doom that resulted from too much play and no work.

He founded Nigeria Prays in 1996 and started to make astounding declarations. Some of his boldest declarations were as recent as 2015:

Prayer was the solution to corruption.
Prayer was the solution to our economic woes.
Prayer was the solution to Boko Haram.

He declared prayer the open sesame to all things. He went round the country, hosted by Governors and millions of civil servants who joined their Governors and General Gowon in prayers during work days, stealing valuable billable hours from the system they want to heal with prayer.

Nigeria Prays still exists, it is still vibrant. However, I no longer see or hear the founder going around the country marketing prayer during work week and working hours as the solution to Nigeria’s problems. Significantly, he who once declared prayer the solution to even Boko Haram is yet to declare prayer the solution to the current economic recession.

What do you think happened?

Baba ti jasi ni jare.

Learn from him. Eventually, eyin na ma jasi ni. We are not saying don’t pray for Nigeria. I do. Only remember: God will work with you, not for you.

Remember too: billable hours stolen from Nigeria to pray is sin. God does not answer rikisi prayers. He will probably expect restitution. He will expect you to restore the hours stolen from Nigeria. Then, penitent you should go back to him on Sunday or Saturday – or at any other time that you are not stealing from your work – to pray.

If you are at work sending me the stuff I received this morning, you are an amu ni si wi si Olorun.

Sha ma ko tie ba mi.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada

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