by Steve Nwosu
And to make matters worse, although the number of pilgrims seems to grow with every year, the ills that bog our country (which we yearly crowd into Mecca and Jerusalem to allegedly pray against) have continued to grow exponentially. Yes, just the same way societal ills in our country have been rising proportionately with the mushrooming of worship places, people come back from pilgrimage to up the tempo of their public treasury looting, impunity and wickedness in high places.
I know I would probably not be writing this if our president were a Muslim on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. I’d be very scared of someone mischievously misinterpreting it. But as a Christian, who is also looking forward to going to Jerusalem some day, it is only natural that I should ordinarily not have anything against such Christian pilgrimage. But having lived in this country long enough to know that presidents, governors and other top political office holders regularly go on pilgrimage and having, over and over again, seen the jamboree that many of these pilgrimages turn out to be, I feel the time has come for us to take another look at this aberration of a supposedly secular state annually sponsoring Christians and Muslims to pilgrimages. But, since this is not an argument I can win (knowing that there is no rationalism in religion), I will not start the debate here today.
However, I feel scandalised at the sheer number of top Nigerian government functionaries at this year’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Being president should ordinarily not deny Jonathan his religious obligations but I don’t think so many people need go with him. I don’t know how other countries do it but something just doesn’t seem right about it. I know that many of the people we daily see around the president in this three-prong trip to Israel may have sponsored themselves there (and, therefore, not drawing directly from our national till), there is something that just doesn’t jell with this trip. I can’t really place my finger on what the problem is – whether it has to do with the size of the delegation or that the entire government literally relocated to Israel (at one instance, I counted about six or seven state governors), or the fact that we are daily making a show of this otherwise private and quiet religious retreat – but something just doesn’t seem right. I know everyone of them must find one thing or another to justify his or her being there but must they all go?
And to make matters worse, although the number of pilgrims seems to grow with every year, the ills that bog our country (which we yearly crowd into Mecca and Jerusalem to allegedly pray against) have continued to grow exponentially. Yes, just the same way societal ills in our country have been rising proportionately with the mushrooming of worship places, people come back from pilgrimage to up the tempo of their public treasury looting, impunity and wickedness in high places. So much so that you begin to wonder why God ever allowed them to come back alive; why God could not command River Jordan to drown all of them there, cause them to stumble atop Mount Sinai and break their necks at the base or force the stones thrown at the Devil during Jamrah at Musdalifah, to boomerang and strike dead the real devils, who are throwing the stones. Well, I guess that is why He is God, whose ways are not the ways of men.
Of course, it is not the first time a sitting president would be going on pilgrimage. I remember seeing picture of Abacha in the traditional off-shoulder white cloth quietly going through the processes. I also remember that the Buhari regime was overthrown in 1985 while the second in command, Gen. Tunde Idiagbon, was on pilgrimage. In fact, even Yar’Adua regularly went too. Afterall, it was the lesser hajj, Umrah, that we were initially told that the then president went for. It was only after Umrah was over and the president was still not back that we began to ask questions. Then, people – including even Christian aides, ministers and party men, began to go visit him at ‘umrah’.
But nothing has been as celebrated as the current pilgrimage embarked upon by President Goodluck Jonathan. Maybe because it is the first time that a sitting president would be going on the Christian pilgrimage – what with all the pictures that daily hit the newsrooms from Jerusalem.
Of course, our situation in the Nigeria of today sure needs prayers. Plenty of it! And from everywhere too – whether Mecca, Medina, Munah, Jerusalem, India or even from the Osun shrine in Osogbo, they are all welcome. Prayer na prayer! My only problem is that, from the pictures so far published, it appears as if the people we sent there do not seem to appreciate the seriousness of the business at hand. They have, therefore, not devoted enough time to the praying part of the trip. In all the photos I have so far seen, you could almost think that they were on some sort of picnic. It is either they’re posing at the feet of a Prophet Elijah statue, playing with the water at the River Jordan, stuffing prayer-bearing pieces of paper into the cracks on the Wailing Wall or cutting a cake outright. It has every trapping of those sight-seeing (excursion) trips of our primary and secondary school days. Like we did in those days of innocence when we did not give a care about anything, the executive pilgrims of today are not failing to grab every opportunity to smile at the cameras, and pose for photographs to capture the moment. Of course, I don’t blame them. It was Jonathan – not they – who wanted to go and pray. So, many others are there just for the estacode – or the much touted BASA agreement with Israel. So, for them, any other thing is holiday and tourism. So, while Jonathan is praying and praying and speaking in tongues, they just hang around, looking out for photo ops with the President – photos they would come back to enlarge, frame and put in their offices and sitting rooms to tell everyone that they went to Jerusalem with Jonathan. Even when they were at some special service and were supposed to be praying seriously for Nigeria (with their eyes closed, in true Christian tradition), I still saw a few eyes, peeping out to look at the cameras. Haba! It was only ‘Pastor’ Jonah Jang that I saw with clenched fists and teeth – and eyes squeezed shut – in the true prayer warrior fashion. But we can second-guess Jang’s problem and why he has to pray so ‘violently’. He is the one who would go back to Jos – not Akpabio, not Uduaghan or even Suswan. Lest I forget, I also felt the force in Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor’s prayer mood. I suspect, he had Boko Haram in mind while he was praying. The only problem, however, was that while he was at it, the others were smiling at the cameras.
And as if the executive pilgrims had not done enough damage already, they now took Nigeria (in the form of a massive cake) and drove a knife right through its middle. And these people are supposed to be praying for the unity of this country? At a time when every clan is threatening to use the opportunity offered by the proposed national conference to seek to break away? Or have we started the dismembering in Israel? But that is just my mischief.
However, if you want to take the mischief a little further, you’d see that it was Jonathan, supported by his Niger Delta brothers and a few Igbo, who had the firmest grip on this dismembering of the cake – with the Middle-Belters (represented by Jang and Suswan), stretching their hands and struggling to get a grip on both knife and cake too. The only visible Yoruba person I saw in the picture (Jumoke Akinjide) cleverly stayed away, preferring, instead, to hold the microphone to supervise the cutting. Tomorrow, she can deny that she never touched the knife and was, therefore, not among those who tore up Nigeria. Of course, no core Northerner agreed to be a part of this splitting of Nigeria (cake). Does that point to anything happening in our polity today? But, of course, my mind is just wandering. So, dear readers, you’ll do good not to believe any of the stuff you have read relating to the interpretation of the photograph herein.
My happiness, however is that happenings at home indicate that those in Jerusalem have not really taken their eyes off the politicking ball. That is why I can understand why some of them are praying with one eye open. They have to eternally be on the watch just in case a certain Rotimi Amaechi, who is as Christian as all of them, suddenly shows up or gets up to another mischief back home in Nigeria
But I’d like to assure them that there is no cause for alarm. For both Rotimi Amaechi and the new PDP people are in good hands – with the likes of the Police and the FCDA. So, Mister President, just concentrate on the prayers. Those of us you left at home, including Sen. Bala Mohammed and the IGP, will ensure that Abubakar Baraje and his group of rebel governors do not as much as even hold a meet. We have sealed all the lodges they use – and we are ready to seal up more if they relocate. In fact, we are considering demolishing one of them now, so that you can come back issue a statement, condemning our action and saying you did not sanction it. But we would have pulled it down by then. Meanwhile, we would keep harassing the rest with police, EFCC, police and the FCDA – just to ensure they never get their balance.
You can use the rest of the time to sign the BASA deal with the Israelis. You could even meet with Stella Oduah, away from the prying eyes of the lawmakers and these pesky, self-serving transparency campaigners and even decide on what story to tell the probe panels – both the one constituted by the Presidency and the one by the legislators. Don’t mind all their talk about you protecting your minister; after all, you’re not the one, protecting Farouk Lawan, are you?
Read this article in the Sun Newspapers
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