Saint Peter sent the following memo to President Goodluck Jonathan. The memo was a response to Mr. Jonathan’s recent announcement – at a congress of the Redeemed Christian Church of God – that he had put Nigeria in God’s hands.
Dear President Jonathan, You’re not the first Nigerian public official to receive a letter from heaven but I hope you will be the last. I have God’s instructions to write this letter to you and to make it as plain as possible. The theme of this letter is simple: God wants no part of the organised scam and confusion that Nigeria has become. Nigeria’s public officials are notorious for making hypocritical or misconceived statements. They rig elections, for example, and then proclaim that their power came from God.
They loot the treasury – and claim that God blessed them with wealth. They leave Nigerian roads to deteriorate to terrible conditions. Then, when horrible accidents occur on these roads, presto, these officials assert that the deaths and injuries were caused by some demonic force. Some of you even have the effrontery to declaim such tragic occurrences part of God’s design.
Your country’s public officials relish flying to German, British, American, Saudi Arabian, French and Indian hospitals whenever they have a serious health scare – or, sometimes, just a headache. Yet, they won’t ever work to lift their country’s healthcare system from its squalid state.
As a result, millions of Nigerians die needlessly. Your officials spend long hours, day and night, carting away their country’s resources to private bank accounts all over the world. Then, as their country gets more mired in misery, they shout that God is in control. And they admonish the victims of their corruption to pray and fast, to importune heaven for solutions to their manifold problems. They award national honours and chieftaincy titles to certified criminals, and then wonder that terrorists and kidnappers prowl the land. With a straight face, they sell a lie to Nigerians: that it’s God’s job to pronounce a halt to the spree of suicide bombs and other forms of violence.
I’m going to be blunt. God is not amused a bit about the way Nigerian officials abuse His name. The appalling habit causes a lot of head-shaking and even occasional fury in heaven. You must be aware of my rebukes to your predecessors for making light of God’s name.
You must know that I sternly warned them to leave God out of their sinister plots and diabolical schemes. Yet you, President Jonathan, have chosen to carry on in the manner of previous occupants of Aso Rock. That’s why this letter became not only necessary but also urgent. Recently, you attended a congress of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The caption of one newspaper report said it all: “RCCG Congress: Jonathan Entrusts Nigeria to God.”
The report’s opening paragraph stated: “President Goodluck Jonathan has entrusted the nation’s future into God’s care. On Friday, Jonathan told the teeming congregation at this year’s Holy Ghost Congress, organised by the Redeemed Christian Church of God, that prayer was the panacea to the country’s present challenges.”
The report continued: “Jonathan assured the congregation that he would not give up on doing what was right, adding, with optimism, ‘I have a strong conviction that we shall all overcome our present challenges.’” You were quoted as claiming that your 2011 election owed to “the efforts of the General Overseer of RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, and the innumerable members of the church, who overwhelmingly supported him.” In your own words: “Two years ago, I was here to seek the face of God and ask for your prayers for the last presidential election. I want to thank God that the victory was made possible through the prayers of Pastor Adeboye and the church.” And the paper quoted more of your words, remarkable (above all) for the misalliance between expression and reality.
For example, you boasted: “I am guided by biblical principles of transparency in leadership; government is pursuing the agenda of regaining the trust of the people to foster unity and peace.” You had come to this year’s congress, you told the congregation, “to pray for signs and wonders in government.”
And, lo and behold, one such verbal “wonder” came as you “knelt down before the whole congregation” for a “prayer session.” Pastor Adeboye was apparently so carried away by your presidential aura that he went into rhetorical overdrive. “He is the God of wonders who turns impossibilities to possibilities,” said the good preacher.
He continued: “Our concerted prayers for the country and her president will surely turn the tide and restore the country’s lost glory. With our leaders turning to God for wisdom and sense of direction in prayers, God’s mighty hand that delivered Israelites from Egypt and brought water out of the rock, would change our misfortunes.” It was all theatre, President Jonathan. And God wished that I tell you that He’s not impressed in the least.
If you were guided by biblical principles, then you would act compassionately towards the teeming populace of Nigerians, who – like you in the past – are shoeless, foodless, bookless – and close to hopeless. You would not be spending more than two billion naira, building a banquet hall for your Olympian feasts when tens of millions of Nigerian children go to bed each night with hunger, ringing its rude bells in their empty stomachs. There’s nothing in the Bible that justifies the president, feting himself with more than a billion naira in a country where the minimum wage is a crime against the humanity of its recipients.
Those of us in heaven thought we knew everything – until you claimed to be a practitioner of “transparency in leadership.” We immediately summoned Saint Paul, the resident language expert around here, but he couldn’t decipher your words. Or rather, he couldn’t find anything in your record to justify the phrase. In the end, in his characteristic sense of humor, he concluded that you must be drawing attention to your transparent disdain for Nigerians.
Remember how you responded to cheeky Nigerians who demanded that you – permit me to use your words – display “transparency in leadership” by openly declaring your assets? You hectored, “I don’t give a damn!” (As an aside, that presidential declaration about not giving a damn will, in time, claim its pride of place beside the great sayings by such world leaders as Winston Churchill, Mansa Musa, Mahatma Gandhi, Charlemagne, Nelson Mandela, Napoleon, Bill Clinton, and Martin Luther King, Jr.) To return to a serious vein, here’s the message, President Jonathan.
There are no signs or wonders coming your way anytime soon. You want signs and wonders? Make it happen! Create some. Fire the really, really sleazy ministers in your cabinet and hand them over to serious prosecutors. Do it today, not tomorrow, and there would be a nice sign. Slough off the obscene privileges and trappings of your office, roll up your sleeves, and go meet Nigerians in the hovels and shacks where they reside in extreme privation. If you really intend to elevate their condition, go to them and excite them with the zeal of your dream. Inspire them with a vision of real, meaningful change.
Your countrymen and women desire and deserve real leadership; cease serving them the pablum of divine providence. Here are some of the things that your people need and yearn for: good roads, regular, dependable power supply, an excellent educational system, an effective healthcare program, good jobs, the institution of sound moral and ethical values, and a legal system that does not spare the mighty, the wealthy or the connected. Let me make clear: God is not in the business of building roads, hospitals or schools. He doesn’t build electric power plants.
He doesn’t sweep dirt from streets or act as a prosecuting attorney. These jobs are competently handled every day by humans – and in many nations, including those that officially don’t believe in God. In the coming year, I suggest that you and other Nigerian officials take a retreat. Set aside one week, travel to a secluded location (without cell phones, TV or any other distractions), and meditate.
Ask yourself if you have what it takes to be a real leader, not just a self-aggrandized copy. In the end, if you find that you don’t have a clue how to lead, that you must throw your hands up and raise your head to the sky, gazing for signs and wonders, then may I suggest, simply, that you declare yourself ill-equipped for the office you hold? Yes, do for yourself what a boxer’s handlers do when their man is being battered in the ring: throw in the towel. Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe