Domestic black rats (Rattus rattus) are a mischievous species. They will always find their way wherever a hole can be made and they will breed. And when they breed indoors, they are good at shredding up papers to make a nest. To them, any paper is just a nest-building material – whether it is your birth certificate, college degree, employment letter, or even cash. They do not tear up your important documents because they are trying to be wicked, they only want to make their own children comfortable. But here, I have a different species of black rats in focus; the giant, two-legged, cloth-wearing African species – Rattus humanus.
Don’t look into your biology textbooks for Rattus humanus – that’s not the usual scientific name. They have shredded up every useful piece of wealth on our continent to build fluffy nests for their own children. They have shredded petroleum refineries and depots, they have shredded educational systems, they have shredded roads and hospitals, they have shredded pension funds and fuel subsidy cash, and having successfully shredded the past, they are now shredding the future. Just to make luxurious nests for their own children. How shall we get rid of them?
I happen to be conversant with many churches. There is a fast-growing church brand in Nigeria. On a certain day every month, they hold an early morning prayer meeting tagged “Power Must Change Hands”. The prayers they render there are marvellous. Although not in these exact words, the pattern is usually like this:
“Every black rat, shredding the important documents in my house; what are you waiting for? By fire, dieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”
Whether that is the best method to get rid of document-shredding Rattus rattus, I cannot tell. As for me, I prepare to “do something” about the rats when they come my way. I feed them the kind of food that will be their last. They won’t be able to eat another meal after that. However, Rattus rattus could be easier to deal with. We can’t use the same “do-something” method for Rattus humanus, else we will become criminals like them. But would it suffice to simply pray and not do anything?
“Every pot-belly, swallowing our collective wealth, what are you waiting for? By fire . .. …………………………………………………………..!”
This morning, I read the transcript of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s TEDex speech on “vested interests”. He was urging youths to use the 2015 elections to get rid of the vested interests that are holding our economic and social well-being to ransom. Well, he spoke well. Only that he did not grasp the full scope of the infestation. In the first place, he saw the vested interests are Homo Sapiens rather than Rattus Humanus.
In the late 80s and early 90s, we thought that the military were our problems. If only the military would go away from politics, we thought, Nigeria would be free from her owes. Well, ole gbe, ole gba – I don’t know how to interpret that one. Ask your Yoruba friends what it means.
It has been fifteen years of democracy and relative oil boom. Oil prices have risen well above what they were in the late 90s. In January 1999, oil was $17 a barrel. It’s presently above $100. What has happened to the increased oil revenue between 1999 and now? Yes, indeed, some progresses were made. Some major projects were embarked upon. We have managed to keep the country moving, though it could have been kept running. We have managed to keep the country together and avoided civil war.
(to be continued)
I do not have many things against the persons of the Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, or Pastor E. A. Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. They are respectable men in almost every respect. However, I would like to draw their attentions, or the attention of the people that work with them, to a pathetic situation lying between their doorsteps, which is being ignored.
For about two weeks now, I have been passing by the Breakthrough Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God on Oda Road, in Akure, the Ondo State Capital. Just about 30 to 40 meters from the main auditorium of that church there is a young woman, who is obviously suffering from some form of psychosis. That parish is an Area Headquarters within the Ondo Province 1 of the church, and it has a nursery and primary school within its campus. So, it is in fact a major branch. A lot of well-to-do people worship there every Sunday and during the week. Moreover, a lot of other people who are not members of the church bring their children and wards to that school every weekday. Some of these people are highly placed government officials. I have observed, amongst others, a Toyota Prado Jeep with a State Judiciary plate number and noticed a police orderly and a “big man” whom I presume to be a judge in the vehicle.
Why am I going into all these details? Very simple. I want either the church or the state government to do something urgently about the situation of that poor woman. In previous times, I would have written a letter directly to the Office of the Governor and attached a photograph or video of the woman or may have also written to the office of Pastor E. A. Adeboye, but I note that my last letters [about different issues that are very dissimilar to this] to these offices were not replied. For Pastor E. A. Adeboye in particular, I think my last letter to him was sometimes in November 2012 – sent by DHL to his office at Ebute Metta in Lagos, and tracked and confirmed delivered. But till date, there has not been a single acknowledgement of that letter – so I won’t bother sending one more. I guess the only kinds of letters Nigerian leaders respond to are Open Letters.
Here in Africa, especially in Nigeria and Yoruba land, psychosis is still believed to be a spiritual problem. I cannot debate that perception. It may as well be true as not. But what I can say with evidential fact is that psychosis is also a medical condition that can be treated. Our Governor, Olusegin Mimiko is a medical doctor and would understand what I mean. Treating psychosis may involve hospitalization – but in fact less than 5 minutes’ drive from where this woman is, there is a specialist hospital where the woman may be treated. Anti-psychotics are not too expensive. Probably, with less than 50,000 Naira the woman can be treated and restored to health. Why is she left out there suffering? Abandoned. Why are the parishioners passing her by every Sunday and during the week days – and she still remains there not helped? Why are highly-placed government officials passing her by daily and taking no action? After all, the offices of both the State Governor and the State Commissioner for Health are yet another 5 minutes drive away in the other direction. Both Mimiko and Adeboye are managing corporate budgets in excess of several billions of Naira every year, yet someone is here suffering from a sickness that can be treated with less than N50,000. Should I say it is unfair?
In fact, I will be unfair to the persons of Mimiko and Adeboye if I should depict them as personally responsible for the well-being of this individual. For the Governor, well, maybe – after all, he is the final man of responsibility as far as the State is concerned and he owes a duty to see that every citizen of the state is protected and in peace. On the other hand, churches are charities. I cannot hold the church, responsible for ignoring the plight of the poor woman. However, many years ago, I read Charles Sheldon’s book, In His Steps, in which the author told a story highlighting the question “what would Jesus do?”
So, what would Jesus do for this poor psychotic woman? Leave her out there to keep suffering in her sickness until some morbid rapists impregnate her? Abandon here there until some fetish people murder her for the so-called money-making rituals? Exactly what would Jesus do?
In December, I had an argument with one friend who is a member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. He was trying to convince me to be part of the 100 days fasting and Prayer which the Church planned to commence from the 2nd of January this year. I told him I am not interested. He tried to persuade me, telling me there is anointing in the church. When I asked him to explain to me what “anointing” means, he declined and I still waiting for his answer to date.
You know what, I want to see that anointing in action at this time. I want to see how that anointing would motivate the church to help this suffering woman at this time that the church is focused on her one hundred days of fasting and prayers. I want to see that anointing touch the hearts of members of that church who are also highly placed-officials of the Ondo State Government and let’s see if the Government would do something about the situation. I want to see that anointing at work in the hearts of members of that church – at the Parish, Area, or Provincial level – who are medical doctors.
I will check again on that spot within another one week and see if the woman is still left there – between the doorsteps of Mimiko and Adeboye – suffering from a treatable illness.
RESCUE THE PERISHING, CARE FOR THE DYING . . . Rescue the perishing, DUTY DEMANDS IT. . . Jesus is MERCIFUL, Jesus will save.
Jesus mingled freely with the scribes and the Pharisees – who were at their own time deeply respected and widely regarded as the “experts” on the “Scriptures” as then was (presumably as much as Genesis to Malachi). When it was time to commend them, he generously commended them; but when it was time for him to correct him, he did so very sternly.
One of those days, he told them “search the scriptures” (John 5: 39). Now, I would really want you to do that in the very literal sense – S E A R C H the scriptures. I have had the privilege of taking time to read through the Bible from Genesis to Revelations – just for the pleasure of it. And I did read the very “unbelievable” parts and the very “boring” parts as well as the “very funny” ones. I did that as a very young man. I told myself something like this; “imagine that you were a cow, you will have to eat grass in bulk and find a convenient place and time to ruminate”. So, I read the Bible like a cow – for subsequent ruminations – and I still have a cow sense of it.
These days, though, I just S E A R C H the scriptures. If I need to find out what the Bible says about Jesus, for instance, I simply log on to www.biblegateway.com and type “Jesus” then click search. It will bring up every place in the Bible where the name “Jesus” occurs. If I needed to find out what the Bible says about TITHES, I do just the same. Just search the scriptures – then you will find what you are looking for in wherever it is mentioned as well as the cross-references.
One other thing I must say, though, is that truth is a “spherical phenomenon”. Unless you are God, you cannot see all the sides of “truth” at once. And look out there, you would see that the basic building block of everything that God made comprises of spheres and circles. From the smallest atoms to the biggest planets, what we find in God’s natural world is mostly a system of spheres in which each sphere rotates on its own axis and revolves in a circle around another sphere. That’s where truth lies. You can’t see all the sides at once – while you are looking at truth’s western hemisphere, the other person is seeing just the eastern hemisphere; while all you see is the northern hemisphere, all that the other person sees is the southern hemisphere. So, cool it down; and don’t draw out daggers because the other person doesn’t see things the way you see. Just testify of what you can see, and hear, and handle, concerning the word of life, (1 John 1: 1) and be quick to hear but slow to speak and slow to get enraged (James 1: 19) when the other persons render their own testimonies too.
Those were preambles, what I want to really talk about is the place of tithing in the Christian faith. Last week, I had to put one or two thoughts here and there – especially on the Facebook walls of certain friends, because of the hemispheres from which I have looked at the subject. I have actually searched the scriptures and found all the references to tithes. I made some research outside of the Bible too, but we won’t need to go into that.
I wish I could take time to expatiate and expound the subject but time and space will fail us. See, as you go through the Bible, you will find that the first Biblical character that paid tithes is Abraham (as Abram). You will find that record in Genesis 14. One significant thing you will see in there is that contrary to what some popular preachers wants us to believe today, it wasn’t paying of tithes that made Abraham rich or secured. As you move backwards into Genesis 12, you will find that God blessed Abraham and said “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you, and through you will bless the whole world” (Genesis 12: 3). In order words, God would bless Abraham and “rebuke devourers for his sake”, even though he was yet to pay tithes – and God didn’t demand from Abraham a tithe in return for this blessing. You would see how Abraham went on to be very rich “in livestock, and in silver and gold” (Genesis 13: 2) while he was yet to even pay tithes. Then you would see how Abraham went to war against the kings that took his nephew captive and got victory on every side – not as a result of paying tithes, contrary to what we are being made to believ in many “prosperity churches” today.
However, then, Abraham met “a stranger” – someone we might call a “normadic preacher”, whose roots Abraham did not know. That normadic preacher blessed Abraham (Abraham who had earlier been blessed by God). So, Abraham paid a tithe of the bounty, or loot, that he had taken from the war and paid it to that “stranger” man of God – Melchizedek. Please note that Abraham had been blessed before he paid the tithe, and did not obtain the blessings because he paid tithe. Rather, he paid the tithe because he appreciated the blessings that were upon him. And you can see from the story that he paid not because of what he did desire that God should do, but in appreciation of what God had done.
Second you would also see that he didn’t tithe his own “livestock, and silver, gold” which he had abundantly but tithed the loot. The rest of the loot he dispersed and refused to take anything personally from it, so that it won’t be said that “the loot made him rich” (Genesis 14: 23).
Abraham’s son, Isaac, inherited wealth and prospered amidst famine, and dealt securely amongst his enemies (Genesis 26) not as a function of tithes either paid by him or by his father but by a covenant that God made with his father, a covenant that precedes the paying of tithes by Abraham. (Genesis 26: 2- 5). There is no record of Isaac paying tithes yet “He continued to prosper and became a very rich man” (Genesis 26: 13, NIV).
Then there was Jacob, Isaac’s son, who encountered God in a place he named “Bethel” and pledged to God that he would return to pay tithes to God in that place if God would protect him and prosper him on his journey. (Genesis 28: 22). I wondered what mode of delivery he intended to use to pass this tithe to God. However, interestingly, God told Jacob to return to Bethel and live there (Genesis 35: 1). Somehow, Jacob did not remember to pay the tithe he had vowed to pay (or the Bible writers forgot to write it down) and neither did God remind him or demand of him, or accuse him of robbery.
Then again we encounter tithes in the Laws that Moses gave the children of Jacob (or, Israel, as he would be later known). Mind you, God did not demand of them to pay the tithe as a result of Jacob’s/Israel’s failure to honour his tithe vow. It was entirely not connected.
Please search the scriptures and you will see how God instructed the tithes to be handled and used. Time and space constraint will not allow us to go into all the details, but let me summarize:
1) Tithe was essentially about FOOD. Throughout the scriptures God paid particular attention to food. Interestingly, the first commandment that God gave to man in the Garden of Eden had to do with “eating”. So, tithes were to serve one primary purpose – to prevent starvation in the nation. First, God had barred the tribe of Levi, which he was separating into priestly service, from owning lands – and therefore from becoming farmers – so that they would be completely sold out on their priestly duties. And having committed them to that work of the altar, he made the provision for them not to starve. Second, “foreigners, fatherless, and widows” and the poor generally MUST not starve. That essentially was what tithe was all about. In fact, when you carefully read Malachi 3: 10, you will see that there was only one reason why God wanted the children of Israel to bring the tithes into the storehouses “so that there will be plenty of FOOD there”. (Malachi 3: 10, NIV)
2) Tithe was NOT money. When you carefully study the scriptures, you will see that God didn’t ever want to receive tithe as money. He always wanted it as FOOD. Search the scriptures, it’s all laid out there. Primarily, under the laws of Moses, the tithe was solely agricultural. It was not demanded from all and sundry, but from those who had lands and livestock. And they may NOT pay money in lieu of their tithes. If they lived in a place that was so far from where they had to transport the tithes to the where it would be paid, such that transporting the tithes would be cumbersome, they were allowed to sell the agricultural products that constituted the tithes, move the money to the destination city where the tithe would be paid, BUT they won’t pay the money in lieu of the tithes. Rather, they would use the money to buy any other FOOD available in that city and then take the FOOD (NOT the money) in “God’s storehouse” (Deuteronomy 14: 24 – 25). (I’m wondering why Moses didn’t want them to simply deposit the money and leave it to the keepers of God’s storehouses to purchase food as the need arises, and why he insisted on them changing the money back to food in order to make it “tithe”.
3) Summarily, the tithe was a sort of “social security” for the ancient nation of Israel – it was to provide for the basic needs of those who were in full-time religious and community services, and those who were poor, and/or without their own direct sources of income. It builds upon the same principles that God had taught that nation in the wilderness, when he provided them with manna and instructed them to gather only what they needed and not keep anything overnight. Paul would later reflect on that “manna experience” and wrote to the Corinthians:
“for you to share with them when you have so much, and they have so little. Later, when they have more than enough, and you are in need, they can share with you. Then everyone will have a fair share, just as the Scriptures say, “Those who gathered too much had nothing left. Those who gathered only a little had all they needed.” (2 Corinthians 8: 14 – 15).
4) In “giving tithes to the Lord”, what made it “given to God” was not the fact that it was taken to the Temple or to the storehouses but that it met the needs of those who couldn’t meet their own needs by themselves. God doesn’t eat food (Psalm 50: 12 -14) and He doesn’t spend money. When the foods were “paid” into God’s storehouses as “tithe”, God wouldn’t come down to eat them. It was by reaching the full-time priests, and the poor, including the fatherless, the strangers, and the widows, that it got to God. (Deuteronomy 26: 12)
“If I were hungry, I wouldn’t tell you, because I own the world and everything in it. I don’t eat the meat of bulls or drink the blood of goats.” (Psalm 50: 12 – 14)
Then the king will say to those on his right, “My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me. Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, “When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?” The king will answer, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25: 34 – 40, CEV)
So it was; God did not eat the tithe, he only ate it through the poor and the dedicated ministers who didn’t have their own channels of provisions.
5) Jesus, at his time, and his apostles after him did not receive tithes. Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi and was not a priest. His apostles were also not priests of the Levitical order and they did not receive tithes. Thus, the Christian church did not receive tithes for the first several hundred years. That is why you see no mention of tithes in the Acts of Apostles and in the epistles. The only epistle that mentions tithe is that to the Hebrews and the purpose was not to instruct the church to pay tithes. Rather it was to demonstrate how the “New Covenant” supersedes the “Old Covenant”.
6) Apart from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the only other place where tithe is mentioned in the New Testament is where Jesus spoke of it to the Pharisees:
You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you’re in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your garden, such as mint, dill, and cumin. Yet you neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the important things you should have done, though you should not have left the others undone either. (Matthew 23: 23)
First, you would see again from this passage that the tithe was agricultural – it was FOOD. The tithes commanded under Moses were not to be paid from wages but from agricultural products. Second, you would see that Jesus implied that “paying tithes is not as important as showing mercy and being faithful”. I don’t know whatever the word “mercy” might mean to you. But like He had earlier said in the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5: 7 KJV) And we also know that “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” (Lamentations 3: 22). So, I will humbly posit that when God “rebukes the devourer for our sakes”, it is by his mercies and not a matter of our paying tithes – but where tithes come into it, is because by paying the tithes (as FOOD) and thus providing the basic needs of the poor and needy, we are showing MERCY to the poor. So, it is a matter of MERCY not a trade thing where we appease a God whose nostrils streams out hot lava every time we fail to “settle him” with his “share” of our incomes. Thus essentially, when the Christian churches amongst non-Jews were commissioned, they were never instructed to pay tithes as a means to secure God’s favour, or protection, as we are now being made to believe by prosperity teachers. Rather, they were simply urged to “remember the poor”. (Galatians 2: 10). Our blessings and our prosperity and protection are always a function of God’s mercy, and not a function of tithe-paying.
7) Because Jesus had said “These are the important things you should have done, though you should not have left the others undone either” (Matthew 23: 23) many who collect tithes in the church today have used that point to argue that Jesus did not abolish tithes. Yes, indeed, Jesus did not abolish the tithes – because, for the Jewish nation, it was to provide a means of meeting the basic needs of the poor and needy in the society. But what those churches that are collecting the so-called tithes today are raking in, are not essentially tithes, because they are collecting the MONEY whereas tithes were neither paid nor collected monetarily even when the “Old Covenant” subsisted and peasants and artisans were not the ones paying it. Again tithes were not collected as a means to appease God from being angry with men, or to secure lives and properties. So, if anyone wants to pay tithes today, they should pay it as it was paid, and those who collect it should collect it as it was collected. Although, Christ does not require us to tithes today, and we should rather stand firm in that liberty – choosing to be fully committed to showing mercy, which according to Jesus is more important than paying tithes; I will recommend that those who wish to pay tithes should do so correctly. It is not a sin to pay tithes. It is in fact a good thing. And tithe-collecting churches must NOTE that tithes under the old covenant was “sacredly dedicated to meet the basic needs of full-time ministers who had no other enterprises, and the basic needs of the poor and less-privileged in the society”. If your church must collect tithes today, or any money under the guise of tithes, then those tithes must accordingly be dedicated for the use of meeting BASIC NEEDS of the categories of people earlier identified.
Under no circumstances should tithes be invested, or used to purchase non-essential properties, such as private jets, and Lincoln Navigators. Tithes may be used construct and maintain vicarages where the minister does not have his own house and is fully dedicated to church work and community service, it may be used to construct hospitals, maternity homes, schools that provide free or highly-subsidised education to children from low-income, or no-income backgrounds, building of low-cost housing estates which may be provided rent-free or at highly-subsidized rents families with low or zero incomes. It can also be used to provide supplementary allowances to low-income families, especially where such families are members of that church, and in the community in which the church is located, irrespective of the race and creed of the beneficiaries. Tithes can be used to provide health insurance cover for those who can’t afford health insurance on their own. Tithes is not for marble floors and air-conditioners in church auditoriums; if such things are needed as special collection should be made for them. Tithes is basically FOOD and essential commodities – any expenses cannot be categorized under “food (inclusive of anything that enhances health), clothing, and shelter”, in that order of importance, may not be put under the tithes account. Only if the church has sufficiently provided food, clothing and shelter for as many less-privileged as they can meet in the church’s host community, and having leftovers can the church begin to spend tithes other needs that are basic but not so essential. By the term “less privileged” I don’t mean only the “destitute” – there are so many people out there, and among us, who as suffering and smiling. Reach out to them.
(Well, it has already become an epistle and has taken out a big chunk of my day! I wish I could say more – but I will find time to come back to this. Thank you for your time. Every blessing!)
I guess, when it comes to social media, not as many of us still like the face or name of our president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, as we did three years ago – when the story of his “remarkable luck” fascinated the nation. Well, perhaps it’s “just my luck” that I chose to put his face on the cover of my last book – Fellow Nigerians, I Wish You Good Luck.
Yeah, I know not many of you got around to read that – (it’s still on sale now, though, $8 in the US and less than ₤5 in the UK, I’m not sure what Jumia.com are saying but soon sha they will finish sleeping and you would be able to get it from them too) if only to avail yourself of the many “amusing” jabs and some really thoughtful controversies in there.
Not that I am always deliberately “controversial” but the truth is that we live in a society that breeds natural conflicts – conflict of religious persuasions, conflict of political affiliations, conflict of sexual preferences, conflict of choice of language, conflict of personal perspectives about what someone else writes on his own Facebook wall, et cetera, et cetera.
A friend took a copy of my Fellow Nigerians, I Wish You Good Luck and noticed the dedication page:
To Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR . . .whose first name and the history of his many “lucky” attainments . . . inspired me to write this book. And to the many Nigerian citizens and residents who go to bed hungry most nights, . . . while even the exotic dogs of their wealthy neighbours have more than enough to eat.
That friend wondered if I was deliberately being provocative by juxtaposing the “lucky” success of Mr. President with the abject penury that plagues our country amidst wanton waste of wealth. Well, not really. I’m a “pure breed”. Pure breeds don’t go out looking for trouble, but if trouble comes looking for us, we don’t budge. A ma ta tan sibe ni. We always give the situation whatever it takes. And when the situation requires telling the truth as it is, without mincing words; we do just that.
On November 28, 2011 – TELL magazine was saying concerning the book, that it is “structured to have a conversational tone, [it] gives the reader the feeling of being part of the writing process”. That editor did get me feeling a little flattered when he concluded, “Undoubtedly, Oyetomi has done a good job of recording some part of Nigeria’s history, while expressing his candid thoughts”.
Wow. I like candour. I always like to say precisely what I mean; only sometimes just a little less, but very rarely more. I have been tongue-tied for a little while now, at least because of distractions and detractors. Yet once more, I feel like saying a few things – only that I can’t shout. As in, I nor fit shout. The Naija palaver tire me small.
Nevertheless, it’s an appropriate time to talk. And I will be talking soon. In fact, I have started to clear my throat, so that I can yanu bi apere (open my mouth wide like basket mouth).
If I remember correctly, there is a page in the Fellow Nigerians book in which I said something like “drunk drivers steering the nation”. I must have been comparing the nation to a moving vehicle, and those in political leadership as drivers of that vehicle. That analogy makes sense to me because I have had a good share of rides in public buses. I remember travelling from Ibadan to Akure one of those nights, and I was sitting in the front, beside the driver – chatting with him. Most other passengers had slept off. We chatted about many things, and allowed our conversation to steer itself. When we got to the issue of “substances”, he told me “igbo na fine food” (i.e. marijuana is good for the body). He said, if I had slept off like the others, he would have allowed Mary Jane to keep his company somewhere along the way. My eyes widened a bit. I smiled. “And your eyes won’t get cloudy?”, I asked him. “Of course, not”, he replied me, “It does make me very balanced. I cool down with it. Especially, if all my passengers have slept off and it’s a night journey like this”. How very interesting!
Igbo na fine food! That expression stuck. Don’t quote me o, and don’t try it. And if you have been trying it, stop it – if you can.
Sorry, that was a digression. I was saying something about steering the nation. Nigeria is a moving vehicle – I can’t determine precisely what kind of vehicle it is. It could be an aeroplane, but I doubt – because it’s not moving that fast. Possibly, it’s a molue bus or gbadigbadi canoe. Whatever it is, it’s a vehicle and we are all in it. And it does have operators – a large crew, headed by a captain, or driver. They seem to know what they are doing. The confidence they exude shows that they are convinced that the nation is moving in the right direction, following the right course, and progressing at the appropriate speed. So, it’s a little controversial when I come on social media and see all the noise you all are making. Yet, I know that igbo na fine food.
Please kindly don’t quote anything I have said so far – but you can quote this one: I, Temitope Oyetomi, I believe in Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and I am praying for him to succeed. Someone said that’s a bad prayer, and I was wondering what that person meant. Have you ever seen a situation in which people are riding in a bus, and praying that the driver of that bus should not succeed? Or, rather, would you pray while flying in a plane that the pilots should fail?
[From this pointforward, again, you can’t quote me.] Well, I know say igbo na fine food but I am praying for every driver and every pilot in this world that they may always succeed. And I am praying for all the passengers too, may we not all sleep off to the extent that we won’t be aware when drivers and pilots start eating “fine food”.
Anyway, to stop perambulating, very recently I wrote to some people that matter – including Mr. President and Vice-President Namadi Sambo, and some other “timbers and calibres”. I have informed them that soon, I will be publishing a sequel to the Fellow Nigerians book. The new book is titled, Understanding Transformation. I should avail you of this paragraph from my letter to the Presidency:
Positive national re-orientation, and entrenching best practices values in society, is not just a matter of political office alone. It is boils down to quality leadership in every sector as well as motivation for those who follow. If we must build a truly great nation, we must inspire all hands to be on deck – and that inspiration must start with you, and I, and indeed everyone that we can get to understand how the process of positively transforming a nation works.
I will be keeping much of the rest to my chest until the book comes out of press. Meanawhila, you might want to catch up with where the conversation began by ordering a copy of Fellow Nigerians, I Wish You Good Luck from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.ca The links are inserted below:
And for a parting shot, I was growing through my files and saw some letters I had kept. I decided to share one of it with you here. It was from the Office of the Speaker House of Representatives. They were describing one of my books as “intellectually engaging and challenging”. I think, apart from when I am being deliberately jocoserious, that’s always how I love to write. I like books that are intellectually engaging and challenging, and by God’s grace, my Understanding Transformation will certainly be one of such.
“God” is the Reason I’m NOT Sleeping With Your Mum.
© Temitope O. Oyetomi, 2012
(WARNING! – This work of fiction may be seriously provocative).
Since I got your text two days ago, I have not stopped chuckling to myself. You’re just too smart and too funny! We’ve had more than enough arguments between us about whether God exists or not, and I think, if I remember correctly, I’ve told you that I no longer have a problem with the fact that you have stopped believing in God.
But just because I liked the Facebook status of someone who quoted a Bible verse, you sent me a text calling me “a misguided, brainwashed fool”. You said many unrepeatable things just because you want to shame me into dropping my Christian faith. “Gullible”. “Mumu”. Me, your best friend? That was quite harsh, brother! Common, bro, we’ve come a long way and differences in religious convictions should not separate us. Nothing should separate us. Your words were so unkind but I forgive you. That’s at least one thing that my belief in God enables me to do – forgiving people when they hurt me.
Now, it’s gonna be your turn – we’ll see whether you can forgive me or not. And whether you can forgive your mum. You are my very best friend – but, actually, something happened between your mum and me six years ago. We were “consenting adults”. I’ve kept it from you because it is the only reasonable thing to do and because I love you and don’t want to hurt you. And I don’t want to hurt your mum too. She really loves me! I’ll need you to please forgive me and forgive her too. Be kind enough to let’s keep this as a secret between the three of us forever. Your dad must not know. Nobody else must hear about this.
I know this will really hurt you – I’m not sure if your religion – “atheism” – allows you to forgive people. But kindly find some reason to forgive both your mum and me. You must know that I love you, and your mum loves you too. We’ve stopped it. Believe me. My belief in God helped me to stop sleeping with your mum. When I became more religious, or “crazier and more lunatic” as you called it, I decided it was sinful for me to keep sleeping with my best friend’s mum. I’m sorry.
Really, I don’t know if you need to thank God for this – since you don’t believe in Him (or “It”, as you always refer to God). But the truth is that God has been very good to you one way or the other. Believe me.
I hope by the time you’ve finished reading this, we would still remain as best friends.
Please kindly reply this email and reassure me that I will be forgiven – and that you won’t hold any grudge against your mum. If you want me to, I will make a full confession to you and give you all the details.
I’m so sorry for everything, bro.
PS: Please kindly don’t try again to convince me about how foolish it is to believe in God. I can’t defend what other “Christians” do, but for me, even if it makes me “a misguided, brainwashed fool” and “mumu”, I’ll prefer to remain a Christian. I fear that if I lose my faith in God, I may resume sleeping with your mum; and, you know, your kid sister is ripening too.
Comments: Friends, let’s pretend I’m David and you’re Tunde, kindly leave your replies here and tell me what you feel about this and how you would handle this situation.
I laugh a lot – and make people laugh – because I am not a very happy person.
Of course, it must seem to you like a contradiction of terms. But that’s just the truth. Every morning when I wake up and step outside my compound, and see streets that have no defined pedestrian areas, I’m saddened. That’s how most streets in Nigeria are. Cars, tricycles, and motorcycles, compete with pedestrians for the imaginary walkways between the “roads” and the gutters. I have a problem with seeing the gutters – the open, stinking drainages that also serve as trash collection troughs, and, occasionally, as toilets. I’m not sure if anyone else has a problem with that – unless when, occasionally, there’s the “mad” driver, whose rough manoeuvring scares you enough to dash across the gutter suddenly so you won’t be knocked down. You see, we are so used to it. But really, in a proper city, the street drainages shouldn’t be open gutters, and there should be litter boxes at reasonable distances, and there should also be well defined pedestrian walkways, which okada riders are not allowed to convert into auxiliary roads. Such “tall dreams” may not ever come true in Nigeria – because nothing works in Nigeria. Or, so we have been programmed to think.
I am Nigerian and I have to speak the truth but then it has often been said that truth is the first casualty in war. War is not only when one country attacks another, or when one deviant group incessantly carries out a bombing campaign on innocent people. In fact, war is more often a mental state in which our thought inclinations violently collide. Under such circumstances, truth is the first thing we dispense with. Most people would always claim to be truth-loving and truth-speaking, yet when you open a can of truth for them, they look at it like a can of worms.
One basic truth I would like to state here – for the records – is that I have a problem with the performance of the present administration. The other basic truth is that I have a problem with the manner people speak about the performance of the administration. Goodluck Jonathan is not particularly my favourite kind of person – I prefer leaders who are altruistic, which are a very rare breed world over, anyway. Yet I must say that Goodluck Jonathan is not squarely our problem in Nigeria. Every time we refer to him as “clueless”, it not only suggests that he appears indeed clueless, but it also shows that we are more clueless about the situations and about governance – that makes him King of the clueless nation.
Eighteen years ago, I bought my first copy of Robert Schuller’s Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do. I must have read it more than 20 times since then. It got to a point that when I start on any paragraph in the book, I could read the rest offhand with almost 90% accuracy. One of the best lessons I picked from that book is “put your problems in proper perspectives”.
Yesterday, at work, as I was flipping through the newspapers, I asked the rhetorical question – what really is the problem with this country? A colleague commented “Number 1, Goodluck Jonathan”. We laughed it over. But seriously, come to think of it, how is Goodluck Jonathan the Number 1 problem in this country? It’s not that I completely disagree with my colleague. I am aware that Nigeria has about 167 million problems, and that the Number 1 among us is the very Number 1 among them. Only in that wise, do I agree. But that means you and I are part of the 167 million problems too. You don’t have to agree with me.
Coming to cluelessness, and especially as it affects the Boko Haram issue; every time a bomb explodes, people rush to blame the Goodluck administration as “clueless”. You and I are also “clueless” too. See, terrorism is a very ugly monster. These “bombsters” are a sort of elves and fairies. If you know your enemy, it becomes easier to deal with them. Bombsters are these sort of freaks that don’t even understand their own selves; which makes it much more difficult for anyone else to understand them.
See, America and NATO were in Iraq – but in spite of the presence of more than 200,000 well-equipped and well-trained soldiers, backed up with high-level intelligence agencies from the most advanced countries of the world, suicide bombing has been sporadic in that country. Cut and paste – if you bring in 200,000 US and British soldiers into Nigeria to help manage the security situation, it won’t automatically stop the bomb blasts. If you sack our own NSA, and let the American CIA and FBI run the show here, it won’t automatically stop the bomb blasts. These are the versions of the truth we don’t want to hear because we are persuaded that we are being led by a clueless man. Yet these facts have already been demonstrated in Iraq.
Well, let’s get it straight – Iraq is not under military administration; it’s officially a democracy like us. And in case you don’t know, Iraq is higher up on the Human Development Index than Nigeria. In terms of population, we are 4 times the size of Iraq. But the Iraqi per capita wealth is higher than ours. It means that they have more money to spend on anything – including security – per person, than we do. Yet, the rate at which they record suicide bomb blasts is higher than ours. We don’t have thousands of American soldiers and intelligence here, they do.
Terrorist bombing is a challenge that catches even the most developed countries unawares. Last July, the building housing the office of the Norwegian Prime Minister, and the Ministries of Justice and the Police, was attacked by a car bomb. That was in Europe which is largely more advanced than Africa. It shows that when people with convoluted thinking go berserk, they can go after even the best equipped and well-informed police systems in the world. But for sheer heroic patriotism, the US Capitol would have been “plane bombed” on September 11, 2001, just as was the Pentagon – where there is the headquarters of all American military forces. Those bombings were not simply blamed on “cluelessness”.
So, now, let’s put our problems in proper perspectives. The suicide bombing issue in Nigeria is not the problem of one man – or one group of “clueless” people. In many ways, they may be clueless, though. Yet, my take is that the task of combating insecurity and underdevelopment in the country remains a communal one. The Government has a larger percentage of everything, no doubt. They take the larger percentage of the money; they make the larger percentage of the policies, and of course, they are entitled to the larger percentage of the blame. It is just right to blame them.
Notwithstanding, life is an interconnected stuff – everything affects every other thing, although not so obviously. The most salient point, however, is that you have to do your own part and do it very well enough. As for the “clueless” ones, very soon they will be dealt with.
In the meanwhile, churches and corporate organizations have to look inward and determine what measures they might take to protect themselves and their premises from this new type of threat. I have been in cities where most windows are just glass, with no iron bars behind them; and where most homes have no fences. If you would find fences at all, most of the fences would be at most 2 or 3 feet tall. But here in Nigeria, we have minimised burglaries with iron bars behind almost every window, and with very high walls topped with wires as our fences. It has helped to limit intruders. In a sense, we dealt with that level of threat. It is not the government that build those fences for us or put iron bars behind our windows. We do it ourselves.
In like manners, our churches and organizations have to assess how to rise up to these new levels of threats. That does not mean that Government does not have a role to play. It means we should do our own best for our own selves rather than just sit around blaming the Government.
It may sound like a joke; in a piece in which I was saying I was “dreaming” about things I would do if I were the president, I wrote this:
“As president, I would ask the Police to get a national emergency number, say 419 like the Americans use 911. It won’t be various numbers for various police stations. I saw some very long un-memorisable numbers on the website of the Nigerian police. How on earth do they expect anyone to know such numbers? The first thing most robbers do now is to take your phone from you so you won’t be able to call. How does the Nigerian police expect a traumatised robbery victim, whose phone has been taken from him, to remember a 10-digit emergency number? It’s rather ridiculous. I mean, we could instead have 419 – which is the most popular police code in Nigeria. If you are robbed, and your phone is taken, you can get to a call centre and just dial 419.”
Well, the policing and security system is already a 419 system. I won’t say more for now.
Different Styles of Passing the Message Across
I like my own style; particularly my quiet, under-ground moves. But that doesn’t mean that I am not sufficiently skilful in other styles. These rather loud styles – of tweeting and blogging – were just not my favourites. At the beginning of 2012 though, I decided that I would add them to the other styles that I have been using.
Don’t get me wrong, I like your style. I may not really like it when you open your mouth wide and call someone “mumu, who had no shoes” as though you would dare repeat that to his face – say, if you were to meet him one on one. It’s not because I am a coward, or because I like the performance level of his government. In fact, if you see how audacious I have often been, you sef go fear fear. My personal guard, though, is that I always try to avoid saying anything behind a man if I reckon that I would be unable to repeat it to the man’s face. It’s what restrains me from misyearning – most times, at least.
Yesterday, a friend was tackling me on my Facebook page – he wrote on my wall, “Tope, being an ardent supporter of Mr. President, I’m sure you will like how he is operating now” – and I wasted no time in giving him my retort as follows: “For your information, [my friend], I am neither for nor against Mr. President . . . It’s always hard for me to take sides, even in football matches, if you must know. Many of you simply assumed that my book was pro-Jonathan; which I don’t mind at all, since most Nigerians only see the cover or title of a book and then conclude that they already know everything that is in that book. My book discussed many issues that we face as a nation today – for instance, 1) The need for a National Constitutional Conference 2) Reforming the Nigerian Police Force 3) Fighting Corruption, 4) Many issues too numerous to list here. Tell me, what better way could I have smuggled these matters to the president’s table than to wrap it in a book that has his face as the cover? These are the same issues every one of us wants to talk to Government about and I found a smart a way to pass it across”.
What Have I Been Passing Across?
On 10th October 2011, I had sent a letter to Navy Captain Olubolade (Rtd), the Minister of Police Affairs – as you would see in the attached file. Of course, it was only a covering letter for a complimentary copy of the book that I was sending to him. In the letter, I wrote as follows: “The book has two sections, the latter of which is captioned “Endemic Problems of the Nigerian Society”, and it is especially for this that I think you will find the message of the book pertinent to your job, as the Minister of Police Affairs . . . I am sending you this copy at this time because it discusses problems of the Nigerian society with particular mention of the Nigerian Police in several instances . . . I have been privileged to encounter and study our police systems in their operations and I opined that a very urgent and extensive reform needs to be carried out”.
Well, 3 months have rolled by since I sent that letter and the book to the Minister – and I am yet to receive any acknowledgement from his office. What was I thinking when I sent that letter to the Minister? Was I hoping that it would be better than going on Facebook or Twitter and “yabbing” our policemen? Of course, I was not comparing styles . . . I was just gbaduing my own style, which, of course, involves addressing the problems directly rather than taking recourse to what I call “back-of-the-class-murmuring” approach. As a matter of fact, I have assessed my life and found that it’s not worth more than a single bullet. It’s not like I’m going about in search of that bullet, though; it’s just that I have come to the knowledge that death will come when it will come, anyway. Nevertheless, I understand that death will not come without the pre-knowledge of God; and as Christian who has embraced the calling to teach the spherical truth, I have accepted the risk of assassination as an occupational hazard. So, I am never afraid to tell those who are in charge of the affairs of our nation the whole truth without mincing words. And my approach is to tell it to their face, straight from the shoulder.
They might eventually decide to silence my still small voice with just a single shot – it won’t matter. However, when that moment comes – if it comes, it won’t be for hurling stones at a substance-abusing, gun-wielding, policeman, or soldier; it won’t be for making jest of someone for growing up without shoes, it won’t be for threatening to make the country ungovernable – those are not my particular styles. It might be for daring to beat the Agidigbo drum in the ears of the powers that be . . . I am also Yoruba; in Yoruba culture we don’t curse the king . . . we might rather keep mum, while letting our drums talk in the palace, ever only in proverbs – Agidigbo style – only the wise would understand, and the very intelligent would recognise the undertones. Style na style.
Boko Haram, MEND and The Secessionist Agenda
Apart from style and being Yoruba, there is another reason why I caution my style of “talking” in the public. It’s because I always prefer to retain penetrative insight into anything I am talking about. I hate to talk just for talking sake. The problem with penetrative talking, however, is that it could pinch – or sting – the people you are being careful not to offend. I’m afraid that you won’t gbadun my penetrative style. But just because you no gbadun am no mean say . . . make I shut up.
The country has been languishing at the recent Boko Haram attacks and we have all been saying one thing or the other – even the President himself has reportedly said a few surprising things. To me, Boko Haram is just MEND. Pure and very simple.
Look at it:
1) MEND was seemingly trying to pull the South away, Boko Haram is trying to push the South away.
2) MEND was using bomb blasts to seek control of the South by Southerners, Boko Haram is using bomb blasts to seek control of the North by Northerners.
3) MEND was a group whose real identities were mostly hidden, but who were sending out press releases from obscurity – copy and paste the same for Boko Haram
4) The operations of Boko Haram became more pronounced after the operations of MEND waned, but the presumable motive of splitting the country into North and South remains.
5) I don’t want to say more.
When Y’aradua pardoned Niger Delta militants, and asked them to surrender their arms, we hailed that move as a very good solution to restiveness in the Niger Delta. I like it too. But I have questions.
1) Did Government – through the police, or whatever, set up an inquest into the operations and ideologies of the MEND?
2) Were the pardoned Niger Delta militants debriefed by the police on
a. How they were funded as militants?
b. How they acquired their weapons?
c. How they paid for their weapons?
d. Who were the manufacturers and/or suppliers of the weapons?
e. How they made their bombs?
f. The recipes for the bombs?
g. How they infiltrate locations to plant bombs?
h. How they recruited their members?
i. How their members were trained?
j. (Lol . . .I don’t want to ask more)
3) So, for what then did the Government pay through the militants’ pardon and resettlement programmes?
4) Are the tactics of MEND and Boko Haram in anyway similar or different?
5) Would the persons who marketed and supplied weapons to MEND have been complacent to lose their business or would they have chosen to look for another avenue to keep themselves in business?
6) Could a police debriefing of pardoned Niger Delta militants give Government an insight into curbing Boko Haram?
7) (You want me to ask the more serious questions, no, I won’t).
All I see here is that Boko Haram looks like a morphed version of MEND. Possibly, only the name and pawns have changed.
I was saying in that small book that the Nigerian policemen are too “natural” and they need improvement in their “internal equipment” . . . whatever that means. See, I am using my own “internal equipment” here, so that I won’t always remain “natural”. Possibly, the seemingly satirical manner in which I referred to the manner that the Nigeria Police force is equipped might be the reason why the minister of Police Affairs refused to respond to my letter and the book. However, on 8th December 2011, I wrote to His Excellency and mentioned that while he should exercise caution about the way his Government is pursuing the fuel subsidy removal, he should note that “the way the Nigeria Police Force currently works is extremely pre-modern” and needs transformation. Maybe, His Excellency too is not gbaduing my style.
I guess all of una no gbadun my style. I’m gbaduing yours, though. We are together in this struggle. Occupy Nigeria is not a matter of 2015. It’s for today. Now!