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Opinion

The Priest And The President

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By

Femi Adesina

Let’s go back in time to May 2004, when the lands of Yelwa-Shendam, in Plateau State, had turned crimson. Primitive fury and hatred were unleashed, leading to internecine bloodbath. Hundreds and hundreds of people were killed along religious lines. It eventually led to Governor Joshua Dariye being removed, as a state of emergency was declared, and a retired army general appointed sole administrator.

While the place was turned into killing fields, the then President Olusegun MATTHEW Obasanjo (emphasis on that middle name) visited, and met with the different stakeholders.

During the dialogue session, the then Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Plateau State asked a question the president found offensive. And the Owu man, a retired army general, flew off the handle. He let out this fusillade:

“What role have you played to bring about peace as CAN Chairman in Plateau State? CAN, my foot! What kind of CAN chairman are you? Did your own Christianity teach you about revenge? You are an idiot. A total idiot. And I have no apologies for that.”

Pin-drop silence. Strange things do happen in Nigeria. But it had never been seen like that. For a father of the country to publicly excoriate a religious leader? For a Matthew to call a preacher an idiot, “a total idiot?” It was sacrilege walking on two legs.

And again, for a president, who laid claim to being a born again Christian, to denigrate the association of his own faith? “CAN, my foot!” It was the height of it.

Of course, Obasanjo was president! Big shot. But many things were wrong with his conduct and the cavalier treatment he gave to a priest, a man of God.The Holy Bible makes certain things clear about our spiritual leaders:

‘Obey your leaders and submit to them. For they watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this will be unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17.

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Again, we are charged: “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord, and give you instruction.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 12. In fact, the next verse directly tells us to “esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”

So, for a Matthew to call a priest an idiot, “a total idiot?” Not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination. It was a bad example for all believers.

Well, the saga ran for a while. The man in question, Rev Yakubu Pam, said security agencies summoned and asked him to apologize to the president for the public spat. Insult on injury! The two men continued with their public lives. Obasanjo finished in office, and went on to take a degree in theology. I’m sure he now knows better about those the Holy Bible says “speak evil of dignities” (2 Peter 2:10), and the consequences. I believe he has privately repented.

Rev Pam finished his term as CAN Chairman in Plateau State. He went on to become Chairman of CAN in all North Central states from 2008 till 2015, and then, Chairman CAN in the 19 Northern states and Abuja, till July 4, last year, when he was named Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC), the regulatory body for Christian pilgrimage in the country.

A tale of the priest and two presidents. Publicly flagellated by one, a Matthew, and now, honored by the other, a Muhammadu. What Rev Pam didn’t get from a Christian, he got from a Fulani man from Daura, a Muslim. Is there any lesson we can learn from this? Think about it.

A couple of weeks back, precisely on January 14, 2021, Rev Pam was at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, leading an NCPC team on a courtesy visit to the president. An idiot, “a total idiot” was at the seat of power, being treated with the dignity he deserved, by a man of a different faith. Holy Moses!

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Rev Pam delivered a speech at the event, under the title, “In Peace We Blossom”. He recounted how he had been campaigning on the need for peace round the country in places like Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa states, among others. He has met with church leaders also in the South-east and South-south zones, as well as youth groups. He submitted: “I humbly appreciate Mr President’s vision on peace building and deeply grateful for the confidence reposed in me in this respect.”

Rev Pam is obviously a man of peace. That was why “when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23). How many of us would be called an idiot, “a total idiot” publicly, and would not talk back? How many of our modern-day preachers, who arrogate all sorts of powers and authorities to themselves, would not have cursed Obasanjo publicly, asking him to apologize or be killed by God within seven days? (You know, some of these modern preachers speak as if God was their personal property, who they can command and order around).

I tell you, this Rev Pam, from Gyel, Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State is a reconciliator, a peace advocate, and that is why God has lifted him up today. And not through a Matthew, but a Muhammadu, one against whom all lies under the sun have been told: he’s a religious bigot. A herdsman. A nepotist. Jihadist. Everything. May God forgive those who condemn the person they don’t know, and have refused to know.

President Buhari personally congratulated Rev Pam on his appointment as NCPC boss. He encouraged him to continue with his peace building efforts across the country, stressing that no enduring development could be possible without peace.

It was a day one was very glad to witness. A pauper can become a king. An idiot, “a total idiot,” can become a man of honour. It is God that does it. Don’t you think?

*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity.

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Opinion

Why I Love Kids

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Why I Love Kids

By

Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

I love kids. I love childhood. I love children. I refer to real kids, the unsoiled ones. The ones who see this world as a world of no impossibilities. Daddy is a hero, a magician. With daddy around they can get all they need, all they want. The ones who say ‘I will tell daddy for you’. If they tell daddy for you, daddy will deal with you. Or the ones who say ‘Mommy said I should tell you that she is not in the house! And unwittingly cause a war between two families!

I love their unspoilt nature, their innocence, their simplicity, and their lack of pretence. With them you know where you stand. They will not scheme against you nor hatch an evil plot to destroy you or derail your career. They will not envy your successful life. They do not pad things. They may make things up for their world to flow. But they do not mean to destroy your world. Their world is governed by truth, truth as they see it. They may be, they are often naïve but they are genuine. They may not act right. But they keep no malice. They trust adults. They believe adults. They want to be like adults in some respects. Yet in their world, the mindset of the adult is dangerous!

When daddy has no car, it is because daddy does not need a car. Not because he cannot afford one. When daddy says ‘there’s no money’, they say to ‘daddy go to the bank and take money’. and to dad’s ‘There’s no fuel in the car! they say ‘Let us go to the fuel station to take fuel! They do not have fake identities. They are who they are. They are, they could be fun to be with, especially if you are a grandfather, not obliged to pay their fees or be with them twenty-four hours. They make you forget the uglies of the world. You stay with the beautiful, the good, the kind, and the testimony of sainthood. In the world of kids, there is no malice. In malice, be like children. In understanding be like men. So, the Apostle Paul says. The assumption is that all men have understanding. We know however that sometimes, the naivety of a child is more powerful than the wicked understanding of an adult. It is our peril. It is our doom. Adults rule the world. Not children. Wish they could rule the world!

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Some powerful men, like most rich men, treat women like kids. Their kids. Their play thing. Their toy. The gambit is money. Influence. Access. The women look at them in awe. Treat them with awe. They exhibit the innocence and charm of the kid. They throw up the charm of a kid. The men fall for it. They lap it up. They fall for it. And the relationship becomes sweet, remains sweet. Until when the innocence disappears, that is, when the woman discovers the web of deceit, lies, and cunning. Innocence or the appearance of innocence in a woman portrays the image of the child, the vulnerable. It makes men want to protect them.

Childhood is innocence. It ought to be innocence, that is, a child ought to be innocent. Childhood is synonymous with innocence. At some point innocence disappears. They grow out of it, into the adult world. Like the children in William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies in which Ralph ‘wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of a man’s heart’ as the beast in children rises to the surface and dominates the landscape, their lives, their stay in the wild.  Maturity comes. Maturity? Perhaps, not maturity. Savagery. Exposure to the greed in the world. The hate. The jealousy. The spite. The bile, hidden one. You could be an adult without being mature. But you cannot be a child without innocence. Once innocence is lost, the sanctity of the contract between childhood and innocence evaporates. Golding also writes about ‘the world, that understandable and lawful world’, which ’was slipping away!

The child is the man. The child is the father of the man. This is belief in the future. It is hope. It is faith.  It is a seed that is planted to be nurtured when, if all circumstances are equal. It is no apotheosis of any kind, no epiphany; nothing near it. It is no divine revelation, no. It is the reality that we contend with daily. That hope is humanity. That hope is the future of humanity, the earth, the cosmos. So, when we destroy the kid, we destroy the future. Not in the physical sense may be. But in essence. To be sure there are consequences.

The kid dies in the child that is exposed to or plunged into the ugly dangers and filth of the adult world before the age of innocence naturally ends. And that is the plight of our world. Our fall. Our doom. Our death. Too many things kill innocence. Sheer brigandage rules the airwaves through the power of technology. Social media. Blogs. Porn sites. Wars and rumours of wars. The smartphone. The Internet. Brigands in power. Disappearance of sacred values or nonrecognition of sacred values. Muscles of the adult world squeeze life out of the chest of values, of decent codes, of mentorship.

There is a sense in which an adult loses innocence after trauma. This is another form of innocence. Experience, sometimes traumatic, opens the eyes to the realities of existence. Or when a sibling or a close friend or blood relation betrays you. Or when the husband is discovered for who he really is. Something gives, something dies, something flies away. Never to return. It is a story of no return often, even when there is forgiveness. Their spirit cannot rise to that level.

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So, I love children. I love the kids. And I want them to enjoy the beauty of innocence as long as they are Naturally entitled to it. We should guarantee childhood. But we are destroying the world of kids. The kid in Nigeria. In northeast Nigeria. The kid growing up in the wild killings in Owerri. The killing fields of Kaduna. In Jos. And the ones abducted from school. Innocence is destroyed, not lost. And they will never be balanced adults because there was no fitting transition. There was no transition. There was a staccato of shots. Suddenly that blind belief in the world of no impossibilities vanished in a puff. It is not a story to be told, neither now nor in the future!

There are tears for destroyed or murdered childhood. Tears for a compromised and destroyed adulthood. So, when a young adult breaks down or cannot face the world or cannot handle a family or cannot handle his kids or remains tied to the apron strings of their parents, where rests the blame? Has blaming exculpated the guilty or the vanquished? The answer is not blowing in the wind!

Loss of innocence is inevitable as the child grows into adulthood. But a destroyed innocence is a scar that not even time can heal. ‘The death of innocence causes an imbalance’, writes Bowers, ‘and initiates an internal war that manifests differently in each individual, but almost always includes anger, withdrawal and severe depression’. What have we done to innocence in the land?

 

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Opinion

The Audacity Of False Prophets

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The Audacity Of False Prophets

Dear Omoh Giwa,

Would you think it satirical to ask how you are faring (considering the state of affairs in Nigeria)? I bring you warm tidings from Osalobuwa (though He dissociates himself from the filth and treachery of a particular individual that claims to be led by the spirit of God).

I do not envisage a response from the Lioness of Lisabi or the great Awo (like the gods of ancient Greece, there are weightier issues than those iterated in your previous missives like our bets on the VAT brouhaha).

I am contacting from Nirvana as I could not but notice in your tirades, a disconcerting notion. (Digressively, are you really surprised that over fifteen million Nigerians voted not once but twice the nepotistic general or is this your weak attempt at humour?)

I have been called ‘Father of Pentecostalism in Nigeria’ several times and it is on this authority I want to discuss the subject of Christianity in Nigeria. How can you honestly expect a response from He who is addressed as the Holy One of Israel while wallowing in your filth like swine (blocked drainages or heaps of refuse on major roads?

You are an unclean lot spiritually and physically) However, this is insignificant compared to my reason for writing. I am bothered about the increase in false prophets and the gullibility of the sheep.

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When our messiah charged Peter with the care of the flock, it was under the impression that as a religious leader, he would lead and act in the footsteps of the Nazarene but consider the perversion today. I understand the epistle of Paul to Timothy prophesizes that men would be lovers of themselves and practice heresy and idolatry but should this be associated with men of the cloth? The role of the priest is to act as ambassador between the sheep and the master of the flock but these wolves are more interested in exploiting and extorting the flock than caring for them.

Remember how politicians hoarded palliatives during the lockdown from the pandemic (do not get me started on the importance of cleanliness and abstinence which you are now being compelled to obey but at what cost?), well how did your general overseers care for you (you weren’t expecting anything or the miracle of the five loaves and two fish doesn’t apply to you?)

Instead they capitalised on avenues to ensure the steady inflow of wealth through tithes and offerings. You don’t believe me? Did one of them not recently boast that he acquired not one but two private jets during the pandemic as though that is a reflection of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

A nation enormously blessed with vast reserves of mineral resources yet is the poverty capital of the world coincidentally boasts of elegantly constructed cathedrals but has less than a tenth of the total number of churches in factories that could improve the economy and standard of living.

Is this not the same church leader smeared in a sex scandal of funding the rich and extravagant life of a certain actress? We particularly like the social media captions of “small girl big God” when they speak of their blessings and source of their lifestyles.

Ironically, the blessings are from the pulpit (a gathering of the widow’s mite. Jokes! Jokes! Relax, humouris not reserved for the living).

What about the one that was exposed as a sexual predator, preying on young girls (you’d probably remember him as the ‘Krest’ Pastor?) and intimidating them when they go public?

The feigned public outrage and anger lasted mere weeks and the nation carried on, business as usual and service continued as usual. Is he not back on the pulpit and his cathedral bursting at the seams? What about priests that not only engage in fornicating with women but have added young impressionable boys to their list of victims?

I especially like the one that calls himself “liquid metal” and has turned his church services into a carousal. One time he claimed to be casting demons out of a member and kept kicking and throwing the victim on chairs as though the erring demon is physical and could feel the torture. Do you remember a certain pastor that asked her congregation to tap into her special anointing of rearing virgins (I’m as confused as you are) for a paltry sum of one thousand dollars as though God’s blessings could be repackaged for sale like exotic wine?

How can you be comfortable with the denigration of Christianity? Was the blood of Jesus shed for this? This reminds me of Simon the Sorcerer who attempted to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit but was rebuked by Peter but look at stomach-infrastructure deacons.

My lengthy harangue seems to have gone off-track because I wanted to address the role of religious leaders in the political affairs of a nation. A certain influential religious leader has been tagged ‘Kingmaker’ because a sitting president and British prime minister knelt before him for re-election success (coincidentally didn’t go as planned).

I wish to remind you of the biblical story of Elijah and Ahab where the prophet faced the dictator without fear even though he knew the implications of such actions. You do remember that Elijah went into hiding for fear of his life and pleaded with God to take his life? What do these clerics do with their influence? Amass more wealth, influence and build bigger cathedrals during economic hardship and political unrest/instability when they have been charged with speaking truth to the powers that be. Do they even consider creating avenues for
economic growth for their members? I guess they have no intention of inheriting the kingdom
of God (the Beatitudes).

My daughter, men of the cassock have become influencers for politicians and have no regard for God whom they profess to call. Have they forgotten the prophecy that God’s judgment will start from the church? When did the pulpit become a poverty alleviation scheme?

How did the church get to this point where one cannot differentiate the heathens from the righteous? When did we lose focus and sight of the goal?

I think it is time to get off your knees in reverence to your religious leaders (I like how you are quick to quote ‘touch not my anointed…’ does having a pulpit make one God’s anointed?) and take the bull by the horns. Our Father considers the prayer of the unrighteous an abomination.

Yours in His Vineyard, Benson Idahosa.

Giwa is of the Department of English, University of Lagos.

 

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Opinion

Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest

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Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest
Professor Toyin Falola

THE  TOYIN FALOLA INTERVIEWS

A CONVERSATION WITH MOLEFI ASANTE, PART 1

By

Toyin Falola

Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest

Molefi Asante

Africans have a famous saying that “until the lion talks, every story will glorify the hunter.” This is a multifaceted maxim that more than sums up the nuances of this world. It defines how stories are told, and histories are recorded. Guided by this maxim, a careful analysis of seemingly historical facts will reveal that the so-called facts might have underlying truths in them; however, they are not the facts. Sadly, Africans, who are the proponents of the opening maxim, have been in the position of the marginalized lion for a long time. In what follows, I present how Asante has constructed the pyramid of his intellectual contributions. I could not have been able to compose this piece unless I fully understood his way of thinking.

To Molefi Asante, history has it that Africa is one of the earliest sources of civilization. From the Mesopotamians to the Egyptians, civilization was well-founded on the African continent, millennia before the Industrial Revolution of Europe. When the world was still young, and humans were hardly any other thing aside from hunters and gatherers, Africans, especially Egyptians, had advanced civilization. They had their system of writing in hieroglyphics. Some engineers and mathematicians made the construction of pyramids a scientific possibility, not to forget the medical professionals. Egypt had its system of government, one of the fundamental qualities of a civilized society. To Asante, this is where we must begin not just the history of Africa but of the world itself.

Histories are eroded, and people are forgotten, and so it was for the early African civilization. By the natural law of evolution and perhaps the mal-decisions of some of the empire’s leaders and decision-makers, the empire fell into oblivion. Power shifted hands, and Europe became the center of world civilization. If the story of the European civilization had ended there, perhaps Asante would not have emerged as a proponent of the “Out of Africa” thesis. However, the Europeans, in the natural order of things and as humans, became insatiable. After exploring and conquering their territory, they stretched their tentacles to other territories and exploited them. First, because to humans, superiority is defined by how many humans or human territories they have subdued. Second, because growth means the expansion and the attendant inability of available resources to meet the territory’s needs. So it was that the Europeans arrived in Africa, initially as curious explorers who wanted to get familiar with new territories and trade goods. The initially clear conception of meeting new people and exploring new worlds translated into a burning need to ravage, exploit, dominate, capture, and grow exponentially at the expense of others. There were the long and arduous years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and how they brought humans’ brute nature and inhumanity to the fore.

READ ALSO: Molefi Asante: Breathing Africa, Living Blackness

As if the dehumanization of the trans-Atlantic slave trade era was not enough, there came the infamous Berlin conference of 1884 to 1885 and the unscrupulous sharing of the African continent among European countries. The centuries of colonization in Africa severely impacted Africans’ sense of identity, consciousness, being, culture, traditions, and continued development. Beyond this, an almost unforgivable impact of colonization on Africa was the deliberate misrepresentation and presentation of Africa to the world. Early European observers in Africa presented the continent as a barbaric one. Essays upon essays were written to portray Africans as needy and hopeless, and people who would have gone into extinction but for the supposed intervention of the Europeans. Indeed, the West brought us the modern form of education. However, Africa would not have declined, so argued many Afrocentric scholars, if the Westerners had not come to the continent. Some argue that Africa would have been better off and way more developed than it currently is if the Europeans had not colonized the continent.

In yet another argument by another set of scholars, the westernized education of Africans is perhaps the only good thing that colonialism brought to Africa. Of course, this same westernized education has severely impacted African thought patterns, beliefs, and ways of life. The Europeans handpicked Africans whom they believed were outliers and gave them European scholarships. After being schooled in the West, these Africans returned home, and with their return came an awakening and an intellectual revolution. The education of these select Africans brought about a much-needed reawakening. African scholars received a jolt in their subconscious; they were awakened to the realities that faced the African continent and the African people, how the Europeans had exploited, marginalized, and misrepresented Africa. Questions started sprouting from all angles. Curious Africans started gaining access to those malicious and mal-informant books of purported history, and so began a counter intellectual attack. The likes of Aime Cesaire, Leopold Sedar Senghor, David Diop, Kenneth Dike, Herbert Macaulay, J. F. Ade-Ajayi, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, and Nnamdi Azikiwe took to arms. They deployed knowledge and the education they got–the same tool used to train them–to re-write African history and counter the malicious records made about Africa.

Africa gained independence between the mid and late 20th century. However, the fact remains that Africa is yet to be free from some problems plaguing it. Post-independence has seen the rise of historians and African scholars, people who have taken up battle with the ruining political ideology of Africa and the corrupt and destructive governance militating against the growth of the continent. The attention has shifted from debunking racist and condescending fausse history of Africa to battling destructive African leaders, unscrupulous policies, and a host of other problems facing the continent.

In the face of all these, the lions have not forgotten that the hunter is lurking and has not ceased to tell the story in a way that glorifies the hunter and maligns the lion. This move of the hunter is visible to us; it is all over the media. The malnourished children; war; seizure of power; hunger; crises; and how the media projects them. However, lions still look the hunter in the face and choose to tell their story and that of their species. Lions who have defied all odds to glorify what needs to be glorified about their history and current story. Of these lions, Molefi Asante stands tall.

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Molefi Asante–the father of Afrocentrism. If Afrocentrism gained flesh, received the breath of life, and became human, then it would be to the credit of Molefi Asante. I doubt if I have ever met, discussed with, or studied a man who is as passionate and proud of Africa as Molefi Asante. Is it his dedication? Asante has dedicated his life, intellectual prowess, time, and resources to the study of Africa and Afrocentrism. He is living proof of the amazingness of Africa. We often hear and read people’s thoughts on Africa, of how beautiful and rich the continent is in culture and human resources. If this were true of Africa, then Africans should be proud of their continent, and their actions, discourses, exploits, and manner of engagement should reflect this pride.

There is a lamentable eroding in the cultures, beliefs, and values that were once dear to Africans and guided our inter-relationships. To what are we losing our core values as Africans? People who have lost their values would soon lose their identity, and then the abyss of oblivion will not be so far away. In an age where we are fast losing the values that bind us and guide us, there are lions like Molefi Asante, roaring and reminiscing, reminding us of our history, who we are, and whom our forefathers used to be. Of communalism, the Ubuntu spirit, of how only the unity of fingers guarantees one of a resounding fist thump on one’s chest. Molefi is an African vanguard. Molefi Asante is like the baobab, with long-stretching roots that reach Sudan in the North-East, Nigeria in the West, and Costa Rica through the blissfulness of marriage. Asante’s contributions to Africa through scholarly works can never be forgotten. He is a proud and respected son of the soil and one of the most respected prides of African lions.

This Sunday, September 19, 2021, we will be hosting Molefi Asante on another edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews. And this is something I rarely say–I am personally looking forward to this interview to see the eloquent Asante prove his Africanness once more. Please do join us too for a conversation with this eminent philosopher.

 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM GMT

11:00 AM Austin CST

Register and Watch:

https://www.tfinterviews.com/post/molefi-asante

Join via Zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85124202652

Watch on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/tfinterviews/live

Watch on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2lvX7A2iVndiCq0NfFcb0w/live

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

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