Guest Columnist: Okey Ikechukwu (EDIFYING ELUCIDATIONS)
“God’s Judgment is Now Upon Abacha” was the caption of an interview Primate Theophilus Olabayo granted a newspaper on the State of the Nation. This was at the peak of national confusion regarding the way forward. He was so direct and so specific on Abacha’s imminent, immediate and inevitable end that the media owners, fearing for their own safety and survival under the repressive regime, simply kept the script aside after the interview. But they rushed to press when, a few days later, Abacha died and was buried. They blazoned the aforementioned headline, explaining in the process that it would have been foolhardy of them to test the will of a government that shuts down newspaper houses at will. That was how readers became aware that Olabayo had made his comments and predictions some 48 hours before Abacha’s last moments.
Before then, and since then, Olabayo has made many weighty, interestingly correct and unpretentious predictions that came to pass. Which is not to say that every pronouncement of his has come to pass, no. Some of his detractors are quick to latch onto such other predictions to celebrate what they call his goofs. Others, particularly political office holders, have sometimes called him a prophet of doom, based on some predictions they found unpalatable. But many of them get these things terribly wrong. A weatherman who says that the clouds and their portents means that it would rain cannot be blamed for a wet village square. A doctor who warns the people to do something to avoid an outbreak of malaria in a water-logged and mosquito-infested area is not, by that very fact a prophet of doom or a purveyor of bad omens.
So why do some people easily isolate the exceptions in Olabayo’s mostly correct and weighty predictions, to judge and stigmatise him? Is it, perhaps, some hidden fear about being reminded of the fact that there is a Law of Returns in human affairs; and that everything has repercussions? That impunity cannot go on forever? That man is not the measure of all things here and hereafter? That all temporary triumphs, as well as the accompanying presumption and self-inflation, must be brought to judgment one way or another? That there are forces beyond anyone’s control? That it is better to follow the Order of Nature than to carry on as if you are more than human?
Has Olabayo himself not repeatedly pointed out, over the years, that not every negative predictions is an inevitability? Predictions become inevitabilities only when those to whom it is sent as a warning refuse to listen to the warning and mend their ways. Another problem would be if the person, or people, for whom the guidance is intended ignored it until it was too late to avert a disaster – as in the case of Abacha. If you are warned about the likely outbreak of malaria and you do not do the needful on time, you will face the “too late.” That is how an avoidable health problem could become an inevitability for you. Then the epidemic cannot be averted. So timeliness is important in heeding warnings.
Regarding what Olabayo said about the State of the Nation of a few days ago, any insightful observer will agree with him that the foundations, and solidified concrete columns, for a cascade of national calamities have been laid with great diligence and stubborn determination. All the bad things he has been warning the political elite about have increased, been fortified and are being tolerated and celebrated. From what is going on, and also given Olabayo’s continued observations, many people who are holding sway at various levels today, and others who are seeking to remain relevant on the basis of the abuses and irresponsibility of today’s ruling elite, are like people taking shelter in a building that is marked for demolition. “A mighty wind shall blow. A heavy rain shall fall. Out of the destruction, there shall be calm. And all shall not be the same again,” said the writer. The worry here, though, is that the so-called calm will not be fast in coming, as it will be followed by further winnowing.
Beyond political leaders, Primate Olabayo also took a swipe at the Anambra Catholic priest, Ejike Mbaka, of Adoration Ministries and other fake preachers. Mbaka’s new-found prophetic pretensions were in the line of Olabayo’s fire. The question any genuine, or serious, Catholic should ask himself is whether his church is now working towards its own destruction, by turning a blind eye to the likes of Mbaka. Or is it a fundamental crisis of self-understanding? Perhaps a desperate desire not to lose followers in a fast-food generation that seeks results without effort is part of the problem. The new multitudes of supposed believers have turned unwittingly into atheists without knowing it. The focus is now solely on relics and holy water. Not even the Catholic Mass anymore. The Almighty is now like a talisman, a vending machine, a lottery draw, or a local deity. Sacrifices or appeasements are needed for results. This orientation drove, and still drives thousands to Father Edeh. His holy water is greatly valued as capable of healing everything, including waist pain. Mbaka’s holy water of today is also a prized possession, even among people who have been rubbing and drinking it for over a decade with no change in their affairs whatsoever. Then there is another known as Ebube muo Nso (glory of the Holy Spirit), to whom some also rush for quick solution to everything, including the search for wealth and earthly happiness without labour. They all want miracles. So they repeatedly embark on vigils and self-denial in the firm belief that God is happy, and blesses them, when they are not laughing and enjoying like “worldly” people. Such blasphemy!
Nearly all those who have been part of the Adoration, and similar ministries for the last five to 15 years are just there. They must have procured and drank enough holy water from these places to fill several Olympic swimming pools. But they are still where they were. Those who, in addition to the holy water, only buy the sachet water produced and marketed by one, or all of these alleged miracle performing priests are no better. Their lives have not changed, one way or the other over the years. They are still envious gossips and conspirators. They still run others down. They are now even more wicked and selfish and also farther away from serving God, in their hearts.
They doodle about and encourage others to join their ranks, as they move from one prayer house to another. Thus these places expand every day. More and more young adults prance forward, but they are not looking for God. Apprentice traders and craftsmen abandon all sense of diligence and industry, because they are impatient to become big men and big women. “Thy Will be done” is not their rallying call. It is “I claim it” you hear everywhere. And devil walks the land.
Going back to Olabayo, the man recently made some remarks about certain things that may likely happen here sooner than later. But I doubt if anyone was listening. Meanwhile things cannot continue the way they are going for much longer. Nearly all the northern governors have been living mostly in Abuja for years now. It is the same with their traditional rulers and federal legislators. The later cannot visit their domains or constituencies. Even the local government chairmen are now local government chairmen in diaspora, within Nigeria. There is neither governing nor governance in most parts of the north any more. Social infrastructure is absent. In fact there are no places and no people to serve, or govern, because re-desertification has taken over many of the places overrun by insurgents.
Meanwhile, the state governments have been making budgets and spending same for the last 15 years. On what, and for whom, please? Anon, hundreds of billions of naira is also being poured into the same north in the name of taking care of refugees and fighting insurgency. Last year alone no local government in the area got less than N1billion within the financial year. So what was it used for?
The South-west also faces a perfectly avoidable misfortune today, because of a resolutely blind, power hungry and deluded new elite. The complicity of a stomach-driven populace is also in tow. The same region where Obafemi Awolowo introduced exemplary standards of leadership excellence is now under the dominion of people who represent everything abhorrent to the service-driven leadership tradition of the region. What will these characters say if Awo, Ajasin, or Jakande should rise today and confront them with the question: “Is this what you have made of the land and the people I left in your care?”
As for the South-east, there is neither elite consensus nor group cohesion. Myopic self-projection and jaundiced self-understanding affronts you everywhere. Their big men and women are only powerful when it comes to trampling their kith and kin in the state. Very few have any real clout, or understanding on how to access, consolidate and use State Power in Nigeria. Their reprehensible “Ewu na-eso onye bu igu” (the goat follows whoever is carrying something edible – like palm fronds) philosophy of leadership and followership has taken its toll. It is now a land of clouds without rain, cobs with no corn and custodians of a barren territory. The Igbo political elite spend the most on procured police protection than any other region in the country today.
Primate Olabayo has no real enemies, or even detractors. Those who pick on him out of ignorance cannot distract him, or detract from whatever guided pronouncements he is urged to make from time to time. The nation has now travelled too far on the wrong road and does not have enough time to turn back; hence the coming events. Enough said.