with DANN JACOBS
I score Nigerian Christians very high in patience, understanding and forgiveness in their relationship with the other major faith in Nigeria, Mohammedanism. They score close to 100%. In the churches though, some priests have surprisingly not done so well in this. They continue to contradict the nature of God as One who loves and is endlessly forgiving and enjoins us to absorb all knocks from fellow human beings. They cast and bind, march and trample, calling upon the loving God to bring destruction unto those who hate us? But if anyone does sin, we have One who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, not only our sins but also the sins of the whole world. Are these the same people to be subjected to destruction by the same God who loves them so much?
God is love. Whoever that lives in love lives in God. By interpretation, love is God’s other name. During prayers, however, you often hear priests calling down fire to destroy the enemy. I suppose this is in corroboration to the uneducated wishes of church members. Where is the place of this sort of prayer in Christian life and in our relationship with God? God doesn’t desire the death of a sinner, it has been said. He has given every assurance that he will take care of our enemies and all our troubles. He wants to do the fighting himself, not with fire, hale or brimstone as prayers demand. He wants to do it with love, which humans can not understand. This awesome power of love is the weapon of the Almighty. God saw that all men have sinned and come short of His glory. Going to crush them will be quite bloody and thus un-loving and out of character. What did He do? He changed the tactics. He decided to redeem them rather than condemn them. What sense would it make to save a world which has no righteous person in it, not even one? There may be no hell fire that will take all the sinners, except converting the entire universe into one hell fire to contain all of us. No one would be in his Kingdom, which is against His wish for mankind.
He promised rather salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. This makes the Father wonderful, and the God He is. We are not satisfied with that. We are telling God how to deal with our enemies and their mentor, Satan. But there is nothing God didn’t say in the holy book about what he is doing with evil, sin, sinner and Satan on our behalf. When we pray we seem to know better and God’s own approach is too soft, we seem to be saying. Look at that statement which says ‘leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written,“it is mine to avenge,” says the Lord. “If your enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty give him something to drink”. How does this justify the prayer which says “bring confusion (ogba aghara) to our enemies; scatter them; bring them down; kill them?” We are to love them and pray good prayers for them.
Nigerian Christians adopted this line against their haters. They have always kept faith will biblical injunctions on how to regard their enemies. Nigeria started with differences among its people. There were those who welcomed the evil colonizers with open arms. Others didn’t. Some fought for their expulsion. Some readily welcomed what we call amalgamation. Others did not. Some welcomed hook line and sinker the colonizer’s language, influence, rule, culture and everything about him. Others refused them. The people had their differences at that time, but hoped the differences would eventually be reconcilable. But with time, the differences caked and became hard disagreements that have been leading to shooting wars in which millions are killed. It is only in this wise that we have to realistically see Biafra, boko haram and maitatsine before it, militancy, armed robbery, kidnapping, human trafficking, financial crimes, cultism and all names of violence in the Nigerian society as scales of the disagreements which started as differences when the Nigerian state was in infancy. Christians have been at the receiving end of all these and commendably tolerated all, in the sense that they do not engage in all these things. They abhor and preach against them. It was in Biafra we can say their patience-cup ran over and they defended themselves in a tragic war. Since then, their self-control has been unbelievable. Whatever you may say, Nigeria owes its togetherness today to this superhuman tolerance its Christians have shown to all those who hate them.
Let’s then compare Jonathan, the Christian and Buhari, the Muslim. When the latter says I am going to probe the former, it suggests a claim by the one to be holier than the other. It is not a question of who is holier. It is a matter of who is more sinful. Both have sinned as Nigerians can witness. The question is: who is more sinful? Buhari once took de facto control of the country, which was unlawful. That was another hue of corruption per se by a man believed to be incorruptible. He was thought to be un-enterprising in heading the state. For that he was booted out in a military coup as well. You can now understand why Buhari cannot in good conscience review the regimes before Jonathan, which would expose the infamous period he headed the state and the period other military adventurers seized power and made their own ‘mess’ of Nigeria.
The outcome of the election that ousted Jonathan was clearly manipulated. No matter what he represents, Jonathan must thereafter be hunted down in a probe that will disallow him the chance of a fair hearing. Else there will be risk of shocking can of warms. That’s what we are battling with. The president will move faster with better results if he overcame this fixation to put Jonathan safely still out of the way. He still feels threatened by him, whereas Jonathan will never in this world constitute an obstacle to Buhari. Rather Jonathan can be a resource person to him and indeed help him succeed. Jonathan made himself vulnerable by not knowing how to use power and under-rating the desperation of his traducers. You may understand why he was weak and couldn’t fight back. He had no clout again. He became afraid; then absconded. He was frightened. He ran away – to have his life, not to fight another day. Any indication of this can put him in greater danger with Buhari. Onye ujo na-ala. Providence was at work. He saved the lives of many, including perhaps you and me. If Jonathan were not to be a Christian imbued with Christian virtues of forgiveness, patience, tolerance and understanding, Buhari had no chance of getting to where he is today. The singular act of conceding defeat by Jonathan is like Nelson Mandela’s unsolicited forgiveness of his unjust imprisonment for 27 whole years. Africa would have been burning today from coast to coast, had Jonathan and Mandela not treated their enemies with uncommon Christian forgiveness as they did.
The same forgiving spirit is what is needed to reconcile the Nigerian state with its militant members. God adopted the forgiving spirit. He won mankind back from sin with love. Jeremiah 31:3 ‘The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving-kindness”.’ If we did not do this in the case of Nigeria, peace will be impossible in the country. Be ready to convert the entire country to a prison yard; and to hang everybody if death sentence is the punishment for things like terrorism, drug offenses and corruption as in China and elsewhere in South East Asia. The point am making is that we should thank the Christian spirit of forgiveness, tolerance, love and patience among Nigerian Christians for Nigeria not being turmoil today. For, if they were as belligerent, unforgiving and vindictive as others, the worst would have happened. But heavens may yet fall if our justice is proving to be selective during this change regime. And Jonathan is the target. God fights for such people. “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” says the Lord. Isaiah 54: 17. The impending trial of Jonathan and his administration may backfire and we all will be the worse for it. This time the indifference of Nigerians to injustice will not work.