By Bisi Lawrence
Could it be that Christianity is the most permissive religion in the world, or of the object of worship of what other faith could a professed adherent have casually remarked what was reported of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo aboutÂ the conduct of elections in Nigeria?
At the same time, could it be true that Bishop Oyedepo indeed fell just short of excommunicating any ofÂ his members who, so to say, walked on the same side of the street with IBB?
The fever of the appointment of a Vice-President has held several sections ofÂ the country in thrall since the vacancy was created by the elevation of the former Acting President, Jonathan Ebele Goodluck to the Presidency, following the demise ofÂ President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua. Camps of sponsorship, â€œgodfatherismâ€, political and ethnic interests have sprouted up around the issue, and a prolonged interval will gather in other groups for sure.
One of the parties interested in the selection of the next Vice President is said to be former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Out of sheer prejudice, one would be tempted to resent his interest going by his political activities even as President.
His choice ofÂ Umaru Yarâ€™ Adua as President has been criticized as not being for the best interest ofÂ the country, since he knew – and has admitted as much – the poor medical history ofÂ theÂ man. Nothing less than an intent motivated by anything other than bad faith could be read into that. But he won through leading to the harrowing consequences the nation was made to go through.
Most ofÂ his other appointments, especially when he was president, have not left a satisfying legacy either. His â€œtwinâ€ star performers, Nasir el-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu, shone brightly but left the scene burnt out like meteors racing across the sky, with smashed careers in their wake…Â So disgusting were the details that came to knowledge after they left office, that they were both required to clear their names from very serious indictments.
El-Rufai, for instance, has just returned to the country from a sojourn abroad not unconnected with the heat generated by his perceived misdemeanours in office as the Minister ofÂ the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja. He enacted gruesome acts of the demolition of other peopleâ€™s property which created untold hardship to many citizens. What is even more horrid, he is alleged to have allocated plots to his kith and kin, and thought nothing about it.
And all the time, he continued to pose as an upright person, as though he was above the normal ethical standards required of a public servant.
Then Ribadu, an Assistant Commissioner ofÂ PoliceÂ attained the position ofÂ the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and took lodgings next to the Almighty in his own eyes. He went after those who were indicted of various offences in high places, especially those who were earlier considered untouchable, and we all applauded.
But then, along with his rather unsettling â€œGestapoâ€ style of operations, a pattern emerged which suggested that he seemed more active against those who had lost favour with President Obasanjo whom he openly revered far beyond the bounds of official regard. He was rapidly promoted to the position of an Assistant Inspector-General ofÂ Police, though subsequently even more speedily returned to his former post.
He too went on an inglorious, unceremonious and unofficial â€œsabbaticalâ€ from which, it is said, he is being â€œrecalledâ€ – these times lending themselves, as they are, to such events.
These two examples should make one very wary of Obasanjoâ€™s sponsorships. But the fact that he was influential or powerful enough to make them thrive, should add a measure of anxiety to caution. Can he still do them again? The rehabilitation ofÂ his two former henchmen mentioned above would suggest a positive answer to that since he seems to have a hand in the developments that have made it possible.
His recent statements indeed suggest a resurgence ofÂ his usual self-satisfied, combative attitude. For instance, he was in the US a week or two ago, where he declared that there was never a plan for him to run for a third term of office. He said this knowing full well that Nigerians, his â€œfellow countrymenâ€, would be informed of this statement, which everybody would recognize to be false.
The frenzy of that perfidious attempt to over-ride the Constitution created so sharp a disagreement between him and his former deputy, Abubakar Atiku, that the shards of their shattered relationship could only be swept into a refuse bin thereafter.
It is true that there followed one of those farcical â€œreconciliationsâ€ to which Obasanjo is no stranger, (ask Gbenga Daniel) and from which no mutual trust is ever engendered. And so Atiku Abubakar will forever find it difficult to forgive himself for not striking home and deep when he held the dagger in his hand and Obasanjo at his mercy – that was the situation at the election for Obasanjoâ€™s second term. But now Obasanjo avers that there was no bid for a third term of office.
All that is now a painful history, but recent enough that you could still almost smell it. It happened right before our eyes; we saw the flash of steel and heard the sound of the war-drums. Eventually, it took the combined effort of various powerful people to shift Obasanjo from the position he obdurately held contrary to the yearnings of the people of this nation, for order and peace.
In the throes of a stifling disappointment, he turned on his deputy and worked for his failure at winning the presidential elections. He declared that it was â€œa matter of life and deathâ€ for him. And yet he maintains that there was no bid for a third term.
But he would not have had a first term at all. The Peoples Democratic Party, the party which put him there, had devised, in their wisdom, a system of rotating the presidency between the North and the South after the debacle of M.K.O.Abiolaâ€™s election.
You will remember that the party conceded the first round to the South and flushed out Obasanjo virtually from the death-row to contest on its platform. He could not have been elected to the position of even a â€œHead Dog-Catcherâ€, even in his own birth-place of Abeokuta at that time.
But the PDP floated him through in respect of the agreement that a Southerner should have the first taste of the â€œzoningâ€ system. Now he also breezily, brazenly, denies the existence of any agreement to rotate the presidency, having himself benefitted immensely from the fact.
All Nigerians know he is not telling the truth. So why does someone who is no less than a former President ofÂ this nation, publiclyÂ tryÂ to demean himselfÂ beforeÂ theÂ whole world? It must be that Obasanjo no longer has a lot of respect for himself, and even less for Nigerians.
He has gone further to show a marked disrespect for God with the profane statement in which he declared that even Jesus Christ could not conduct free and fair elections for this country. Well, I have news for him: JESUS CAN!
The first â€œMan of the Clothâ€ who was open to the press through his protests and outspoken stand against social ills was the late Bishop S.C. Phillips. That was towards the end of the thirties into the middle forties. He was then the Archdeacon ofÂ Lagos ofÂ the Anglican Communion, erudite, fearless and straight out of the top drawer. He was the son and grandson ofÂ Bishops, and was related also to other princes of the church by blood or marriage.
Normally of a stern disposition, he was particularly opposed to cultism and its incursion into the church through the involvement of some highly respected clerics of the day. He just could not stand it. The pulpit served its purpose, but he also went public with his condemnation.
Of course, he encountered opposition, especially as some of those who were concerned were kin to him, but he was a doughty fighter and would not relent. In open admiration, the leading journalist of day – I should say, â€œof the ageâ€ â€“Â Nnamdi Azikiwe of the West African Pilot, nicknamed him, â€œThe Fighting Parson.â€ He deserved the cognomen in every sense.
I am reminded of this role model of my boyhood days, in this season which may be tagged, â€œHave Your Bash at Babangidaâ€, because ofÂ his sense of proportion. Although he was in a very powerful position, he did not allow this to becloud his vision of what was prosper and what was not.
Throughout his campaign, he recognized and respected the inalienable rights of others. Though his concern was about the souls of his congregation, he did not seek to control their personal freedom to follow their conscience, even in spiritual matters. He only pointed the way to the Truth and allowed his followers to choose â€œwhich God they would serve.â€
In contrast, I am constrained to direct your attention to the alleged statements recently made by the Presiding Bishop of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, (which is also known as the
Winnersâ€™ Chapel) Dr. David Oyedepo, to a gathering of his congregation:
â€œIf there is anyone in this church that associates with Babangida, you must retrace your steps immediately. This is an order, not a plea. If any member of this church in any part of the world is found associating with Babangida, he will be taken for deliverance because only insane people can follow him.â€
Bishop Oyedepo is of course free to say anything he thinks fit to the members ofÂ his congregation, but, regrettably, his lordship allowed himselfÂ to exceed the limits of the privileges of his calling. His admirers, among whom I still count myself, should â€œbe taken for deliveranceâ€ ofÂ the embarrassment he has heaped on them. He too could benefit not a little from a dose of â€œself-deliveranceâ€ from hateful words. What has happened to Christian charity? And anyway, what is the excitement all about? Did we not already observe here that â€œBabangida is â€œthe cause?â€
The entry of a big fish into the pool must cause some consternation among the minnows. But, no matter what you may feel about him – and you are absolutely entitled to that – Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida retains the constitutional right, as a born-and-bred citizen ofÂ this country, to aspire to the highest elective position of the land, without the permission of anybody.
And, what is more, the Constitution also guarantees everyone the â€œfreedom of associationâ€ within the ambit of the law, no matter his or her religious preferences… .
But donâ€™t let anyone stop you: It is open season. â€œHave Your Bash at Babangidaâ€ today.