By Muyiwa Adetiba
I had an interesting two-hour meeting with an elder statesman recently; a man who has been in the corridors of power and influence in Nigeria for almost half a century, who knows— and is known—by past and present rulers, who is respected by political and business brokers in the country.
I try to meet him as often as time— his time not mine— permits because each encounter is an unforgettable experience for me. This last one was not different.
Most of us at different levels of understanding, believe there is a divine hand that guides the affairs of man and that leaders emerge through divine will and guidance. Our religions recognize this phenomenon; our experiences affirm it. If my conversation with the elder statesman therefore, had been restricted to this phenomenon alone, maybe there would not be anything in it to write about today. But in the course of our discussions, he went further to link the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan to the biblical Gideon. I found this linkage novel and thus my desire to share it with my readers.
Now let me, for the benefit of those who are not Christians, or whose Christianity is nominal, tell you who Gideon was. The story of Gideon is to be found in the book of Judges in the Old Testament. He was a man from a poor background and he was, according to him, the least in his family. So when he was called by God to lead His people Israel, he experienced many different emotions.
He at once felt overwhelmed and unqualified and thus expressed disbelief. He twice demanded proof that he was indeed in the presence of God and not some 419 person. After God proved himself twice (details are not necessary here) God in turn gave Gideon a test. He was to destroy the shrine of the god of his fore fathers. This, to human knowledge and given Gideon’s background, was a suicidal assignment. Accounts showed that Gideon was so afraid that he could not do the assignment in the day time but chose the dead of night. But he did it all the same. He got ten people who utterly destroyed the shrine and scattered the sacred gods.
Understandably, there was an uproar the following day and upon hearing it was Gideon that committed the hideous act, his life was demanded by the city elders.
Gideon’s father, a priest of the shrine, stepped up to defend his son by pointing out a simple logic. If it was indeed the shrine of their most powerful god that was destroyed, then the gods would take action. Why should men fight on behalf of the gods as if they are not capable of fighting for themselves?
This argument— which should be used against those religious extremists who fight on behalf of Allah- seemed plausible and logical and the elders decided to leave the gods to avenge themselves. Fortunately for Gideon, the gods never did. But having passed the test, God took hold of Gideon and led him into many battles which eventually freed Israel from hostile domination. Gideon, a poor man from a poor family became the de facto ruler of Israel.
The point this elder statesman was trying to bring out was that when God puts you in a place, He has His reasons and certain roles he wants you to perform. Those roles, those functions, might seem impracticable from human perception, and might even seem suicidal, but if you obey the divine will, He will empower you. But the minute you become wise in your own eyes, then you are on your own.
The outcome is usually disgrace as it happened to Saul, a king chosen by God but who tried to be ‘reasonable’ in carrying out God’s specific instructions to utterly destroy a city and kill its king. He spared the king and some choice rams and bullocks so he could sacrifice to the Lord. Immediately he was on his own and as we are told, the spirit of God left him and he was eventually killed in battle with Jonathan his heir apparent.
Contrast this with the story of David. He was a poor shepherd, the last of seven sons and the least likely to become king; yet he was called by God to deliver his people. He never forgot that his call was not the act of man as he sought the face of God always and became a favoured king that won all his battles including those he had no right to win if he was to use military prowess alone.
Jonathan, according to this elder statesman, is the Gideon of our time, chosen by God to lead Nigeria but he needs to destroy the gods that have defiled this country. It is a herculean task given how entrenched and revered some of these gods are. But all he needs to remember is to fear and obey God and he will be empowered.
Like Moses who was raised in the palace so he could learn the royal ways, was banished to the desert so he could adapt to its harsh conditions when leading the Israelites, Jonathan was prepared for his call. He served as Local Government chairman, Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President before becoming the President. So he knows the system from the bottom up.
How has he fared? Has he destroyed the shrine and scattered the gods that bedevil this country? Or has he spared the fatted cows? Is the second term the will of God or is he now on his own in the acts of the possible and the practicable? Is he obeying the gods and not the God? May God give him a listening ear and a discerning spirit.