By Muyiwa Adetiba
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday; one of the most important dates in the Christian calendar. It commemorates the day Jesus, our Redeemer, rose from the dead thereby destroying the power of death. It also signifies an end to the six week Lenten season.
To us in Nigeria, it also signifies an end in a way, to the season of campaigns that had turned out to be very divisive and bitter. Whatever happened to the Christian charity, prayerfulness and humility that the season was supposed to promote?
I do not think that our Christian politicians acquitted themselves well on that score. And to think many of them profess to be born-again or even pastors!
Easter reminds me for some strange reason—maybe because of its symbolic power over death- of friends who have passed on. Today, I remember particularly, an old friend who died about 15 years ago. Steve Fagbemi was so full of life and fun to be with. We were looking forward to a landmark birthday when the shocking news of his sudden death filtered out. Sleep on Stevo! May your soul rest in peace.
Speaking of death, in the week when the rumoured death of a former President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari which turned out to be false, took over the social media, the one of Lee Kwan Yew, the former President of Singapore which also filled the social media, actually turned out to be true. Both were Presidents a bout the same time and both had unique opportunities to transform their respective countries. Both were incidentally, about the same age.
One transformed his country, a small, impoverished port city that no one really wanted, into the First World while the other who ruled a country rich in mineral and material resources, led his country into debt, impunity and corruption. He can only in these twilight years, rue the chances he had to make his country great which he squandered on the altar of indiscipline, nepotism and greed. In fairness, he never compared himself to his Singaporean counterpart before or after his presidency.
This comparison was to come from our incumbent President whose earlier campaign ads compared him to some historic figures. Nothing, I mean nothing can be more incongruous than comparing Jonathan with Yew. Neither can be the other if they were to re-incarnate ten times. One had a strong, almost dictatorial character while the other has a weak, seemingly benign character. One had a determined, fiery desire to transform his country and ruthlessly rooted out any obstacle that stood in the attainment of his goal.
The other merely mouthed transformation but did everything to undermine his own agenda. One was a man of ideas who galvanised his people to pick the best from the East and West while the other never really left Otuoke his fishing village in ideas and temperament. But the one area that stood out the most was in the area of corruption.
One fought corruption to a standstill and succeeded in making his country the least corrupt Asian country and one of the top ten least corrupt countries in the world while the other encouraged corruption with comments like stealing is not corruption and made his country one of the world’s most corrupt countries.
One promoted merit and looked for the best irrespective of geography while one promoted nepotism and hardly looked outside a particular section of his country. Dr Adegoroye, formerly of the Presidency alleged in a report that the Yoruba race lost almost 40% of appointive positions under Mr Jonathan’s government. If this is true, someone may have to explain it.
Anyway, the achievements or otherwise of the shoeless one, will be left for another day. Today, being Easter, is on character.
President Yew once said in an
interview ‘I didn’t always do everything right. But the purpose
behind whatever I did is honourable’.
Now, how many of our leaders in the private and public sectors can say that? How many have not put personal or other interests before the country’s interest? Where is the honour for example, in giving your word and not standing by it? Where is the honour in undermining the very institutions that got you into power –either State or National?
Among those who will throng the church tomorrow will be those who will be thanking God for electoral victories. Many of them would have out rigged and out harassed their opponents. Many would have plotted the arrests and assassinations of perceived enemies. Let them realise as they go out for thanksgiving and reach out to take the Holy Communion, that God is at the window of their soul and watches everything.
A politician I used to respect said the other day that all politicians are liars. My respect for him flew out of the window. Why would an honourable man go into a vocation he knows to be dishonourable? Or having found himself there, flaunts the very thing that is dishonourable in the vocation? Why have our politicians turned the terms ‘Honourable’ and Excellency’ into misnomers?
A Nigerian leading light in the corporate world in the 80s and 90s whom I have a tremendous respect for once told me. ‘People call me Mr Integrity and so on without appreciating the importance of God in my life. Now, many people would do the right thing if they felt they were being watched or if there was a likelihood of a sanction. I believe that God is watching me and requires me to try to do the right thing at all times. That is the difference between them and I’. I believe it behoves our public officer in and out of politics to strive to be honourable. They owe it to posterity and that impartial verdict of history.
The tributes poured forth following the death of Mr Yew. But he had already anticipated them. In one of his latter interviews, he said ‘The real legacy is not what comes at your obituary. Much later, scholars and PhD students will go into the archives to dig out your speeches, interviews etc. to understand your vision. They will compare your vision with what you accomplished. That is your legacy.’
Let me add that whatever the scholars and the PHD students miss either because the documents are not available or because the researchers themselves are human, will definitely not be missed by God. He is at the window of your soul. He watches everything. He documents everything. Happy Easter.