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Nigeria at 62: Positive confession alone can’t make a country great

Buhari, Obasanjo, Gowon, others to attend Osinbajo book launch

Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s vice-president, is a man of God, a pastor. Like all men of God and pastors, he believes in prayer and positive confession. So, it wasn’t surprising that at the interdenominational service held in Abuja on September 25 to mark Nigeria’s 62nd Independence Day, he unleashed positive confessions on the country.

“Despite its challenges,” the vice-president said, “Nigeria’s future will be great.” Continuing, he said: “We stand at the gates of a new nation, even if what we see today seems bleak and dark.” That, undoubtedly, was positive thinking, defined as the practice of focusing on the good in any given situation, of thinking the best is going to happen, not the worst!

Not that Professor Osinbajo got the inspiration for his optimism about Nigeria’s future from anyone. But it’s interesting that Norman Peale, author of the best-selling book ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’, was also a pastor. One of his positive-thinking tips is: “Picture yourself succeeding.” Another is: “Think a positive thought to drown out a negative thought.” Of course, he also advocated praying and believing in God.

As a Christian, I believe in the power of positive confession. However, I also believe that confessing the positive without doing the needful is taking God for granted. Just as the Bible says in James 2:20 that “faith without works is dead”, so is positive confession without corresponding actions futile. You can’t pray for and “claim” a job, for instance, without making a reasonable effort to prepare and apply for it!

But here’s the question: Why would Nigerians knowingly destroy Nigeria’s future by electing a President Tinubu, thereby rendering Professor Osinbajo’s positive confessions utterly hollow?

Furthermore, God’s promises in the Bible are predicated upon obedience and righteousness. For instance, the Bible says in Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people,” and in Proverbs 29:2: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rules, the people mourn.”

For simplicity, let’s not over-spiritualise the word “righteousness.” Rather, let’s simply define it as doing the right thing; as ensuring that fairness, equity and justice prevail in a society; as those in authority putting the national interest above parochial, vested interests, and possessing the right character, integrity, competence and vision. A country where such righteousness exists will prosper and its people will rejoice, but a country where it doesn’t will suffer reproach and its people will mourn. It’s a simple cause-effect reality!

Now, against the above background and in light of Professor Osinbajo’s positive confessions, let’s ask ourselves: Is Nigeria doing the needful to become a great nation? Are Nigeria’s politicians motivated purely by the desire to govern in the country’s best interests or their own interests? And are Nigerians prepared and determined to take control of their country’s future by ensuring that only public-spirited politicians get power?

Too often, we say that Nigeria’s problem is leadership, but we ignore the other crucial element: followership, an enlightened and active citizenry. In a seminar titled ‘From poverty to prosperity’, Professor Sir Paul Collier of Oxford University said that, in addition to leadership, “a critical mass of well-informed and active citizens” is crucial for a country to prosper.

Which is why Joseph de Maistre said that “every nation gets the government it deserves”, and George Carlin said: “Ignorant citizens elect ignorant leaders.” Truth is, inactive and unenlightened citizens would produce or passively accept bad leaders!

So, when Professor Osinbajo said that “we stand at the gates of a new nation,” what did he mean? Did he mean that there would be a sea-change in Nigerian politics next year? Did he mean that Nigerians would engender a seismic, transformative change by electing the best of the presidential candidates on offer?

For truth be told, if Nigerians elect the same corrupt and discredited political establishment into power next year, not only would Professor Osinbajo’s “Nigeria’s future will be great” confession be a mirage, the country will actually face decades of instability and decline that could lead to its disintegration.

Think about it. Recently, the Economist Intelligence Unit, EIU, speculated that Bola Ahmed Tinubu, presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is likely to win next year’s election. Yet, the same EIU said that “Tinubu does not have a clear vision that would mark a break from what has come before him.”

The world-renowned research and analysis outfit continued: “The general direction of policy under a Tinubu administration might not look altogether so different from that of the Buhari administration,” adding that “a divided and dysfunctional Nigeria is a problem that only a new generation of Nigerian politicians is able to fix.”

Now, ignore the EIU’s prediction of a Tinubu victory. It’s still early days, as the election is four months away. But it’s hard to dismiss the EIU’s description of what a Tinubu presidency might look like. I have made the same point previously in this column and elsewhere. Put simply, a Tinubu administration would be an extension of the disastrous Buhari government, sinking Nigeria deeper into the abyss of disunity, instability and stagnation.

Read also: Osinbajo urges sustainability of Buhari’s MSME legacy

But here’s the question: Why would Nigerians knowingly destroy Nigeria’s future by electing a President Tinubu, thereby rendering Professor Osinbajo’s positive confessions utterly hollow?

In his book ‘Enemies of Society’, Paul Johnson said the true essence of democracy is the ability to punish political failure by votes. In fairness, Nigerians did that in 2015 when they denied the rudderless Jonathan administration a second term. Unfortunately, however, because of the flawed choice that the presidential election offered, Nigerians voted out President Goodluck Joathan, but ushered in a far worse General Muhammadu Buhari!

Read also: The growing relevance of election opinion polls in Nigeria

Recently, in his last Independence Day speech, President Buhari self-congratulated himself, saying he bequeathed a country “where all citizens have equal opportunities to achieve their lives’ desires in a peaceful atmosphere.” Yet, here’s a country where despair is forcing Nigerians to emigrate in droves; here’s a country where, according to a recent security situation analysis report, over 6,000 Nigerians were killed in the last 18 months alone!

But the situation won’t be different if Nigerians were to elect Tinubu as president next year. Anyone watching politics closely would have noticed that, even without being president, Tinubu is displaying some of President Buhari’s worst attributes: frequent overseas trips and utter aloofness. He’s frequenting London and refusing to engage with Nigerians and attend events where he’s not the object of adulation.

For instance, Tinubu refused to attend the recent election peace-accord signing event, attended by the other presidential candidates. The pretext was that he was away in London, presumably for medical attention.

Yet, a few days later, he tweeted a video of himself using an exercise bike to prove he’s fit. But if he’s that fit, why did he not attend the peace-accord signing event. Tinubu is behaving with the utter arrogance of someone who believes he will definitely win next year’s presidential election!

Without a doubt, the spirit of 2015 should be upon Nigeria in 2023. Nigerians cannot reward the appalling Buhari administration and the self-interested Svengali, Tinubu, who helped make Buhari president and now claims it’s his turn to become Nigeria’s president. Rewarding them with victory would send a message that Nigeria lacks the will to be great.

So, the ruling APC should not get another term. But if power is denied to APC, it can’t go to PDP, which has learnt nothing from its 2015 defeat, and still appears corrupt and dysfunctional. That leaves us with the only credible “third force”: Peter Obi’s Labour Party! Call it the least bad option, but it would be a sea-change!

Nigeria’s future can only be great, and a new nation birthed, if positive thinking is matched by positive action. The future of Nigeria is in the hands of Nigerians. They must take control of it. When? Well, next year!