• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Nigeria’s critical moment and the allegory of the bramble


When the noise about the 2023 general election began shortly after the 2019 election and increasingly began to mount, many Nigerians had thought it was going to take eternity.

By the time the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the time table early last year, it was like play.

Then people began to aspire and to buy forms for one post or the other. The billions began to roll into the coffers of the two major parties in the country. The primaries came and gone.

When the campaigns began and laced with the avalanche of hate speeches as against the issue-based campaign as demanded by the letters of the peace accord, it was as if the country was going under.

Against the expectation of Nigerians that life would be grand for them when politicians began their campaign, the reverse has been the case. Politicians have instead shown the people hell.

Poverty is endemic. Citizens are buying their own currency. As yours sincerely was crafting this piece, a colleague of mine entered my office to complain bitterly that he had just returned from a Point of Sale (PoS) operator’s shop where he had gone looking for new naira bill.

He was given N6000 (Six thousand naira when he requested for N10,000 (Ten thousand naira). The operator collected N4,000!

The Nigerian political firmament is currently shaking. There is apprehension all over the place. There is fear within and without. But the major concern of the suffering masses is the manner of the person that would emerge as the next president from tomorrow’s exercise.

The 2023 election is very strategic for many reasons. It is not just any election; it is a poll that will usher in a new president and begin a new term of four years. It would mark an unbroken 24 years of the nation’s gamble at democracy.

Over the years, the nation’s electoral system has continued to throw up leaders who were not prepared for leadership but just acquired power for the sake of it. President Muhammadu Buhari, for instance, sought power for many years, but when he eventually got it, he became overwhelmed.

Read also: February 25: Voting starts at 8:30 am, to end at 2:30 pm — INEC

He is so tired with it now that for several months now, he has been yearning to retire to Daura, and Nigeria is in tatters.

Observers of the governance pattern of Nigeria have also urged the voting masses to take their future in their own hands by voting for credible individuals.

The Nigerian masses are also part of the problem. Rather than choose leaders on the bases of competence, character and integrity, the consideration has always been about how rich is the individual; how influential the persons are; their connections, religion and ethnicity.

As Nigerians file out tomorrow, it is important that they elect a leader that would lift the country from the current state of morass.

There have been calls from various angles that the electorate must be very decisive with their votes, by electing credible people into positions of power for a better tomorrow.

Any alliance to rig into power incompetent individuals on the basis of ethnic consideration or any of such would land the country into another round of missed opportunities.

In ‘the parable of the trees’, the men of Israel had gone to meet Gideon, asking him to “rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.”

But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you.”

But Abimelech, an illegitimate son, born by a Shechemite concubine, desperately wanted power and to rule by all means. He wanted to carry out an ethnic cleansing to assuage his frustration.

He employed all manner of sentiments, telling the people of Shechem “I am your flesh and bone” (connection of family ties). His mother’s family provided both political and financial support that resulted in an ambush of Gideon’s sons at Ophrah wherein all seventy were murdered “on one stone”, except for the youngest, Jotham, who hid himself and escaped the slaughter.

The ascendant attitude of Abimelech reveals a ruthlessness toward his brothers that brings into question the “flesh and bone” argument he used to woo the Shechemites.

It was the flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone that he slaughtered on the rock at Ophrah.

Shocked at the horrendous murder, Jotham who escaped the slaughter gave a creative and courageous response in his ‘parable of the trees’.

He stood on Mount Garizim, which faced Shechem from the South East, his voice called Abimelech and the Shechemites to account before God, for their treachery.

In his analysis of the Parable, Stan Patterson, Chair of the Department of Christian Ministry and Director of the Christian Leadership Centre at Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, Michigan, recalled how the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, “Reign over us!”

But the olive tree said to them, “Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?”

Then the trees said to the fig tree, “You, come, reign over us!”

But the fig tree said to them, “Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?”

Then the trees said to the vine, “You come, reign over us!”

But the vine said to them, “Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?”

Finally, all the trees said to the bramble, “You come, reign over us!”

The bramble said to the trees, “If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.” (Judges 9:8-15).

According to Patterson, “The tree is a common metaphor for Israel and is here used in a most creative manner. The trees that go seeking a king are not identified as a species until the end of the parable where they become the victims of the ‘bramble’s’ treachery. Knowing the species of the trees desiring a king is necessary for a clear understanding of Jotham’s intended message.

For the first tree approached is the olive tree, the second is the fig, third is a non-tree, the grape vine, and finally the bramble. All are significantly smaller than the cedar of Lebanon and thus incapable of fulfilling the request to ‘reign over’ or ‘wave over’ the cedar by virtue of their relative size.”

He also noted that “The olive and fig both refuse the request for advancement on the basis of a clear recognition of their calling and personal satisfaction coming from the product their service provides.

The move away from the realm of trees addresses Abimelech’s lack of formal son-status, which disqualifies him from service as the primary leader to replace Gideon.

The vine, though not a tree, reveals wisdom common to both of the previous candidates. All three knew what they were created for and were not successfully tempted to covet a role that was not theirs in order to gain power and the glory of position.”

The bramble was a different sort of candidate. The bramble was lying in wait for an opportunity to dominate and rule. The bramble readily accepted the offer of kingship and just as readily followed with a threat of coercive dominance.

Abimelech ruled Israel for three years (Judges 9:22) He was betrayed and died at the hands of his own “flesh and bones” relatives—the Shechemites.

Jotham, who escaped into exile, does not reappear thereafter in the biblical record, but his brief appearance and the parable of the trees provides a powerful testimony and insight into the danger posed by the self-centered leader who aims at ascending to power and position via dominance.

The Presidential in Nigeria will culminate tomorrow with the voting process. And just like Abimelech employed all manner of tactics to get into the saddle, some candidates are employing all manner of sentiments and shenanigans to sell their aspirations to people.

Abimelech indeed got the power, but did not enjoy his reign.