Inside Stuff With Martins Oloja
This is indeed another week of positive distraction, thanks to the oracle again. I was planning to write solely on a report that our leaders in Abuja have come up with another distraction – to set up another anti-corruption agency – just to manage ‘proceeds of crime’ when the oracle nudged me again to allow ‘the dead to bury the dead’.
So the spirit is leading me again to write about when we should begin to pray and search for our Nehemiahs who can verily, verily rebuild our broken walls. The oracle is revealing to the people that unless our ruined temple is reconstructed and our cities’ broken walls are rebuilt, there will be no protection for our democracy and economic development.
I would like us to deepen our understanding of this simple contextual reporting of this thing called ‘nation building’ we glibly semonise about every day.
The governoship election result we will be waiting for today from Benin City, capital of Edo state, will not lead to any glimmer of hope about democracy and good governance in this country. Doubtless, the result will either be inconclusive or disputed – from the rubble of electoral impurites the two major political parties have forged. It is a done deal. Before the dust settles, the scoundrels in the political class who have led us to where we are, will either hail or blame the election management agency, INEC for a job well or badly done. In the end, our apex court will crown a governor for the hapless Edo people and that will begin another journey for the Edo people who will continue to live in their villages, towns and cities without walls of defence – like most settlements in the country. This is simply so because we need to understand that all our strategic walls, physical, moral and spiritual broke down long ago.
And we believe even as they loot our treasuries with all their strength that miracles do happen! After all, ‘we are serving the God of miracles, I know, yes I know….’ as we sometimes chorus. We believe we can do all the wrong things and the broken walls will be rebuilt miraculously without lifting a block.
I believe too that our leaders in Abuja are in denial as they continue to believe that they don’t need help from the power that knowledge can give at this digital time. They are convinced that they need another agency to manage what the EFCC failed to account for – proceeds of crime in its custody since 2015. Our leaders even at the executive council of the federation (a.k.a cabinet) indeed need help from above to realise that we can’t continue to dig a hole to fill a hole. They don’t understand that a simple note from the chief executive of the federation to the Central Bank can solve that problem of keeping the proceeds of crime. It is simply and squarely a treasury challenge the CBN and the accountant-general of the federation can resolve with the office of the auditor-general of the federation if there is a proper discussion of how the public finance sector works.
Somehow, again, the oracle says the walls of public service rules and regulation and the financial instructions broke down long ago. And no one is ready to rebuild them within the context of public service reforms our government has failed to organise.
Let’s face it, there is still a failure of synergy in the presidential bureaucracy that became more chaotic last week again when the issue of a new anti-graft agency became public knowledge. The attorney-general of the federation announced the new deal after a federal executive council (FEC) on Wednesday. Within twenty-four hours, the chairman of the presidential advisory council on anti-corruption strategy, a professor of law, came up with his own advice to the federal legislature that the new executive bill (from the president) on ‘proceeds of crime management agency’ should be rejected.
So, what happened to the president’s mens’ wall of propriety and decorum? Even if the presidential adviser wasn’t consulted on the new bill by the president and the AGF, should the professor wash the presidency’s dirty linen publicly like that in the name of freedom of expression? The professor said he heard from sources that the new bill would be a prelude to the scrapping of the EFCC, now being investigated. All these curious manifestations could only have come from a defenceless and chaotic presidency. That is what can manifest from another broken wall that has exposed that the capital city’s temple has indeed been violated.
This is not an esoteric thing. It is yet another simple example of why people who would like to succeed the present crop of rulers should be ready to learn from a classical story I would like to share briefly on a legend called Nehemiah well known in the literature of nation building. He is an expert on how to rebuild broken walls of careless and sinful nations. He was used of God to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. This classic is useful and significant, especially now that something unique is happening to the organic ‘Children of Abraham’ in the Middle East where ‘Abraham Accords’ brokered by President Donald Trump of the United States was signed on September 15. UAE, Bahrain are joining Egypt and Jordan (since October 1994) to maintain peace deal with Israel. The broken walls in that region are being rebuilt, curiously – in our life time.
‘The Nehemiah Lesson’:
Twelve years after the last events of the book of Ezra, a Jew named Nehemiah received bad news about Jerusalem that the walls of the city were still broken down, and the burned gates had never been replaced. It was a time of extreme hardship, shame and reproach for the Jewish people. Their homes were plundered and they were carried away by the Babylonians; and scattered all over the world. But the man rose from where he was serving another king and was moved by the suffering and insecurity of his people who were exposed because of the broken walls of the City of David.
The legend, Nehemiah lived in the Persian city of Susa and was a personal servant to King Artaxerxes. So Citizen Nehemiah prayed and asked God to have Artaxerxes send him to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah and he even provided the materials for the reconstruction. After the patriot, Nehemiah had arrived in Jerusalem and the repair work had begun, the officials from neighboring areas insulted the Jews and accused them of wanting to rebel against Persia. These enemies even planned attacks against Jerusalem and tried to kill Nehemiah. Finally, the walls and gates were finished and dedicated.
The book of Nehemiah, (which records this great feat) was written to remind the Israelis of how God had worked to bring them back to their land and rebuild the city of Jerusalem. The book reports Nehemiah’s efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and to reform the spiritual commitments of the Jews. He tackled the wall first and then used the success of that project as a motivator for spiritual reform. This rebuilding, in the face of great odds, represented the people’s renewal of faith, their victory over national shame and the reforming of their conduct.
And the first step of rebuilding the nation was the building of a great wall, a metaphor for restructuring at all times.
The connection between the temple and the wall is significant for the theology of work. The temple might seem to be a religious institution, while the walls are a secular one. But, accordingly, Nehemiah was led to work on the walls, no less than Ezra too was led to work on the temple. Both the sacred and the secular were necessary to fulfill God’s plan to restore the nation of Israel. If the walls were unfinished, the temple was unfinished too. The work was of a single piece.
The reason for this is easy to understand. Without a wall, no city in the ancient Middle East was safe from bandits, gangs and wild animals, even though the empire might be at peace. The more economically and culturally developed a city was, the greater the value of things in the city, and the greater the need for the wall. The temple, with its rich decorations, would have been particularly at risk. Practically speaking, no wall means no city, and no city means no temple.
So at this time of anomie when even the state thieves here are gathering again against us for Project2023, what great lessons can we learn from the servant-leader Nehemiah whose qualities we need at this time of national despair?
Citizen Nehemiah had compassion on his suffering people. How do we (the people) detect crocodile tears, just to get to power? Nehemiah’s visitors came to him at the king’s palace, and he inquired about the situation of the Jews in Jerusalem. They told him the following:
“The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.”
We see in Citizen Nehemiah, a man sensitive to the plight of his people. Although he lived in opulence in the king’s palace, the burden of his people crushed and kept him alert and prayerful. When he heard of the suffering of his people and their shameful situation, he wept, fasted and took the problem to God. He was not a man of God. He was just an ordinary boy who depended and feared the God man. You don’t have to be a Bishop, a Pastor or an Imam to be a good man to serve your country well. All we need is genuine passion and knowledge to serve all people, not a section.
Nehemiah served all, mobilised all the people for the rebuilding of his nation. He handled even his opponents for the rebuilding discreetly and responsibly. He didn’t detain any of them while rebuilding. He even prayed for them. Here was a leader who knew where he was going. Where shall we get our Nehemiah, an enabler, not an orator, an oracle, not a man of God but a man who fears the God of man to lead Nigeria to be indeed the leader of the black race the world has been waiting for? Who shall we send to take us to be part of G-20 and even BRICS?
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