The main purpose of this write-up is to analyse the aim of the purported visit to ailing President Yar’adua by Bishop Oyedepo and some other clerics. However, since Bishop Oyedepo held tenaciously to the belief that he owes no public explanation on this curious visit, I am left with no option than to read between the lines. Shortly after this visit, at the 54th Birthday Thanksgiving service of Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State held at the Valley View Auditorium, Abeokuta, the revered Bishop spoke rather curiously. His theme was on our endemic penchant for filling available posts with unqualified hands. In fact, he roundly declared that “Nigeria as a nation lacked men of integrity in all spheres of human endeavour”. The Bishop further asserted that “many unqualified men and women were occupying leadership positions in the country”. In this far-reaching speech, the Bishop asserted amongst others that:
1. People with lesser ideas and knowledge must not be allowed to lead Nigerians, insisting that the foundation of the country needed to be re-examined.
2. Nigeria had unlimited potential and wondered why at 50 years, the nation could still not be counted amongst the developed nations of the world.
Like many Nigerians still mystified at the deliberate secrecy shrouding the visits to ailing Yar’adua by these “elect” Nigerians, my initial reaction was to dismiss this thought-provoking speech attributed to the Bishop. However, some other event thereafter showed that our Bishop may actually be expressing his frustration with all he saw in the course of the curious visit to Yar’adua.
Many news organs had since reported that an unidentified aide of Bishop Oyedepo stated that the man Yar’adua was in a vegetative state. While this piece of news is not surprising as this was what Nigerians have assumed all along, the expressed frustration in Bishop Oyedepo’s speech called for a second analysis.
Dear Bishop, may I express my sincere regrets at your inability to break the law of Omerta which was apparently one of the conditions of the visit. But I fully partake in your frustration and indignation at seeing what a mess Yar’adua had turned to and the displayed insensitivity and arrogance of Turai. Indeed, Nigeria has gone to the dogs. Perhaps, you would take some time to consider the following:
1. Nigeria had gone to the dogs precisely because people like you (those with the authority and the connection to influence both the masses and those in government) kept just too quiet for too long.
2. Nigeria is this bad because when the common people are crying of hunger and dying of preventable illnesses, people like you hobnob with politicians and those who are stealing the country blind. Such was demonstrated by your visit to Abeokuta to felicitate with Gbenga Daniel, an accomplice in the dilemma Nigeria has suddenly become.
3. Your adherence to a foolish requirement demanding silence on the visit to Yar’adua is rather curious. Whilst the nation is looking for tangible excuses to convince the morons at the National Assembly of the need to invoke the medical clause in removing this national burden, you and your associates went and came out keeping quiet, insisting you owe no public explanation on this. Dear Bishop, I wonder where you expected the changes you so much wanted in Nigeria to start.
4. You did state with strong conviction that “many unqualified men and women were occupying leadership positions in the country”. Yes, Bishop, you are very correct and this sudden realisation on your part is what millions of Nigerians knew ages ago. You are welcomed to the club. Having come to this wonderful awakening, it behoves on you to make radicalism part of your itinerary henceforth. We need people with your kind of priviledges to help galvanise the desired changes in our dear country. The square pegs in round holes include people like Yar’adua whom you had just visited. Dear Bishop, something tells me that you actually have this in mind when you made this famous statement. It is thus imperative, especially with your new awakening, to realise that you indeed owe a public explanation on this mysterious visit. You need to come open. Those who go to equity do so with clean hands.
5. While appreciating the conflict of conscience inherent in your speech and at the risk of sounding iterative, it is also relevant to remind you to use your enormous influence in persuading your colleagues in the Pentecostal Fellowship of the need to be more responsive to the yearnings of the masses. Dining, wining and felicitating with corrupt politicians, disgraced rulers and dubious Nigerians, which has hitherto been the norm amongst them, should come to a definite end. The Pentecostal leadership in Nigeria has become a subject of ridicule simply because of the perceived insensitivity of its leadership. However, your new found realisation could serve as the basis of better things to come.
6. In other climes, religion has served as the basis of pivotal changes in socio-political agitation. What we had been served so far in Nigeria has been exploitative and supremely conservative Pentecostalism. Perhaps this powerful social tool could wake up to its true calling at this stage with you being the pivotal head.
7. You emphatically stated that “Nigeria as a nation lacked men of integrity in all spheres of human endeavour”. Here I totally disagree with you, dear Bishop. This statement is a great injustice to the millions of our countrymen demonstrating their competency and integrity in many spheres of human endeavour worldwide. I take it that this statement was borne out of your frustration with the decadence and rot with which the nation is now identified. However, it is important for you to note that men of integrity in Nigeria do not have the space and resources to combat the endemic worms and parasites that have hijacked the paraphernalia of governance and have continued to lord it over us recklessly. Such as the one you visited at Abeokuta, Gbenga Daniel. Your all encompassing overview castigating all Nigerians as lacking in integrity is therefore wrong and unacceptable.
8. You are damned right when you stated that “Nigeria remains a great nation with great people, noting that religious bodies and individuals had great roles to play towards nation building”. Dear Bishop, this is the crust of my write-up. Nigeria can indeed be great and Nigerians are really great people. It is thus distressful to note that greatness has eluded us for so long. Your bold and insightful speech on the Valley to Gbenga Daniel and others should serve as the beginning of greater commitment on your part.
Indeed, we as a people have unlimited potentials. And I do agree that we operate a leadership system that has no formula. However, dear Bishop, our country can only afford to fill square pegs in round holes and can only afford to be counted in the comity of advanced nations when we begin to stop paying lip service to the struggle for the emancipation and liberation of our country. Your sudden awakening, if effectively combined with the yearnings and aspiration of the people, can serve as a very useful catalyst in our struggle for social changes and the deliberate overhaul of the rusty and outdated Nigerian mode of leadership.
Dr Olusegun Fakoya is a physician, teacher, writer and socio-political commentator residing in the UK.