The just concluded year 2011, unarguably has passed as the most traumatic period in post-military Nigeria. The worst of these national stressors is the Boko Haram menace which has taken the posture of larger than the Nigeria state. With every bomb that is thrown, the entire nation is thrown into confusion and the question on the minds and lips of the majority is when will all this end. Entering into 2012, people had hardly exchanged New Year pleasantries before the nation was greeted with the highest hike in fuel pump price in Nigeria’s history - and expectedly, labour has responded with the mother of all strikes which has literally shut down the nation. There is palpable fear in the hearts of no few Nigerians that if left unchecked, the current nationwide industrial action might be hijacked and escalate into full blown anarchy.
These events have elicited genuine concerns in the heart of serious-minded Christians. That Nigeria is a nation of unexplainable paradox is the obvious truth. In moments of sober reflections, I, for one, have had to ask no one in particular in an apparent state of bewilderment, what is it about us as a nation? Why are things not working in Nigeria, the same things which are working in other nations? Does God hate this country? Are we under a curse of some sort? Can we be so blessed yet languishing in a self-inflicted curse? Can we be so rich yet groaning under the burden of starvation, homelessness and unemployment? And talking of the church, can we be so numerous, so knowledgeable in the things of God, so richly endowed and gifted and yet be failing so miserably in enforcing righteousness and the will of God in our society?
In an attempt to provide an answer to this contradiction and possibly chart a way forward, different schools of thought have been expressed. Wrong foundations, the sin of idolatry, bad leadership, greed, love of money and nepotism (ethnic/tribal sentiments) are some of those things that have been fingered as the bane of the Nigerian society. And in response, what has the church done? Repentance sessions and prophetic actions have been organised several times over; we have confessed our sins of idolatry, witchcraft and other vices, for as long as I can remember. We have fasted, mobilised even government functionaries and traditional rulers to fast, pray, confess, repent and things of that nature - things that other nations learnt from us and it worked for them yet we even seem to be worse than when we started praying!
This condition is certainly perplexing to intercessors and Kingdom labourers. I remember the other day when a man of God in my city lamented that with the massive investment his generation has made into the prayer movement for the nation for over 30years, his sincere assessment is that things have literally gone from bad to worse. So I ask, what on earth is wrong with this geo-political space called Nigeria? Several ministers have asserted strongly that God has an undying love for this nation and that we are arguably the most blessed nation on earth. But events in this country seem to say the opposite; it is as if God has turned His eyes away.
During one of the attacks of the Boko Haram in November last year, I was discussing with a fellow intercessor about how a faceless group of individuals could hold an entire nation to ransom and how it appears even the church is at a loss as to how to handle them. It was during this discussion that the Lord opened my eyes to something which we very well know but perhaps has not really dawned on most of us in the church. It is none other than the degree to which we have given ourselves as a nation into iniquity and lawlessness.
You know, we often talk so much about corruption in the high places; about how politicians milk the nation dry and things of that sort. But our eyes are blinded to how the average man on the street encourages corruption and is a principal beneficiary of it. If the only corrupt people in Nigeria are our political leaders, I do not think we will be in the sorry state that we are in. Alas, it has become a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabric of society and has permeated every aspect of our national life. Like somebody pointed out, it is not that Nigerian officials are corrupt but that corruption is official in Nigeria.
Permit me to stress this issue a bit. I do this in the hope that your eyes might suddenly open to how our present dilemma is as a result of our entrenched engagement in sin. We often like to give the excuse of our idolatrous background, faulty foundations occasioned by colonial imperialism, ethnic imbalance, falsehood and deceit, military intervention and so on. But are there not other nations of the world with more idols than here in Nigeria and yet are not enmeshed in the embarrassing contradictions that we find ourselves in? Are there not other nations with more ethnic nationalities than we have in Nigeria and which have historical antecedences similar to ours? Why have such nations overcome some social problems like power failure, chronic poverty, mass illiteracy, flawed electoral system, compromised judiciary, social injustice and large-scale insecurity? The answer is quite simple and not far-fetched:
“Righteousness exalts a nation; sin is a reproach to any people” - Prov. 14:34
This is my point: let the nation with the best of foundations invest in unrighteousness, it is only a matter of time before it begins to nose-dive into an unending maze of crises similar to ours. Conversely, let a nation with the worst of backgrounds begin to invest in righteousness and it will not take long before it begins to soar among the top-ranking nations of the world. Nothing brings shame and reproach like sin; believe me, sin is a sinker - no matter how much such a people pray and burn themselves out in religion. Again, we are often quick to blame the leadership for the nation’s travails. But every nation gets the leadership it deserves. Let such a nation make even the best of men like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Nelson Mandela their president, with sin having eaten deep into the national life of the people, they will still wallow in the pigstyle of reproach and ignominy - a horrible repercussion of sowing into unrighteousness. Such good-intentioned leaders will get there and just find out to their dismay that all their efforts at moving forward is like a car stuck in a mudhole.
Is it not a common knowledge that the average man on the street says that if given just a day’s chance to occupy Aso Rock, none of his generation will ever again know poverty in life? Nigeria’s worst enemies are Nigerians. A revenue officer issues his own receipt to clients; a storekeeper keeps his own private store within the store he is paid to manage and resells the same stock to his employer! Yet, this storekeeper has children in secondary school and even in the university that he sends to school with this cursed money; has his children not become a partaker in his sins?
The market woman uses a false measure and goes home with ‘smart’ money and gives that money in church; has the church not become a partaker in her sins? The contractor fails to execute the road rehabilitation contract because directors in the ministry have taken a chunk of the money and he decides to go away with what is left; subsequently, that road claims the lives of some innocent travellers. The children of this contractor as well as the extended family members of these directors in the ministry who benefit from blood money, are they not all de facto murderers? Yet all these people will be saying that the country is bad and the leaders are useless. They fail to acknowledge how they are tearing the nation down in their own jurisdiction. The truth is this: every social sin that is committed impacts negatively on the nation.
Today, huge sums of money are demanded from job seekers before the job is given and they are assured that on getting into the system, they will make it back in a very short time usually through illegitimate ways of making money. So a foundation of corruption has been laid for such would-be employees. Teachers who are supposed to be life moulders ‘help’ certain pupils whose parents are quite willing to dole out some inducements. A Christian police officer was refused promotion for eight years because he refused to pay N150,000 to effect that promotion. Some civil servants keep two separate government jobs - in a country where unemployment rate is killing - and still run their private businesses!
Medical doctors in government hospitals divert patients to their private clinics in the name of private practice. Some claim that they are so overwhelmed they can’t possibly give personal attention to all the patients assigned to them in the hospital but are willing to give personalised attention and care to any patient willing to pay as a private patient. University professors refuse to teach or supervise projects; some are nowhere near the university that pays them for as much as one year, yet are not pricked in their conscience when they collect salary for that period. Their departments are grossly understaffed yet because these ‘untouchables’ have refused to leave the stage, young, vibrant and more current academics cannot be employed.
Nigerians go to China and other places and ask manufacturers of drugs, consumables and other products to reduce the quality by as much as 50% so that they can import these into the country and sell to unsuspecting Nigerians who are ever ready to jump at a cheaper alternative. Many have been sent to their untimely graves as a result of such counterfeit drugs.
Should we visit the pirating industry in Nigeria which today has become a big multi-billion naira industry and almost everybody is guilty! We pirate musicals, films, software, books - not only of foreign copyright owners but local producers. The poor artiste or author who laboured tirelessly to produce an album or write a book is yet to recover from the debt incurred from such production but has already seen his own album out in the open market for N150! What does this do to creativity and initiative? You know the answer. Little wonder our artistes are often lured into drug trafficking in order to break even.
It is a common knowledge that there is a generator-importing mafia that are working assiduously against the possibility of stable power supply. They are not alone in that quest; diesel marketers whose main customers are generator owners and even petrol marketers are not left out. There are companies whose annual budget for diesel alone is in excess of N200million! Purchasing and regularly servicing the generators is another story. Why would they not relocate to neighbouring West African countries where they don’t have to subsidize government’s irresponsibility in producing power? Sometimes, these oil marketers allegedly give them some inducement at the PHCN office so as to cut off power in a particular area for a few days because when this happens, their sales shoot up. We hear that some saboteurs go to the extent of shooting down high-tension cables and vandalising vital power installations just to keep themselves in business.
Let us not talk about the rot in the oil sector or the decay in government. The political office seeker is given certain conditions by his party. When he eventually wins the elections, his immediate obligation is to satisfy his party before attending to the overwhelming demands of family members - nuclear and extended, friends and associates, church members, neighbours, old school mates and so on who turn into emergency contractors so as to have a slice at the national cake. These must be satisfied before he thinks of serving the electorate that supposedly voted him into office. Unfortunately, his four-year tenure is almost over and there are little or no funds left.
These examples are all corruption-related cases. For want of space, and perhaps, not to overflog what we already know, we will not even go into other vices such as armed robbery, ritual killings, the general state of lawlessness and indiscipline, moral decadence, social injustice, violence, idolatry and so on. You know a lot yourself. What is my point here? Beloved, we have no moral right to complain about the pathetic state of the nation when we continue to sow massively into sin and unrighteousness. The situation we find ourselves in today is only the dividends of unrighteousness which we are just beginning to reap. The scripture in Gal. 6:7 is binding on nations as it is on individuals:
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” - Gal 6:7
Beloved, I thought of all the ways we daily sow into ungodliness as a nation and I exclaimed, no wonder! How can we ever move forward as a nation with this lead-weight of iniquity chained to our ankle? How can we? Is God upstairs asleep? Is justice dead? If a country like Nigeria makes progress, then even satan will petition God as being unfair! The verdict of Heaven is this:
“Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered” - Proverbs 11:21.
These scriptures cannot be broken. God cannot be bribed! No amount of fasting, sacrificial giving, marathon prayers and gigantic cathedrals will get us out of the predicament. When the staff of an organisation continues to cheat on the organisation, no amount of prayers can stop that organisation from eventually folding up and when this happens, unemployment rate shoots up and so does crime and other social vices. So it is not satan doing us neither is it God punishing us; we are the ones doing ourselves. In fact, realising this, I said to myself, “Oh Nigeria, brace up because your suffering has just begun!”
Beloved, the only lasting way out of our national travails is to turn away from sin and embark on an aggressive campaign against sin. This campaign cannot be prosecuted by the government or by Non-governmental organisations. The campaign against sin cannot be implemented by the United Nations but by the Church of the Living God, the Ground and Pillar of Truth. Thank God for our many years of prayer for the nation but we must take this campaign to another level. Realise that there is a world of a difference between confession and repentance. What we have been doing in our prayer meetings is confessing the sins of the nation. But confessing the sins of bloodshed and witchcraft, for instance, has not stopped them. Until our confessions go a step further to involve a conscious turning away from wrong, only a caricature of repentance has taken place.
How then can we get our society to willingly forsake the many evils present with us today? Again, this is the exclusive responsibility of the church. The church is supposed to be the vanguard of speaking into the conscience of the nation, to nurture it with truth and to prevent it from becoming reprobate. Alas, the church has become neck-deep in pursuing worldly accolades that it has outdone even the world in many respects. For every sin in the world, there is an equivalent in the church. What do you say to a pastor who says he does not care where the money is coming from or how his members make money as long as he uses the money to preach the gospel?
Because of the craze for popularity and ministry success, most pastors have abandoned preaching the real gospel that saved them from sin thirty years ago and have now subscribed to a popular gospel that appeals to the carnal man. A father in the land spoke of an experience he had with a Muslim on the plane. He had tried to present the gospel to this fellow and this was the response he got: “I know what Christianity is all about. I actually gave six months of my life to watching and listening to at least six preachers on cable TV every Sunday at the end of which I concluded that Christianity is only about how you can prosper materially here on earth. But Islam is about how to make paradise!”
The church today is no more respected by the society and secular leaders. They do not take us seriously anymore because they have seen how our leaders fall over themselves trying to get as close to the government as possible so as to receive donations from politicians and government officials - and so even when we speak, they seldom listen. We have lost our moral right to speak when we are as corrupt as the world itself.
In the eighties, much of the messages that dominated our pulpits were on Christian living, Christian service, the end time, revival. But before our very eyes, we saw the church move en masse into prosperity, success and motivationals - in the nineties. See where these humanistic philosophies have landed us. It is high time the church returned to her true calling of being a preacher of righteousness. Those who taught us never to end a sermon without giving an altar call now end sermons with special offerings, forgetting about their primary mandate of making disciples. Because we want to keep the crowd, we have turned church into a theatre where people only come to service their religious conscience and the pastor ever willing to take a fee for it. Alas, the rot in the church stinks.
How then can the church judge the unrighteousness in the society when she is filled with the same to the brim? Indeed, judgment must begin from the House of God. Let pastors and ministers lead the way by consciously denouncing their own secret sins: their covetousness and mammon-worship, their rivalry, competition and empire-building, their tyranny and dishonesty in the handling of the word of God and church finances, their secret affairs with church members and so on. Only then can they lead their congregation into a revival of righteousness. And it is when the entire church begins to consciously tread the path of righteousness that we can aggressively lead the campaign against sin.
Preaching about the sorry state of the church once in a while is not enough. We must embark on aggressively exposing and condemning sin in all its ramifications. It is time we did away with our nice messages and prophetic pronouncements that even armed robbers jump up and claim it. Let the Peters come back to church who will say, “Your money perish with you, for thinking you can buy the gift of God with money!” Messages that will make our churches very uncomfortable for the unrepentant sinner must find their way back to our pulpits. Pastors must begin to take responsibility for the civil servants, the teachers, the traders and artisans, the professionals and students in their congregations. Until this happens, the church is only paying lip service to tackling sin problem.
Christian businessmen must begin to bring righteousness into their business dealings. Civil servants and those in the private sector must return to serving in the fear of God. Believers must begin to stand up for righteousness everywhere - in traffic, at checkpoints, in examination halls, in the marketplaces - and must be ready to face the consequences, be it delay, denial, persecution and even death. If those who have no message can choose to lay down their lives for their cause, how much more we who believe that we are custodians of the gospel of salvation? We must realise that our sheer number alone is an irrepressible force. If Christians in this nation alone decide to commit themselves to righteousness as the people of Nineveh did, what a mighty momentum that will produce in the nation and others will be compelled to tow the lane. The destiny of this nation is in the hands of the church. We are the watchman laden with the responsibility of warning the nation. If Nigeria does not survive her present travails, no other institution except the church would be held accountable. May the Lord raise in this generation, preachers of righteousness who will lead this campaign of return to righteousness.
- Adeyemo Temidayo 2012