OF COURSE, WE DO
Too much of everything is good – save for prayers –
Once – on a sunny morning – during my secondary school days, I met a man – old, but educated – at a local restaurant behind my school. My going to the restaurant on the said day was illegal on two grounds – one, it was during school hour, and two, the route to the place was banned for use by the school management. But, whether the food was charmed or the aroma was irresistible, students would always crowd the place to fill their stomach, in fact, before filling school register. Most importantly, however, I was there, and I met this man. No, I heard this man.
This old man was just like any regular old retiree who would become regular analysts at newspaper stands, just that he has chosen home instead. One thing that keeps this man in my memories was a remark he made on this day. When, jokingly, the mama put asked for his opinion on a then trending issue, he remarked; I no longer listen to news, too many sad stories these days, and I’m scared to listen. Although I finished up my food satisfyingly, the man’s remarks stuck still, because he was right – too much of sad news. Then, it was about the Sokka Kidnappings, Bokoharam insurgents…
Nigeria is like a story – a plot – that keeps unfolding with events, just that these events are a repetition of self. For years, the country has been gyrating back and forth on the grounds of failure, ranging from losing world cup to the prevalence of corruption, to insecurity, to underdevelopment and poverty, despite her being replete with natural resources, and now to avoidable killings and tragedies. The loss of lives in these past days has been alarming so much so that any unconcerned person would now be woke. From the plateau killings to the petrol tanker accident, many lives have been forced to early reunion with their creator. Yet, we ask, does Nigeria need prayers? Any patriot would answer in the affirmative.
Before anyone jumps from a 10 storey building of impatience into the pool of conclusion, let it be clear that today, we are not asking whether Nigerians need only prayers, but whether prayers are needed at all. My lords, the role of prayers cannot be downplayed in solving problems as complicated as that of Nigeria. As such, it is paramount to ask, have we been praying? No I don’t think so. Although Nigeria brims with mosques, churches and other places of worship, the true essence of prayer is not entrenched within the citizenry. A prayer is defined, according to dictionary.com, as a devout petition to God or an object of worship. The import of devout, here, shows that a prayer is not one where true and deep commitment is not invested. It is not just about throwing heads and arms in churches or garnishing oneself in beautiful jalamias on Fridays; prayer is a thing of the mind – a thing of commitment. This one thing, Nigerians lack.
The number of churches and mosques in Nigeria are recorded to be more the schools we have, showing how seemingly religious Nigerians are. Yet, Nigeria is one of the least safe countries to live, as reported by Daily times. The perpetrators of these evils go to churches and mosques too, the officers who allow non-motorable tankers move around are part of us, and the government that fails to address insurgent groups constitute religious members as well. My lords, is God alive? Yes, are we praying? No – because prayer is not one when not complemented by corresponding actions. You cannot ask for yam, when you plant onions.
More than ever before, Nigeria needs prayers. And this is not to say that we have not been praying, rather to underline the need to pray more fervently. It should be noted that although Nigeria reeks with many tragedies, we are not totally ripped apart by wars. When compared to some other countries, Nigeria is relatively manageable. This is not only because certain people are taking actions to ensure the country moves forward, it is also because the prayers we have, so far, been saying did manifest. Thus, prayers have helped, they can help, and if more religiously practised, they would help the more.
In the end, whatever action we ask of Nigerians to supposedly replace prayers, they are valid so long they are reasonable. However, they can only work alongside prayers. They cannot take its place, as prayer is in itself a form of action. Too much of other things may be bad, but not prayer, my lords – not prayer. So, once again – pray for Nigeria, and act your prayers. Prayers is like God Prayer alongside other actions.
WAIT… HAVEN’T WE BEEN PRAYING?
“…Verily, God does change a people’s lot unless they change what is in their hearts.” (Qur’an 13, Suratur-Rad, verse 11)
This past week, a picture of the President and his comment on the recent horrors pinning the back of the nation to the wall stole the attention of habitants of the internet. The graphic carried the insignia of the Guardian Newspaper and in it, the picture of the President was moderately splashed. Bespectacled and decked on his trademark well-starched patterned cap, the President’s wrinkled cheek ran diagonal race to form a conical (and maybe comical too!) shape with his about-to-speak mouth. There, he, reportedly, said: “Nobody can say we haven’t done well in terms of security; we have done our best. But the way the situation is now, we have to pray. Pray – this is where I’m going.
The President asks us to pray. But do we need to pray truly? Are the ugly scenes and the horrific situations been splashed on our national dailies and social media treads as a result of our failure to pray? Your Honour, we need not look too far, ours is a nation where when we say “men of God” we meant “god of men”. Ours is a nation where celebrating completion of a multimillion naira church building is darer to us than breathing life into our schools on life support. Ours is a nation where the number of worship centres outrightly outnumbers that of schools and health centres. In essence, we have been praying. What we have not been doing is working. And the latter is what we need – not the former which is already in excess.
Of course, I’m not downplaying the God factor in the equation of things. I think I have not lost my senses to do that. Your Honour, all I’m saying is that we may pray but we must have done our assignments well enough before we look forward to fallen manna from heaven. Call it cliché; heaven hasn’t stopped helping those who help themselves. And, see, it is clear, great things are not done by impulse; they are done by showing up, doing the needful and giving great deal of effort.
In fact, the statement of the President and his ilk schooled in that school of thought – of which my co-Scribe belongs – is on slanted lane of thinking and it is a hypocritically postured. Would my co-Scribe because of a poor grade resolve to prayers when he hasn’t done the needed reading he ought to do and expect to have a better grade? Of course, not. And if he does, you know what? He will have a poorer grade. Why didn’t the President himself bank on prayers to treat himself when he took ill for more than 100 days? If he had, he probably would have sipped the last straw of breath into his nostrils! Prayer works where work is in motion.
Moving a step further, some nations of the world have shown that prayers are not what Nigeria need. In a survey conducted by WIN/Gallup International Poll and published by The Independent, China, Japan, France, Czech Republic, Australia, Iceland are the top six countries in the world with the most ‘convinced atheists’. Surprisingly, all except China and Czech Republic are among the top 23 most peaceful country. Also, all 6, save for China and France, are among the 13 least corrupt nations! Have you now seen?
In our case the indexes are not favouring us. In the 2017 Corruption Perception Index, Nigeria is ranked 148th least corrupt country. We sit around the tail of Press Freedom ladder at 119th of 180. This year, Nigeria’s budget to education is only a paltry 7.07% of the nation’s total N8.612 trillion while 26% should be our benchmark. Our health sector is in itself in need of medical aid. Yet the President says “the way the situation is now, we have to pray”? Come on, is he joking or what?
Coasting home, prayers are not all that we need; we need players. Yes, players. We need economic players who have the wherewithal to form a formidable defensive line against any economic downturn. We need shrewd political players who are not clueless on the running of governance, those who have an eye for goal and can dribble their way past any impending turmoil. What we need is not building megachurches or megamosques; what we need is strengthening our institutions – making them a place where love, equity, fairness and justice is ingrained in the DNA of all Nigerians. Your Honour, that is what we need: players – not prayers. I take a bow.
CONCLUSION: This column is about you; it presents the two sides of a case courtesy of two writers from different schools of thought. “Audi alteram partem” means hear the other side before passing your judgment. Take the gavel, make your decision and slam because you are the Judge in this courtroom. You can vote for the scribe whose argument you adjudge better by using the poll option below and forward your comment in the comment box below.
DOES NIGERIA TRULY NEED PRAYERS???
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