As the New Year breaks, we are once again awash with the rituals of prayers, good cheers, greetings and admonitions. One after another, Nigerian leaders — spiritual and temporal, as they say — churn out the messages of hope, promises, expectations and even advice.
Like most things executed for its photo-op prospects, the Nigerian factor long overtook that ritual. It’s been a galore of recycled promises of great expectations and other stuff hot air is made of.
During Christmas, we had the President, several governors and even some Peoples Democratic Party leaders asking Nigerians to emulate Jesus Christ. At a point, the banality and the hypocrisy in those admonition prompted my asking why they set an ideal before us to pattern our humanity after? Why can’t we start by emulating the President’s virtues and see where we go from there? And why not make their lives a model instead?
But then, there is something exciting about the prospects of emulating Jesus Christ and for which their messages and admonitions should not be dismissed lightly.
Jesus Christ, as the Synoptic Gospels show us, was something akin to a socialist. He preached welfarist messages, looked out for the poor and, damned the rich and self-righteous. Long before American Republicans invented the moral panic term — Redistribution — Jesus proposed taking from the rich and giving to the poor.
If Nigerians were to emulate Jesus Christ like President Goodluck Jonathan and company admonish, we would attack the social system we practise in Nigeria that devalues the lives of millions while it allows a few to sit atop the food chain where they throw down crumbs in moments of magnanimity. If we take them literally and emulate Jesus Christ, a lot of those prancing about our national stage and daring fate by ignoring the downtrodden would not have a stage to stuff their myopia in our faces.
We know who would be one of the first targets: politicians, businessmen, traditional rulers and religious heads who have enriched themselves at the expense of others would be casualties. It means next time President Jonathan makes one of his Freudian slips of “I didn’t promise to reduce poverty but I promised to create wealth”, we will not merely shake our heads in pity.
Jesus Christ, piqued at a point, drove businessmen out of the temple for defiling a sacred space. In contemporary Nigeria, it means we would be driving certain people out of places which we should hold sacred like courts, police stations, schools, churches, State Houses and, parliament buildings at both state and federal levels. In fact, emulating Jesus Christ literally means we would be using horsewhips to thrash out our perennially errant lawmakers; after divesting them of their voluminous agbadas. And it does not stop there as their ill-gotten wealth would be seized and redistributed to the needy; their private jets would be handed to public hospitals where they would serve the people, not a few fat cats.
When Jesus Christ looked to a fig tree for food and was disappointed at its fruitlessness, he did not merely walk away. In a moment of human weakness, he cursed the fig tree and it dried up. In emulating Jesus Christ, we the citizens of Nigeria, shall have the power to eternally damn any public official to whom we look up to with certain expectations but lets us down. If he happens to be holding a position of responsibility, we would make sure that his career dries up there and then like the fig tree.
Recently, Jonathan and his band men have trumped that there is a need for attitudinal change by Nigerians. Corruption, Jonathan says, is not the problem but our attitude. For starters, Nigerians probably have the most positive attitude in the world. We are a race of optimistic people who hope against hope; hope is a religion in Nigeria. If we were to be like Jesus at the fig tree scene, we would express our collective disappointment at the shallowness of the President’s thoughts; rather than face up issues, he descends to blaming the victims of executive incompetence.
A President blatantly declares that the Federal Road Safety Commission told him that 80 per cent of Nigerian road accidents occur on good roads, and it did not occur to him elementary logic shows that those roads cannot be “good roads”? And for the second time around the same period, he insists Nigerians are merely fixated on corruption and blame all our problems on it when in reality, it is not even the issue. He cites dubious figures about the amount of cases in court to counter the glaring reality that the country is being grounded by acts of corruption. This, in the most polite terms, is being disingenuous.
Now, I espy a certain similarity between a fig tree that refuses to be fruitful at a critical period when Jesus Christ needed a well-deserved lunch and a President whose reasoning at a critical period in a nation’s life is, at best, fruitless. If Jesus Christ can curse the fig tree for a major let down, our emulating him should mean…., well, please fill in the blanks.
A wise person enjoins us to be careful what we wish for because it just might happen! In this case, if Nigerians truly emulate Jesus Christ, they would stop being footstools their leaders have made them to be and fight the corrupt system that shortchanges their lives.
Yes, the seasonal injunctions that ask us to emulate Jesus want us to embrace his virtues but forget there is a radical leftist side of him that greatly troubled the political and religious leaders of his day. They forget about the aspects of Jesus that demystified the laws of Moses and pointed out its dogmatic foundations and which made the Pharisees — whose lives were built upon the letter of the law — rightly upset.
If Nigerians were to emulate this Jesus Christ, they would be empowered in knowledge and would not endlessly look to the heavens for help but within themselves. And because they would not succumb easily to superstition, they would be a less compliant accessory to the looting of our commonwealth. They would be more involved; be a more active citizenry.
So in this sense, I welcome the admonition for us to emulate Jesus Christ. Indeed, in 2013, let all Nigerians emulate him in deed and in words. The country will be better for it.