Sunday, May 7, 2017

Much Ado About Change And Re-structuring

Clamors and agitations for change - any kind of change - are not done in silence, and in the case of Nigeria, there has been lots of noise in recent times about re-structuring and breakaways.

Why all the noise, and why this level of intensive clamor for change now? Well, for one, the country at its present state is not working. Matter of fact, it has not been working for quite a long time. Specifically, it has not worked for all of the people all of the time, but has worked for some people - regardless of region, zone, or ethnic nationality - some of the times. The Igbos feel perpetually marginalized; the Yorubas, Hausa, Fulani, Berom, Ogoni, Ikwerre, Bini, Efik, Egba, Christians, Muslims, Obas, Obis, Emirs, women, girls, young men, retirees, civil servants, unemployed, graduates, market women, illiterates, and anyone and anything in uniform, all feel at some point or the other marginalized by the "system". Now, with all the diverse ethnic, religious, professional and business, retired politicians, the never-tried, and the tried-and-failed all crying foul at the current system, or structure, why has nothing changed?

One reason is lack of sincerity of purpose. Any and every ethnic group or zone that has been schemed out of the current political system tends to cry "marginalization", and want out of the union until their fortunes turn around in the next dispensation, then the agitation for change dissipates to a bare whisper in very remote circles. Hausas, Fulanis, Igbos, and the Yorubas all play this same game.

The second is lack of clarity on what exactly should be replaced, and with what. Re-structuring is on the table, and so also is breakup; for proponents of re-structuring, what do you want re-structured? The political system, economic system, or social system? In a nation where the majority claimed that no system exists, what system, then, requires re-structuring?

Thirdly, even where there is consensus agreement on re-structuring, there is division on when and how? No one region or ethnic nationality wants to lose what they are currently enjoying for something they have no idea what the benefits will be. Some have called for a return to the 1960s model of regional governance; others have called for retaining the six Geo-political zones and running a provincial system based on these zones, with six provincial parliaments and administrators, and vice-presidents at the center. Others have gone as far as suggesting a tribal system of government, meaning more than 250 tribal administrations like what exist in some places like Afghanistan, etc.

For advocates of a break up of the Nigeria, or secessionists,  their reasoning is that the current united system emasculates their socio-political and economic growth and development opportunities; they believe that if they excise themselves from Nigeria and form a separate independent nation, their fortunes will grow and all the social and political problems that bedevil Nigeria today will stay put in Nigeria. This, at best, is a fairy-tale dream; but, that is not up for discussion here. However, it is impossible to really argue either way on the position of the secessionists, because there is no recent experience in the country to use as a yardstick.

Also, a breakup into ethnic nationalities, as being bandied about by some other groups, will only multiply the existing national problems by either six time (zonal/provincial governments), or 300 times (tribal administrations); because, within these ethnic nationalities exist tremendous discord. The same goes for every other alternative idea being floated out there, and these are some of the main reasons why the loudness of these agitations tend to ebb and flow according to which tribe or ethnic group is in charge at the center, or in line to take the center.

As I mentioned earlier, there are legitimate reasons for these agitations for a change of the current system in Nigeria; unfortunately, these efforts are directed at the wrong place. Agitators should focus their efforts at the local and state governments which directly impact the people much more than the central government. Ignoring the rotten system at the state level presided over by fellow ethnic brothers and sisters while crying foul at the central problem smacks of hypocrisy and tribal protectionism, and this attitude does not address the problem of bad governance.

Just as all politics is local, any change or re-structuring in any systems has to start at the local level. A hen cannot ignore the knife that cut off its head only to bend its neck at the soup pot. When we paper over our tribal/ethnic and state problems and direct our anger and clamor for change at the center, the eventual success achieved at that center will result in failure at the ethnic/state/regional levels.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Let Your Light Shine before Men

Mathew 5 14:16
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house” (Verses 14-15)
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (verse 16)

A large crowd of people were pressing on Jesus, so he climbed up on a mountain where he could secure a vantage position that will allow him a clear visual of the magnitude of the crowd, and at the same time provide some sort of protection while he preached to them. The Sermon on the Mount is considered the first preaching of Jesus Christ to a large crowd, and where he listed the topics that will form major biblical subjects that promises a way of life that leads to salvation. Known as the Beatitudes, these subjects are outlined in Mathew chapter 5, from verse 1 to 13. However, right after the Beatitudes, Christ also preached on the relationship between his disciples and the world; how we should attract followers to him, and what the world expects to see in the daily life and activities of those who profess to be Disciples of Christ.

“You are the light of the world”

Hear Him! We are the light of the world. Christ is not talking about fashion here: no painted fingernails, designers clothing, or the latest hairstyles. He is not talking about our private jets, mansions, and fleet of exotic cars, our gold medals and trophies collected through our sporting prowess. It is not our bevy of beautiful spouses decked out in expensive jewelry; yes, while those could and do sparkle, they do not produce the light Christ is referring to. Here, Christ is talking about our daily lives: how do we live our lives as Christians? At work, at home when no one is watching, in the church, in public places when everyone is watching, at grocery stores, in the classrooms, in our marriages, friendship with others, and in our relationship with our children and siblings. How does your light shine through? To know if your light shines through positively or not, you must first understand what that light is; and to successfully do this, you must first know who you are spiritually aligned with. Are you with Christ or with the world?

If you are with Christ, then you have to go back to the Beatitudes that preceded these verses and clearly understand those who will obtain salvation, and why:
1.      The poor in spirit
2.      Those who mourn (not necessarily for the deaths in their own families)
3.      The gentle
4.      Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
5.      The merciful
6.      The pure in heart
7.      The peacemakers
8.      Those persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and
9.      Those persecuted for the sake of Christ
Are you any or all of these? Does the world see any of these lights in you?

“A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house”

If you are or possess any of the qualities, the world will notice them from your daily life activities and interaction and they will strive to emulate you. If you have any or all of them but do not exhibit them (lighting a lamp and hiding it under a basket), then you are not giving light to “all who are in the house” (world around you). You can say to yourself all you want: “I know I am a good person; I do not cheat, steal, kill, or bear false witness”; but if there has been no witness to those, and no other life or behavior has been positively impacted by your good deeds, or lifestyle, then you are not a light unto the world. Do you turn them off and on, use them like a charm instrument, as occasion requires? Maybe, to get a spouse, a certain job, for good grades, to endear yourself to some groups for ulterior purposes? To attract the attention, and possibly convert certain class of people to Christ to the approval and praise of your pastor, and not everyone who crosses your path? Or, do you just have some and not all the required characteristics?

If your light is selective in its shine, then it is not to the work of God, or to His glory. Same thing if your light is artificial in its shine; faked just for the purpose of confusion and deceit, and not really from the bottom of your heart. Then you will not obtain salvation, because God is not mocked, neither is his instruction disregarded or used for ulterior motives. Are you like the bank counter clerk, that salesgirl, or the cashier at the fast food joint, who is forced to smile because he/she is expected to be “nice” to the customer; yet, behind the facade is the antithesis of all that the Beatitudes spells out for us as a path to salvation. Are you like the politician who patterns his or her message according to the needs of the segment of his constituency? That lady with a different dress for every different occasion, or the man presents with multiple personalities based on the status of woman he is courting? Are you presenting different lights to different audiences? Then your light is not of God, and cannot light up either His house or His community for rest of the world to see.

Felix Oti

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