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2011 elections; why Nigerian youth should PRAY to avoid being a PREY- a paper presented by Hon. Aiyamenkhue Edokpolo, SSA to Edo State Governor (Politics and Strategy) at Christ Apostolic Church- Deliverance Centre’s Youth Day, Date…….

By Edo Benin
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I bring good tidings from my boss- the Governor of Edo State- Comrade Adams Aiyu Oshiomhole mni, to the Chairman of this august occasion, the General Overseer of this very distinguished assembly (C.A.C. Deliverance Centre) Prophet J.O. Odigie, Elders of this church here present, guests, ladies and gentlemen.

For the purpose of introduction, I wish to assert that whenever national issues like elections, population census, constitution amendments, referendum, and state creation or boundary adjustments are being raised for discussion or dialectically appraisal, it is very rancorous or crisis-laden. Sometimes if not all the time, very precious lives are lost, properties are destroyed; and the cohesion or sovereignty of our country is placed under the perilous adage of “keg of a gun powder”. The reason for all these threatening or frightening tendencies based on my socio-political inquiry is traceable to ethnicity, religion, political class struggle and sometimes neo-colonial or imperialist tendencies. This paper seek to define the following terms- Youth, Pray or Prayer and Prey; it will thereafter contextualize the Nigerian state as one that is not so far from the Jean Jack Roseau's classified-state-of-nature, “where life is brutish, wicked and short” I implore distinguished youths and parents here present to pay very attentive interest to this paper because it is based on divine guidance of God almighty, through the intellectual anointing our Lord Jesus Christ has placed in me. You are welcome.

The Webster's Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language defined Youth as “the state or condition of being young; or the period when one is young, that part of life between childhood and manhood; adolescence”. It is common knowledge that defining youth has assumed a metaphysical dimension, because, we find some very old men whom by God's privilege of physical fitness will say that they are youths. I have seen young men wrestling or fighting very old men in their community development associations for collecting and pocketing the money meant for the youths of the communities; after they (elders) have pocketed their own; one of the old men (seventy three years old) said “er igbama ma' hia khin?” (Are all of us not youths?). Suffice to say that youths are the armies of every well-meaning nation; they are also the most endangered set of humans because of youthful exuberance. As a result of dis-service on the part of our political leaders over the years, a vast proportion of Nigeria youths are under-trained, ill-equipped, unemployed and un-empowered; so they are ready-made thugs for political warfare for selfish and gruesome politicians who maintain their own children abroad at the expense of the poverty-stricken masses. They are the ones who are not willing to tolerate poverty and economic depression, sometimes; they are not willing to take patriotic steps to transform their country. This is partly responsible for their desperate mass-exodus from Nigeria through the deadly-deserts or what is commonly referred to as “see Morocco, see Spain”. However, it is a known fact that pro-Independence activists like Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mrs. Kuti, Apostle John Edokpolo, Ernest Okoli and others fought 'the fight of faith' for Nigeria as youths, and it is that political freedom that we are enjoying today.

The same dictionary defined Prayer as “communion with God and recognition of His presence as in praise, thanksgiving, intercession, etc”. I like to digress a little bit. Pre-colonially speaking, in Benin Kingdom, Prayers to God almighty was an indispensable aspect of the values system of our people, so much so that families named their children thus- Erhun-osese'ebo (prayer acts more than voodoo); Osaghamudia n'Okhede, obun-opia (if God be for a plantain tree, it would break cutlass in resistance to its penetration). In those days, albeit idol worshiping, whenever there was a terrible occurrence in the land, the town-crier will be mandated to announce to the people of the Oba's decree on every member of the Kingdom to offer prayers or supplications to God. In some cases, they embark on making sacrifices to appeals the gods of the land, who they believed were intermediaries between them and God almighty. However, western education and missionary sojourn of some Portuguese and British explorers like Marry Slessor helped in no small measure in eradicating some inhuman and abominable traditional practices from our belief-system. The indispensability of prayer to Christians and mankind in general cannot be over stressed, however, there are so many Biblical references that buttresses the need for us to pray; these includes Luke 18, 1-7; 1st Thessalonians 5:6; Matthew 26:41; 1st Peter 4:7; Ephesians 6:18 amongst other heavenly instructions.

In the same vein, the Webster's dictionary defined prey as “anything made the victim of that which is hostile or evil” or to exert a wearing or harmful influence on another. Whenever my first son praying, he is quick to add that “God, do not allow us to fall PREY of the roaring enemies who are looking for who to devoir”. For me, to fall prey is to be victimized; because the one who victimizes another has an orchestrated design to undermine his or her victim, on the other hand, the 'victim' is unaware of the devious imagination of the predator. This is the crux of the matter for this paper presenter. I have a duty to demystify, the mystical shell in the Nigeria's 'palm cannel'.

As a political scientist, I know of a fact that every society is classified into various gradations, some are rich, others are poor; some are good others are bad; some belong to cult groups, others do not; some work hard for their money, others make money from illicit compartments; some believe in God and by so doing-they are committed to social justice for all not minding whose ox is gored, others care less of God and they are by so doing interested in selective justice. Mind you, these set of people are not peculiar to Nigerian society alone, they are everywhere in the world. You will agree with me that when people with these attributes co-inhibits or live together, there must be conflict. It will interest you to know that these people belong to various social groups who seek socio—economic and political power or relevance; in the cause of these groups struggling for power, there is conflict of interests which inevitably result to violence and crises. In Nigeria, because the elites or the upper class seeks power to advance their selfish interests, we even find intra-class struggle between the camp of the so-called big men or politicians, and this is what manifests in the notorious decamping from one party to the other. The irony of the Nigeria political experience is that in advanced societies, people join political parties because of interests that are tied to ideologies, but in Nigeria, most people join political parties because of what they can readily or immediately benefit from the ruling party or government. Let me seize this medium to most humbly appreciate the exemplary character of my mentor and father- Chief John Odigie Oyegun (1st Civilian Governor of Edo State) for sticking to his All Nigeria’s Peoples Party, without minding the jamboree of ruling political parties in Nigeria.

The concept of dialectical materialism as theorized by Karl Marx, dictates that the bourgeoisie in their quest for political power for their selfish interests will employ many civilized and crude means to achieve their aim including the resort to assassinating their opponents and disposes them of their political positions and relevance. This account for high profiled murders or killings in Nigeria which are most often not resolved by the law enforcement agencies, examples include- the notorious letter bomb that killed Dele Giwa, the killing of Chief MKO Abiola, the gruesome murder of Nigeria's Attorney General and Minister for Justice (Chief Bola Ige), the murder of Marshal Harry of the opposition All Nigeria People's Party, the 'systemic-killing' of Senator Okadigbo and others too numerous to mention. The un-informed youths are 'already-made-materials' waiting to be deployed by devious politicians to undermine the progress of the nation. Rigging of election starts from party cards registration of the various political parties, you find unknown youths storming a registration centre of a given ward, their 'contractor' who hired them will order the secretary of the party to start registering them and allocate cards to them; this will provide the alibi for allocating fictitious figures in the primaries to elect delegates that will eventually elect the Party's flag-bearer. The same applies to Voters-Card registration, a particular area that has low population suddenly become over loaded with unknown-soldiers because of money-politics. I make bold as to say that anyone who mobilizes youths to rig election does not mean well for the youths and the communities that he or she seeks to represent. Firstly, you have denied the youths of their right to freely cast their votes because of financial inducements. And secondly, both the youth and the greedy politician would have sinned against God and humanity for imposing a mediocre or yes-man on the community. It will be logical to say therefore that such a person will see politics as business where he or she needs to recoup the money invested, by the time electorates of the communities will ask their so-called representative to provide them with common-place amenities, he or she will say “er ti de hasa? (Did I not purchase it on cash and carry?)

From my interactions with some of the youths involved in these nefarious activities, it is very clear that they do not know the long-term implication of their inactions on our society. Or that they are more carried –away with the pleasure of the moment rather that the prospects of the future. They inadvertently deny themselves and their communities of good governance. To buttress my point, let Edo people flash back their minds to five years ago, assuming we had a Governor like Oshiomhole, perhaps we would not be celebrating the King's Square beautification in 2010 because it would had been done years back, we may be talking of a Paris-styled amusement-park by now. What a political tragedy that has befallen us-Edo people!

I wish to state pointedly that 17th century political philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and Jean Jack Roseau believed that the 'State' is a product of the state-of-nature- which can be described as a stone-age human habitation- “everyone for himself and God for us all” no territory, no law and order. It was after many centuries that the people felt that it was crucial to confer sovereignty of their representatives to lead them and manage society on their behalf. This gave rise to state-formation. Some scholars have attempted to compare Nigeria to the state-of-nature, I have my reservation for that polemic or presentation, I will take time out in another forum to advance my position on this issue, may be in my yet to be published book on “community democracy”.

The youths of Nigeria and Edo state in particular have many reasons to pray-

1. To avoid bad death. Death is one of the symbolic characteristics of all living things, whether we like it or not. However, there are bad deaths. If someone is caught and paraded by the Police for armed robbery, prosecuted by the court of the land and sentenced to death for crimes against humanity, it is termed a bad-death, or someone who dies on top of another man's wife, during a fornication jest. In the same token, with the upcoming electoral acts, those found culpable of electoral crimes will be punished, if after arrest and prosecution, the person dies in detention, that person has met a bad death. No family what its sort will pray to have such a child that will be killed by the state or federal government. May God not let us die of bad deaths, Amen.

2. To ensure that only God-ordained and not godfather's anointed should be voted into power. Past administrations of Edo State and Nigeria is indicative of the retrogression that is associated with godfatherism. Godfathers wish they can be richer that their various states of origin and even lend money to the federal government. So, when the Governor plans to present a state's budget, the godfather will call for an advanced copy, ensures that projects that will favor his interests are sent as final copy. If the Governor is hesitant, they will ask the House of Assembly to impeach him. It is on record that under Chief Olusegun's Presidency, six members out of twenty four members of the Plateau state House of Assembly gruesomely impeached the Governor (Joshua Dariye) of the State in 2005, after they had suspendend their colleagues and impeached their speaker from their hide-out (a hotel outside of the city-centre), the same applied to the Governor of Oyo State Sen. Rasheed Ladoja.

3. That God should not allow the America CIA's prediction on Nigeria's disintegration to come to pass in 2011. Unlike third-world countries who make hasten assumptions and lacking of dependable data, the advanced democracies like the United State of America, especially its intelligence agencies do not make unguided assumptions or predictions. Their pronouncements are based on facts and figures. They have predicted that Nigeria will extinct or become a failed state in 2015, our federal Government under Obasanjo hastily condemned their reports without any reliable structure to verify or demolish such anti-state agencies that could make the predictions to materialize. The Binis have several axioms that denounces war or civil unrests, they include- 'okuo imose' (war is not a beautiful scenario). Our sad experiences of kidnapping and high rate of armed robbery are fall-outs of greed on the part of Nigerians and mis-rule on the part of our elected or self-imposed leaders of Nigeria; if is this bad, we can imagine what we will experience if our country is declared a failed state. Investors will leave and evacuate their businesses, and by the time some of our employed youths are told to go home because of recession, I wonder what the criminal rate will be. Again, we have to pray to God, and beyond prayers, we (the youths) have to conduct themselves in a more orderly manner devoid of violence and criminality.

So, I can go on and on to highlight why all of us must as a matter of duty pray for the wellbeing of 2011 elections. If we get it right in political leadership, Nigeria would have gotten it right socially, economically and politically. Apart from prayers, youths must resist devious tendencies that could mar their existence and deny them of the Kingdom of God.

On behalf of my dear wife (Ivie) and my children, I wish to thank our Minister-in-charge, Prophet J.O. Odigie and the elders of this great assembly for giving me the opportunity to use my intellect to offer service to God. I wish you a bountiful Christmas and a prosperous New Year celebration. Thanks for your attention and God bless you all, Amen.