THE PATIENCE OF JONATHAN

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Ordinarily, the formal ceremony of the swearing in of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria last week seemed like a hollow ritual. However, in my view, we need to pause for a moment and take another look at this monumental act of divine epiphany. The development has thrown up so many imponderables for us: How can one become a President in a democracy without their names being listed?

How can one rise to the highest position in a democracy without asking for a single vote to be cast for him or her? How can a one ascend the successive rungs of the ladder of politics without even a personal declaration of intention? How can one rise to the highest level of political achievement without spending their own money? How can one become victorious in a contest without actually participating in a contest? In other words, can you win the world cup, take it home without even wearing a jersey, kicking a football or getting on the pitch of play?

This man's rise has defied any logic and anyone who attempts to explain it is temping the gods. Really. We cannot refer to this as an achievement. It is not because you only achieve what you have set out to pursue. In the course of that, you would normally have spent time, energy and resources working towards the attainment of those goals. You would also have had to create a template of activities, scheme and plan how to executive those goals. An achievement is the result of sacrifice and hard work. Here, Dr. Jonathan has done absolutely nothing to warrant what has befallen him. I am sure I can safely say he has neither prayed, lobbied nor worked for what has fallen on his lap.

This man has never spent any money to purchase a form declaring his intention to run for public office in politics. This man does not seem to have been sponsored into politics by any known godfather. Like the rest of us who are considered children of lesser gods, he comes from an insignificant family and a village that hitherto, could not easily be found on the national or state map. He does not seem to have invested heavily to become either Deputy Governor or Governor. Today, the man's Curriculum Vitae will now have to read that he has served as a Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President, Acting President and now President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

All these events have cascaded on his laps within a period of a mere 12 years. Along with this, the man has not spent any money to buy a form for any election. He has never mounted a political rostrum on his own as a means of persuading anyone to vote him into any elective office. The very notion that in a democracy where the only route to power is through the ballot box, someone has reached the epoch of politics without any single vote being cast for him is rather counterintuitive. It is futile for anyone to attempt to unravel this mystery. By way of providing some background, let me offer some concrete postulations.

For a start, the easy part is to say that this is God's work and that it is true. What is more difficult is for us to walk through this by way of providing context. First, given our notoriety for seeking short cuts in life, a generation of Goodlucks, Jonathans, and Patiences will be spurned across the country from now on. Those naming their children thus will hope that somehow, some of this blessing and magic will rub off on their children. Unfortunately, tempting as this may be, it will all amount to absolutely nothing because beyond the sentiments, it will not affect the fortunes of these children who are being used by their parents as guinea pigs.

Secondly, there will be those who will think that by prayer, their children will achieve something close to what President Jonathan has achieved. These parents will be disappointed because our very selfish prayers do not guide God especially when we think that by our prayers, we can compel Him to change the course of our lives. Our prayers are only effective not because they turn God's face in our direction. No, the essence of our prayers is for our faces to turn really and truly towards God. As our nation has sunk into the murky waters of corruption, religion has tended to lose its role as a disinfectant of the decadence and putrefaction that has overwhelmed our society. Rather, in these trying times, the name of God and Religion have been dragged by fly by night pastors who have equally spawned and industry of prayer warriors who are daily stalking the corridors of power seeking equal men and women in positions of power.

Men with equally suspicious intentions with stolen mandates of legitimacy, seeking escape from justice, daily employ these charlatans. Watch out for the pastor seeking to turn you or your son into a Jonathan! Truly, for a political environment suffused with knaves, carpetbaggers and fixers, money and crooked connections have always been the rule of thumb. The generation of politicians who have remained impervious to moral standards continue to treat the issues of Electoral reforms with contempt and apathy. The main article of faith remains that only those with godfathers and money will rule Nigeria. Although the elite occasionally take refuge under the aegis of religion or region, the reality is that these individuals only ply their brand of politics in the dark alleys and crevices of religious, ethnic or regional cleavages which they erect. What is the main lesson in all these? I will pick three only.

First, that God's love is gratuitous and free. We can take consolation in the fact that if God can pick a Goodluck Jonathan from nowhere, confer Patience on him without him paying anything or having any money or godfather, we should see him as a metaphor of that our future might be if only we remain focused, sincere and patient. Secondly, when we look the scattered debris of those who had relied on connections and money to ascend to power, those who wish to contribute to rebuilding Nigeria must gird their loins in faith and forget godfathers and filthy lucre as a conveyor belt to power. Thirdly, and finally, should President Goodluck run next year? Why not? In doing so, he will be taking over the steering of his life from God's hands and will have to foot his own bills. We will then see if he drives better or is richer than God.

Reverend Father Mathew Kukah lives in Kaduna.

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