By Femi Adesina
Here comes the preacher. What does he want to tell us? Doesn’t he know that we are hungry, and the din of hunger makes one deaf to reason? The rumble in our tummies, as the worms compete for the little food left there, will surely be louder than what anybody can say now. True? Not exactly. Come, let us reason together.
Father Ejike Mbaka, that fearless priest of the Catholic church, gave an illustration recently, which I believe was not revealed to him by flesh and blood. There is hunger in the land, with people severely famished. And there is ululation, loud enough to deafen the deaf all over again, and wake the dead from his eternal sleep. The wailers are wailing so loud, as if Bob Marley had resurrected with his band, the Wailing Wailers. But hear Fr. Mbaka: somebody came, looted your kitchen, carried away all the food. He did not even leave you crumbs to console yourself with. And then comes another person, trying to replenish your pantry, trying to restock your kitchen. And then you begin to shout; we are hungry o, we are hungry o, to the point of distracting and discouraging the new man. Who should you rather wail and rage against? The man that looted your kitchen, of course.
That is the exact similitude of the position of Nigeria. There is hunger, lack, and deprivation in the land. But is it a death knell? Not when the kitchen is being restocked, and we will soon feed till we want no more.
But what if we are dead before our kitchen gets replenished? What if we had been knackered by hunger, before the days of plenty come? That is the purpose of this piece. “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, established, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10).
Christianity is the religion I am most familiar with. But every religion must surely preach the virtue of godly patience. “After ye have suffered a while…” Let’s look at it closely. You give a single thing, you get four in return. What a huge return on investment. You put in suffering (patience, if you like), and you get this cocktail of blessings : perfect, established, strengthened, settled. Buy one, get four free.
Hear who is preaching patience, from the cosy confines of the presidential villa. He has moved up, and from obscene comfort, he can preach. That was the insinuation my own brother, Dele Momodu, made in his Saturday column in Thisday a couple of weeks ago. He did not mention my name, but I knew he was talking of me. And I laughed. Obscene comfort, in a Muhammadu Buhari administration? Funny. Well, I do not know about those who can hustle, and gain advantage from holding public office. But I can speak for myself. The day God was distributing the ability to hustle, I probably was not at home, so I have not been given that ability. And the Good Book says no man does anything, except it is given to him from above. The sum total? I am on a national assignment that has cut my legitimate annual income by one third, so when there is hunger in the land, I go hungry too. Well, almost. When people talk of lack of money, I penny-pinch, too. Well, almost. Let nobody think those in government are insulated from what is happening in the country. At least, those who have truly come to serve. But those precious promises hold true any day. “In the days of famine, my people shall be satisfied.” “The young lion may lack, and suffer hunger, but those that trust in the Lord shall not suffer any good thing.” (Ride on, preacher!).
In Benin on Monday, President Buhari spoke at campaign rally of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He declared: “I assure you that we are going to get out of our economic problems. We are almost out of our security problem and we are going to make Nigeria great again. We are going to be very proud of our country once again.” I believe it. Implicitly. If I don’t, I am then simply wasting time in government, when I could fare a lot better outside it. But the Daura man needs people to believe in him. Count me in the number. I had always been, and will always be a believer in integrity, probity and accountability. It is good for our country.
The economy has fallen into recession, and after recession comes depression. Really? Why are some people too eager to believe negative projections, while shunning the positive? Yes, when you have negative economic growth for two consecutive quarters, there is business contraction, and the economy falls into recession. Depression is even worse. But recession is not Armageddon. It is not a death sentence. Leading countries of the world had fallen into economic recession at one time or the other, and they came out of it, to become strong and sturdy again. Why not Nigeria? The projection is that by the end of the fourth quarter, we would be on our way out of recession. I believe it. I do not spend my days expecting a thunderstorm, and render myself unable to enjoy the rain. “After ye have suffered a while…” Better days will come again, and under this Buhari administration. Yes, we shall soon be proud of our country again.
Do we forget so easily? No, we shouldn’t. Buhari and his party rode to power last year on the wings of three main promises, among others: security, anti-corruption, and economic restoration. The first promise is being roundly and soundly fulfilled. You can’t administer a country you have not secured, the President keeps saying. And so, from Sambisa to Sango, in Ogun State, from the creeks of Ikorodu to those of Niger Delta, even the crocodiles are smiling, knowing that the country is being secured. From Ogbunike, to Okigwe, and to Okporoza, the security agencies are proving their mettle. In the North East, internally displaced people are returning home. Ask people from Konduga, in Borno State. Roads that had been closed for five years are reopening. Emirs, who had fled their palaces for many years, have returned. “After ye have suffered for a while…”
Corruption is being given a bloody nose! You do the crime, you serve the term. A Daniel has come to judgment. In Nigeria, not only are officials corrupt, but corruption has become official, said Shehu Musa, a former secretary to the Federal Government. Well, not anymore. Do the crime, serve the term, is the new singsong. Stealing has now become corruption, and the battle has just started.
The economy is the third promise. But just as the promise is being kept on the security and anti-corruption fronts, the economy will also be turned right side up. After ye have suffered a while…
It is inevitable that we pass through this rough patch in which we currently find ourselves. Up to the end of 2014, we made an average of three billion dollars monthly from oil. We whacked everything, officially and unofficially, nothing put aside for the rainy day. It was a bazaar. Now the rain is falling, and it is beating us almost mercilessly. Monthly income from oil has dropped to as low as five hundred million dollars. From billions to millions. We are running soaked. But after rain comes the shine. Nigeria not only has a thrifty and prudent leadership, but also one that will not steal our money. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, so goes the saying. Some people are so rapacious that if you keep a boiled egg in their care, and knowing that a bite on the egg would be quite visible, they then lick it, so that the egg never goes scot-free. But the good news for us is that a man who did not bite our egg in his 30s, would not lick it in his 70s. Our treasury is safe, and we will beat recession. Better days are surely coming, “after ye have suffered a while…” We trusted Buhari and gave him our votes in 2015. Let us keep the trust, the confidence, and ride the storm. In quietness and confidence shall be our strength, not in wailing and throwing of tantrums.
In private, and in public, President Buhari has acknowledged the tough times in the land. But he is not throwing up his hands in helplessness. Problems are meant to be solved, and the government is doing just that. It’s a time of national emergency that calls for cooperation, goodwill, best wishes, encouragement, even prayers. But some people rejoice, thinking the government would fail. Why do the heathens rage, and the people imagine vain things? Wasn’t the siege on Samaria so terrible that they began to boil their children to eat? And then came Prophet Elisha, who told them, “Tomorrow about this time, shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel.” Did it happen? It did. But the scoffers, the unbelieving, did not partake of it. Things will turn in Nigeria, and it would be for our good.(I can see everything turning around, turning around, turning around for our good).
If you faint in the days of adversity, your strength is small. Good Nigerians will not faint, rather, they will trust, pray and encourage the man restocking their kitchens. As sure as day follows the night, better things will come, and will not delay. The troubles of the present are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed, “after we have suffered for a while…”
.Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari