Praying for a nation on hospital bed

Casmir Igbokwe

First published in SUNDAY PUNCH, Dec. 6, 2009 

Former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, has become the symbol of the nation’s mood and character. Recently, he had a warm handshake with Pope Benedict XVI. He must have left Rome with a bountiful of blessings and a resolve to be a prayer warrior.

 In his column in SATURDAY SUN of December 5, 2009, Kalu said he sought God’s face and God assured him that President Umaru Yar’Adua would get well soon. He then composed a prayer for the President. “I bring him and his family and the entire nation to you for special blessing,” he urged God. “Forgive him his trespasses and heal him of this illness…We stand on the authority of your word to decree liberty for him from all satanic forces that torment him…”

 I never knew that acute pericarditis has something to do with satanic forces. Like Kalu, the National Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party organised a prayer session for Yar’Adua last week. There were Islamic and Christian prayers from some PDP leaders. But none came from traditional religious worshippers. Perhaps, their prayers are not efficacious.  

 While we continue with these supplications for Yar’Adua, it is important to note that the nation he leads is also sick. A cursory look at the state of health of the nation reveals something familiar and disturbing.

 For instance, Nigeria has reportedly earned $520bn between 1970 and now. The question remains, what have we achieved with this huge sum of money? Past administrations were able to construct network of roads. But we lack the maintenance culture to keep these roads in top shape. It is as if we have not had any government in the past 10 years.

 Realising that no nation can claim to be developed when its power sector is comatose, Yar’Adua made power a cardinal part of his seven-point agenda. Even former President Olusegun Obasanjo took the issue of power seriously. His administration initiated different power projects that gulped billions of naira without much success.

 The Yar’Adua administration promised 6000MW by December this year. We are already in December, but the new song now is 4000MW.

 We may not even realise the 4000MW, what with the planned importation of generating sets by the Energy Commission of Nigeria. The Director-General of the ECN, Prof. Abubakar Sambo, was quoted to have said that the generators would provide about 2,320MW to augment the supply from the national grid. This will cost N182bn.

 Similarly, there is an increase in the 2010 budgetary allocation for the purchase and maintenance of generating sets in the Presidency. In 2009, the sum of N42m was budgeted for the generators, but the figure jumped to N82m in the 2010 budget. And it runs contrary to the recent assurance of the Vice-President, Goodluck Jonathan, that Nigeria would not be using generators next year.

 The tragedy of our situation is that even the diesel that will power the generators will be imported. We import generators, estimated now to be over 60 million for private use. We import diesel. We import the technicians that will repair the gen. sets. 

 In terms of health, Nigerians are dying everyday from preventable diseases. Cholera is wreaking havoc in some states. Infant mortality is on the average of 217 deaths per 1000 births. Roadside chemists and mobile medicine hawkers have taken over the roles of doctors as the majority of the people do not even have the money to seek proper medical attention from the hospitals. For these, we cry and curse our leaders. And what solution have we got – prayers.

 We have taken this prayer thing to a ridiculous level. Even when we knew we were cheating our way to the finals of the last U-17 World Cup, we were praying to God to see us through. Our senior national team, the Super Eagles, qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa by dint of luck. We have also attributed that to prayers.

 The Eagles coach, Shaibu Amodu, reportedly said the intervention of Prophet T.B. Joshua of the Synagogue of All Nations church ensured their qualification. Before he went to Joshua, he had marvelled at the way the prophet engineered the early qualification of the Black Stars of Ghana for the same World Cup. Since Nigeria’s God is superior to all other gods, I’m hoping and praying that Joshua’s intervention will see us winning the World Cup in South Africa.   

 The consequences of our actions and inactions are the increase in the rate of kidnapping, armed robbery, prostitution, advance fee fraud, corruption, cultism and other crimes. Even these, as Kalu would want us to believe, “are all products of evil possession.”

 So how do we exorcise these evils? Some believe an understanding of astrology will go a long way in solving our problems. One Dr. Olabisi Okunaiya came to my office last Friday. He couldn’t see me but he dropped a book he wrote on Nigeria and cosmic symbols for me. I have not had the time to go through the entire book. But the author in the book asks why Nigeria experiences identical political problems or events every 29 years. “Why do we have military coup det’at in every nine years? Why do the Northern and Southern sections of the country see the same thing in different ways? Why is the relationship between the North and the East a cat and mouse affair…?” he asked. He believes astrology has the answers.

 Were Okunaiya to be a Thai citizen, he would have been a hero. Royal astrologers in Thailand, two years ago, reportedly decreed that what was auspicious for their king’s well-being was the colour pink. The king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, has been ill for sometime now. In mid-September, he was admitted in the hospital for respiratory problems and loss of appetite. To mark his 82nd birthday, he left the hospital to have audience with his people, many of whom are said to have heeded the directive of astrologers by wearing bright pink shirts.

 How I wish delusion can transform into reality. But since it cannot, let us discharge our nation from the hospital by emulating the advanced Western democracies that solved and continue to solve their problems via honest scientific methods.

 May our President recover fast to attend to the myriads of the national problems facing him. And afterwards, may he summon the courage to retire in 2011 to attend properly to his health.

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