A Nation in Crisis
Today, as we face a set of new trials in our nation, the idea of the scapegoat has become paramount in our vocabulary. We have lined up all kinds of scapegoats among us whom we believe are responsible for our woes in Nigeria. We believe that they are the ones that should flee with our sins into the desert so that our country can prosper. Some of the scape goats are the politicians, the security agencies, the civil servants, the Ministers and other public officers and so on. Do we not believe that corruption is what happens when big people steal huge sums of money but not when we cheat the bus conductor by not paying? Have we not come to believe that the only rigged elections are the ones that my candidate did not win? We find means of justifying the ones my Party or friend won.
Today, INEC has become the quintessential scapegoat. We are determined to place all our sins of omission on its head. We can blame INEC and the politicians, yet, it is each and every one of us who will vote and without us there would be no elections. So, each of us must try to do our duty both to God and country.
Nigerians are approaching the next few weeks amidst fear and anxiety. We can see from the huge movement of people back to their ancestral homes. The elites, who have stolen enough from the country, have shipped their families to their second homes in Europe and America. They will come back when the country is good for them to return to their criminal engagement with the state.
The Curse of False Prophets
Although most of us have already made up our minds about the elections, what is most frightening is the level of confidence that contestants and supporters have in the possibility of their victory. Although we know, after it all, someone will win and others will lose, reactions are more frightening than the results. The false prophets, who have jumped into the ring, offering and seducing unsuspecting political customers with their dubious voodoo prophecies, have not helped matters. Of these prophets, the Lord has said loudly: The prophets are telling lies in my name. I did not send them nor did I give them any orders to speak a word. The visions they talk about have not come from me; their predictions are worthless things that they have imagined (Jer. 14: 14).
The Lord Himself repeats this warning in the same book of Jeremiah, when He warned these fake prophets further: If they had known my secret thoughts, then they could have proclaimed my message to my people and could have made them give up their evil lives and leave and the wicked things they do…How much longer will these prophets mislead my people… My message is like a fire and a hammer that breaks rocks in pieces (Jer.23: 22, 26, 29).
Prophesy is no substitute for diligence, hard work and doing the will of God through prayer. In a convoluted environment such as ours, where there is no respect for laws and due process, dubious prophesy can become the quintessential opium to seduce the unsuspecting and those desperate for power at all cost. Ours is a long road.
Making Nigeria Work: Our Task
We must remain quite appreciative of the fact that the international community has shown such concern and interest in the affairs of our country. It is also gratifying that a culture of Peace Pacts is emerging among politicians across party lines. But for us as men and women of faith, our main contribution during this Lenten period should be to turn to God in prayer and supplication, while doing our civic duties diligently. No amount of human preparedness can guarantee us the peaceful outcome we are hoping for. Happily for us as Christians, Jesus is the Prince of Peace. This is the time to turn to Him in prayer.
Our fears and anxieties are understandable, but our God is able and we have the history of our salvation on our side. This is why dubious prophecies distort and destroy the foundations of our faith. Unless we wash our garments free from sin and dip them in the waters of honesty and truth, our prayers will be useless before God, Who knows out intentions. God has always cleared the dark clouds of fear from His people and it is to Him that we now turn, as we prepare for these elections.
God the Redeemer: Always at Work
It was not the army of Israel that led them through the red sea. In faith, Moses simply stretched out his hand and the waters were parted (Ex. 14:21). It was not the guns and the army that caused the walls of Jericho to fall. In faith, the priests simply blew their trumpets (Jos 6:20). Faced with the huge army from different tribes, who had assembled to conquer his kingdom, and realising his powerlessness, King Jehoshaphat simply said to God: We do not know what to do, but we turn to you for help (2 Chr. 20:12). In faith, the people sang a simple song, Praise the Lord, His love is eternal (2 Chr. 20:21). In the end, they won a war without a fight and in addition, God gave them security on every side (2 Chr. 20: 30).
God will Roll the Stone of Fear Away
After the death of Jesus, we are told that when Mary Magdalene and her friends set out to go and anoint the body of Jesus, their fear was, Who will roll the (huge) stone away for us (Mk 16:13). They set out in faith and by the time they got there, they met an empty tomb. Our God is able and faithful. Let us pray in earnest, especially given the sacredness of this holy period, that God will indeed give us victory. Our sins make us afraid of God’s judgment, but His love is our assurance of His mercy. He has assured us that He does not keep record of our sins, because if he did, indeed, who would survive? (Ps 130: 3). What is more, He has assured us that, As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our sins (Ps 103:12). So, while some trust in chariots, we trust in the name of the Lord (Ps. 20:7). That is why we must approach God’s throne of grace with confidence (Heb. 4:16).
Prayer is the Key
As we enter the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday, please endeavour to attend Mass daily, read the Word of God, recite the Rosary, reflect on the Stations of the Cross, Fast and pray, seek God’s gracious blessings for yourself, family, community and our dear country. May the Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and earth, to whom we turn in supplication, our hope in ages past, have mercy on our dear country, bless and grant us peace now and for ever. This is God’s moment for our country. It is also our moment of greatness. Let us not squander our destiny. I wish you a fulfilled Lenten season.
• Lenten Message by Matthew Hassan KUKAH, Catholic Bishop of Diocese of Sokoto
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