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Does God still rule in Nigeria’s affairs?

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[FILES] Martins Oloja


I was considering a suspension of this column at the weekend when I got a message from a ‘still small voice’ that I should not give up yet. I wanted to suspend this column because it has become clear that the society we write for, the authorities and duty bearers we monitor, hold to account and most times set agenda for are no longer listening to any voice of courage and reason. They don’t know even the provisions of the organic law of the land, the constitution they have sworn to defend. They now do what they like. They are looking for ways and means to gag the press even as they artfully plan their propaganda in this age that has hidden so many digital ears in the walls. 

It is clear that they are seriously planning more bills to limit the freedom of the press. They want to plan a coup against freedom of expression, the most valuable dividend of democracy. They want to manipulate the fault-lines that can easily destroy the complex diversity that they can’t manage. They want to tax your garrulousness on telephone. They don’t want us to discuss on telephone. They want to increase data cost through taxation – the ultimate strategic power to destroy. They are exploiting poor capitalisation of the media in this place to propagate their lies and exaggerate their under-achievements nurtured by mediocrity and crass incompetence. They read you and curse you. They declare media outfits that don’t use their frivolous events well on the front pages and prime time as public enemies! Their media aides can’t stop abusing editors and what’s more scary, their private legal advisers and consultants write weekly to warn editors and proprietors even when they know that our facts are accurate. Facts are no longer sacred and comment is no longer free in Nigeria, our Nigeria. 

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So, I had felt that writing in the mass media is no longer worthwhile at this perilous time that tries even good men’s souls. I wasn’t going to mind what people would say: that I have been paid to give up Inside Stuff. I was drafting an article to suspend the column when the still small voice nudged me: 

My son, don’t give up yet… You and your people have to pass through this wilderness, endure some shame and hardship before getting to your promised land…Don’t give up. Haven’t you listened to my son, Bongos Ikwe’s Still Searching… that nothing ‘good comes easy’? The voice asked me to reflect on the advice of Citizen Mordecai to Queen Esther that, ‘If you give up on helping your nation, God will raise another helper; you are (t)here for such a time as this. The voice revealed to me that I should not consider life in the valley as the end. I was told to ‘calm down’ that God still rules and will continue to rule in the affairs of Africa’s most populous country. And He will not leave or forsake Nigeria, I am also assured will fulfill destiny. As I was in deep thought of the message, I got a WhatsApp video message from an old friend and behold the message was a 2002 song of iconic Dolly Parton, Hello God! I felt I was operating under an open heaven and so the lyrics of the inspirational song you can enjoy below capture my mood and what I wanted to give up my column for.  I had quietly felt that God had abandoned my country to her devices as the wicked even in power seem to be waxing stronger and their followers prospering every day. I had also thought that God has been too quiet about bloodthirstiness that nurtures the spectre of insecurity here. I thought, though I had the courage but not the talent of Dolly Parton – to challenge God. But here we are with the lyrics, which speak volumes to my country’s situation.  

Hello God 
Dolly Parton 
 
Hello, God?
Are You out there?
Can You hear me?
Are You listenin’ anymore?
Hello, God?
If we’re still on speakin’ terms
Can You help me like before?
I have questioned Your existence
My resistance leaves me cold
Can you help me go the distance?
Hello God?
Hello?
Hello?
This old world has gone to pieces
Can we fix it?
Is there time?
Hate and violence just increases
We’re so selfish, cruel, and blind
We fight and kill each other
In Your name defending You
Do You love some more than others?
We’re so lost and confused
Hello, God?
Are you out there?
Can you hear us?
Are you listenin’ anymore?
Hello, God?
If we’re still on speakin’ terms
Can You help us like before?
Oh, the free will You have given
We have made a mockery of
This is no way to be livin’
We’re in great need of Your love
Hello, God?
Hello, God?
Can You grant us
Love enough to make amends?
(Hello, God)
Is there still a chance
That we could start again?
Hello, God?
We’ve learned our lesson
Dear God, don’t let us go
(Hello, hello)
More than ever
Hello God?
Hello?
Hello?
Hello, God?
We really need You
We can’t make it without You
(Hello, God)
We beseech You
In the name of all that’s true
Hello, God?
Please forgive us
For we know not what we do
Hello, God?
Give us one more chance
To prove ourselves to You
Hello, God?
Hello, God

After the Dolly-Parton download, the voice directed me to stand as a pen-power ambassador and a soldier for journalism at this time. I was pronto referred to a classic, Hold The Fort inspired by a civil war battle in the United States where in God they still trust as written in their currency: ‘In God We Trust’. Hold The Fort is a Christian Hymn, an inspiration from Allatoona Pass, you will understand shortly.

The Battle of Allatoona Pass was fought in Bartow County, Georgia, on October 5, 1864. It was signals sent before the first gun was fired, however, that inspired one of America’s most beloved Christian hymns (Hold The Fort).

Hold the Fort! Was written in 1870 by Philip Paul Bliss, an evangelist and composer, after he heard the story of the Union defence of Allatoona Pass told in a Sunday School class. The use of signal flags to send messages from Kennesaw Mountain near Atlanta to the threatened garrison holding Allatoona Pass was held forth as an example of how Jesus Christ signals Christians to hold strong to their beliefs, for “He is coming.” The meeting attended by Bliss took place in Rockford, Illinois, on a Thursday and Friday, April 28-29, 1870. Among the speakers was Major Daniel Webster Whittle, who told how on the day before the battle, General William Tecumseh Sherman had sent messages by signal flag to urge the garrison at Allatoona to hold out. Whittle remembered the message as saying, ‘Hold the Fort; I am coming!’ His telling of the story so inspired Bliss that he based a hymn on the story of Allatoona Pass:

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Ho, my comrades, see the signal,
Waving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing,
Victory is nigh.

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,”
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to heaven,
By thy grace we will.”

See the mighty host advancing,
Satan leading on,
Mighty men around us falling,
Courage almost gone!

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,”
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to heaven,
By thy grace we will.”

See the glorious banner waving,
Hear the trumpet blow!
In our Leader’s name we’ll triumph,
Over every foe.

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,”
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to heaven,
By thy grace we will.”

Fierce and long the battle rages,
But our help is near,
Onward comes our great Commander,
Cheer, my comrades, cheer.

“Hold the fort, for I am coming,”
Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to heaven,
By thy grace we will.”
The song has been sung and played in Christian churches for more than a century and is loved by many. Curiously, a version with different words is used as a rally song by labor unions in Great Britain and the Caribbean.

Philip Paul Bliss and Daniel Webster Whittle traveled through great areas of the country over the years that followed the publication of Hold the Fort! They served as traveling evangelists, speaking to crowds large and small and carrying the story of the signals to Allatoona Pass and the song with them.

In 1876, they actually visited Georgia and climbed to the top of Kennesaw Mountain. There they saw the ruins of the Civil War signal tower and in the distance could see the Allatoona Mountains. It was a moving moment for both men and after kneeling in prayer, they sang Hold the Fort together. Bliss told a friend that he almost expected to see Jesus returning in the sky at that moment. Bliss was called to glory on December 29, 1876. 

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No incident of the war illustrates more thrillingly the inspiration imparted by the knowledge of the presence of the Commander; and that he is cognizant of our position; and that, doing our utmost, he will supplant our weakness by speedy reinforcements. So the message of Sherman to the soldiers of Allatoona becomes the message of the Great Commander, who signals ever to all who fight life’s battle, “Hold The Fort.”

So, this piece from the ‘still small voice’ is a message to all of us Nigerians that we should not give up because the God of creation as it is written in our national anthem, never dozes off like us. He will continue to ‘direct our noble cause’. He is saying to Dolly Parton and Nigerians, ‘Yes I can still help you like before. Don’t question my existence because your country has gone to pieces. Don’t mind what Dolly is saying about increasing ‘hate and violence.’ That can be fixed by my grace. Don’t be lost and confused.

Listen to my son, Philip, Paul Bliss and ‘Hold The Fort’. Listen to my daughter, Dolly Parton who says, love enough to make amends. Don’t destroy your country with hatred and violence. Love and pray even for your enemies. The conclusion of the whole matter is: as Bliss counsels, though we seem to be seeing the mighty host (enemy) advancing, with Satan leading on, even as the mighty ones around us seem to be falling, courage almost gone, we should Hold The Forte because Nigeria will shine again after the present darkness. Just believe. Don’t agonise anymore for God is sovereign. He knows about wickedness in Nigeria. Hold The Fort!

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In this article:
Martins Oloja
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