The men who talk to the gods
Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God, said early in the week that God had not told him who would be president in 2023.
Just as well. If God did, he would be jumping the gun. The arena is empty because it is not time for the gladiators. We are entertained at the moment with the rumours of some charlatans irritatingly marketing themselves, each as the one destined by the political gods to receive the baton from Muhammadu Buhari. You can be sure that each of them expects the mark of the anointed from their political godfathers. You can be sure too that each of them may have heard from a god or gods and wears the divine halo of the selected.
The New Year is a heady time. It is the time of year that those who talk to the gods and hear from them tell us what the gods see in the future of our country in the next twelve months. Their message is couched in sacerdotal terms as prophecies – the authentic word from one god or a multiplicity of gods; as it was in the Old Testament, so it is in the digital age. The voices of the gods mattered then, and they matter now.
We approach the prophecies with some trembling because good news and bad news have the unsettling habit of visiting individuals in pairs. You laugh only to cry; you then cry only to laugh. Fortune is a rogue. You cannot chain it; that is why no condition is permanent.
I am sure when the time is ripe, God will whisper into Adeboye’s ears and he will tell us the choice of the almighty God; the God who is higher than the highest, stronger than the strongest and wiser than the wisest. When such God picks a man from the multitude of aspirants, the drums roll, and the doors close in the faces of those on the other side of God’s favour. Except that, as we shall show, it is not this neat in real life.
The quest for power at national and sub-national levels in our country is the first word in confusion and frustration. The power seeker begins his quest by seeking the consent of the godfathers in his political party. Without the mark of such anointing, the power seeker ends up as an irritant in the body politic. But we have taken this dangerous step further. Our political leaders have remarkably succeeded in bringing in the gods as the final arbiters in the choice of our political leaders; thus conflating the constitutional right of the electorate to elect and institute a government of their choice with the right of the gods to exercise veto powers over the choices made by the people. The gods are enlisted as allies in the quest for political power. We do not know which god anoints whom as our leader. There must be a fierce competition too among the gods as to which of them would prevail in the leaders they impose on us.
All our politicians beat the path to the doors of pastors, imams, Ifa priests and the priests of the multiplicity of our tribal gods, seeking endorsement in their quest for political power. In the church, they are anointed by the pastors; in the groves, they are anointed by the priests. All of them carry out the orders of the men who talk to the gods. Stories of politicians burying live cows and some bathing in cemeteries at ungodly hours of the night are neither untrue nor exaggerated. People are prepared to do anything for power. If it takes burying a cow, so be it; if it takes exposing your body to the dead in the cemetery, so be it. What matters is the power; how you get is irrelevant.
Power is bought and sold. The traditional rulers know that and endorse all power-seekers who observe the tradition, as in Ghana-must-go bags and go to them for their royal blessings. Just the men of God do encourage them to harangue the gods for their candidates to find favour with. Nothing goes for nothing. The sight of Ghana-must-go bags induces royal blessings on even known thieves whose sole objective office is to go and steal.
Prophecies have a price. Chalk it up as part of the reason our elections are so expensive. No, God or the gods cannot be bribed but given their human qualities, they can be appreciated as, in thank you before and after the deed is done. Competition for the favour of the gods among the politicians is eternally fierce. It is, therefore, not unnatural to see that the gods favour those who show a deeper appreciation of their assistance than others. Showing appreciation along the long chain of command is expensive. Chalk it up as one good reason why those who have the competence to lead but have holes in their pockets and yet seek to lead do but mock themselves in a system that has turned its back on the poor but competent and shines its light on the rich but incompetent.
The truth is that the electoral fate of the Nigerian politician is not decided by one god; it is decided by a multiplicity of gods. Those who worship one god have several backup gods. In the complex and complicated nature of our national politics, it is not wise for an aspirant to rely on the say-so of one god. You hear from the monotheistic gods in the day and then in the night you hear from the polytheistic gods – amadioha, ifa, oworicho, and a host of other gods, all of who individually has the capacity to make or mar the political fortunes of anyone seeking to serve our country at national and sub-national levels.
Thanks to the larger-than-life role of the gods in our national politics, we are made to accept any scoundrels who emerge through the flawed process of leadership recruitment as our political leaders at all levels as god-sent. It seems to me, however, that the gods have had a scrappy record of the leaders they imposed on us at national and sub-national levels. They have imposed on us a variety of leaders. Some of them were good and competent and patriotic men who had provided the sort of leadership that could lift our country out of the rut of being potentially great to be truly great; they were men of ideas because ideas build countries. Some of them came for the sake of power and only succeeded in bringing us down again from the height we had attained because they are incompetent and indifferent; some were crassly impotent and vengeful and others were so tribalistic it blinded them to the beauty of the rainbow collection of tribes and tongues that make up this potentially great country.
Thus, thanks to the gods, we have had men who oversold their capacity only for us to see they have no demonstrable capacity for honest and inclusive leadership. We have had leaders who wondered if one hand has two names – right and left. The gods imposed on us leaders who were not intellectually prepared for leadership but nevertheless were allowed to take us through crooked lanes; they imposed on us leaders they knew were thieves and were seeking power and exalted political offices, not to serve the people but steal their commonwealth and leave them poor, impoverished, and wretched indeed.
The way to go is to deny the gods the right to tell us who should lead us. Their scrappy record of imposing bad, thieving, and incompetent leaders on us is reason enough to get the gods off our back. The duty of electing political leaders rests squarely with the people. We must restore to the people their right and the constitutional duty of freely electing their political leaders in order to institute governments of their choice. Paid prophecies, paid endorsement and paid to anoint all take something away from our constitutional democracy.
Yes, let the gods speak; yes, let the prophets prophesise but let the people own their democracy and take responsibility for those they put in public offices. The constitution provides no role for the gods in our governance. Dragging them into it has not made ours a better country nor our elections respectable as in reflecting the will of the people. It is not naïve to suggest that if the gods are part of our electoral system and part of our government, then the blatant stealing and corruption that have hobbled our country must be a shame to their godliness.