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The place of prophecy in a democratic government 

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Prophecy as defined by Thomas Aquinas is; the certain foretelling of a future event by a person supernaturally informed of it and supernaturally moved to announce it. This, he added, comes in two ways; prophesy of foreknowledge and prophesy of denunciation’. While the prophecy of foreknowledge according to him, deal with what is certain to come, prophesy of denunciation tells what is to come if the present situation is not changed; both acting as information and warning respectively. Similarly, in a presidential democracy, monitoring unelected officials, implementing public policies, should be the chief concern of leaders. By overseeing this process, Kenneth Lowande, Professor at the University of Michigan, submitted that elected officials aim to prevent shirking, corruption, performance failures and policy drift in bureaucracy. Essentially, there are many issues presently surrounding the nation’s political discourse, but a careful review of these two concepts -prophecy and democracy, in Nigeria political sphere, will reveal two striking sidelights. By contrast, while public office holders have abandoned the above role, and like sheep gone their ways in search for new but personal fields to increase their wealth and well being, the masses, instead of maintaining a strong policy that the government cannot ignore or ask solution-oriented questions, they, against all known logic, build opinions based on blind hope, ideologies and spiritual proclamations devoid of facts and reality.

Today! even as the watching world lament the inability of Nigerians to identify the problems and opportunities they face, evaluate the options they have for moving forward, and, make necessary trade-offs and decisions about how to proceed, Prophetic pronouncements on national issues by spiritual leaders appear more alluring to the vast majority of Nigerians than a broadcast on national television over a similar issue by an elected public officer.   This is the reality we face. Admittedly, prophecy is important to the nation, but, not at the fundamental levels or in exchange of facts, figures or reality. Nigerians need to keep this lesson in mind that the validity of every political prophecy (political or socioeconomic), is adjudged by its compliance with the rule of law and other democratic instruments. The citizens has mutual responsibility to ensure that by no means must faith based prophetic pronouncements become alternatives to the role of ‘eternal vigilance’ which the masses have to play in democratic environment. Particularly, when evidence abounds of abridgments of freedom/rights of the people via gradual and silent encroachment by those in power. In reality, we don’t need prophecies or prophets to ensure that our schools are properly funded, our infrastructures are in proper shape and position, or to get leaders take time and effort to gain full appreciation of their citizens, spend a good deal of time outside their offices walking around, listening and taking mental notes about the challenges each individual, group, or communities are facing, what we need as a nation is not prophecy, new theory, concepts or framework but people (both leaders and followers) who can think strategically.

Take, as another example, Nigerians don’t need prophecies or Prophets to spend time and energy worrying about the impact of government policies on the poor people or show deep concern about how government programmes can provide health care, housing, social amenities, and financial supports for the workers or ask the government for the economic blueprint that will usher in a better nation, what we need are Nigerians with insight and inquisitive mind that can help challenge the status quo.

And, in a democracy, citizens don’t necessarily need a prophet to recognize that a just law is ‘a man-made code that squares with moral laws and uplifts human personalities, while an unjust law on the other hand is a code that is out of harmony with moral laws’. More important than the above, as someone who believes that religion is both human and angelic, I have come to a humble conclusion that public order, personal and national security, economic and social programmes, and prosperity are not the natural order of things but depend on the ceaseless efforts and attentions from an honest and effective government that the people elect.

From this standpoint, what Nigerians need in absolute terms is not prophecy but a united and a determined group of leaders, backed by practical and hard-working people who trust them. And a religious practice that is “true to its nature and concerned about man’s social conditions. Religious practice that deals with both earth and heaven, both time and eternity-religion that operates not only on the vertical plane but on the horizontal’. Of course, the question may be asked; why successive administrations in Nigeria failed to monitor unelected officials and implement public policies as noted above?  The answer may be found in history.

What many failed to remember is that this sordid development has its root in, and accelerated by the postwar settlement structure which created another profound division between the people and their political leaders.

Going by an account, for much of the past 50 years, Nigeria has been governed by the soldiers who won the war. For three decades, the form of rule was direct; Nigeria was under military dictatorship. But the passage to democracy undertaken in 1999 did not dispel the military’s hold on the country. Military rulers were reluctant to cede power to, or accept the demands of civilian opposition groups that called for national restructuring and devolution of power to the state governments. Instead, the generals engineered what the civilian opposition criticized as an ‘army arrangement’ and ceded power to one of their own-the retired General Olusegun Obasanjo. Till date, the trend persists and it’s responsible for why the past records of the Federal Government have not been encouraging as it is reputed for; injustices, bad governance, discrimination, and nepotism; with the system having virtually no consideration for the poor. The same problem could be found in the areas of infrastructural development, housing, health, education, electricity and fight against corruption.

To explain the above concerns beginning with the last, it is worthy of note that none of the current challenges (political or socioeconomic) bedeviling the nation started with this administration. For instance, corruption is, but a human problem that has existed in some forms. Its fights also dates back to Colonial governments as they (Colonial Overlords) sufficiently legislated against it in the first criminal code ordinance of 1916(No15 of 1916) which elaborately made provisions prohibiting official bribery and corruption by persons in the public service and in the judiciary. Also at independence on October 1, 1960, the criminal code against corruption and abuse of office in Nigeria were in section 98 to 116 and 404 of the code. But while the situation then may look ugly, what is going on now is a crisis. And if truly a people- purposed leadership is what we seek in Nigeria, if accelerated economy is our goal, if social and cultural development is our dreams, if promoting peace, support our industries and improve our energy sector forms our objectives, then, the solution to these critical demands calls for overwhelmingly urgency. We must understand that listening to ‘political prophesy’ is important but making our leaders understand that it takes a prolonged effort to administer a country well, is essential. Nigerians must commence first with mind restructuring. The primary concern should be to work out modalities of instituting a reorientation plan that will erase the unpatriotic tendencies in us as well as usher in a robust nation. Nigerians must accept that restructuring a political entity called Nigeria is important but restructuring our mentalities is not just essential but fundamental.

Jerome-Mario wrote from Lagos.


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