Late Chief Bola Ige (SAN), wrote this piece that was published in the papers April 21st 1996 at a time when Gen Sanni Abacha ruled Nigeria with tyranny. Enjoy!
Last Wednesday, 1st April 1996, a few hours after the State Security Service (SSS) “launched” my latest book for me at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos, a highly educated young friend, a professional and one of my young friends spoke to me about the events that had happened earlier that day. At one point, he broke off the conversation, and asked: “Uncle Bola, is Nigeria not cursed?” I hesitated to give him an answer, but asked; “What do you mean?”
He then went on to list a few things happening in and to Nigeria. He spoke of the shameless behaviour of the SSS earlier that day; he complained of the deceit about this year’s hajj operations, and how Muslims were not being told the truth about the decision of the Saudi government; he spoke about the large number of deaths from the outbreak of cerebro-spinal meningitis and how the nation has been kept in the dark about the seeming inability of the states concerned to contain the epidemic; he mentioned the SSS harassment of people during the visit of the United Nations team; he gave as example the blatant way in which the latest so-called elections to local government councils were rigged throughout the country; he rounded them up with what he called the curse that Obafemi Awolowo placed on Nigeria if his election was rigged.
I listened patiently to this obviously agitated young man who is concerned about the political health of this country. As I was about to reply, he retorted: “And Uncle Bola, is the military regime not clearly God’s curse on Nigeria?”
My young friend is a Muslim with a very good family background. I have known and related with his great family in Ekiti for over forty years. I told him that I would try to answer his question, but he should understand that although I have read the Quran and other scriptures, I can only speak to him as a Christian, because that is the religion that I accept and which rules my life.
I first of all cleared two small issues; the deceit about Muslim pilgrims and the alleged cursed placed on Nigeria by Awo. I told him that I myself was shocked when, as usual, NTA Network News carried the false news that the Saudi authorities had changed its mind about Nigerian pilgrims, At the time NTA was publishing falsehood, I had already heard details of what the Saudi authorities told the Nigerian dignitaries who went to “intervene”on foreign radio station. Before 9p.m on Tuesday night, I had heard that the Saudi government said it would not admit more than 3,000 (three thousand) Nigerian pilgrims, and they must not be from the states ravaged by the CSM epidemic. I felt sorry that Nigeria was being lied to by people in high places. I told my young friend that the Saudi government acts like civilized governments do; they do not take decisions to please individuals and persons, and that it is because some people in Nigeria are used to getting authorities to bend rules to please persons that they thought they could rush to see the Saudi monarch, and because of some persons, the Saudi government would change. I then asked my young friend rhetorically: “Has it occurred to you, as a Muslim, to ask why the Sultan of Sokoto, who is supposed to be Sarkin Musulumi, did not go on the errand? Or our own Dr Lateef Adegbite, Secretary General of the Supreme Council For Islamic Affairs?” I answered that of my brother, Dr Lateef Adegbite: “”They won’t let him go. He stands courageously by the truth over Abiola and June 12.”
With regard to the purported curse placed by my leader, Awo, I told him that he never cursed Nigeria. I then read out to him what immortal Awo said at the 2nd Annual Conference of the UPN at Eko Hotel, Lagos on 11 December, 1979, three months after the NPN had become the federal government in collaboration with Zik’s NPP.
“You will notice that thus far in this address, I have dealt with various aspects of democracy. I have done so because at this juncture in the annals of our country, it is imperative and in the best interest of stability and progress that democracy should succeed. But the portents are bad. And I do really tremble to contemplate any alternative to democracy. If we failed to make a success of this second experiment, the consequences would be more dreadful, and those of you who are much younger than myself however long you may live WILL never know democracy.”
Awo did not curse: he merely warned against the failure to make a success of democracy. It is almost 17 years since he spoke those words of warning. Was the warning heeded? Do you remember VERDICT 83, and the landslides and moonslides announced by Walter Ofonagoro’s outfit? Have you forgotten?
Anyone who reads the Christian Bible will find Chapter 28 of the fifth book of Moses, called Deuteronomy interesting. The first fourteen verses set out the blessings of God. But most people forget that the crucial words are in the first two verses:
“If you obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do his commandments…if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.”
Most Christians run away from verses fifteen to the end, because they think they are terrible curses. They forget that the opening words of that session is:
“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God, or be careful to do his commandments…”
God is good and gracious. He does not curse. But He continually warn us that you cannot plant groundnut and expect to reap coconut. If you sow the breeze, you must reap the whirlwind. Everyone of us is enjoined by the creator to do only those things which are in accordance with His laws – be they natural, intellectual or physical. His laws never change- whether of mode of good government, of justice, of mercy, of our duty to our fellowmen, particularly the oppressed, the widows and the fatherless – in the widest sense. The creator abhors tyranny in any shape or form – and that is why He puts down the mighty unjust from their seat, and upholds those who love Him and their fellowmen – God’s children.
About the military, I told my young friend that the military government is, and has always been, since the dawn of history, a curse – but it is not God’s curse. We are the ones who bring them upon ourselves, and as long as we collaborate with them, we aggravate the curse we bring ourselves.
As for the evils that assail Nigeria today, they are a fall-out of the curse we have brought on ourselves by not heeding God’s word, and not hearkening to Awo’s warning. I reminded him that when some of us saw through Babangida and we warned about the danger in participating in his fraudulent transition programme, were we listened to? Some of us continue to say the obvious; that there is no substitute for democracy and advice Nigerians to be resolute in standing by the truth. But are we not hearing some so-called NUC progressives proclaiming that half democracy is better than no democracy? How can such people avoid what God and Awo have said about those who pervert the truth.
No. Nigeria is not cursed. Those who get to power by false or fraudulent means curse themselves and are cursed by the people. Those who collaborate with evil systems and tyranny cursed themselves, and are cursed by the people. Those who loot our treasuries or who get “settled” with appointments or contracts or bribe curse themselves and will be cursed by the people.
Those of us who do not want the judgement of God as contained in the scriptures, or do not want to experience the consequences of Awo’s warning must therefore hearken to the voice of God, and the warning of Awo. If and when we do, the blessings of God – including inheriting this land and its government – and the blessings of God are abundant, will be ours. And we will not curse or be cursed by the people.
No, Nigeria is not cursed.
– ‘Bola Ige
Solemila Lodge Ibadan, Nigeria
First published in the Nigerian Tribune 21st April, 1996
Courtesy Olabisi Lateef Ogunlayi
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