By Rev. Dr. Samson Ayokunle, President, Nigerian Baptist Convention & Christian Association of Nigeria
To God be the glory, great things he has done, I congratulate all Nigerians on this occasion of our Independence Anniversary. I pray that things will go better as we move into another year in the mighty name of Jesus.
It is great to address the nation on the topic: Nigeria survival is tied to Justice, Fairplay and Righteousness; and I take my text from Acts: 6 1-7 NIV.
It reads: “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Nigerians have been facing hardships that we would never imagine a couple of decades ago that it could happen in Nigeria. Today in the whole of Africa, it appears there is no other country where the shedding of blood of innocent citizens is occurring almost daily than in our country. The captives should not be in captivity, it is the responsibility of the government to rescue them either through proven intelligence gathering or other diplomatic measure to set the captive free. I am pleading on behalf of Nigerians in captivities of Boko Haram, that the Federal Government will rescue them. We cannot afford to waste the lives of others and end their dreams as it is currently happening in the country. The government holds the citizens more responsibility and ensure Nigerians are freed from those who have held them captive overtime.
We cannot say that we are celebrating Independence as a nation when that innocent schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu and over 100 Chibok schoolgirls are still in captivity because of their faith in Christ until the Federal Government has done everything to get them released from Islamic fanatics who are holding them captives. We therefore urge the Federal Government to work harder and get them released before it will be too late.
We don’t only have the daily shedding of blood in our country, we also have kidnappers who take people into captivity and would only release them after payment of ransom. Some were not even lucky as they were killed despite the payment of ransoms! Some of our roads have become very dangerous to pass through as a result of the rampaging kidnappers on our highways. Also, on the highways, we have the armed robbers terrorising commuters from time to time.
We thank the Police and other law enforcement agents for the little they are able to do. However, we are also challenging the Inspector General of Police to do more, especially to fish out the bad eggs among them who are conniving with the armed groups to perpetuate their mayhem because they share from the ransom.
Beloved, the recent Offa robbery is another act of violence which the robbers are unleashing on innocent citizens in our country. Apart from lack of security in our land, we also have economic challenges, many of our graduates from different tertiary institutions have no jobs to do, workers are not being paid salaries as and when due while many are not even paid salaries for months. We travel through roads that can be described today as death traps, un-motorable, we pass through because we do not have alternatives.
Electricity supply is erratic, undependable, up till now, despite the fact that we hear billions of Naira are being spent to bring about regular supply of electricity. Many adults like us who lived in this country in the better days of Nigeria continue to ask what really happened to bring us where we are today. Why are we in this embarrassing and unpleasant situation, the answer might be lack of justice, lack of fair play and lack of righteousness in our land.
Therefore, I am employing the passage Act 6 to drive home this point and draw our attention to some of the things lacking in our nation. We must make a change in order to experience better days and (for) Nigeria not be an abandoned project.
What is justice? The Webster dictionary describes justice as the maintenance of administration of what is just, especially by the partial adjustment of the conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishment.
Furthermore, we can define Justice as the quality of being just, the degree of been fair to all. In the story of murmuring about the early church in Act chapter 6 which almost scattered the young church, one of the predisposing factors was injustice.
Injustice is the opposite of just, injustice is partiality, it is lack of fairness to all. In the problem of the early church which almost broke the church, those that were employed to distribute the welfare materials were not just in doing so, they paid attention to ethnicity than the needs of human beings.
The Greek Christians in the church were neglected because they were considered inferior to the Jews. Most of the welfare material were administered to Jewish widows only than the other ethnic groups in the church. They failed to realise that the church is a multi ethnic church through the preaching of Peter. The nepotism that was apparent led to murmurings and the church was not at peace again because of this. With this, God’s name was not glorified because God is a God of all nations and God of all tribes. So for the people to distribute the materials, political appointments, ought not to be based on where you come from, your religion or political party you belong to. In a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria, there must not be favouritism, party affiliation, religious sentiment, or whatever. We must elicit the interest of Nigerians in promoting the growth of the country by participating in order to move forward.
The Constitution of Nigeria gives no room to one particular ethnic or religious group to dominate. The Constitution states that all appointments must be balanced, that is, all the divides that form the nation Nigeria must be taken into consideration so that all might have sense of belonging. Anything short of this might lead to agitation, discontentment, murmuring or oppression by a few which will not be good at all for the country.
However, this justice is not limited to government alone but equally in religious setting and private business establishments especially when facilities are jointly owned. Justice equally means bringing to book those who have flouted the law of the land by the government through the relevant security agencies that are employed and empowered to enforce the law. In situations where the herdsmen are killing innocent people with impunity without any arrest or any of them being prosecuted, it is totally unacceptable and will only heat up the polity and encourage the criminals to continue their act. Justice should be the bed-rock of our society in the scheme of things if we want the nation to survive, to stay together, and to grow in the right direction.
Secondly, Fair play has to do with recognition that the benefit I have, I should allow others to have it. I should not deprive otherz of that same benefit. For example, in politics, politics and business life should not be about the winner takes it all but it should be live and let’s live. How can someone be a senator for eight years and after leaving, brings his son to join the parliament also? Why will someone be a governor and leave the position to contest for Senate while others are not allowed to contribute to the development of the nation in that direction? Others are oppressed because of the disadvantage that they have and we oppress them so that they cannot realise their God-given mandate. That is not fairplay.
Recycling of all politicians who are showing sign of tiredness because of age is not fair to the nation and the youths who may be robbed of their opportunity to showcase their talents and contribute to the development of the nation. Lack of fair play is greed and injustice and it will tear the nation apart if care is not taken. Religious and ethnic balancing should equally be considered for fair play and fairness to prevail.
Thirdly, Righteousness is important to move forward in this nation. The Bible says “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34)”. One great cancer killing our nation Nigeria is lack of righteousness, which manifests in embezzlement and corruption of all forms.
There is hardly any day on the pages of newspapers without the issue of corruption. It’s either political class, public service, the Police, the military or the private sector. It is difficult in Nigeria today for anyone to establish a business and make gain or profit on it because of the unfaithfulness of the employees who may run down the establishment if care is not taken.
We thank God that this government has identified unrighteousness or corruption as a major impediment to growth in Nigeria. It is as well making little headway in tackling it. However it must be a wholesome tackling, which must never have political undertone. There is no party or sector where there are no corrupt people but they must be brought to justice without fear or favour.
The early church quickly attended to the problem of injustice, lack of fairplay, and unrighteousness which is corruption, by choosing impeccable leaders that brought peace in the church.
Nonetheless, I implore Nigerians, if we want to move forward, we need to know how to choose right. In the forthcoming election, Nigerians must be sensitive. 2019 election should not be about the party loyalty, but the integrity of the contestant. Nigerians should restrain from vote buying.
May we uphold the principles of justice, fair play and righteousness in order to move the country forward.
Congratulations once again, many happy returns of this day in the mighty name of Jesus.