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They pray, steal and pray

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If a nation qualifies to be etched in stones in the Guinness Book of World Records regarding prayer, Nigeria will easily pass for the Prayer Capital of the world. Christians in Nigeria scream and holler every hour in prayer to God. Muslims shout on rooftops breaking their larynxes and wearing out their prayer mats as they call daily unto the Ruler of Universe. Traditional religionists run their incantations and invocations, pouring out libations to their gods. All manner of cacophony labelled as prayer cries routinely drench the natural and spiritual realms in bombardments of heaven for God’s attention. Nigeria easily is the prayer capital of the world.

There’s nothing wrong with prayer. Men ought to pray always and not back down. But when in our midst misery is deepening, poverty metastasising, and hunger is harassing poor Nigerians exponentially in a fashion immeasurable, must we not ask why? Must we not query why these multiplying vices keep giving birth to more virulent viruses even as we pray fervently? The reason is simple: Across the board in Nigeria, minds of men with power and authority are corrupt and depraved. Public servants steal loosely and pillage heinously. Unfortunately, these characters pray, steal, and then pray to God as they loyally do the bidding of the devil.

I watched a video that went viral reportedly of one Accountant General of the Federation who was accused of defrauding Nigerians to the tune of over N100bn. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission dragged the fella before a judge to answer for his malfeasance. His appearance was captured in a video as he hobbled to court as a cripple assisted by two hefty men. Toward the end of the video, the man who feigned being crippled due to a spinal cord injury suddenly sprung up on his feet hale and hearty and began praying to the god who must have helped him defraud a nation. The message here is that the Nigerian titanic thieves in the veranda of power are regulars either in church or mosque. They are quick to shout, “God bless you”; or “Allahu Akbar.” They aren’t ordinary members in their faith palaces, they sit up high. It is a known fact no one pays low in a Nigerian faith assembly and sits up high. No one who gives small, or no offering, is offered big-time recognition and big titles. That is today’s church. What a shame! We’ve seen a few of these titanic thieves come to church after they have robbed the people. They share testimonies of God’s ‘goodness’, and then give big offerings to their ‘Daddy.’ Nigerian thieves in authority pray, steal, and pray but their hearts are far from God.

Dream-killers in the Nigerian public service always cover up as angelic religious folk. These are the same guys who killed Skye Bank, ran lifeless the Co-operative Bank, slaughtered Société Générale Bank, and murdered Intercontinental Bank. The first time Nigerians sighted sacked Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, with the Bible was during his travails with justice a few months ago. Emefiele cuddled the Holy Book like a seminary graduate waiting to have his first Baptism of Fire in homiletics. I almost puked when I saw the image! Here was a man who drove the nation raggedy with billions of naira missing because he was king in charge of raw cash. Some praying crooked personalities obtained loans ranging from N10bn to N100bn they never had the intention of paying back, and never did. The same ones have been fingered in many illicit financial debaucheries. That the Nigerian educational sector indicators are poor nationwide is because of high-altitude corrupt practices of people in government. That Nigeria’s literacy rate is estimated at 61 per cent with a large number of out-of-school children and young adults with limited literacy and numeracy skills is because of pillagers of our patrimonies. Seventy-five million Nigerian youths are unemployed, and 80 per cent Nigerian graduates are unemployable, and no thanks to the depravity of these fellas who prey on the system and then pray weekly to God.

According to the Pew Research Centre, Christians in Nigeria are roughly between 40 per cent and 49.3 per cent of the country’s population. The CIA World Factbook estimated that 53.5 per cent of Nigeria’s population are Muslims. Nigeria is a densely and fiercely religious nation, and yet we have been tagged the global capital of corruption. Singapore’s public sector was ranked by Transparency International as the fourth least corrupt in the world. Christians in the Asian nation are only 18.9 per cent of the population; while adherents of Islam are only 15.6 per cent. Is the same God who created the Singaporeans who pray sparsely and are the fourth least corrupt the same Holy God who created Nigerians who pray everywhere, plant churches anywhere, and yet have wicked and mean men as captains in many sectors who pray to God before, during, and after their stealing and fraudulent exploits? I am certain that millions of Nigerians are as puzzled as I am.  Anytime I reflect on the record-breaking technological cognisance and engineering advertency of the Chinese, I marvel. When I read about their scientists’ cognitive prowess, the country’s rapid progress, the depth of their knowledge, and the vastness of their imitable know-how, I ask the question in a soliloquy if Nigeria will ever attain this appreciable level with the extant raging inferno of corruption threatening the country within.

In the Good Book, I read about a man called Asa. His father, an idolatrous character who bowed down to very many strange gods, was king. At a season of life, the dad passed on and Asa succeeded him. But Asa refused to follow in daddy’s footsteps. He approached the kingmakers in town and was assured of help from God who the people had always depended on as a helper. ASA was counselled to get close to this God. Right off the bat, he cleansed and fumigated the palace of a plethora of pagan altars and shrines. He smashed high places that were regional worship centre of strange gods. He destroyed images of false gods that the kingdom under his dad bowed down to. He then urged the people to centre their lives in God, the God of their fathers, to do what the law said, and to follow the commandments. Why did Asa do all the smashing and bashing of gods made by the hands of men, a way of life that was radically different from his dad’s? He knew that he would need help. And he knew where the help would come from. And he was sure that when he sought help from God, things that were spiritual stumbling blocks between the kingdom and the Helper must first be removed.

Corruption in Nigeria is heavily present in both leadership and followership. If our nation seeks help from God, ugly behaviours that will not let God show us a favour must first be done away with.  Irritating things that will not let us enjoy drips of God’s mercies we must remove. Appalling things that will keep us in the column of God’s enemies and not a friend and a child we must get rid of.  Pastors must stop acknowledging thieves and offering them the microphone for testimonies about how God helped them steal and get away.

Men of God cannot say one thing out of one side of their mouth while their hearts harbour something different. We cannot have titanic thieves as leaders of enterprises and expect progress and growth. And we cannot have recumbent and indolent followership and expect positive changes in the polity. That is the definition of daydreaming. There is nothing as empowering as dream-fulfilling, as prospering and as blessing as obedience to the One who made us in His image and after His likeness.

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