1 And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment. 2 So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us. 3 And the next day we landed at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care. 4 When we had put to sea from there, we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. 5 And when we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board.
7 When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone. 8 Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.9 Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.” 11 Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. 12 And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there.13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. 14 But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. 15 So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. 16 And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. 17 When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven. 18 And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. 19 On the third day we threw the ship’s tackle overboard with our own hands. 20 Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up. 21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. 22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.
Fellow citizens of our country, gentlemen of the Press, ladies and gentlemen:
At this crucial juncture in the history of our nation, I bring to you a word in season which, in time to come, may turn out to have been a final warning regarding the imminent storms threatening to hit our nation. At the same time, this is a word of hope; the assurance that despite the looming chaos, Nigeria in the hands of God is going to be the biggest miracle of the century.
First, I must reiterate in unequivocal terms that my position in the unfolding political situation of our nation is that of a nation-builder and not a politician, and that my desire is to see a nation that works in my lifetime. On the 16th of November, 2014, as I stood on this platform to share with you “The Nigeria of My Dreams”, I laid it bare to all and sundry why I would rather incline my ears to the melodies within my reins as to the beat of a distant drum. Although the position I stand here today to declare may appear as controversial to many, I do not go about seeking controversies. It is the Lord who has a controversy with the nations, with the inhabitants of the land, and with His people, because their counsel is contrary to His, according to Jeremiah 25:31 (NKJV):
'A noise will come to the ends of the earth - For the Lord has a controversy with the nations; He will plead His case with all flesh. He will give those who are wicked to the sword,' says the LORD.
Let me therefore declare upfront my desire for a successful transition exercise irrespective of political party interest. About this time five years ago in 2010, when the nation was engulfed in a constitutional crisis that bordered on the refusal to transmit power to the current president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and the hijack of presidential powers by a cabal following the incapacitation of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, as I was inspired by God to take action, I gathered the heroes of democracy with the help of civil society organization leaders at The Sheraton Lagos Hotel, Ikeja, and the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) was born. We marched the streets of Abuja and Lagos until the Doctrine of Necessity paved the way for the restoration of constitutionality. After President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in, we, at the Save Nigeria Group, had a series of meetings with him in the bid to chart a new course for our nation offering him what we termed “A Contract to Save and Transform Nigeria”, which we consider an irreducible minimum standard of governance below which the Nigerian people should not be subjected. We sought to lend capacity to a man in whom both God and the people had great expectations. We thought that, having come from a part of the country that had borne the brunt of our lopsided political structure, Mr. President would understand, like the Biblical Queen Esther, that “for such a time as this he was brought into the kingdom” to be the facilitator of geopolitical restructuring and national integration. However, when we could not find fruit of genuine commitment to these ideals at that time and when it appeared to us that the president had chosen a path that could lead to the antithesis of what we consider his unique role, we went across the nation talking to leading political contenders in search of the most suitable candidate to whom we could lend our support. On the 31st of July, 2010, we brought together those we called 'Arrow Heads' who could constitute a team of transformational leaders for our nation, including the likes of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, ex-governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Fola Adeola, Jimi Lawal, Hon. Wale Osun, Yinka Odumakin, amongst others. Meetings were held in my home where I made it clear that I would not be seeking political office so that people would not think I convened Save Nigeria Group for that purpose. It was thereafter some of us found General Buhari to be the most suitable of the leading presidential contenders. When, months later, he invited me to be his running mate on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), I flatly refused until after much persuasion and corroborating counsel. Details of what transpired in that period will be out in my book, Strategic Intervention in Governance: Volume I, which will be presented to the public on the 4th of February this year by God's grace. I say all of this to make it clear that I do what I do just because I desire a Nigeria that works, not because I seek any political office. However, it is my considered opinion that capable men and women who love God and love the people must offer themselves to serve when the opportunity arises, for, as Plato said, “the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”. That is why I am so grateful to God and thankful to General Buhari for offering me the opportunity to break the jinx and forever eliminate from our consciousness the notion that no pastor should have anything to do with politics. The fact that another pastor who has never won an election is running mate to General Buhari in the 2015 elections is a testimony to that.
As we approach the general elections few weeks from today with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) pitted against General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) the second time around, there have been questions regarding my political leanings. It is clear except to the mischief makers where my loyalties lie but this broadcast is not about political endorsements; it is about alerting the nation of the storms ahead. If you must know, my political loyalty lies with General Buhari and I cannot claim not to know the issues surrounding the APC Primary and the processes that led to the selection of his current running mate. Nevertheless, this broadcast is about the counsel of the Most High who rules in the affairs of men and gives rulership to whoever He wills.
THE WINDS AND THE MAKING AND UNMAKING OF NATIONS
First, I would love to remind you that the Most High cannot be crowded out of history because history is His story. Kingdoms have emerged or disappeared, nations have risen or fallen, great leaders have mounted and exited the stage, but none of these have occurred without the direction or permission of God Almighty. Not only has He authored history, He has also ordered the times and seasons for the unveiling of the content of its pages, having predetermined the appointed time for each nation. As though opening the pages of a book with His hands to reveal its content, God orders and unveils the story of the nations with the stirring of the winds. In the Bible, we see the destiny of nations unfold in response to this stirring of the winds upon the earth and the sea. Whenever these winds blow, changes occur in the governance of nations, for good or for evil.
In the Book of Daniel we see the Four Winds of Heaven stirring up the Great Sea which represents the people, multitudes, nations and tongues (Daniel 7:1-8). In response to this stirring, four beasts came out of the Great Sea. These four beasts were four kings and their kingdoms known today as the Babylonian Kingdom, the Medo-Persian Kingdom, the Greek Empire, and the Roman Empire. The Four Winds of Heaven are the attributes of God: Mercy, Truth, Righteousness and Peace.
Psalm 85:10-13 (NKJV):
10 Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. 11 Truth shall spring out of the earth, And righteousness shall look down from heaven. 12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good; And our land will yield its increase. 13 Righteousness will go before Him, And shall make His footsteps our pathway.
Ironically, when these forces impact upon the earth, they expose the beasts in the rulers of nations. These beastly rulers leave behind them a trail of devastation and dryness after which the Four Winds of the Heavens are again prophetically stirred to expel these beastly forces and bring restoration to the Valley of Dry Bones and its content (Ezekiel 37: 1-14).
In the parallel Book of Revelations, the Four Winds of the Earth are revealed as forces affecting the nations. These forces result in the troubling or change of governmental orders. The Four Winds of the Earth are politics, economy, military and religion. These forces could be channeled to either the making or ruining of nations depending on the dispositions of the leaders and the people. For instance, national ruin was the result in many African states with the emergence of tyrants after independence - the likes of Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, Mobutu Sese Seko of Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean Bédel Bokassa of Central African Republic, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, General Sani Abacha of Nigeria, and many other ambitious men whose dreams, drives and delusions unleashed a devastating storm into the political space of their respective nations. This political storm resulted, or has resulted, as the case may be, in economic ruin as these men enriched themselves at the expense of their respective nations. At some point in Uganda, for instance, currency was printed just to satisfy the whims and caprices of Idi Amin without recourse to any principle of monetary policy management. Mobutu, on his part, amassed so much wealth through corruption that he was reportedly richer than his country and appropriated many of his country’s assets as it plunged into infrastructural collapse. Bokassa, intolerant of opposition politicians whom he allegedly killed and ate or fed to crocodiles, diverted and squandered the little wealth his country had. General Sani Abacha became the most brutal dictator in the history of Nigeria, eliminating perceived opponents by means of a deadly killer squad and stashing away over $3 billion of public monies in foreign accounts. Obiang, who is still the president of Equatorial Guinea, is reportedly worth $600 million. He is said to have taken full control of his country's national treasury and deposited more than half a billion dollars into accounts controlled by himself and his family claiming that he did this to prevent civil servants from being tempted to engage in corrupt practices. It will be observed that the emergence of these African dictators was as a result of the invasion of the military wind manifesting through coup d’états or civil wars which, in some cases, resulted in counter-coups or extended civil wars. In more recent times, especially since the turn of the century, the wind of religion and the wind of the military have been unleashed upon the continent and upon the nations of the earth like a genie in a bottle, manifesting in the form of terrorist organizations from Boko Haram in Nigeria to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al-Shabab in the Horn of Africa; from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); and from Hezbollah in Lebanon to Hamas in Palestine.
Conversely, the Four Winds of the Earth have also served in ushering nations into seasons of genuine or perceived transformation. For example, the formation of the United States of America was preceded by the stirring of the combined winds of religion, economy, politics and military in Europe as well as in America. Many of the colonies which formed the United States were created by settlers who fled religious persecution in Europe. This quest for religious freedom and the discipline that characterized the puritan migrants became the fuel for the highly profitable agricultural and commercial activities that produced economic prosperity in the colonies. The political wind blew when the colonies declared independence and this declaration was accompanied by the war of independence upon which was laid the foundation of a prosperous nation that has become the most powerful country on earth today. Similarly, the formation of the Islamic kingdoms, the largest of which was the Ottoman Empire that later transformed to modern day Turkey under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was inspired by this interplay of the four winds of the earth. Other cases in point include the economic miracle of the Asian Tigers including Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore as well as the Asian giant, China.
It is gladdening to know that the Four Winds of the Earth, no matter how ferocious, are under the God's control:
Revelation 7:1-3 (NKJV):
1After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
NIGERIA AND THE FOUR WINDS OF THE EARTH
Let us now bring this back home by taking a brief look at the interplay of political, economic, military and religious winds in the journey of the Nigerian nation so far. Our pre-independence history saw the emergence of empires, kingdoms, fiefdoms and communal political arrangements whose rise and fall were driven by military expeditions motivated by economic interests and, in some cases, clad in religious motives. Since independence, these winds, operating through political power blocs, have produced governmental change from one regime to another. Between 1966 and 1999, it was often a case of one military government taking over from a civilian government or from another military government citing, amongst other factors, economic mismanagement and political corruption, and expressing a messianic mission to correct the blunders, even if insincerely. In the democratic arrangements that preceded the return to civil rule in 1999, such as the 1993 elections, religion was a much more silent factor among the four winds in the determination of political outcomes. That was why the June 12, 1993 elections could produce victory for a Muslim-Muslim ticket. However, following the return to civil rule, religion has become a major factor in the determination of election outcomes especially since the 2003 elections in which General Muhammadu Buhari first contested for the presidency, as he has often been erroneously associated with religious fundamentalism. The import of this factor got to what some might have thought would be a crescendo in the 2011 elections when, for the first time in Nigeria’s history, a pastor stepped into politics as running mate to General Buhari.
Nevertheless, in the year 2015, a crucial year in the unfolding history of our nation, the Four Winds of the Earth are about to hit the nation in one combined storm that will not leave her the same. The purpose of this broadcast is to give a timely warning before the storm arrives like Apostle Paul did on that journey to Rome in the Alexandrian ship (Acts 27) as well as to proffer an alternative pathway even if the warnings and the proposals are rejected as occurred in Paul's case. But first, let us examine the state of the nation and show how we have stirred the ship of state with difficulty (verse 7), ignoring the warning signs, laying claim to fictitious economic achievements, celebrating political institutions with weak foundations, allowing criminality and rebellion to fester in the guise of religion, and denying the seeming comatose state of our military and its inability to withstand the pressure, thereby subjecting our nation to a depth of instability never before experienced since the Civil War.
THE STATE OF THE NATION
Today, Nigeria is supposedly the largest economy in Africa, surpassing South Africa and Egypt with a GDP of $522 billion, a value obtained since the rebasing of the economy in April 2014. With this nominal GDP, Nigeria is now the 26th largest economy in the world. It would appear, then, that her aspiration to become one of the twenty largest economies in the world by 2020 is within reach. However, whenever the GDP figures are brandished by the government as signs of achievement, red flags start emerging as the people look around them and wonder if GDP stands for garri don peme because even staple foods are becoming unaffordable to the so-called ordinary Nigerian. In any case, we need not go into those socio-economic realities that challenge the bogus claims of economic growth; let us simply dwell in the realm of economic statistics with which experts have often attempted to blind the eyes of Nigerians.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics as well as Trading Economics, a resource centre for economic indicators for countries the world over including Nigeria, there was a decline in average GDP growth rate between the third quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2014 with growth declining to an average rate of 4.5% within that period compared to earlier rates as well as a 2014 rate of 6%. Were these not signs of a staggering economy; signs that were strongly denied by the government until recently when the fact could no longer be hidden following the fall in oil prices? One also wonders if this decline was not the pointer to the fact that the economy could no longer sustain the massive corruption in the fuel subsidy regime which then informed the attempted subsidy removal and the increase in fuel price in January 2012, a policy which the people protested, defying intimidation until the protests were crushed by a combined force of political intrigues, economic sell-outs and military deployment with no action taken against the major culprits in the subsidy fraud. Also, one wonders if, despite all the acclaimed benefits of the rebasing exercise, it was not mere recourse to plastic surgery as an attempted solution to an internal disease in a last-minute effort to window-dress the economy and attract investments rather than address the problems fundamentally, considering the fact that it was done in the first quarter of 2014.
The gap between the bogus GDP claims and the economic realities of Nigerians is seen in the fact that Nigeria, according to the World Bank, has one of the lowest GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP) in the world at the 123rd position out of 185 countries, thus revealing that the value of our currency as an import-dependent economy makes our GDP claims of little worth. Worse still, the level of inequality in the distribution of wealth that shows that a select few have cornered the wealth of the nation is seen in a Gini coefficient of 43.8 which is one of the highest inequality indicators in the world according to World Bank statistics. To explain to Nigerians what this means, the Leadership newspaper of March 1, 2014 revealed that in a population of about 170 million people, only about twelve Nigerians control one-eighth of the entire Nigerian economy!
More damning revelations were unveiled in an article titled “Bitter Truths about Economy the Jonathan Govt. Does Not Want Nigerians to Know”, published by Premium Times on December 22, 2014. In it, inconsistencies in statistical indicators being brandished by the government were unveiled. The fact was revealed that in the first five years of civil rule, oil prices were not as high as they were between 2009 and 2013. Yet, whereas in those first five years, we had fiscal surpluses, we have been having fiscal deficits despite the relatively more favourable oil prices between 2009 and 2013. It will also interest Nigerians to know that within the same period when oil prices were high, all other oil producing countries recorded surpluses and deployed those surpluses to long-term infrastructure projects while Nigeria was recording deficits and borrowing to service the deficits. Again, despite the fact that only about 70% of the budget is implemented annually in Nigeria, we keep borrowing and accumulating debt supposedly to service the contrived deficit. Also, whereas growth has supposedly remained strong, we have never been as indebted as we are now since our exit from the Paris Club with a $3.5 billion external debt and a N2.2 trillion naira domestic debt even though what the debt has been used to achieve remains to be seen. Considering the negative correlation between growth and public debt, does this not suggest a statistical window-dressing of our claims of growth? Why do we store our excess earnings in foreign reserves that give us a paltry 3% interest while we accumulate debt at an average interest rate of 13-15%? Even worse is the fact that, according to Chatham House, oil theft averages $3-8 billion annually. Yet, this monumental loss of an industrial scale does not reflect negatively in our growth claims. Definitely, some voodoo economists are cooking our books.
Furthermore, earlier in 2014, the then Governor of Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi Lamido alleged that about $20 billion was not remitted to the federation account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) - a claim that was later dismissed. Was this allegation thoroughly investigated without bias? Considering the fact that this allegation was made in a year preceding general elections, and just before a fiscal era where Nigerians are being asked to tighten their belts, we are compelled to ask where recent huge campaign donations are coming from and for what purpose such humongous donations in clear violation of the law are made. It appears the PDP campaign slogan for the 2015 election is “to hell with the poor”.
In the midst of these provocations, a supposedly successful Transformation Agenda is being peddled as the basis of re-election for four more years. We have failed to admit that our economic growth is not so much the result of astute fiscal and monetary policy as it is of the global stirring of the Four Winds of the Earth. In our mono-product economic structure, international political and military crisis, especially among oil producing states, has been the cause of our acclaimed economic growth due to the resultant high oil prices brought about by a shortfall in the supply of the product. Now that the prices have fallen, with some of our erstwhile major importers abandoning our crude and with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) vowing not to cut production output even if the price falls to $20 per barrel, we are face-to-face with an economic crisis that an austerity budget based on uncertain income projections cannot address.
These red flags of economic upheaval are being raised alongside an alarming security situation that has so far cast serious doubt on our military capability. Who would have thought that Nigerians would one day be displaced from their homes and would become refugees in countries like Chad and Niger? Who would have thought that entire communities in one geo-political zone of the country would one day be under the control of terror groups or that the time would come when hundreds of women and children would be carted away by terror groups on more than one occasion with no intervention by security forces? Who would have expected that Nigerian soldiers would one day be helpless against insurgents to the extent of abandoning inferior weapons and fleeing to neighbouring Cameroon? Who would have thought that Nigeria would one day be classified alongside Iraq and Afghanistan on the list of terror-stricken nations? In the recent Global Terrorism Index, based on 2013 incidents, Nigeria ranked 4th among 162 countries with 303 reported attacks, 1,826 fatalities and 457 injuries. Terrorism was said to have cost Nigeria $28.48 billion in the year 2013. Nigeria is surpassed only by Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq in this index. Given the dastardly activities of Boko Haram last year, the 2014 index would be even more damning for Nigeria.
WELCOME TO FAIR HAVENS: A TRANSITIONAL HARBOUR
ACTS 27:7-8 (NKJV):
7 When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone 8 Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.
With great difficulty, the Alexandrian ship in which Paul travelled arrived at a place called Fair Havens and, in verse 8, we notice that there was contemplation to temporarily harbor the ship in that location but the harbor was not suitable to winter in. In like manner, the journey of the ship of the Nigerian state has thus far been difficult and we have largely been drifting under the influence of the winds. It is clear that a great storm lies ahead as we are approaching elections without addressing the fundamental flaws in the polity. These flaws include:
the awkward geopolitical structure that has the form, but lacks the substance, of federalism;
the consequent lopsided economic structure in which a single product from one region of the country contributes the bulk of the revenue of the entire nation despite the abundant resources spread across the nation;
a constitution that lays claim to the phrase “we the people” but to which the people made no input;
contentious population figures that have been the harbinger of election disputes since the pre-independence era; and
an electoral body that wears the label 'independent' but is practically under the control of the presidency.
These factors have directly and indirectly contributed to the current economic crisis, the political instability, and the security situation. We managed to trudge on in this condition, advancing with great difficulty until we got to our Fair Havens. We arrived at our Fair Havens when, for the first time in the history of our nation, a person from the South-South, the region worst hit by the fundamental flaws in our polity, became president. One would have expected that being from the Niger Delta and an academic for that matter, President Jonathan would understand the role carved out for him, lay aside transient political ambitions and champion the cause of restructuring while pursuing national integration, and then go down in history as Nigeria’s greatest leader hitherto; but this is yet to be seen. However, President Goodluck Jonathan came close to living up to this when he convoked the 2014 National Conference – a gathering of nobles, elders and the young from across the nation in which these issues were critically examined and recommendations made. Fellow Nigerians, I speak expressly to you that the report of the 2014 National Conference is the Fair Havens in which Nigeria must winter to avoid the storms that are ahead.
Just the way Paul on the Alexandrian ship perceived that the voyage would end in much loss and warned the centurion, helmsmen and ship-owner (Acts 27:9-10), I warned the nation through a broadcast and press conference held at the Latter Rain Assembly on Sunday, July 22nd, 2012. I told the nation that I perceived that there would be no 2015 if we failed to fix 2014. Indeed, those perceptions were signals I was picking at the time but there are practical pointers in that direction today even if faintly perceptible to the discerning. Between 2012 and now, the signs have become more visible though stakeholders still refuse to pay attention. Like Paul, our counsel has become unpopular. As it was in the Alexandrian ship (verse 12), the majority has asked that the ship of state set sail towards the general elections rather than winter in fundamental reforms such as those proposed in the 2014 National Conference and the reason is obvious – just like Fair Havens was an inconvenient place for the Alexandrian ship to winter in, change or reformation is a difficult process and is often not suitable to the comfort zone mentality that prefers to do the same thing over and over again and hope for a different result; a mentality which, according to Albert Einstein, is the very definition of insanity.
WEATHER FORECAST: OMINOUS SHADOWS AND GATHERING STORM
In Acts 27:9-10, Paul warned that the voyage would end in disaster. But the centurion, the commander of the army that was charged to take Paul to Rome, was persuaded more by the opinion of the 'experts' - the helmsman and owner of the ship - than by what Paul was saying. One would want to ask: were there no visible signs of the impending storm? Was it just Paul’s spiritual perception that was at work? We will find that the journey all the way to Fair Havens from the coasts of Asia, beginning from the ship of Adramyttium, was laden with difficulty because of contrary winds that caused difficulty in navigation and obstructed procession (verses 4 and 7). Likewise, in our nation, despite the warnings, Mr. President is more persuaded by the assurances given him by the experts - including the managers of the economy, the organizers of the elections, the heads of the armed forces and security agencies - as well as the expectations of the majority than by a lone voice charging him to camp for a while in order to fix the fundamentals. However, the same question applies in the case of our nation: is it just my perception and those of others in the minority that have prompted this warning of an impending storm? Are the signs not visible? What is the weather forecast saying?
Weather forecasting entails the gathering of quantitative data and the application of an understanding of atmospheric behavior to predict the changes in weather. Jesus made reference to this practice in Matthew 16:1-3 (NKJV):
1 Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; 3 and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.
When I first alerted the nation that there would be no 2015 if the fundamentals were not addressed, I was asked if I was giving a prophecy in the order of “thus saith the Lord”. Even now, many are asking the same question. At that time, like Paul, I told you that I had perceived it. But, I would want to ask, are the signs not there? If we can predict the weather, would it not be hypocritical to feign ignorance regarding the foreboding state of the nation? Can we not see the clouds gathering ahead of a major storm? Warning! There is too much turbulence ahead! A competent helmsman knows not to sail in such a situation instead of ignoring the weather forecast only to subsequently shipwreck, kill himself, the crew and the passengers, as well as destroy the ship and cargo!
I will briefly highlight certain crucial developments that we may be disregarding as we set sail into the general elections but I must first point out that the purpose for highlighting these red flags is to challenge decision makers and political stakeholders as well as security, military and intelligence agencies to take the steps necessary to avert crisis before elections, during elections and after elections whenever they hold. I must also warn that if we sail into general elections at this time without fixing the fundamentals, no matter what precaution is taken by the helmsman and the owner of the ship, once the ship sets sail from Fair Havens, an encounter with Euroclydon would be inevitable. Against this backdrop, I present the signs of the gathering storms:
Sign 1: Poor Level of Election Preparedness
Reasonable people are inclined to ask how prepared the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is for the upcoming general elections. Despite the desperate efforts of the Commission to manage pre-election logistics, the tales of woe that have trailed the Permanent Voters’ Card collection exercise have raised a lot of questions as to the level of preparedness of the Commission with many Nigerians fearing disenfranchisement. The Vanguard of November 15, 2014, in an article titled “Permanent Voters’ Cards, PVC: How INEC Failed Nigerians”, reported that more than 75% of the PVCs in rural areas in Lagos were left uncollected. Similar and even worse tales of woe trailed the exercise in other states such as in Edo State where PVCs were stolen. The Nigerian Pilot of November 17, 2014 reported a collection rate of less than 50% in Abia State. A survey conducted by News Agency of Nigeria on public perception regarding INEC’s preparedness for the elections, including the organization’s handling of voter registration and card collection exercises and the adoption of recommendations to forestall the challenges of the 2011 elections, gave INEC a low scorecard.
Similarly, acts of lawlessness on the part of political parties and seeming partisanship on the part of security agencies have raised questions as to the readiness of stakeholders to conduct or to allow the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. How else can one explain the fact that in violation of section 99(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), political campaigns commenced long before the opening of the window? How else can one explain the invasion of the secretariat of the APC by the Department of State Security? Either a political party was devising unlawful schemes in which case culprits ought to be prosecuted and details exposed or the DSS was acting out a script written to repress opposition parties. Whichever may have been the case, it questions the readiness of stakeholders to operate by the rules.
Sign 2: Safety and Security Risks
A study on Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria in the period between 2006 and 2013 by Chatham House in the United Kingdom revealed that 17 states in the North were terror prone and recorded varying degrees of violent attacks leading to violent deaths. In terms of frequency of attacks, Borno, Yobe, Kano, Kaduna, Adamawa and Bauchi, in that order, led the other states. Further compilation of recorded incidents from other sources showed that towards mid-2014, Boko Haram attacks had become an almost daily occurrence in Borno State. Terror attacks or threats of same were also reported in northern states that had previously been free of such, including Kogi and Nasarawa, as well as in southern states such as Lagos, Delta and Imo.
Given the new tactics being adopted by the Boko Haram sect especially suicide bombing by teenage girls who, it appears, the sect is increasingly targeting for abduction, the risk factor in massive political rallies and polling units across the North of the country and, to a lesser extent, in the South, is dangerously high. Let us not forget that in December 2014, a female suicide bomber arrested by vigilante forces in Borno State revealed that 50 other female suicide bombers had been let loose.
As INEC has requested of the Federal Government a massive deployment of armed forces and security agencies for the general elections, a proposal that is being opposed by opposition parties, I challenge the Federal Government to conduct an honest assessment of the capability and numerical strength of each of the security agencies and armed forces and assure Nigerians that the ratio of forces to polling units across the federation is such that can effectively ward off potential attacks and guarantee security. The logic would be to deploy more forces to areas that are highly prone to terror but security tacticians must not forget that deceit is a weapon of war. Terrorists might seek to take the nation by surprise and target less protected areas which, ordinarily, might have been less terror prone. Let the security agents also be mindful of what I will refer to as the Ziklag factor (1st Samuel 30). If security agencies are to be massively deployed to polling units on Election Day, it would be risky to leave the home front unprotected in terror prone areas as terror attacks might be unleashed on homes to target the non-voting population. Worse still, with their antecedents of becoming partisan and getting caught up in politicking during elections, can our security agents maintain the level of alertness required to quell potential attacks? We might have succeeded in organizing some gubernatorial elections in the South, and the aborted gubernatorial election in Adamawa due to the subsequent swearing-in of the deputy governor, by massively deploying military and civil defence forces; however, we cannot ignore these threats ahead of the general elections.
Sign 3: Likely Minority King-making
Nigeria has a history of low voter turnout. For instance, the 2011 parliamentary elections recorded 25.8% turnout while the presidential elections recorded 48.32%. In essence, electoral decisions in Nigeria are made by the minority. Given the state of the nation, in spite of the excitement trailing the emergence of candidates, the 2015 elections threaten to record an even worse turnout. Aside the problems associated with voter registration and PVC collection, if the reported hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in terror prone areas are considered with respect to their status as part and parcel of the electorate, and if terror-stricken towns are considered in terms of polling units involved, then we are faced with the likelihood of massive disenfranchisement and voter apathy that could render the elections disputable and inconclusive.
Sign 4: Looming Constitutional and Legal Crisis
The constitutional provisions for election into the office of the president as articulated in section 132 of the 1999 Constitution provides a window for challenging the validity of any presidential election if elections cannot be held in some parts of the country as might be the case if the security situation is not addressed before the elections. Section 132(4) provides that:
For the purpose of an election to the office of President, the whole of the Federation shall be regarded as one constituency.
Section 47 of the Electoral Act 2010 further provides that:
Voting in any particular election under this Act shall take place on the same day and time throughout the Federation.
By these provisions, it is clear that any presidential election that excludes certain parts of the nation will result in constitutional crisis and legal battles that may further heighten sectional tensions.
Sign 5: Impending Post-election Tension
This necessitates a look at those pointers to possible post-election tension. First, like the gathering of the clouds, the utterances of vested interests from the northern and southern sections of the country as to how they will react if the election turns one way or the other is a pointer to an impending storm that the nation must not ignore. In recent times, direct threats in this regard have been coming from vested interests in the South-South with a history of militancy. This should give the nation a grave cause for concern when considered against the massive oil theft in the region as well as reports suggesting arms build-up with ex-militants allegedly linked to a botched South African arms deal that was widely reported, and to the purchase of six warships as reported in The Punch newspaper of December 13, 2014. Mind you, the Global Terrorism Index report identified 6 terror groups in Nigeria. Contrary to public perception, according to the report, even though Boko Haram is currently the deadliest terror group in the country and has laid claim to about 90% of the terror attacks in the period covered by the report, the largest terror group in Nigeria is the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) with a membership strength of about 15,000 despite its having recorded much fewer attacks than Boko Haram. Ladies and gentlemen, one does not need a soothsayer to know this is a red flag!
On the other hand, the readiness of the multitude of northern youth to violently defend what they perceive as theirs, rightly or wrongly, is well documented in our recent election experience. The nation would not want to be caught-up in violence involving two regions. Another civil war in addition to terrorism would be too much weight on an ailing nation. Why not first address the root causes of these tensions that mount up every election year - root causes that elections themselves cannot resolve but aggravate?
Sign 6: Looming Economic Collapse
Alongside these pointers to political upheaval are the signs of an impending economic collapse. Any of the following scenarios is possible:
With the proposed diversification of revenue base from oil to taxation and with the devaluation of the naira in an economy that is largely import dependent, cost-push inflation is likely to occur. Also, the flow of money into the economy through politics within the first quarter of the year ahead of the elections could as well facilitate a demand-pull inflation. The so-called average Nigerian who has no place on the dinner table would bear the brunt. It is even doubtful that they can access the crumbs that fall from the master's table.
With the expected reduction in government spending for a nation whose financial sector is still largely government supported and with likely reduction in purchasing power due to taxation and possible job cuts in the public as well as private sector, a fall in aggregate demand would eventually lead to deflation. An inflation-deflation transition could result in losses for investors in volatile markets such as securities and property.
The depletion of our foreign reserves, the dip in crude oil prices and its downward impact on our foreign earnings, the weak state of our manufacturing sector, and our import dependence could lead to a sustained downward spiral in the value of our currency.
We are therefore faced with the challenge of managing a volatile transition process and a looming economic downturn at the same time. It will interest you to note that the same fundamentals that must be addressed in the political dimension of our challenges also hold the key to economic stability and prosperity for our beloved nation. However, before we take a look at these fundamentals, it is necessary to point out one more sign of the gathering storms that has to do with my constituency, the church, and its interaction with the political space in 2015.
Sign 7: Potential Religious Confusion, Betrayals, Scandals and Persecution
In 2011, when I was selected by General Buhari as running mate, there was a gang-up against that ticket by a substantial section of the church which preferred the candidate that was perceived as Christian, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Not only was the church not convinced about General Buhari’s non-fundamentalist stance, it also refused to give support to the running mate who, in its perception, is controversial and non-conformist. At that time, the mantra amongst many men of God was that a pastor had nothing to do with politics. Reports also have it that Christian clergy received financial inducement from their preferred candidate who is again contesting against the same General Buhari in 2015. To compound the matter, General Buhari's running mate is another pastor who should ordinarily have the support of his home church, a very influential denomination in and outside the country and whose head is highly respected in the Christian establishment. Therefore, ordinarily, for those to whom religion means a lot in the making of electoral decisions, the current running mate of the APC should be tiwa n tiwa, that is, “our own” and should be massively supported by the church. But it is not going to be that easy. What would be the implication of turning away from the incumbent who was massively supported in 2011 by the church establishment? How about those for whom the president has done one favour or another, such as waivers, contracts, soft landings, protection of vested interests in one form or another, or even outright monetary gifts - not necessarily bribery, just a 'harmless' gift? Would these pastors, priests and prophets now turn against their benefactor, the president, to give support to “our own”? What will be the position of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), organizations that have been massively behind the president and who are likely biased against APC as PFN's 2015 round-the-clock circulated prayer bulletin reveals? Would there be reminders that this same incumbent has knelt before us at our conventions where we laid hands on him and supposedly endorsed him? Or, would we make a u-turn now that this is “our own”? Would such a u-turn not come with dire consequences reminiscent of the Abimelech experience with the men of Shechem in Judges 9:22-24 (NKJV)?:
22 After Abimelech had reigned over Israel three years, 23 God sent a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech, 24 that the crime done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might be settled and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who aided him in the killing of his brothers.
Let us not forget that the men of Shechem paid dearly for it - with their lives, in fact. Do we see persecution looming for the church? Do we see high profile scandals emerging if the church makes such a u-turn? Or would the church simply deny or betray its own or, like the ostrich deprived of wisdom, treat its young harshly and choose to support incumbency in order to stay safe and protect interests and investments? Would the question of support and endorsement pitch major religious leaders against one another with brothers fighting against brother whether in secret or in the open? See Job 39:13-18 (NKJV):
13 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, But are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork’s? 14 For she leaves her eggs on the ground, And warms them in the dust; 15 She forgets that a foot may crush them, Or that a wild beast may break them. 16 She treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers; Her labor is in vain, without concern, 17 Because God deprived her of wisdom, And did not endow her with understanding. 18 When she lifts herself on high, She scorns the horse and its rider.
Challenging as all these may be, our confidence is in the fact that no matter the degree of shaking that will occur, it will only produce a glorious church without spots or wrinkle, for Jesus, the true Head of the Church, said He would build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Alleluia! (Matthew 16:18)
Having said that, let us take a look at the options available to our nation, that is, the alternative to setting sail in spite of the imminent storms of a political, economic, military and religious nature - the stirrings of the Four Winds of the Earth upon our nation.
OUR PROPOSITIONAL ALTERNATIVE
What I have said in the past to our nation and our leaders, I will repeat here once more. To avoid the gathering storms, the following steps should be taken:
Activate the constitutional provisions for the suspension of elections
Section 135(3) of the 1999 Constitution provides as follows:
If the Federation is at war in which the territory of Nigeria is physically involved and the President considers that it is not practicable to hold elections, the National Assembly may by resolution extend the period of four years mentioned in subsection (2) of this section from time to time; but no such extension shall exceed a period of six months at any one time.
The argument against this would be the notion that the country is not at war. If indeed the country is not at war, how can one explain the invasion and annexation of Nigerian territory by insurgents launching attacks from our borders and neighbouring countries? Let us not forget that on May 14, 2013, while declaring a state of emergency in three states, President Goodluck Jonathan said of the activities of terrorists:
“These actions amount to a declaration of war and a deliberate attempt to undermine the authority of the Nigerian state and threaten its territorial integrity. As a responsible government, we will not tolerate this”.
Records indicate that since that declaration, the situation has only worsened. Therefore, if the country was at war then, according to the president, it is even more so now.
I do recognise the fact that opinions are divided on whether or not the Boko Haram plague can be described as war or just an act of insurgency. Truth be told, this is mere semantics. As Aesop said, “the injury we do and the one we suffer are not weighed in the same scales”. Depending on which side of the divide one belongs, the difference between war and insurgency can be likened to the difference between terrorists and freedom fighters. One man's meat is another man's poison, just as one man's music is another man's noise. Those that are condemned as 'terrorists' by one group are hailed as 'freedom fighters' by another.
Therefore, I submit that if the President considers that a part of the federation will be disenfranschised by reason of the Boko Haram plague, a postponement of the election may not be out of place. In my view, the litmus test to arrive at the type of war contemplated by the constitution is the practicality of getting people in the affected states to line up to vote for candidates of their choice in situations where they cannot predict when the next attack will be launched by insurgents. I hold the view that the drafters of the law feared for mass disenfranchisement of Nigerians who will refuse to risk their lives, hence the requirement that the nation wins the war before conducting an election.
Be that as it may, there is yet another argument. It goes thus: “Since the government has demonstrated a very high degree of incompetence as far as combatting terrorism, is it not better to have a replacement, particularly in terms of a new government led by the person of the APC candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, which can only happen through elections?” This reasoning seems valid, for though the president has made several attempts at tackling the issue, his avowed political will has not yielded fruit and the situation has only worsened. It is perhaps too complicated for him to deal with. But what is the guarantee that there will be free, fair and credible elections and the opposition will not be rigged out of victory once again? What is the guarantee that the power of incumbency will not successfully manipulate the presidential elections? Even if General Buhari wins, what would happen if, in response to a Buhari victory, another wave of insurgency explodes in the South-South in such proportion that will completely ground the Nigerian economy? Is that what we want as a nation?
However, I must state that the proposal for suspension of elections is not with a view to giving the president an avenue for undue tenure elongation but for the purpose of building a coalition that will bring lasting solutions to our problems.
Create a Transitional Government
In suspending the elections, to gain the support of all stakeholders, the president must not act with the intention to seek re-election. Rather, he should, within the period, commit himself to building a non-partisan coalition comprised of major stakeholders and competent statesmen from each geopolitical zone. This coalition, headed by the president, will constitute a combined force that will tackle terrorism and address what I have earlier referred to as the fundamentals, within a time frame of two years or less.
3. Address the Fundamentals
Addressing the fundamentals calls for immediate implementation of the report, or part thereof, of the 2014 National Conference especially as it relates to:
Restructuring with a view to achieving true federalism under Zonal Commissions as well as fiscal federalism ensuring, as proposed by the report of the National Conference, that adequate allocation is given to a Solid Minerals Development Fund in addition to other recommendations geared towards economic diversification.
Achieving national reconciliation and integration by adopting, constitutionalizing and propagating the National Charter for Reconciliation and Integration.
Conduct accurate census
Aside facilitating development planning, an accurate census will lay the foundation for a sound identity management scheme, facilitate effective and efficient local government administration, provide the basis for proper constituency delineation and enable the conduct of well-organized voter-registration exercises.
Establish a truly independent electoral body
A truly independent electoral body whose head will no longer be appointed by the president and whose funding will be drawn from first line charge on the federation account will guarantee the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
Create a true people’s constitution that will reflect the aforementioned features
A true people’s constitution, rather than being preambled by a military decree, as in the case of the 1999 constitution, will be preceded by the people’s expressed interest to co-exist as a nation and be governed under agreed principles as espoused in the Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration adopted at the 2014 National Conference.
Conduct free, fair and credible elections in the consensually accepted constitutional arrangement
In the end, as an integrated rather than regionally and religiously divided nation, we will arrive at the same juncture we are currently but, at that time, better prepared with the fundamentals in place and with the nation set for the leadership of the best of the north and the best of the south while the federating units, truly federal, are constitutionally empowered for collaborative and competitive development.
SETTING SAIL IN SPITE OF THE STORM CLOUDS
Despite this timely warning which includes the way forward to credible elections and to a stable and prosperous nationhood, I am almost certain that, like the helmsman and owner of the Alexandrian ship in Acts 27 as well as the majority in the ship, the handlers of our nation will prefer to set sail rather than winter at Fair Havens. From the 13th verse of Acts 27, we understand that the decision to set sail was fuelled by the fact that the southern wind blew softly and gave the illusion of safety. It reads:
13When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. [Please note that Crete means carnal or fleshly.]
Ladies and gentlemen, the south wind blew recently, when Gen Muhammadu Buhari against formidable contestants and money bags won with a landslide majority at the APC primary in the heart of Lagos, South-western Nigeria - and that against all odds.
Added to that, the relative peace in the South has kept us from seeing the severity of the crisis rocking our nation and its potential to be aggravated by premature electioneering. However, in the 14th verse of Acts 27, we find that, not long after, a tempestuous wind called Euroclydon arose and hit the sea and the ship was caught in the midst of it until it could no longer be controlled. That ship drifted until it was wrecked.
Euroclydon is a cyclonic, tempestuous north-east wind. It is reminiscent of the wave of terror attacks bedeviling the nation from the North-East as though reminding us that, going by precedent, an incumbency-rigged election could cause the volatile electorate in the region to take advantage of the Boko Haram crisis which has snowballed from the North-East to unleash a storm on the nation from the North and that likewise, a Northern victory will only resuscitate a South-South resistance.
AFTER THE STORM: NIGERIA, THE BIGGEST MIRACLE OF THE CENTURY
It is noteworthy that, after all was said and done, just as God assured Paul, no life was lost, though the ship was wrecked and property was lost. It is very gratifying that, in the end, the majority that was wrong became the minority and the lone voice minority that was right became the majority.
Paul, the prisoner, became the commander with a clear blue print on how to salvage lives from the avoidable wreckage. And as he instructed the centurion, he had no choice but to comply.
Ladies and gentlemen, my heartfelt prayer at this juncture is that our leaders will listen and do the needful to avert an avoidable disaster, so that there will be no need for anyone to say at the end, “we told you so”.
I find it very useful to repeat the words of Paul here with all humility, trusting God that all men of goodwill in and outside of government will hear, heed and act accordingly.
Acts 27:20-26 (NKJV):
20 Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up. 21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. 22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island.”
Paul further said in Acts 27:30-36 (NKJV):
30 And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, when they had let down the skiff into the sea, under pretense of putting out anchors from the prow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the skiff and let it fall off. 33 And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. 36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves.
Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, let me at this juncture encourage you all, those within the country and those in the Diaspora, to join us at The Latter Rain Assembly as we observe a 14-day solemn assembly - a time of corporate fasting and prayer from Sunday the 1st of February to Saturday the 14th of February, 2015 to entreat the God of heaven for the survival of our nation. We shall meet daily for corporate prayers on all 14 days from 6.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m.
In closing, let me place on the register my full persuasion regarding the outcome of our present dilemma. I am fully persuaded that, no matter how dark it becomes for Nigeria, there is a silver lining beyond the dark clouds and this nation will overcome the storms and rise to fulfill her destiny. I believe that no matter how unstable the polity may become, we will transit from shame to fame in the name of Jesus. Amen. I am persuaded that no matter the level of economic collapse, the economy of Nigeria will recover. So, in preparation for a previous prophecy, let us begin to expect the emergence of the tender plant from the side of the North, afore-prepared before the foundation of the world to steer Nigeria into her prophetic destiny. We are in the season of his emergence. What the mouth of the Lord has spoken, the zeal of the Lord will accomplish. Amen.
I am further persuaded that our national reconciliation, integration and full recovery will be a wonder to the world and that leaders of nations will beat a path to our doorstep to understudy God’s power at transforming nations.
Our authority for this assertion is God's word as recorded in Psalm 126: 1-6 (NKJV):
1 When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, We were like those who dream. 2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” 3 The Lord has done great things for us, And we are glad. 4 Bring back our captivity, O Lord, As the streams in the South. 5 Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. 6 He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him.
Therefore, come rain, come shine, by the grace of the living God, Nigeria will be saved, Nigeria will be changed and Nigeria will become great in my lifetime.
Thank you, God bless you and God bless Nigeria. Happy New Year to you all.