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  • Writer's pictureNnaemeka Ali, O.M.I

Updated: Mar 18

Many have been wondering why some Nigerians desist from commenting on certain burning issues concerning the nation. While some term such an act of indifference, others see it as being unpatriotic. But what many ignore is that sometimes, when everybody is shouting, no one is being heard out.

I had an opportunity to visit Nigeria amidst this Covid-19 frenzy. I took my time to measure the nation's tempo and test the messages we wanted the world to hear. In the end, I noticed a few things.

1. Nigeria is dangerously on a cruise mode

Those who drive understand that when you put your car on cruise mode, it maintains the same speed at all times, no matter the situation of the road.

Let me state here that the cruise mode differs from the autopilot mode. During autopilot mode, the car is intelligently guided by the AI incorporated in the motor car system. But in cruise mode, the car is on a free run.

On level ground and straight roads, the cruise mode is wonderful. It allows the driver to relax as s/he simply guides the steering. But the cruise mode is dangerous on bad roads like the ones we have in Nigeria. It can project the car into a pothole, towards an oncoming car, or even crash it on one of the death traps that decorate our roads.

That’s the situation Nigeria is actually in. We have a presidency that has no idea of what is going on in the nation and a number of crazy state governors that are as inept and impotent as a corpse. Some are simply figureheads buying people’s consciences with their bags of money. In brief, the nation is actually at the point of crashing.

2. Nigerians Are Getting Rich and Richer

Despite the hardship we all hear about, many Nigerians, both at home and abroad, are seriously improving their financial state. Many of them have discovered that Nigeria is a home of opportunities. Every investment in the nation yields a lot of income, and every right endeavour pays its just measure.

This can be verified by the types of houses that sprout out in every village these days. It could also be verified by the quality of life our young people have enjoyed recently.

But as Percy Bysshe Shelley would have it in his A Defense of Poetry, 1821,

To him that hath, more shall be given; and from him that hath not, the little that he hath shall be taken away. The rich have become richer, and the poor have become poorer; and the vessel of the State is driven between the Scylla and Charybdis of anarchy and despotism.”

Poor Nigerians are now poorer, as the rich ones are seriously becoming richer. And in-between time, we have a ruling class making a mockery of all of us as they zoom in and out of the country at every opportunity they have.

3. Why Many Nigerians Prefer to Stay Quiet

Silence, they say is golden, even though staying quiet in the face of evil is no virtue. Yet, while on the horn of the dilemma, wisdom is the only thing that can save a brave wo/man.

Nigeria is plagued with myriads of competing opinions. The ruling class has run the entire population mad with their nonchalant attitude. People feel so hopeless and abandoned that anyone with any opinion, tested or untested, draws the attention of the masses.

In every quarter of the nation, there are factions of grunting citizens. Both women and men have become so grumpy that people can easily assault you if you oppose their opinion. Pastors, priests, and activists have all cashed into that state of the impasse to fill the space created by our absentee government. They are speaking so loudly that little do we listen to any (other) voice of reason.

In midst of this cacophony, speaking out has become a dangerous ordeal to anyone who is not ready to echo the resounding popular choruses. No one can tempt to disagree with the big town criers without either being insulted or assaulted.

And in such a situation, many prefer to watch realities unfold as they silently learn the direction of the wave. Call their choice of action cowardice or prudence, “mana o nwere ihe mere ede jiri bee nwii” – but frogs never run in vain during the day.

4. Why the East Should Be Preoccupied

There is this Igbo adage that says: “ka anyi wepụ aka enwe n'ofe, tupu ọ ghọọ aka mmadụ” – loosely translated as “treat every lump in your body before it becomes cancerous”. A few years back, when the expatriates were being kidnapped, Nigerians thought it was only a problem for the expatriates. Today, the entire population is suffering at the hands of kidnappers.

Nowadays, we are witnessing the dangerous birth of another deadly group. Every week, we hear of the incursion of the “ungun no men” [sic] in our cities. For the moment, we see their activities as being addressed against the police and the politicians, and it seems to be so. But who will they go for in the few years to come?

When Boko Haram started, the North Easterners were very sympathetic to their cause, but are they still proud of these rats? Will these men be our version of Boko Haram?

The difficulty, we forget, is not who will give the monkey water to drink but who will get back the cup once the monkey is done drinking. Arming any group that is not legally organized is a deadly bargain, and we should never forget that whoever eats with the devil should use a long spoon.

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  • Writer's pictureNnaemeka Ali, O.M.I

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

In today’s 1st reading, we are presented with the event that led to the choice of the 13th Apostle. Yes, you heard me well, the 13th Apostle. Despite what we are told about Judas Iscariot, he certainly remains one of the 12 Jesus chose himself. And even though he betrayed him, no one could take away that choice that Christ made at the beginning of his public ministry.

The event occurred shortly after Christ was said to have been taken up to heaven. The moment was spectacular. The author of Acts of the Apostles placed the incident at the beginning of this second Gospel of Luke. He started by summarizing the first Gospel of Luke through a perfect presentation of the Christ event as recorded in this supposed first book.

And once he established the fact of Christ’s life, death and resurrection (Acts. 1:1–5), he passed on to the next stage by linking the Jewish Christ to this universal saviour that his non-homogenous community (Jew and gentiles) believe in.

What is intriguing is how the author explains the fact that the community preceding his – probably the early Jewish Christians – were still expecting a warrior king in the likeness of David.

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

After this point, the author takes us to the end of Christ’s physical presence on earth by introducing the miraculous elevation of Christ (he was taken up) to heaven. I still wonder if ascension should be the right word if “he was taken up”, and not him moving up. Let me simply assume that the confusion might be linked to the problem of translation.

In Acts 1:10, the author complicates it more when the two supposed men after enquiring why they were there, proclaimed:

“this same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven”.

Their idea, that Christ will come back in the same way the Apostles saw him go into heaven, was a sign that the community of the author believed in the immediate return of Christ. I am forced to doubt if he would have made the same statement if he had the third Gospel.

Coming back to the choice of the 13th Apostle, one can simply imagine that the author wanted to introduce a new reality to his community. Two candidates were presented. Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus), and Mathias. Does the first name ring bell in your ear? Barsabbas, in Hebrew, is the son of the Sabbath or rest. Going back to the trial of Christ, we meet Barabbas – the son of the father (Abba father – God). In Christ’s trial, the Son of the father, Barabbas was let go, and Christ, the Son of Man (in Matthean's words) was condemned.

Here the Son of the Sabbath also known as the just – Justus was not chosen, rather Mathias, the gift of God was chosen. If this community is no longer bound by their Jewish origin, would it surprise anyone that the Son of the Sabbath was not chosen even when we are told he is a just man? Would it be a coincidence that this community waiting for the gift the father will offer them (the Holy Spirit) would be completed by Mathias – the gift of God?

At this point, the author introduces a Church 2.0 where the successors of Christ could legitimately choose a man (a woman - 3.0) with little Jewish attributes to be an Apostle. The new community was no longer bound by the Jewish laws, and heritage as the gift of the father was more important than the son of the Sabbath.

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  • Writer's pictureNnaemeka Ali, O.M.I

The Obi - An Igbo Baraza

The place of Obi – the Baraza, among the Igbo people of Nigeria, is sacred. It is almost like the sanctuary, as the discussion is supposed to be sacred. Each person maintains a given position or status. The elder or the owner of the house sits generally at the centre.

On many occasions (and I do not subscribe to it), women do not sit among the men at the Obi. And when they do, they sit by the side. And in many cases, they sit on low seats (and do not ask me why). Children do not also sit at the Obi, and when they do, they are supposed not to talk. When a child is allowed to sit with the elders (men), he feels privileged. And if he is lucky, he uses the opportunity to instruct himself in the arts of public speaking, and how society functions.

At the Obi, the conversation is generally around tradition, culture, health, the future, and any other thing you can imagine. Among wise elders, no discussion is neutral as in Igbo culture and cosmology, realities interconnect.

The spiritual realm is not in opposition to the physical world. What we do or say in the physical world influences how we relate with both the ancestors and the entire universe. And for this reason, elderly people are very careful in their choices of worlds. They are conscious that the word we say could directly or indirectly hunt the speaker, or even alter realities within our physical world.

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