by Chijioke Ngobili
Years ago as an adolescent growing into young adulthood in my undergraduate days at the university, I was introduced to Martin Luther King Jnr. literature writings about him, his speeches and his own writings were gulped down at that stage of life. The man’s words changed and shaped my many ideological views for good. Of all the things Dr. King said that impacted powerfully on me, this struck me most and has never left from a virile part of my memory:
“Perhaps, one day when we get to heaven, we may have to ask God that most mysterious question: ‘Why is it that the children of darkness are often more diligent at what they want than the children of Light?'”
In these few words, MLK summarised one of his greatest frustrations while leading the civil rights movement. He, King, was a man of God who could have stayed inside his church praying for the freedom of the Blacks. He knew God isn’t some multipurpose robot that washes cloth, cleans the house, goes on errand, and does every damn thing. He knew that if he had continued to pray for their freedom inside his church, the 1960s, 70s, 80s would pass and his Black people would still be struggling to be treated equal with the White counterparts. He took action and then God supported. He paid with his life in the end. While he led the struggle, his fellow churchmen must have said “King, it’d have been worse than this if we weren’t praying”. And King must have replied “This is already the worst happening and if we don’t do anything now, the unimaginable will then happen”.
Today, many Nigerians are comforting themselves saying “Nigeria’s situation could have been worse than this if not for prayers” whenever you talk about certain prayers said for many years which have had no valid result. Of all the people in the new testament Bible, none has impressed me as St Paul; that realist and realistic preacher who hammered to James that “Faith without good works is dead”. While religious nations are busy having faith without any seriousness at working towards a target, the less religious nations are busy working at a target while having faith in the good future of their works. The so-called “children of light” are more relaxed, lazily praying their way to God’s favours while the so-called “children of darkness” are already setting up structures for their kids and next generations. Mystery!
Let me declare this: Nigeria can never be good no matter the amount of prayers we say till the next 50 years! There’s nobody alive in Nigeria today who would ever see an ideal nation as other nations from this present composition of Nigeria till s/he dies no matter the age of the person at death! You may shout “God forbid!”
Every 30 years, a generation begins to fade and another begins to live. The generation of Nigerians born in the 60s has faded far. The ones born in the 70s are already fading. The ones born in the 80s have started fading. The only generations living now are the 90s and 2000s. By 2030, which is already 14 years away, the 90s and 2000s will resume their fading. Upon these realities, many people presently answering “Nigerians” especially of the older and fading generations are relying upon prayers without any good works in sight. Many people answering Nigerians today are busy deluding themselves that things can turn to be good in a country built on sand without realizing that each day, each year, time runs faster than before, thus we age quicker and die earlier than the generations of our forbears. Upon all these realities facing them, they’re still hoping in some temporarily relieving masturbating idea called “Nigeria”. An idea one of its proponents later dubbed a “mere geographical expression”
The religious leaders, the academic class, the quiet elites and the political class are where you find the deceivers who believe that Nigeria can still be good. But the other majority at the lower rungs of the society is given optimism with prayer prescriptions, good words and temporary reliefs in money and material things. While the former people believe in Nigeria, they back it up with good works of sending their kids abroad for studies and setting up bright future for them. But the latter people are seen believing in a certain Nigeria, praying their way to God’s favours without any access to good works or even tools to good works. And King’s words resonate: “…the children of darkness are more diligent towards what they want than the children of light”.
In the end, there are two sets of believers in Nigeria: The pessimistic optimists and the optimistic pessimists. The pessimistic optimists know Nigeria isn’t working and can never work which is why they have options. But The optimistic pessimists hope Nigeria could have been worse, therefore believing it’s working no matter how small. They’re not even imagining being in heaven; they’ve reduced themselves to imagining what could have been their lot being in the deepest part of hell. Now, that’s the set I pity. That’s the set that made me to write this. That’s the “children of light” that will make me ask God one of the most mysterious questions that has continued to bother the humanity of the Black Race. They’re the people I hope would think deeply about King’s words and reassess their lives.
Let them know this reality: Their dream of enjoying a good society as other nations have gone unrealized. The same dream has eluded their own kids and is already eluding their grand kids. Their great grand kids, for now, have no evidence to hope to have that dream realized. Let them know that about 6 generations have been squandered in succession. Let them wake up after this realization!
Chijioke Ngobili is an public affairs analyst.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.