One of the biggest misconceptions of the world, in my opinion, is the view held by some that members of the clergy should not participate in politics or government.
I have read The Holy Bible and The Quran and to the best of my knowledge, nowhere in both books is such a notion promoted.
As a matter of fact, the first usage of the word ‘government’ comes from The Holy Bible and the United States of America lifted the word ‘President’ directly from The Bible book of Daniel (chapter 6 verse 3).
Some of the greatest figures in The Bible were prophets and political leaders at the same time. Joseph was Prime Minister of Egypt and political ruler of the then known world but he was also described as a prophet and diviner of God’s will.
Daniel was appointed President of Babylon by King Darius yet he continued to function in office as a judge and prophet.
In the New Testament, Joseph of Arimathea was a counsellor (the equivalent of today’s Senator) and he was a devotee of Our Lord and Saviour, Yeshu’a (whom some call Jesus). Likewise, the first African Christian, the Ethiopian Eunuch, was a high official in Queen Candace’s government.
So, there is nothing wrong with men of God coming into politics. It is desired and it will help clean up politics.
What is wrong however, is for men of God to come into politics and instead of being agents of transforming politics with the light of their moral compass, they end up conforming to the prevailing political culture such that you can not differentiate between them and a regular politician.
In The Bible, we read how an anointed man of God, a prophet by name Balaam, allowed his love for power and money mislead him into accepting to curse the anointed of God after he had been hired by King Balak of Moab to do just that.
Eventually, Balaam recognized the folly of his ways after an angelic visitation which prompted his donkey to speak to him. This divine visitation caused him to repudiate the lure of money and power dangled by King Balak to whom he uttered the now very famous words “How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed?”-Numbers 23:8.
It was this historical incident that came to my mind when I read Professor Yemi Osinbajo’s words of condemnation on Twitter where he had said President Jonathan runs a “visionless” government.
Professor Osinbajo is an ordained pastor as I am and one of the ethics of our calling, enshrined in the homiletic code, is that men of God should not criticize out of a desire for personal gain, but should do so advisedly and only if there are genuine and compelling reasons to do so.
As a matter of fact, Philippians 2:3 says we should “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves”.
So let me ask, is it really true that President Jonathan runs a visionless government?
In fact, on a day that coincided with Professor Osinbajo’s day of casting stones at President Jonathan, Bill Gates was celebrating Nigeria’s ability to reduce incidences of the Wild Polio Virus from hundreds of cases just three years ago to only 6 cases in 2014.
Mr. Gates actions only corroborated those of the United Nations which earlier in the year had given President Jonathan an award celebrating Nigeria for eradicating the scourge of Guinea Worm infestation.
The truth is that not only does President Jonathan run a purposeful and visionary government, one can even begin to see the crystallization of his vision into tangible benefits for the Nigerian masses.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo is a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God which has perhaps the largest indoor camp in West Africa along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Every year, millions of Nigerian parishioners of the RCCG troop to The Redemption Camp. They are faced with terrible traffic gridlock as the multitude try their best to get to the venue on time. The sheer number of users on that road overwhelms the capacity of the highway and members have been praying for an intervention that will ease their annual journey.
Enter President Jonathan, whose vision prompted him to initiate the Lagos-Ibadan High Speed Railway which is underway.
This service will not only facilitate the movement of RCCG’s parishioners to The Redemption Camp thereby easing the pressure on the roads, it will also make it possible to live in Ibadan and work in Lagos, with stops along the way.
The world renowned global consultancy, KPMG, which monitors trends, in November of 2014 included this High Speed Interstate Railway as one of the world’s top 100 infrastructure projects. KPMG praised the Jonathan administration for its vision in initiating such a project.
And it does not stop there.
Even the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, long abandoned to the elements by previous administrations, is at the receiving end of some of the fastest construction work in Africa. Two construction firms are working to reconstruct the road in record time. Julius Berger is working from the Lagos end while RCC is working from the Ibadan end with the intention to meet somewhere in the middle so that the work is completed in record time.
As I write this piece, the China Civil Engineering Construction Company, CCECC, has officially announced that it has rounded off the track laying work of Nigeria’s first standard gauge railway modernization project linking the capital city of Abuja and the Northwestern state of Kaduna.
This is another project that has come to reality as a result of the vision of President Goodluck Jonathan.
So, when Professor Osinbajo describes President Jonathan’s government as “visionless” it is obvious that he has left the objectivity of the pulpit for the subjectivity of partisan politics.
Or else, how can any objective person call the man under whose guidance Nigeria became the largest economy in Africa and the 26th largest economy in the world, visionless? Is such a feat possible without vision, without planning, without discipline?
Or was it President Jonathan’s lack of vision that prompted the United Nations to release data that showed that under Jonathan’s watch, Average Life Expectancy in Nigeria has risen from 47 years in 2009 to 52 years today?
Is President Jonathan “visionless” when all elections held under his watch have been adjudged credible and transparent. From Edo, to Anambra, to Ondo, to Ekiti to Osun and Niger, it has been a case of one man one vote, one woman one vote, one youth, one vote.
A few Nigerians may not like the President’s Transformation Agenda, but at least, all Nigerians have heard of it.
The million dollar question is who has heard of the agenda of Professor Osinbajo’s party other than the use of the cliche ‘change’?
Yes, Obama used the key words ‘yes we can’ to ride to power in 2008, but he had a brain Trust that came up with a plan.
Are we meant to change for the sake of change?
I must confess that I am personally fed up with politicians who speak negatively about Nigeria and its leaders just because they want power.
Pastor Osinbajo regularly leads his congregation in prayers. But let me ask him if it makes any sense physically or spiritually to speak negatively about your nation and pray positively about yourself as if you can prosper in your home after cursing it with your mouth?
Nigerians expect Professor Osinbajo to wake up and smell the coffee and start telling them what he, his principal and their party plan for Nigeria and not to spend his time throwing stones at the innocent.
Gone are the days when you promote a candidate based on his region and religion. And Nigerians are far too aware in 2014-5 for any politician to grandstand by using highfalutin empty words to cast aspersions on his/her opponent in order to hide the inadequacy of their vision and plans.
I understand that when all you have is a hammer everything begins to look like a nail and so having nothing but criticism to dish out, Osinbajo is likely to keep throwing stones. However, seeing as he is a pastor, let me remind Professor Osinbajo of the immortal words of Jesus to critics in John 8:7-“he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”.
As we approach 2015, I would like to point out something to Professor Osinbajo.
In 2011, there were four major Presidential candidates: President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP, Nuhu Ribadu of the ACN, Ibrahim Shekarau of the ANPP and Muhamaddu Buhari of the CPC.
Does it not say much about President Jonathan’s vision and his ability to communicate it effectively that of the three candidates who contested against him in 2011, two of them, Nuhu Ribadu and Ibrahim Shekarau, today share his vision for Nigeria and are helping him actualize it within the Peoples Democratic Party?
It says a lot about the President. And especially, it is evidence of the fact that President Jonathan is a man of vision.
Who knows, maybe Professor Osinbajo will see the light and come to appreciate the President’s vision after the 2015 election.
This has been a constant pattern with Buhari’s running mates from 2007’s Ume Ezeoke who saw enough reason to work with the PDP after that election, to Pastor Tunde Bakare, who shared and participated in the President’s vision for a National Conference for Nigeria.
In conclusion, let me say that it is obvious to all discerning people that God has blessed this man from Otuoke known as President Goodluck Jonathan. Without godfather, without scheming, without over ambition, God divinely set him on a trajectory that has seen him ascend the highest office in the land.
Even when power was within his grasp, the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan refused to take it, preferring to wait on God to elevate him.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt in my mind that God has put President Jonathan where he is. And until He is done with him, no man, no pastor, no prophet can curse whom God has not cursed.
Reno Omokri is Special Assistant to President Jonathan on New Media. He tweets from @renoomokri.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.