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Friday Sermon: Rascals in Paradise

By Babatunde Jose

Those who are in authority are of two groups:

the scholars and the rulers. If they are upright, the people will be upright; if they are corrupt, the people will be corrupt.” Prophet Muhammad

Rascals in Paradise offers portraits of scandalous men and women, some famous or shall we say notorious, many infamous who operate under G and are not known to the wider public. A politically mutinous and rebellious bunch of citizens who are hell bent on ruining the commonwealth. Everything they touched they destroyed: The economy, socio political organizations and the entire fabric of society. These characters are infinitesimal compared to the country’s population of 190 Million: Counting from the chairmen and councilors in the 774 local government councils; the approximately 1,080 members of the state houses of assembly, the 469 members of the national assembly and the party apparatchiks, we might be talking of less than ten thousand if they were put in a stadium. Then we could add the odd 300 thieves who borrowed the equivalent of a national budget from the banks and refused to pay back. Looked at in retrospect, we have a band of merry men worse than the pirates of the Caribbean. These are the people who have been messing up our lives in this country and they will continue to do so unless we as a people decide to put a stop to their shenanigans.

Last week, they upped the ante when an election that had taken four years in the planning was ignominiously postponed in the dead of the night. As Reuben Abati succinctly put it: ‘the election was postponed Nicodemously in the middle of the night’. With this stroke of scandalous contempt for the sensibility of the general voting population, the country was thrown into a state of mourning and counting of loss.

As Simon Kolawole aptly opined ‘the postponement of the 2019 general election by one week; even if by one day, is yet another spectacular testament to the pathological incompetence ruining our country’. Yet elections in Nigeria consume humongous amount of personnel and cost. According to Former INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega  ‘elections required the assemblage of close to a million poll workers, party workers, security personnel and election observers’; apart from the over 400 million ballot papers, and deployment of a voter’s roll of over 80 million entries’. Note that the over 400,000 staff used in the exercise outnumbered the collective strength of the entire armed forces of the West African sub-region.

Furthermore; N189 billion approved for the 2019 polls far exceeds the total capital outlay of education and health in the 2019 national budget. When this is considered alongside the total sum of N242 billion granted for INEC and relevant security agencies for the conduct of the general polls, it will be realized that much goes into the conduct of elections in our nation.

Unfortunately, what INEC has done has become a familiar pattern; but it is not that simple. The economy was practically shut down because of the elections, just as it will also be this weekend. This is actually strange in the age of information technology and social media opportunities. Millions had travelled home to vote in their remote towns and villages as is the custom with many who only reside in the metropolis for business and commercial reasons. They would also have to repeat the exercise this weekend. Or they might become apathetic and engender a low turnout at the polls making a mockery of our fledging democracy.

All told, the cost in Naira and Kobo to the economy by that singular act of ineptitude and crass insensitivity can never be fully quantified; some have put it in the billions of dollar range.

Who did we offend that cursed us as a nation? Why have we become so shameless as not to be bothered that we have suddenly become the laughing stock of the Black Race? Apart from being the poverty capital of Africa, we are now the clueless headquarters of the continent. And to add pepper to the injury today has been declared a public holiday to enable people prepare for the election!

Yet, the God that created the efficient and prosperous Whiteman also created the Nigerian. The God that created South Korea and Dubai also created the Nigerian. The God that placed Gold and Diamond in South Africa also placed Gold and other precious metals in Nigeria. The God that turned the beaches of Acapulco and Copacabana into paradise also made our beaches and thousands of miles of coastlines potential paradise. However, unlike the human population of other climes who have enhanced and added value to their God given resources, our people have turned into a bunch of ‘Rascals in Paradise’.

Last Saturday’s postponement was not the first. In 2015, Nigeria’s Presidential election scheduled for February 14 was postponed till March 28 by INEC then headed by Professor Attahiru Jega. In 2011, similar elections were postponed in some states. Between 1991 and 1993 the government of General Babangida embarked on an orgy of postponement, disqualification, banning of candidates and eventual annulment of elections which he carried out in August 1993 and which led to his own political waterloo.

One is tempted to agree with Reuben Abati, when he said that: the postponement has achieved only four things and you can interpret each item positively or negatively depending on your inclination. One: it has deepened the Nigerian electorate’s suspicion, mistrust, angst and disappointment regarding what they consider to be the lack of independence of both INEC and other institutions involved in the management of the current electoral process. The people are convinced that there is something fishy about the postponement’. No doubt, tomorrow’s election is already tainted and only God knows what the outcome will be. However, as we go to the polls tomorrow, the country must come first – otherwise there will be a conflagration that our inept fire brigade will not be able to put out; burning both the rascals and the beachcombers.

Hadrat Ali, the fourth khalifah, in discussing the qualities of a leader said:

“O People! You know that it is not fitting that one who is greedy and parsimonious should attain rule and authority. . . and the laws and ordinances enforced among them, and also leadership of them. Furthermore, he should not be ignorant and unaware of the law, lest in his ignorance he misleads the people. He must not be unjust and harsh, causing people to cease all traffic and dealings with him because of his oppressiveness. Nor must he fear states, so that he seeks the friendship of some and treats others with enmity. He must refrain from accepting bribes when he sits in judgement, so that the rights of men are trampled underfoot and the claimant does not receive his due. He must not leave the Sunnah of the Prophet and the law in abeyance, so that the community falls into misguidance and peril.”

May we not fall into misguidance and peril; O God of Creation, grant our request; help us to build a nation where no man is oppressed.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

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