Friday sermon: Quo Vadis

By Babatunde Jose

Quō vādis? is a Latin phrase meaning “Where are you marching?”. It is also commonly translated as “Where are you going?” or, poetically, “Whither goest thou?”.

It also may refer to a Christian tradition regarding Saint Peter. According to the apocryphal Acts of Peter (Vercelli Acts XXXV), Peter flees from crucifixion in Rome, and along the road outside the city, he meets Jesus. In the Latin translation, Peter asks Jesus, “Quō vādis?” Today, as we enter a new decade in our socio-political travails perhaps it is appropriate to ask ourselves the famous question, ‘wither goest thou’. For sixty years we have been on this road.  Our economy and political arrangements have been racked by evil leadership that have seen us become the poverty capital of the world; the most insecure place to live on earth and perhaps the largest collection of ill-motivated people that inhabit this planet.

However, as we begin a new decade we need to engage in introspection and think deeply on the nature of those things that have plagued us. There is no doubt it has not been all tales of woe. There has been some progress made but it could have been better and more meaningful for the people. Nigeria has been rated as the 25th largest economy in the world and by far, the largest economy in Africa. This presupposes that Nigeria is the biggest black run economy in the world. This is an outstanding quantum leap from the 46th to the 25th largest economy status. During this same period Nigeria was adjudged the 24th country with the best Purchasing Power Parity, the 7th lowest cost of living standard in the world, the lowest Per Capita Debt Ratio of all countries with population over 50m in the world, the best and most vibrant burse or stock exchange in the world and one of the most favorite destination of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa with the best ease of doing business in Africa. All these are good to hear, but what has it been for the average Nigerian majority of whom live below the poverty line? How has these translated into better urban mass transit system, rail transport system, more efficient water ways and better roads? Why is it taking a rich state like Lagos more than 12 years to construct and implement its urban rail system? Why is it increasingly dangerous for us and our children to venture unto the roads for fear of being kidnapped, robbed, or killed? Why are we so insecure despite spending huge resources on security? Why are over 13 million of our children out of school? Why are we unable to deal with the power conundrum and majority of our people remain in darkness in the beginning of another decade? Why, why, and why are there no satisfactory answers to our nagging socio-political problems? Could it be the leadership question? Why are other countries less endowed making giant strides in socio economic development while we are being left behind? It has not taken Dubai 60 years to achieve what it has become today. Why is it that our educational system continues to be flawed? Why do we continue to accumulate monuments of waste such as Ajaokuta and Mambilla? Why is it taking more than 20 years to modernize the Lagos Ibadan express way?

There are two major commercial ports in Dubai, Port Rashid and Jebel Ali, which is the world’s largest man-made harbor: which today is the biggest port in the Middle-East and 7th in the World. Why is it that with the size of our economy we do not have any port of comparable magnitude? Why are we still operating a ‘generator economy’ when other countries are developing nuclear power? Thirty years after the demise of Nigeria Airways, we cannot boast of a National Carrier, Why?

In 2016, Dubai International Airport was the 3rd busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic handling 83.6 million passengers. And is also the busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic.

Emirate Airline which started on March 25, 1985 with 2 leased aircrafts is today the proud flyer of the largest Wide-Body Fleet on Earth; Emirates ranks as the largest airline in the world by international seating capacity, according to the annual report by IATA.

What do we have in comparison; except the largest gathering of ‘state robbers’ in the world? Can this engender the development we are yearning for?

With a population of more than 1.3 billion, it is no surprise that India runs the largest national school system in the world. With more than 700,000 schools in operation.

As of February 2017, there were 789 universities and 37,204 colleges in China, which has turned out to become the factory of the world. In 2008, China had over 20 million enrolled in the universities and graduated more than 6 million students.

According to research carried out by the World Economic Forum, Russia churns out 454,000 graduates in technology, engineering, and construction, annually, with exception of India and China.

Our leaders since independence have had all the opportunities to set us on the road to development like the Asian and Chinese peoples. But the leaders have not been challenged like the leaders in many of these countries. People like Gandhi in India, Kwan Yew in Malaysia, and General Park in South Korea made sacrifices for their countries and set them on the road to self-sustained development.

While General Park was laying the foundation for self-sustained development of Korea and General Ayyub Khan was doing the same in Pakistan, our ‘kamikaze military’ kleptomaniacs were busy lining their pockets with our common patrimony. Today other countries are leaving us behind, including our Arab brothers who were nowhere near us in the seventies.

A nation can only be considered powerful if, besides believing in Allah and declaring Him to be one, it has a strong economy; and its economy will not be powerful unless its savings and reserves exceed what both its population and government tend to consume, whether they be individuals or groups.

The improper use and waste of resources pulls humanity towards corruption and societal destruction. A corollary of this is the decline of governments. Ibn Khaldun, one of the Muslim sociologists, has mentioned that whenever a government would become afflicted with Israaf and extravagance, it would soon fall into decline. Allah said: In the end We fulfilled to them Our promise, and We saved them and those whom We pleased, but We destroyed those who transgressed beyond bounds. (Quran 21:9)

Excessive consumption is the enemy of economizing on riches and resources and a short-cut to impoverishment and bankruptcy. Addressing his relatives, a wise man said: “Spending the night starved but endowed with entitlements is much better than spending the night satiated with nutriments but penniless.” In the same vein, Omar Al-Faraq says,“In my view, irrational spending is riskier for you than poverty; for scarcity hardly inflicts someone endowed with common sense, and wealth will generally dissipate if managed by corrupt minds; indeed, optimal management of existing resources is better than half of one’s earnings.” There is no doubt, our wealth is being managed by corrupt and inept minds.

Any society seeking to rise from its stumble must put an end to extravagance and wasteful spending and invest along the line of righteousness and reform.

Nigeria will not cease to amaze discerning observers; few countries have as many epitaphs of waste and abandoned projects as we have.

How did we get to this sorry state? This is a matter for serious conjecture and sober reflection. It is however borne of a culture of neglect and ‘I-don’t-careerism’: A lackadaisical and unwholesome attitude which has turned erstwhile leaders into traitorous scoundrels and scallywags.

Evil has spread over the land and the sea because of corruption and hence, Allah will cause some people to suffer so that perhaps they will return to Him. (Quran 30:41)

In ‘The Last Show of a Wasted Generation’, Adeola Aderounmu berated the supposed 180 million passive citizenry for contributing to our current woes. Said he; “The endless resiliency of the ordinary Nigerian has made nonsense of the principle of time and performance as well as accountability and probity in Nigeria. By sleeping away mentally while living in a country devoid completely of social justice and equity, the ordinary Nigerian have been as guilty as the marauders who raped the land and cart away the treasuries for themselves and their children. Passive citizenry contributed largely to the

wasteful years that befell Nigeria.”

As we march along this new year, let us dedicate ourselves to salvaging this nation. To keep Nigeria afloat is a task that must be done by all.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend.


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