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Work on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway has been going on, on-and-off and at snail’s speed for God-knows-how-long. Even the king of dullards knows that this is the most important road in the entire country; its economic value, not to talk of the political, is comparable to none; yet, it has been left to deteriorate and decay, causing untold hardship to travellers; leading to avoidable loss of lives and property; and causing colossal economic loss to individuals, corporate organisations and the country as a whole. Work on the road has been in fits. This can only happen in a country that does not set its priorities right and which takes decisions on sentiments and other base considerations. We take critical decisions to reward loyalty or punish “enemies” regardless of the hurt we inflict on our common good. Where people put their money where their mouth is, construction work on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, which has outlived three civilian presidents since 1999, would long have been completed. Even now that a fourth president is struggling half-heartedly to finish off the job, it is obvious to all that the volume of traffic on the road today dwarfs what was applicable when the reconstruction of the road was on the drawing board decades back. In other words, using outmoded statistics to build the road, it already has fallen far behind its usefulness. The Lagos-Ibadan expressway, even after its completion, will not serve the purpose of ease of transportation. In other words, we shall be thinking of expanding this same road and adding arteries and by-passes immediately – or ever before – it is completed! Is that not how we have dilly-dallied on the gas project, on power, desert encroachment, Ogoni clean-up, and, wait for it, on the restructuring of the country? We delay until it becomes too late or virtually ineffective. That is one point; the other is the reported closure of the expressway for four months – not days and not weeks – without viable alternatives already provided!
This is a country of suffer-heads, to quote Fela. It is also, on the other hand, a country of joffer-heads. The people suffer but their leaders enjoy to the hilt, ironically, on the wealth of the same suffering masses. No consideration is ever put into place to see that the people do not suffer or, at the very least, to ameliorate their suffering. Otherwise, how can anyone think of closing the Lagos-Ibadan expressway without, one, giving adequate warning of months and not just days as they have done? Two, how can they contemplate such partial closure without first of all providing effective alternative routes rather than directing commuters to already congested and in-bad-shape “alternative” routes? Three, how can they choose this period of the year when the masses are engaged in the rat-race of making hay before Christmas and New Year? Four, how can they decide on this within the annual convention of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, which attracts millions of worshippers from home and abroad? Does this government ever care about its image? We know already it does not care a hoot about the suffering of the people. Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, spokesperson of the RCCG, tried to douse tension when he announced that the mission had discussed and reached an agreement with those concerned on how to avoid this catastrophe but, pronto, government officials countered that the closure would proceed apace! This is a Mission that boasts the sitting Vice President, who usually attends RCCG programmes! Anyway, he may fly in, in a chopper! On hire, choppers are usually US$7,000 per hour! You see what I mean! I will love to see the VP drive into RCCG Campground during the road closure. What respect and leverage does this VP command in a government in which he is the Number Two?
Perhaps, more importantly, is the suspicion that the road closure at this point in time may have been targeted at Adeboye – a warning that, see, we can hurt you and your interests. Or a punishment for the jabs he had been forced to throw at the powers-that-be for reasons beyond his control. As careful as Adeboye might have been, public pressure will not let him be. That RCCG boasts the VP is enough pressure and blackmail on its own. People will ask: Is that why Adeboye is keeping quiet? Why you say he has not been keeping quiet; they will ask: Is that why he has not been as forceful as expected? The other day, some activists stormed the RCCG campground to insist that Adeboye speak out more forcefully on the State-of-the-Nation. His protestation that as member of the PFN and CAN he stands with the decisions of those two organisations does not satisfy many. Now, it would appear that Adeboye stands between the rock and the hard place; he may have found himself between the devil and the deep blue sea. What will he do? Will he read the handwriting on the wall and withdraw into his shell? Or will he damn the consequences and stand by the truth? Adeboye has taught in his daily devotional “Open Heavens” that not speaking out against injustice and oppression; knowing the truth and shying away from speaking it makes anyone as culpable as the vile offenders. Will he, then, practise what he preaches or will it be “do as I say and not as I do”? The world watches!
I must conclude by saying that I do not envy Daddy G. O., as Adeboye is fondly called by Redeemers and non-Redeemers alike. I stand to be weaned off my conviction that the closure of Lagos-Ibadan expressway at this point in time is both punishment and blackmail. It is also scantily-concealed threat and warning to the man of God. It is an affront to the God of the man of God. If they tarry for just one week, is that the “delay” that will prevent them from delivering this project on schedule? Pray, how many “schedules” have we seen them move forward again and again on this same road? May Pastor Adeboye receive grace and strength to stand firm even in the face of this obvious provocation! He must not waver because, apart from the outsiders who may taunt, there are also fifth columnists waiting in the wings to mock and disparage if he wavers. The most vicious enemies of a man, usually, are those of his own household. In conclusion: It is not the truth that you know but the one that you speak out and stand up for that sets you free..
Leah Sharibu: Whether living, whether dead
The fact is, when men carry the same ideals in their hearts, nothing can isolate them – neither prison walls nor the sod of cemeteries. For a single memory, a single spirit, a single idea, a single conscience, a single dignity will sustain them all. – Fidel Castro in “History will absolve me”
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the daylong; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8: 35 – 39.
The vile and empty characteristically dance and defecate on the grave of true patriots, obviously to desecrate and deface their memory. They danced on the grave of Awo. After frustrating his yeoman’s efforts to be president, a pedestal he had hoped to use to better the lot of the common man, they praised and eulogised him to high heavens at his death. The vilest of them all, the ones who were unsparing in their opposition, the Brutus, so to say, were the loudest in their ululation of Awo, shedding the most crocodile tears as they waxed lyrical. One of such described Awo as “the best president Nigeria never had”. He was right – but he was one of those who ensured Awo never reached his goal.
They danced on the grave of MKO Abiola. “On June 12 we stand” became “On June 12 we eat” Last year, the locusts returned ostensibly with good tidings; saying they had come to honour MKO. Thank God you can deceive some of the people all the time; you can deceive all the people some of the time but you cannot deceive all the people all the time.
They danced on the grave of Funke Olakunrin, not minding the additional misery they were piling on his grieving family and forlorn 95-year-old father. For some of them, it was the best time to rub insult into injury.
They are getting ready now to dance on Leah Sharibu’s grave. When rumours broke concerning her “death” before the elections, Government quickly denied it. “Don’t put sand in our garri”, they seemed to be saying. It is not true that they really want Leah out of incarceration. It would demystify them. Tell me what efforts they have made to free her. The other day they said her captors demanded some billions which they said was too much – but they have reportedly given N100billion to Miyetti Allah and are already spending whopping billions on RUGA for killer herdsmen.
But angelic Leah Sharibu will never die! Leah has taught us Christian chivalry, courage, and strength of character as of the times of old. She has taught us godly love as practised by Christ and the apostolic Fathers. She has taught us how to focus on God and the things of God, not distracted by worldly living and the things of this world. She is a living example of what Peter meant when he told the Lord Jesus that they had left home and family and everything else and had followed him. “And Jesus answered and said: Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” – Mark 10: 29 7 30.
For mockers and scorners, Leah’s immediate reward here is that she has etched her name in gold. Jesus raised Lazarus from death: what was the eventual end of Lazarus? Methuselah lived 969 years: what became of Methuselah? Sir, Ma, what will be your eventual end – and what will be mine? Pray, what will be the eventual end of the captors/killers of Leah and those dancing or getting ready to dance on her grave? In another 100/200 years, if the Lord tarries, many of us will no longer be remembered even by members of our immediate families.
But Leah leaves in the present times in our heart. And, as they say, to live in the heart of those we love – and who love us – is not to die. Leah will live in future times on the pages of history. Her memory and remembrance will outlive that of presidents. Kids like her will read about her. Adults will study her. Academic theses and dissertations will be conducted on the chivalry and example of Leah Sharibu.
Leah has run her race well. She will one day finish her course. And like the apostle Paul said, “…there is laid up for (her) a crown of righteousness…” (11 Timothy 4: 8).
Let mockers and scorners know that the vile murderers and terrorists, their sponsors, defenders, backers and, above all, the cause they purport to advance, are the losers – ultimately. Another set of losers are tongue-tied Church leaders who, unlike John the Baptist who spoke truth to power, specialise in what they euphemistically call “wisdom” instead of picking up the gauntlet.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was put to bed before the volte-face on the closure of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway