Nigeria is troubled on every side, and very distressed. Events have severely perplexed Africa’s Giant, yet it tries not to despair. The numerous troubles and the troublers behind them continue to hold back Nigeria’s potential. When we hear “troublers of Nigeria”, our minds usually head towards the usual suspects, a “cabal”, or towards some violent groups. Unfortunately, the Association of Nigerian Troublers has many “unusual” members in its fold.
“…it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you”
—2 Thes. 1:6 (NKJV)
Recently, the verse above was used as a scriptural backing during a prayer session in my church. Attendees were asked to pray against all the troublers of Nigeria. We were to pray for divine punishment for them. As everyone cranked his or her prayer engines, I joined, and then abruptly stopped.
Why would I pause during a prayer against those persons troubling Nigeria? Seeing the present state of the country, it is evident that human beings (not the devil!) have worked hard, and are still unrelenting in their bid to keep Nigeria’s wings clipped. Why then would I refrain from praying for the ruin of those vile persons? I paused because it dawned on me that in our self-righteous haste, we could be praying against ourselves.
It is easy to form an image of those who trouble Nigeria. We think of the persons who steal monies meant to buy weapons for the military. We think of fraudulent bankers who use depositors’ funds to enrich themselves unjustly. We think of the egoistic politician who orders killings and violent threats, and then buys voters, their votes, and the voting system. We think of the contractor who factors kickbacks into a contract sum, and then fails to construct the road, or does a shoddy job that becomes a death trap for other Nigerians. We think of the police officer who fatally shoots a harmless road user for refusing to pay “offering”. We think of the murderous Boko Haram, the pipeline-blowing militants, and the armed robbers who make life difficult for Nigerians.
In all the images we form, we look outwards and upwards. That’s why we don’t see the unseen images that hide inwards and downwards. This is what I realized in that moment of prayer. I saw some very disturbing images.
If we look well, we would see these images. We would see ourselves limiting Nigeria’s revenue by evading taxes. We would see ourselves worsening the country by engaging in foolish sycophancy just to “get something” from corrupt officials. We would see ourselves as the unproductive employee who reports late each day and falsifies time sheets. We would see ourselves as the employee who doctors receipts because “na where person dey work e go chop”. We would see ourselves as the person who depletes our small foreign reserves because he cannot wear a shoe made in Nigeria. We would see ourselves as the concrete block-maker who uses more sand to increase profit. We would see ourselves as the trader who fraudulently mixes different types of rice to make more money. We would see ourselves as the grains’ trader who short-changes customers when they look away during measurement. We would see ourselves as the utility customer who bypasses the electricity metre to reduce his bill. We would see ourselves as the better-to-do person who bribes police officers to arrest and torture another person for stepping on our toes.
The possible images are numerous. I can keep listing several images of us, the troublers of Nigeria. Although we see the “big people” and the “criminals” as the de facto troublers, we contribute a lot to the troubles Nigeria faces. Imagine a Nigeria where we, the people, do away with seemingly petty actions that cause trouble for the country. Then, we can look upwards and hold those there accountable for the troubles they cause.
After this epiphany, I rejoined the praying throng. However, I tweaked the prayer. Instead of praying for the troublers to suffer punishment, when I “might” be among them, I prayed for Nigerians to reconsider and avoid troubling Nigeria. I believe this is better as it guarantees me that I won’t face any self-requested punishment.
PS. The foreigners that trouble Nigeria should still get their full three-course punishment meal.