The world, particularly Africa, is agog with the news of Barack Obamaâ€™s triumphant entry to Ghana this week, Obama-mania erupting across the nation.
Whilst some African nations are busy licking their wounds, making various excuses for why the most powerful and popular man in the world chose Ghana ahead of them, most are simply relishing another proud moment of African history.
As a Nigerian, I appreciate Obamaâ€™s choice of Ghana for his first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa, a nation which has managed to maintain a clean image in a continent so smeared in electoral fraud and political conflict. I applaud and agree with Prof. Wole Soyinkaâ€™s bold assertion: â€œIf Obama decides to grace Nigeria with his presence, I will stone him. The message he is sending by going to Ghana is so obvious, is so brilliant that he must not render it flawed by coming to Nigeria any time soonâ€. Why would Obama choose to associate with a nation so embroiled in corruption and lust for control at all costs, a nation in the hands of power-hungry tyrants parading themselves as politicians, a nation touted to be the most religious and yet the most reckless?
I reflect in sadness on the state of our â€˜religiousâ€™ nation. Rather than stand up against the obvious abuse of responsibility by those in power, many religious leaders in Nigeria openly frolic with political champions for the sake of cheap publicity, political influence and their share in the taxpayersâ€™ money. As such, they are publically condoning this greed and power-mongering by their very attitude, abandoning the role of torch-bearers in society. As Ebenezer Obadare wrote of such dubious relationships, â€œ…in a dynamic that works quite well for the state and serves the ends of holders of political power, religious leaders attend their (office holdersâ€™) birthday ceremonies, bless their respective families, and, at the end of each year, unfailingly prophesy positive things for the country they so spectacularly misgovern.â€Â
I am reminded of how Pastor Enoch Adeboye of RCCG, recently voted as â€˜Nigeriaâ€™s Greatest Living Legendâ€™, regularly fraternised with Obasanjo, now generally considered as one of Africaâ€™s most corrupt and crooked rulers. As Adeboye played host to him in his Redeemed headquarters, received his endorsement for evangelical crusades, posed with him in pictures for the papers, Obasanjo in return waived RCCGâ€™s tax imports and gave them various political privileges. Yet in the course of their closeness, it was not reported that Adeboye ever publically denounced OBJâ€™s corrupt practices and immoral activities.
In a similar vein, Adeboye hailed Gbenga Danielâ€™s tenure in Ogun, endorsed his campaigns and often visited the state on invitation for prayer sessions. However, with the current crises engulfing Ogun State, calling into question the integrity of OGD and his political rivals in the Gateway state and further re-iterating the catastrophic level of double-mindedness and vulgarity that has ensnared our nation, one wonders whether such a level of intimacy will remain between the two. Success is everybodyâ€™s child while failure has no father.
Well did Martin Luther King say, â€œWe will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.â€ It is clear our religious leaders have a part to play in the gross mismanagement of resources and talents that Nigeria has come to be known for â€“ not mainly for what they have done, but rather for the truth, however unpalatable, that they have failed to stand up for and compromised for the sake of personal gain and political appeasement. Many turn a blind eye to the words of Jesus Christ: â€œWhat is highly valued among men is detestable in Godâ€™s sight.â€(Luke 16:15)
However, when the Ghanaian president, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, came to power this January in a peaceful election applauded internationally, his first point of call following his inauguration was The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria to give thanks to God for his historic and unexpected victory. There, he shocked the continent with his declaration that Pastor TB Joshua had accurately predicted specific details of his three-round election victory, even calling Pastor Joshua â€˜his mentorâ€™, testifying that his humility and generosity had greatly impacted and inspired him. Joshua, in his turn, called on Mills to help the less privileged in Ghana, and support charitable organisations who â€˜spend more on others and less on themselvesâ€™. The difference is evident. I am aware also of Mills ailing sight and hearing when he initially visited Joshua â€“ problems set to ruin his political ambitions, and his remarkable recovery following prayers.
It appears strange that the Nigerian churches are still busy arguing among themselves about the authenticity of Pastor TB Joshua, the very man Atta Mills has publically hailed and honoured. I think the results of these relationships speak louder than any pontificating on the qualifications of a true man of God.
In any case, we thank God that Ghana is moving from strength to strength, the present visit from Obama solidifying its reputation of democratic commitment, and the discovery of oil in its territory pointing to a bright future ahead. Africa should be proud of Ghanaâ€™s achievements, and learn the necessary lessons from Obamaâ€™s visit rather than ruminating on why he didnâ€™t choose another nation. As Bono recently said: “Quietly, modestly — but also heroically — Ghana’s going about the business of rebranding a continent. New face of America, meet the new face of Africa.”
I pray this visit will usher in a new wave of loyalty to the principles of democracy, in tandem with the timeless African values of being your brotherâ€™s keeper, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you and considering the good of your nation of greater moment than your own personal ambitions.