24 February 2013

Nigeria: So, What Did El-Rufai Tweet?


Courtesy of some Nigerian Newspapers, I have now seen the el-Rufai 'Jesus' tweet that ruffled not a few Christian feathers and if they are accurate it reads as follows 'If Jesus criticizes Jonathan's government Maku, Abati or Okupe will say that he slept with Mary'. The three men mentioned are in charge of the information management of the President Goodluck Jonathan government. To the extent that I believe that Jesus is the son of God, I am a Christian and therefore hold Jesus in deific reverence. Maybe the name Jesus should have been left out of el-Rufai's tweet and he certainly could have made his point otherwise. Without any personal knowledge of el-Rufai, in my estimation he is one of those people we refer to as ITK (I too know) and they invariably fall into the temptation of going overboard just to make a simple point and perhaps over-do things just to leave no one in doubt about the extent of the contempt to which adversaries are held. In so doing however ITKs leave themselves open to more mundane counter punching which is not helped by a citizenry whose understanding of issues have become so susceptible to religious, ethnic or other manipulation.

To my Christian brethren who were offended by the tweet, you are well within your rights, but please think again and bear in mind the bigger picture of what Christianity entails. And for those who actually read the wordings, in my understanding, what the tweet sought to convey was that for anybody to say that Jesus slept with Mary would be simply the most outlandish, obnoxious and ridiculous thing in the world. He was therefore accusing the three image makers of being capable of going to any length and even to the extent of the aforementioned outlandishness, just to demonize critics of Jonathan's government or perhaps deflect attention from the real issues. In fact and perhaps to support el-Rufai's narrative, one of Nigeria's most respected former public officials, Oby Ezekwesili went public recently with the allegation that Jonathan's government had squandered $67 billion of Nigeria's reserves. Rather than address the issue, Maku and Okupe as perhaps predicted by el-Rufai responded by insinuating that Oby Ezekwesili mismanaged the hefty sums voted for the education ministry while she was minister. They did not stop there because her husband was dragged into it and accused of 'owning' a Pentecostal church, which in Nigeria of today and to some of us rebellious ITKs means the person is an exploiter and engaging in evangelism of the stomach.

I am however seriously offended by the utterances of Christian leaders and other agents of division (Atiku has jumped into the fray claiming that if el-Rufai could 'abuse' Jesus who is he Atiku to complain). The utterances of Christian leaders are indicative of their slide into the arena of those who jockey for position, money and influence by using every pretext to exploit divisions in our society. As a Christian it is deeply offensive for the name of Jesus and Christianity to be dragged into that dirty arena of chicanery and greed. I am guided by the book of Romans 16:17-18 ' Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such, do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own bellies and by smooth words and flattering speeches deceive the hearts of the simple'. El-Rufai has not insulted Jesus or Christianity. The people insulting Jesus and Christianity are so called Christian leaders who are perpetrating all sorts of iniquities whilst also claiming to be followers of our Lord Jesus. Our reverred Jesus Christ has laid out a path for those who call themselves Christians to follow. The 1st book of John 2:6 'He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk even as he walked'. Christianity is therefore in my opinion a lifestyle. A lifestyle of honesty, modest living, compassion for fellow humans and generally summed up in that commandment 'love thy neighbor as thyself' Nothing in my view is more insulting to Christianity than to see that, led by 'men of God' we have turned away from the prescribed path and yet still profess Christianity.

The Bible foresaw these things and which is why in the book of Matthew 7:21-23 its says 'Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness!' In my opinion the raison d'etre for anyone tagging himself a Christian or perhaps a Christian leader is the inbuilt love for his fellow human beings and the quest for a better life for all. In the event that governments have a critical role to play in the peoples' well-being and are the managers of our common resources for the purpose of our collective well-being it is the Christians' sacred duty to do all within their powers to contribute to ensuring that Governments live up to expectations.

n my view therefore, rather than playing the usual divisive games, Christianity demands that we rise up and demand for a response to criticisms or observations of governments failing in their obligations. Christians and society in general will benefit more from that kind of intervention rather than a wasteful emission of false fury. I am thoroughly embarrassed as a Christian when I read of Christian leaders and political office holders sharing the peoples money, that is what it is! When a Governor makes a car or monetary gift to a 'man of God', both are guilty of a misapplication of the peoples' money. In my view if we are followers of Jesus we should imagine that our Lord Jesus would never have accepted such gifts, but will rather rebuke the government official and counsel him to use peoples' money to serve the people and let no one go hungry or unclothed or uneducated.

Our Christian leaders rather than pursuing closeness with the ordinary members of their congregations now treat them as irritants and rather pursue closeness to political office holders, a relationship that is now nauseatingly incestuous and to the extent that the two groups now work hand in hand in the continued rape of our peoples basic rights to a bearable existence. These are the things that are insulting to Christianity not el-Rufai's tweet. It is not el-Rufai's duty to glorify Jesus or Christianity, it is the duty of those who claim to be Christians or Christian leaders and the way to glorify the name of our religion is to live by the examples provided by Jesus and not by making a big issue out of at best a careless quip.

So let us go back to the basis of our religion, stop deceiving our people and there will be no need for grandstanding which contributes nothing to the protection of the integrity of our faith. And may I close by reference to James 1:19-20 'So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God'.

Edo Ukpong is legal practitioner based in Lagos

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