On 21/3/16, Joe Igbokwe, the APC Lagos spokesperson requested us to pray for PMB, who was (is) breaking his back, working 25 hours a day and ‘biting bullets’ for an unappreciative crowd and in a situation where powerful forces of darkness are fighting back. Incidentally, these same forces are also responsible for the prevailing poverty in the land. He asked that all hands be on deck and requested us to base our prayers on Psalm 20. He actually prayed in that write-up and I would have thought that he had became a pastor except that within the same prayerful intervention, he was also involved in acerbic attack against some Nigerians. That means the call to prayer is not inclusive because those who are so attacked, are already excluded from the prayer. In any case, one of my friends, Stan Ukeje had noted that it is either becoming near impossible for Nigerians to pray because they are on fuel queues, or running away from attacking herdsmen, or kidnappers, or debating the change process at newsstands!
However, even without Joes prompting, I do pray sincerely for PMB. My prayer is not because he is working for us. After all, it is a self-inflicted wound. We do not owe PMB any gratitude; rather, he owes all of us gratitude for electing him and ending his desperate quest for Nigerian presidency. I am praying for him because the same Bible which pastor Joe quoted copiously had asked us to pray for our leaders. However, the prayer is first, for all people and the whole essence is that we may lead a peaceful, quiet, godly and dignified life (1 Tim, 2:1-3). The Scripture-Union prayer week (18-24 April, 2016) also had among its prayer points, wisdom and Gods guidance for our rulers, peace, and safety for all our country. We should pray for PMB because we have already entrusted our collective fate into his shivering hands.
Long before then however, about 22 years ago, the Catholic Church in Nigeria composed the “Prayer for Nigeria in Distress” in which the Body of Christ confessed to God that we were weighed down not only by uncertainties, but also by moral, economic and political problems and pleaded with Him to spare us from chaos, anarchy and doom. This prayer has become more regular and strident. Even families and groups say it more regularly and seriously now. Moreover, this is because we are in BIG TIME, PERVASIVE DISTRESS! In addition, the distress is pervasive and concentric; it is in all dimensions. So, I pray for PMB and our leadership but more importantly, I pray for Nigeria in distress.
Our economic situation today is very pitiable. The Naira got as bad as 400/$ and now mercifully is at N325-N340. We have had about eight bouts of fuel scarcity in the last one-year with the current one lasting since Christmas. Inflation is heading towards 13% and factory closure and staff retrenchment no longer make news. The stock market has so collapsed that chicken-hearted investors have committed suicide or found solace in alcohol; the states are bankrupt with Osun State as the poster-boy and overall, there is economic uncertainty. Workers are not being paid; our President is hardly around to address these issues.
And if you read the article by Abati, (The cost of national depression, 6/5/16) you get a clearer picture of how bad things are. Nigeria is now the worst place to do business (World Bank), has been delisted from the fastest growing economies in Africa (3.2% growth as against 7% in the last decade; IMF) and from the top 10 oil producers, as well as simultaneously downgraded by Moody’s, Standard & Poor and Fitch. To worsen matters, the official statistician has just reported (4/5/16) that the investment inflow into the country is the lowest in the past nine years and has fallen by 90% from its 2014 level. And even when my friend Professor Nwokoma delivered an Inaugural Lecture at UNILAG (4/5/16) declaring professorially that ‘Money Answereth All Things, I wondered how this could be so in an environment where Naira is as scarce as the Dollar. Well, we should celebrate that PMB has graciously signed the budget on 6/5/16.
And the way the government wishes to solve these problems makes things more distressful: masquerades as instruments of job creation and Dangote as a solution to fuel scarcity, tomato scarcity rice scarcity, sugar scarcity and. …Governance deficit! Of course, Dangotes, refinery will become operational in 2018 and between now and then. We also have a strange economic model in which Kachikwu is both a regulator (minister) and operator (NNPC CEO) while in this era of globalisation; we are pursuing a command and control economy. In any case, organized labour has declared that the economy has stopped functioning.
Dr. Ikechukwu Muo(PHD)is with Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun