Former military Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd) on Sunday led other Christian leaders to the at the All Saints Anglican Cathedral in Osogbo, Osun State, for the annual one-day national prayer rally for the country. For many years, even after being booted out of power in 1976 by General Murtala Muhammed, Gowon would not participate in any significant national matter but he would gather religious leaders and other followers of doctrine to pray in a selected location every year.
Symbolically, the theme of the year’s prayer rally was tagged “Never Again”. Whereas, “Never Again” in contemporary adaptation mirrors the renewed awareness about the evils of the civil wars as well lighten up conversations which allows Nigerians- especially of the Igbo extraction -to reflect and make a declaration that ‘never again’ may such evil as the civil war befall them.
Looking at the fact that Gowon was 33 when the war began, he is very likely to look at those days as youthful and regretful, thus the need for a call for unity under the banner of prayers.
However, it is now a founded premise that the jinxes which keep haunting Nigeria are beyond the confines of what prayers can address. Nigeria is known to be one of the most religious countries in the world; yet the country remains impoverished and barely topping the ranks of underdeveloped nations in the world. Can these prayers really do what Gowon presses they would do?
While the intention could be seen as noble, others may just have insinuated that Yakubu Gowon is partly seeking for redemption for being one of the parties who drew Nigeria to the civil war which lasted from 1967 to 1970. The obstinacy of Gowon in not conceding to the agreement he signed with the former governor of the Eastern region, Odimegwu Ojukwu, in the early part of 1967, culminated into a series of some other events which helped to set the country a couple of years behind.
Can praying away those old time bad decisions right the wrongs of the destination where we need to move our nation towards? The oil windfall of the 1970’s which catapulted Nigeria as one of the fastest growing nations was largely mismanaged by the same General Gowon. Other military heads of state and civilian presidents who came much later simply followed the lackadaisical attitude and short-sightedness of Gowon in handling a nation whose population would boom in unprecedented proportions.
Therefore, so it won’t be such that General Gowon is trying to reset the lackluster legacy which he bequeathed to the nation after the war and after his ouster, appearing to be zealous and prayerful may as well absolve one of the original sins threatening to divide the nation.
No matter how noble our intentions could be, bad government policy decisions cannot be addressed with national prayers. A national prayer rally will not choose great leaders for us and neither will it remove the spirit of corruption, nepotism, ethnic chauvinism and hypocrisy which a lot of Nigerians grapple with in their every day dealings.
Can these prayers forge a much-needed national peace? Can it stop the wars which the Jukun of Taraba are currently fighting with the Tiv? Can these prayers stop the spate of kidnappings and indiscriminate crime being perpetrated by bandits all around the country? Can it mobilize the citizenry to elect worthy leaders fit for the role and can it stop Nigerians from being corrupt?
We must strives towards putting round pegs in round holes lest we fail woefully in little time. We must learn to pray for things that deserve to be prayed for – and those things are not matters of governance where pragmatic action is needed; neither is the collective psyche of citizens necessarily in need of prayers.
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