Babatunde Raji Fashola SAN who? That was the question on the lips of many Lagosians in 2014 after he emerged as the gubernatiorial flagbearer of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He was rather self effacing as the Chief of Staff to former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu and so you wouldn’t blame Lagosians for asking the rather pertinent question at the time.
Many pundits expected that Asiwaju would hand over power to his more visible allies most notably Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi who was representing the Lagos West Senatorial District at the time and was with him in the trenches during the turbulent days of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO).
After being elected, the dark horse proved to be one of the best decisions that Jagaban Borgu made as he delivered rather well even though his critics contended that most of his policies were elitist.
In 2015, when his tenure came to an end, his approval rating by the public was extremely high. If not for religious considerations he may have been considered for the Vice-Presidency as he was that popular with the Nigerian populace especially at a time when the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) was willing to throw everything into the ring to dislodge the behemoth called the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
When the Buhari administration came to power four years ago, he was rewarded with three juicy portfolios — Power, Works and Housing and was the unofficial Prime Minister. It’s instructive to note that he had fallen out with his godfather, Tinubu but this didn’t stop Buhari from reposing confidence in his ability to deliver.
His performance as power minister was lacklustre as Nigerians expected him to repeat the Lagos magic in that ailing sector that critically affects their lives. Not surprisingly, the portfolio was removed from him when his Principal returned for a second term.
I recently watched a Whatsapp video when he urged Nigerians to place more emphasis on work rather than on prayers alone if we are to rapidly develop as a nation.
As expected, many ‘righteous’ Nigerians picked holes with him and blasted him for his ingratitude to the Almighty Father who literarily broke his palm kernels for him apologies to Chinua Achebe.
Religion in Nigeria has assumed a very dangerous dimension in the most populous country in Africa so much so that many adherents have outsourced their thinking caps to the so called Men of God. Everything seems to be done by the Grace of God without any corresponding efforts at putting in the work required. Prayer houses are filled up every day with fasting, casting and binding all night long with the noise disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood. Churches are fast acquiring factories and industries and expanding all over the place at an exponential rate. Many students spend more time in fellowships and winning souls for Jesus Christ than in the libraries and when the fail, they attribute it to some invisible demons or their foes back home in their villages. Businessmen and women pay exorbitant sums of money for all sort of anointing oil and water to help them attract customers and when that fails, they run helter skelter from one prayer house to the other. Single ladies run to prayer houses when they are past thirty looking for elusive spouses and are asked to sow painful seeds and increase their tithes for their dream man to come forgetting that the mystery men are scared of taking the lifelong commitment plunge because of the depressed economy which has put a severe strain on many marriages. Many desperate visa seekers crowd the churches for prayers for their visas to be granted so they can escape economic repression forgetting that we are in the era of tight immigration control especially when the prospective immigrants have no tangible skills to offer their host countries. They run to their pastors for prayers and in some cases pay hefty sums to these Men who have the ‘monopoly’ of a relationship with God conveniently forgetting the fact that their Master Jesus Christ never charged anyone for his prayers and miracles. I recall vividly a married friend who was laid off from The Shell Petroleum Development Company four years ago as a security man telling me that he was looking for funds to give him so he could give a Prophet to pray for him to get the job back. When I burst out laughing at the ridiculousness, he took offence and chided me for being ignorant about things of the spirit.
When the Communists came to power in the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) via the 1917 Bolshevik revolution led by Vladimir Illynich Ulyanov more popularly known as Lenin, the first they did was to ban all forms of the religion in the republic. This led the citizens to develop a great thinking capacity that made them compete fiercely with the United States in the cold war era. They even beat America by being the first country on earth to send someone to space when Yuri Gagarin was sent to space in 1961 eight years before Neil Armstrong went to the moon in 1969.
The Peoples Republic of China under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong did the same thing when they came to power in 1949 and this is the seed the visionary Mao sowed for China’s present greatness.
The developed west where most Nigerians want to escape to have greatly whittled down religion and placed more emphasis on creative thinking which has accounted for their massive development.
Fashola is a devout Muslim and is not emphasizing an abolition of religion but is just emphasizing that Nigerians should develop more work ethic if they are to achieve their goals. Afterall the same Holy Bible says ‘work and pray.’ Work should not be substituted for prayers.
Too much of everything is bad and prayers aren’t excluded if it is done at the expense of the requisite hard or smart work.
It is high time Nigerians got to work.
Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos and edits www.africanbard.com