New Telegraph Thursday back page of February 23,2023
By Ike Abonyi
"We do not have [a] government by the majority. We have [a] government by the majority who participate."- Thomas Jefferson.
The Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, the Rev. (Prof) Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, provoked this week’s discourse in his recent three-dimensional, stimulating homily. The cleric’s spiritually edifying speech derives from a story in the Bible according to the gospel of Saint Matthew. Jesus, so the Bible says, was born in Bethlehem of Judaea more than 2,000 years ago during the reign of Herod. There came three wise men from the East to Jerusalem saying, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.”
Why did the wise men see the star in the East? Why not from the West, North, or South? Scripturally, it could be from where they faced watching expectantly from heaven-wards in anticipation for the fulfillment of the prophecy of Prophet Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. It could also be that since the sun rises from the East and the star always accompanies it, the East was the right place for the rise of such a king. What makes it an issue for discussion is the linkage the great Catholic ecclesiastic made of it to the contemporaneous and synchronous Nigeria of today.
Said the Bishop: “We saw his star in the East and we came to worship him.”
I have a question for Nigerians, people of the east and southeast: do people in the South East believe that a star can be seen in the region? Are we even behaving as people who believe that God is in their midst? If any Nigerian looks to the East now, will he see a star or just destruction and violence and rivalry? Are you stars? Is there any star rising in the East? He then posed a similar but slightly different question to other Nigerians: “... if you see the star in the East will you follow it?”
This last question says it all and the answer is likely to be provided in the next 48 hours when Nigerians go to the polls to elect the next President and a successor to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Out of 18 presidential candidates jostling for PMB’s present job at the Aso Rock Villa, only four have merited much political conversation: Labour Party’s Peter Obi, ruling party’s Bola Tinubu, PDP’s Atiku Abubakar, and NNPP’s Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
Two of the four candidates are from Nigeria’s north, Atiku Abubakar and Rabiu Kwankwaso, one from the West, Bola Tinubu, and one from the East, Peter Obi. If we are to properly place the Bishop’s question to Nigerians against the four key candidates, Obi being the only person from the East, could be the star the cleric wants to know if they can follow.
The Bishop’s question, coming a few days before the all-important existential election, says a lot given the concerns around Obi. When put in an in-depth analysis, Obi in a way that cannot be challenged or denied stands out visibly as the star of all the presidential hopefuls. Back to the metaphor of the magi, the renowned cleric may be wondering if Nigerians would accept the star from the east. The cleric is probably in awe that Obi is still not being wholesomely accepted within his region and the rest of the country despite the overwhelming potential he has shown and which is cogent and verifiable.
What is consoling, spiritually speaking, is that despite the nonrecognition of the star from the East by Herod and the elite class of the time, Christ still reigned as was foretold by the prophets. In this instance, despite the gang-up against Obi even with all his obvious and phenomenological potential as the star of the lot, the critical arm of Nigeria's polity, the youths are devotedly routing for him. And that is what has made Saturday’s election pragmatic, a threshold and a point of departure from the norm.
Whether Nigeria will follow a star from the East or not will be known in the next 48 hours (Saturday, February 25, 2023), a dateline like no other. It’s an hour of critical decisions. It’s an hour that determines the fate of the entity called Nigeria. It’s a turning point when people call Nigerians to make a critical decision about their future. It’s a watershed election, a defining election. It’s election hour, it’s a leadership recruitment hour. It’s the people’s day to decide who to hire to be in charge of their affairs for the next four years.
In modern democracies, indisputably agreed to be the best form of government, election days are milestones, monumental days. Election day is the delivery date of expectations like in pregnancy. Delivery dates in the labor room are days of anxiety about what is to come and how what is coming will look like…is the coming baby going to e male or female? Every pregnancy has a process that lasts for biologically nine months but the high points of the nine months are the few days or hours to delivery, the labor period, time of feelings of worry, nervousness, and uneasiness. That is exactly the point we are in our political journey as a nation, this time believing in the extraordinary power of people and in what American Pastor, Harry Emerson Fosdick, said, "Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people."
In every choice, there are always some regrets, but some we are proud of. Some will come with far-reaching consequences, and in all, it's a choice and we live with it.
As we head to the over 1,000- polling units across the federation on Saturday, we must find a way of managing our emotions while being guided by logic and rationality. Good and rational decisions will most likely lead us to follow the star from the East and in arriving at it let us rely on a balance of deliberate and intuitive thinking.
Let’s therefore by the judicious use of our Permanent Voter’s Card on Saturday provide an answer to the vital question posed by Bishop Onah, ‘will we follow the star from the East’?
If we say our yesterday has failed us, are we ready to vote for a better tomorrow? If we say corruption has castrated us, are we ready to vote it out of our lives? If we say our polity has been bedeviled by incompetent and incapacitated leaders, are we set to vote and enthrone competence and capacity? If we are unanimous that ethnicity and religion have been weaponized to divide us and take advantage of us, are we ready to vote them out of our lives? If we agree that the political structures have been selfishly created to hold us down and pave the way for criminalities of all kinds, can we vote to restore the people as the real structure of a democracy?
For pessimists who, either due to anger, frustration, laziness, indifference, or a lack of conviction will choose to stay away from polling, in the erroneous claim that the votes hardly count, it’s a known fact that elections are determined by those who show up on the voting day. And as Abraham Lincoln aptly captured it, “Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
God, help us to make the right decisions by voting wisely on Saturday and possibly following the star from the East to salvage this land. God, bless Nigeria.