Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie is a man of moral masculinity. He has been known to speak his mind on any issue. I really think the government should be elastic enough to accommodate the views of such a renowned man of God. The recent attack on his person over his candid comment on the Goodluck Jonathan administration and that of the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ayo Oritsejafor, is condemnable. As a former President of CAN, Okogie is eminently qualified to air his views on the activities in CAN. Again, commenting on the leadership style of the Jonathan administration is his right. We have had a long run of ill-luck in leadership.
It will only take a wicked man of God not to speak truth to power. In an era when there is an unholy alliance between our clergy men and our political leaders, Okogie is simply a breath of fresh air. The noble Cardinal is a man whose character is marked by a happy mixture of amiability and courage. Reading through his interview, one will realize that the feeling had been pent up for a long time, gathering strength and fury for an occasion when a final explosion could be had with effect. His interview was so refreshing and candid.
According to my favourite historian, Leopold Von Ranke, neither blindness nor ignorance corrupts people and government. ‘They soon realize where the part they have taken is leading them. But there is an impulse within them favoured by their nature and reinforced by their habits which they do not resist. It continues to propel them as long as they have a remnant of strength. He who overcomes himself is divine. Many see their ruins before their eyes and they go on into it. President Jonathan’s administration is innately incompetent. To tell it like it is, Jonathan has killed the beauty of power. Here is a president who has enormous power yet do not know what to do with it. Corruption has become a lifestyle and our dear president is doing absolutely nothing to curtail it. This is the kind of thing that gets Okogie’s goat. As a man of God, it will be ungodly not to speak out when the government has no programme for the poor. A good government should care for the poorest of the poor because that is the will of God. The holy book said “God shall deliver the needy when he cries, the poor also and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy and shall save the souls of the needy.” Our God is not going to come down and do it by himself but He is looking for men and women to do the work for Him. Cardinal Okogie has got to do his work. There no better way to do it than to speak the truth to power. The Holy Book also admonished us to “Speak every man the truth to his neighbor: execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates. And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts.” Our men of God have failed us. They are only interested in romancing with those that have political power to the detriment of the poor masses. Since majority of them cannot come out to defend the poor how can they claim to be working for God? People like Cardinal Okogie are the true representative of God Almighty. Nigeria is sick and we know it. Let us join hands together to make the country flourish.
Okogie is not a prayer merchant who is into peddling the word of God for profit. He reminds me of the prophets of old who were involved in the statecraft of Israel. Cardinal Okogie recalled what transpired between him and the President over the latter’s request for prayer. This encounter goes to the heart of the matter. It is an eloquent testament of Okogie’s character. “Bishop, can you pray for me?” and I said, Sorry, Your Excellency, what do you want me to pray for? He was shocked and said to me ‘you are the first pastor that has asked me this kind of question. All the other pastors, when I ask them to prayer they tell me to bow my head and they pray. How can you ask me what do I want from God”? So I said, sorry oo, Your Excellency, don’t be annoyed, but this is the right way to pray. I want to be able to concentrate on what you are asking for; to let God open His hand and give this man this particular thing that he is asking for. I can say any kind of prayer for you, but to me, that is not enough. So he said ‘That is okay. Don’t you know I will be going in for election?’ and I said to him, you have won, that is no problem, but you will not rule. Those around you will rule.” This sums it up. This is the stuff men of God are made of: bold and blunt. President Jonathan is obviously not the messiah we are waiting for in Nigeria. He has no mind of his own and he is not firm in taking decisions.
The case of Oritsejafor is more mindboggling. I have also believed that a true man of God should have no hankering for material things. The gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Christ Jesus, is not about the acquisition of material things. It is about the kingdom of God. God will provide the needful for you once your focus is on the kingdom. Okogie who took the oath of chastity, poverty and obedience is in a better position to understand the true essence of Christianity. We have a culture of skipping the hard messages of our Master and embracing the softer ones to suite our purposes. In Luke chapter 12 verse 32 to 34, Christ Jesus stated clearly what he expects from us: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for you your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom. Sell all your belongings and give the money to the poor. Provide for yourself purses that don’t wear out, and save your riches in heaven, where they will never decrease, because no thief can get to them, and no moth can destroy them. For your heart will always be where your riches are.”
This is what our Christian faith is all out. It is about faith in God and His ability to come through for you. The ringing testimony of the Christian faith is that God is able. Acquiring property everywhere in the name of God is all hogwash. Oritsejafor as the CAN president has diminished the dignity of the position. This is just what Okogie is trying to pass across. The combination of a president who does not understand what it means to fight for the poor and a CAN president who is an acquisitionist is a terrible one. This kind of unholy alliance will not bring us out of this political and economic quagmire. All thanks to Okogie for speaking out courageously.