Nigeria as we know is a country replete with religious symbolism as leaders all tend to wear their faith on their sleeves with every opportunity to speak filled with divine incursion that almost presents them as the clergy.
With the 51st Independence anniversary of Nigeria on Saturday the first of October 2011, one would expect that there would be religious services with leaders taking the pulpit, lectern, podium or rostrum depending on where such a service is held.
The President, Goodluck Jonathan is a Christian and he attended the Interdenominational service held in the weekend where he appeared to offer many biblical analogies using popular bible characters to set his place in what we should expect of the task that he has ahead of him.
The Nigerian social media had been agog with excerpts of his message to the congregation of the great and the good that attended the service but after seeing the newspaper reports of the quotes, one is left quite concerned, seriously perturbed and bemused by the irony of it all.
Foreheads of Goliath
One needs to assess each character introduced in his message to see if the analogies are apt or wanting in a fuller context and interpretation.
Chief amongst his statements was, “God will soon expose the foreheads of Nigeria’s Goliaths.” Now, Goliath of Gath was a terrifyingly huge man and warrior in the Philistine army who made all the Israelite armies cower in fear, none able to take on his challenge for a man-to-man combat.
As the story goes, David, a ruddy haired shepherd had been sent to the warfront with food supplies for his elder brothers when he heard the challenge that in his youth exuberance he offered to go up against the giant not with the customary armour or weapons of war but with a sling and five stones he picked up from the brook.
David and Goliath never met in hand-to-hand combat, rather he slung a stone and it hit Goliath in the forehead knocking him stone cold dead – much has been made of this story, the triumph of an underdog, the bravery of the inexperienced, the victory over an almost impossibly powerful enemy and so on.
Nigeria as the President suggested does have a number of Goliaths to deal with and she probably has not been blessed with people sufficiently David enough to be daring to take on the Goliath challenge, the probability of another David-Goliath moment occurring is better left to others to analyse.
No Davids to spare
Quoting liberally from the 234Next.com news report, “If you listen to some of the things people say or write in papers, some people would want the president to be a lion; some people would want the president to be a troop commander who would crush everybody on sight. Unfortunately, I am not a troop commander. I am not an army General. Some would want the president to be like David or other warriors in the Bible, unfortunately, I am not one of those.”
This deluge of supposed comparisons is a bit worrisome but not beyond comprehension, we can appreciate here that the President is not a lion – one would suppose there are characteristics of bravery, courage and presence a lion has that the President is suggesting he does not have – that is no sin.
The President is a civilian so the expectation that he be a marauding troop commander is a bit far-fetched, most leaders of nations of the world do not belong in the military and they are in considerable control of their briefs.
However, “Some would want the president to be like David or other warriors in the Bible, unfortunately, I am not one of those.” This does become worrisome not so much for the other warriors that cowered but for the fact that there was no point having the forehead of Goliath exposed if there is no David available to sling a stone – the President had put himself out of the running for David leaving Goliath a seriously looming threat.
Boasting like Nebuchadnezzar
Obviously, with the President giving this speech, he had rubbished the idea that he was sequestered in a bunker suffering from siege mentality as he lamented why “some Nigerians chose to vilify us.” Despite the achievements of his government in 100 or 500 days depending on your numeracy skills drawing on the evidence that his government had recently been praised by President Barack Obama and President Jacob Zuma.
The Daily Times of Nigeria published this excerpt, “You have been praying for us; some others do not want the government to move an inch, I mean those of us who are politicians. The only prayer I need from you is for God to use me to change this country. I don’t need to be like Nebuchadnezzar, David or other great men to change this country, but with your prayer, I can change this nation; we can make the difference.”
Again, we appreciate the many obstacles to progress, we also acknowledge the need for prayer but it does not preclude the need for action, it is difficult to read what is intended if the President having been in office over 500 days appears to be unsure if he is engaged in the usage necessary to change the country – for all our prayers, which are exhortations of Godspeed, it requires a man of ability and purpose to step into the fray and demonstrate the power of divine providence.
Nebuchadnezzar II was the great king of Babylon who conquered the Jews and sent them into exile, his fame got to him boasting of his achievements that he lost his sanity for a season until he acknowledged the lordship of God. The President having boasted of the achievements of administration will hate to then end up in that king’s narrative.
Fearful examples of bad luck
Other characters that appeared in his speech included the Kings of Syria (maybe Assyria), Babylon and Egypt and particular reference was made to the Pharaoh of Egypt; however, biblical records of history show that none of these rulers who had unparalleled heights of power in their time had a successful end to their careers of leadership and no Nigeria will wish this on the President.
We do have to return to the Goliath story because it set in motion a chain of events that makes President Jonathan’s analogies a bit suspect. When David killed and beheaded Goliath, he took the head to the Saul the King of Israel. The king honoured him, gave David his daughter in marriage who sadly bore him no offspring and also gave him control of a battalion of soldiers.
Jonathan’s own story
Saul’s first son was Jonathan, Jonathan struck a deep friendship with David and even though by rights Jonathan should have been heir to the throne of Israel, the acts of Saul his father and the growing popularity of David amongst the people along with other extenuating circumstances meant that Jonathan will not accede the throne.
Saul and all his heirs eventually fell in battle and thereby the lament that went up from David, “How have the mighty fallen, And the weapons of war perished!”
It goes without saying that Goliath of Gath was the making of David and the undoing of Jonathan, the analogies and metaphors used by President Goodluck Jonathan may have hoped to give prominence to his talismanic name of Goodluck but on closer scrutiny, it exposes the unfortunate side of Jonathan which did not end with his death because on learning that Jonathan had died the maid nursingMephibosheth his 5-year old son dropped him to the ground in her bid to escape crippling the child.
If the President does not cast himself in the role of David to tackle the Goliaths he has identified on the Nigerian battlefront, we might well abandon hope for a victory in the task set before him to change Nigeria.
Zoology is a better vocation
It goes without saying that the President is best advised to desist from making use of biblical analogies because none appear to bode well for him as they expose more of his weaknesses than the essential strength expected of a leader in his position. As an erudite of zoology, he might have fared better.
If a speechwriter was employed to write the speech he delivered at the service, it would not be too harsh to wish an Absalom moment on such a person – he was the 3rd son of David and in leading a revolt against his father; his long hair got caught on the branch of a tree, left hanging but alive, he was in vulnerable enough a state to be killed.
From what I have read of my Twitter timeline, the President’s speech was at best dreadful and appalling awful, it lacked opportunity or resolve and it leaves one with that sinking feeling that he is paralysed by the weight of his achievement of great office to extend, exert and effect himself in any appreciable way for Nigeria or Nigerians.
In another biblical story, Lazarus of Bethany was raised from the dead, you have wonder if there is a Lazarus in Jonathan for Goodluck to become a David and defeat the Goliaths that mock Nigeria with impunity.