Today, the United States of America is the most powerful country on earth. It was erected on solid foundations by men like George Washington, Thomas Paine, Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. It was not founded on mere mantras but pillars that sunk deep into the hearts of her people. The country, highly heterogeneous at birth, was united and a homogeneous goal and vision created. They designed a country with the tools to control every facet of science and technology and the world. They sought for visionaries and intellectuals all over the world and gave them reason to live in their country. They provided them with the best of tools and environment. In 1926, when the famous mathematical genius, Albert Einstein, and other noble German scientists were told ‘RAUS!’ by Adolf Hitler, it was easy for them to emigrate to America. They had gotten to that prime position their founding fathers aimed for and were solidifying the hold. They didn’t sit and pray for a great country and expect magic. They earned it. Their only mantra is ‘God Bless America’ and they know what words cannot do.
About four decades ago, Singapore was just a desert. The country was deserted of business, good ideas, tourists and most importantly, good governance. It was plagued with corruption and the people suffered the consequences. It was a third world country. Today, Singapore is no longer regarded as a third world country. In just a decade, it moved from a third world country to a first world country. In just a decade, it became a centre for tourism, business and welcomed tons of visitors daily, thanks to Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, now called the father of Singapore. He worked on attracting foreign investments into the country, training the people in various fields of business and grew the country’s industrial base. To ensure the people are safe from external conflicts and secure, he made sure Singapore was admitted into the United Nations. He gave the anticorruption agencies more powers to search, investigate and prosecute corrupt persons. In his autobiography, he wrote ‘I wouldn’t call myself an atheist. I neither deny nor accept that their is a God’.
About three decades ago, the country known as Qatar was in the same state as Today’s Nigeria. It was stupendously rich but its people had nothing to show for it. They were highly religious, praying, cussing and wishing that their oil, siphoned by the Amir, is used to change their lives for good. They couldn’t offer any revolution. They were too weak for that and some considered any attempt at truncating the leadership of the royal family a sin against God and tried to avoid God’s wrath. They were suffering but could only pray against bad governance. They had hands and minds but shunned any thought to put them to good use. In 1995, Hamid Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the son of the emir overthrew his father in a bloodless coup and this was the beginning of Qatar’s journey to the future. He resolved the border issues the country, or justly put, the Royal Family, had with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. It was he who, in trying to have a voice, make impressions and showcase the country to the world, created the powerful news Network, Al-Jazeera. He changed the country, gave it an appealing face before handing over to his son, Tamim, in 2013, who is improving on his legacies.
This is not an anti-prayer treatise. This is not an anti-God sermon to dissuade any Nigerian Christian or Muslim from practising their religion. This is not an attempt to weaken the belief of the believer in the faith. This is not a tacit endorsement of atheism, agnosticism or even an attempt to denigrate theism. This is just an attempt to separate religion and religious practise from actual governance. This is an attempt to draw the line between religion and politics. This is a call to use our talents and brainpower in solving problems we CAN solve. This is an attempt to show that any country that works hard and smart, despite her belief in any supernatural deity or providence, will succeed. This is an attempt to show that good and bad works and commonsensical solutions do not require the inputs of religion or prayers to be effective. It is a call to stop pretending we don’t know what we can do to save ourselves from the mess we dipped our foot into. We know what to do, some of us do but pretense and laziness is stopping us from doing them. We don’t go into prayers when we have an accident, we go to the hospitals. We don’t use prayer to remove a pin stuck in the rib, we go for a surgical operation. We don’t pray before we skip a hurdle, we just jump. But when it comes to governance we try to use prayer to make an independent entity, with freewill, to do a good thing when he is not willing.
Can we stop the government backed Pilgrimage? Can we stop sponsoring people going to pray for the country? Can we stop wasting money on things that add nothing to the development of this sick country? Can we stop sponsoring people to Mecca and Jerusalem with monetary equivalent of standard schools and hospitals? At least 136.5 Billion Naira was spent on Hajj last year by Nigerians, with part of the money coming from the pocket of the State and Federal government. In Nassarawa State alone, about 67 Million was paid by the State Government into the account of the Nasarawa State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board (NCPWB) for 100 pilgrims. Just hundred pilgrims going for personal reasons are provided with such amount for doing nothing for the state or society. They were not sponsored to go learn and bring back something. In 2016, the Kano State Governor, Ganduje, in an interview disclosed that the country spent 3Billion Naira on pilgrims. The President also approved an exchange rate of 160 Naira to one US Dollar for Nigerian Christians on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They were not businessmen trying to help the country grow but just people who want to go for tourism and pray abroad. Where are the gains?
A great man once said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the result to be different is stupidity. We have been doing these things for years and there has not been any sign of positive change. They go on their personal pilgrimage with subsidy from the state and fail in government’s assigned role. The prayers are not working simply because countries don’t run on miracles. Sending few persons to go lavish money in another man’s land in the name of Pilgrimage and praying for the country is a waste of time and resources for any country serious about growth. It doesn’t work that way and experience should have shown us if we were watching or honest enough. That we don’t apply the same approach to governance as we do to our health suggests mischief. Some of us, and especially, those in power, are mischievous. They know the majority have a soft spot for religions and concoctions and they try to capitalise. They give the people an overdose of their favorite meal and tell them to pray to God for things their greed and incompetence, no matter the bandwidth of prayer said, will not let materialise. Some blame the devil and tell the people that until that evil one is removed from Nigeria, there will not be good governance. Bull story!
What do we really mean by praying for Nigeria? When we ask people to pray for Nigeria what exactly do we intend to achieve? When we ask people to pray for our leaders, demons, what do we mean too? Honestly, none of that has worked. All Nigerian leaders have received gigawatts of prayers but none has failed to offer gigawatts of disappointment in return. All Nigerian leaders have sponsored both Christian and Islamic Pilgrimages but none of the prayers have worked. Why will it work? Where has it worked? In America, the country knew nature rewards work and scorns at limbless words, they applied it and it worked. In Qatar, the people were in hell until a son who knew better, who knew that prayers and goodwill is not enough and will not lift a finger, a son who was well educated and learned, transmitted his energy to the society and they were saved. The same thing happened in UAE but we have not learned. We keep praying for things we have, within us, answers to. How do you elect a demon after collecting 2000 Naira and start praying for that demon to change? How do you expect any God to interfere with the freewill of men who have sold their souls to the devil?
We can keep praying and wishing but it will change nothing. We can keep praying before any national event where we formulate disastrous policies but nothing will change. God doesn’t build countries. He, in both the Christian and Islamic religions, which the majority of Nigerians profess, has given man dominion over everything under the earth. If a government is failing, wait at the polls and stop collecting peanuts that ruin you. If something is not working, call the people in charge and demand better. If a system is faulty and you want it corrected, demand sound leadership. Stop calling God to cover your ineffectuality. Stop calling for prayers in building a nation because you have hands and should put your minds to use. From America, Britain, Germany to the modern day prosperous countries like Qatar, UAE and Singapore, this is what was done. They knew only good governance and moving (not just deciding to) forward will help them move forward. They stopped hiding behind prayer and what God wanted and gave the people what they needed. When we are sick we visit the hospital but if the government is bad we call on God and pray when we can do something. Something is wrong with us.