We shall Overcome

2 Comments » March 8th, 2009 posted by // Categories: General Articles

We Shall Overcome’


Cornelius Ewuoso OP

Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.



I could not sleep last night. The thought of Nigeria kept me awake all through the night: a frail president, corrupt leaders, greed legislators, fragile economy, underdeveloped agricultural sector, failed educational system, insecurity, striking teachers, poor healthcare facilities, failed stock exchange and the likes. Distinguished learned gentlemen, scary things are happening in this country, hence, more than ever in our history, we are challenged to be more responsible and face these occurrences headlong, trusting that some day, ‘we shall overcome’. Yes, we shall overcome; shall we then fail to be responsive?


            I could not hold back my tears when I read that article by Okey Ndibe, regarding the amount each member of the House of Representatives and each Senator receives annually as constituency development fund: $ 1.2 million and $1.7 million for each member of House of Representatives and each Senator respectively. Wahoo! this is very scary. An amount sufficient enough to pay more than 8, 000 striking Nigerian teachers. What a paradox. Where is the transparency and justice? This provokes a question which must asked, what should be our priority? Our pockets or the education of our children?


            Millions of Nigerians go on hunger strike, live without any means of livelihood while those who claim to be their representatives, loot their money; live in luxury and comfort. There is decadence everywhere you turn to, but our representatives seem not to care. Failure stares us in the face, thousands of Nigeria go home at the end of the month without their salaries, live in continuous misery and yet these despots are allowed to go home with such a huge amount to the detriment of the people. But, whose representatives are they?


            What is at stake, dear friends, is the question of justice. So many are being treated unjustly, while a few are allowed to whisk away public properties. Teachers are either under-paid or not paid at all, while some are allowed to smile home with this huge sum of money. As a result of this, these secondary and primary schools teachers who could ordinarily sustain themselves and their families through their labour, now live in abject poverty, pains, frustration, hopelessness and uncertainties. And their rights to a meaningful life whisked away by a powerful few. Shall we then fail to speak for these ones and the millions of other Nigerians-the pensioners, displaced Nitel staff, University lecturers, Local Government staff- marginalised and oppressed all over the country? I do not think so. God’s command is relevant here, ‘what you do unto others, you do it unto me (God)’.


            We all are caught in this web of life. What we fail to do for others, will turn back to hunt us. It is the cycle of life. When a young man is denied his just reward and we look the other way, injustice is created. Then the young man gets frustrated; he is pushed to his wits-end. And because he has an obligation to sustain himself and his family, he then results to violence, crime, robbery and kidnapping to fulfil this obligation. But who does he attack, or rob or kidnap? Your guess is as good as mine. Shall we then fail to speak on behalf of these ones? No, we shall not must the chorused answer. Why should there be so much pain and poverty while a few live in affluence, luxury and comfort? This is the injustice we are to speak against through our writings, preaching, and actions. This way, we would no longer have needs of night guards to watch over our houses when we sleep; buy generators to supply electricity, boreholes in our compounds or send our children abroad for education; travel to Germany occasionally for check-ups or Paris, France for a common operation. All will be done in this country and with ease at that.


            The recent voyage to Paris, of the ex-Military Head of State, Ibrahim Babaginda, for operation, dear friends, provides a useful lesson here. More than simply reminding all of us of our frail human nature, I am sure it especially reminds him, Babaginda, that if only he had not stolen, whisked away what was meant for the development of infrastructures, healthcare facilities, he would have had no need of travelling to France for a common operation. This is equally a practical lesson Yar’Adua is yet to learn. You may have your private jet to travel around for such treatment, but for how long? What about the situation of an unexpected attack? One immediately remembers the death of Adedibu here. He was being rushed to Lagos airport to be flown abroad, after an attack, when he died.


            Justice, therefore, must be our watch word. Yes, the challenge is enormous, but we shall overcome it someday. The experiences of those who had dared to speak against injustice and suffered grievously for it in the past should not deter us. Most especially, the recent experience of Shuaibu Bakari for daring to speak truth to Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba at a public function, and his subsequent imprisonment, should, rather than deter us, strength us to stand up against all that is wrong in the society, irrespective of the place and time.


            The challenge, which equally confronts us today, especially requires that we act from a genuine motive, for the common good. Not the kind of motive we perceive when our politicians criticise Maurice Iwu, Nigerian’s Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman. It is understandable when ordinary Nigerians criticise Iwu for spare-heading the ‘worst’(forgive my inadequate expression) Nigerian elections since independence and for daring to say ‘no one can sack him’. We can understand their frustration and plights. But when the AC chieftains, APGA, LP, ANPP criticise him for the same reasons, do they do this because they are genuinely concerned about the good of the common people, or because they are not the ones whose daughter’s wedding ceremony cost a state governor N3 billion and the Federation lots more? Do they do this because they care about us or because they are not the ones opportuned to travel in presidential jets to Germany or Saudi Arabia for medical check-up to the detriment of the suffering masses, or the ones who sit the National Assembly to receive N29 million annually for doing nothing or the ministers who collect the same amount annually for simply bearing the name ‘minister’? In the words of Ayei Kwei Armah, ‘where are the beautiful ones amongst them’. They are all the same.


            But the justice, which I oblige us with today, stems from an unconditional love for all. It is a kind of good which does not seek anything in return but love. It equally stems from the fact that justice is a fundamental and inalienable right of each one of us. And as this right is universal and inviolable, it cannot be surrendered for whatever reasons.


                How do we establish this justice in our nations? First, we have to begin with ourselves. It makes no sense to accuse others when we ourselves, are not any better. In the words of Olu Ojedokun, ‘in order to effectively speak truth to power, we must learn to be truthful ourselves. What Christ said in the scripture is clearly germane here. He says, ‘why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own’ (Matth. 7:3). Similarly, why accuse others of corruption; of injustice, while you mistreat the maid in your house, or while you give your gardener no peace or under-pay your driver or reduce your night guards to shadows of themselves. Hence, seeking a just world necessarily requires that one be just in his house, to his workers, in his place of work and so on. This gesture is then extended to the external sphere, where the political elites, policy makers are then challenged to be responsive, responsible and just. This way, we would have succeeded in building a just world. Yes, we shall have overcome. Shall we then fail to be responsive?


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2 Responses to “We shall Overcome”

  1. chizoba adimba says:

    The contribjution is good.Good also that you are proffering solution but for the fear of being cynical.Nigeria is a difficult and complex case.One doesnt know what to think anymore.All the same lets keep talking,praying and doing what we can do.let us not be accused of indolence or silence.Kke it up.

  2. Funsho Ogundipe says:

    Chizoba is correct in that Nigeria is complex. To whichi can add that i have noticed that in Nigeria the good people are now tribal and the nationalists are thieves. So the good people never pose a challenge because we refuse to work accross tribal and religious lines. History will judge us harshly unless we act now. For this artcile and many more, thanks.

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