By Femi Adesina
If Nigeria should die (which we don’t pray for), then hatred killed her. Done in by hateful hearts and lying tongues. People who hate others for no just cause, and they want to recruit you into the hatred binge. But I have news for them: I won’t inherit anybody’s enemy. Never!
These people, filled with bile and malevolence, in the gall of bitterness and bondage of iniquity, are everywhere; worship houses, homes, offices, in the media (social media particularly), on talkshows, phone-in programs, the academia, anywhere and everywhere. They hate their country, its leadership, anything good, and I dare say, they even hate themselves.
Last week, on this platform, I wrote on how the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, mixed bias with sympathy in its handling of the sad execution, through decapitation, of Rev Lawan Andimi, of Michika, Adamawa State, by Boko Haram. I stand by every word written in that piece. No apologies.
The column last Friday generated a lot of ruckus from some quarters, and it was very revealing. Some of those that we call ‘men of God’ are nothing but ordinary men, subject to the frailties of the next man. But the standard of God remains sure, having this seal: God knows those who are His own.
So, what am I really writing about? Haters, who want you to inherit their hatred. Those who have antipathy and animosity towards others, and who want to recruit you into their ranks. And when you don’t budge, the accusations are legion: he has sold his soul to the Devil. His god is now his belly (and what corpulent belly mine is!). What he would eat has rendered him blind to reason. And so on, and so forth. After all that, what? I simply tell them. No, I won’t inherit your enemies. I even join Timaya to sing:
I can’t kill myself o
I can’t kill myself
Allow me to flex o
This life I can’t kill myself
Maka Chukwu I can’t kill myself o.
Yes, if I begin to hate anyone at this point of my life, I am killing myself. I am swallowing poison. Hatred is poison. And you can’t swallow poison, and expect it to kill your neighbor.
On Sunday this week, one female Christian leader tried to reach me. She didn’t get through. She then called my friend, Emmanuel Bello, a Christian from Taraba State, also serving in this government. What was her message, as conveyed to me later by Bello, “All you Christians, serving in this Muslim government…”
Really? Muslim government. What a hateful heart! Sinister mind. Because the President is a Muslim, the government is a Muslim one. Is it a crime for a man to be committed to his religion? In the first cabinet assembled by President Buhari in 2015, Christians outnumbered Muslims by one, until James Ocholi sadly died, and he was replaced by a Muslim, which I believe was not a deliberate design. The number then became even. Yet, it is a “Muslim government.”
I have always said it. God has placed Christians and Muslims in almost equal numbers in the country, and one faith cannot wish the other away. We must stay here and salvage it together.
In almost five years of working closely with President Buhari, I have not seen the slightest hint of religious bias. I remember that first Christmas season in 2015. I had approached the President, telling him I wanted some days off, to be with my family at the Yuletide season. He told me, “The Vice President is a church person. You are also a church person. All of you Christians, go, we Muslims will stay behind. When you come back, I too will go for a few days.” We laughed.
And that is the way it has been every year. Yet, it is a “Muslim government,” and the President doesn’t want to hear about Christianity at all. So I must inherit the enemies of those who lack understanding.
I can’t kill myself o
I can’t kill myself
Allow me to flex o.
It has got to a point that when I say anything, haters turn it upside down. They distort it, give it a negative slant, and post in the media. I say A, they scream: he said B, C, D. What is the intention? To generate hate and opprobrium towards me. I just laugh, and begin to pick my teeth. They do not know that on that Great Day, that awesome day, man will account for every careless word, including all evil rantings on social media. That Great Day is coming, that Great Day is coming , that Great Day is coming by and by…
I have news for those who want me to inherit their hatred for President Buhari, because he is not of their ethnic group or of their religious persuasion. I have been following the man from 1984, when I was a third year student in the university. I became a Christian of the born again stock in 1988. It still did not change my opinion about Buhari. He was, still is, and will remain my hero. It’s not because I serve in government. I could have done without the job, and can still do without it, though it’s always a privilege to serve one’s country.
But President Buhari will remain my man. Any day. It’s a futile exercise then to try to recruit me into the ranks of his enemies. No, I won’t inherit anybody’s enemy, because as weak a man as I am, I want to be a better Christian. I strive for it daily. If I falter and stumble, I rise up and get going again. Christianity has no room for hatred. I tell you, no matter the title you parade; Archbishop, Apostle, Prophet, Reverend, Founder, whatever. If you hate, that Great Day will fish you out. There will be great surprises on that day. Weeping and gnashing of teeth, because you hated your country, its leader, people of other religions, ethnic groups, and you even hated yourself.
“Absolute and entire ugliness is rare,” says John Ruskin, the art critic and writer. Between last week and now, don’t think only the wailing wailers have had a field day. No matter their ululation on social media, they are still a tiny though vocal minority. Nigerians of goodwill have been in touch with me, offering solidarity and prayers. And they include bishops, clerics, Christian groups and associations. They see absolutely no malice in what I wrote. They equally know the vile effects of hatred, so they have encouraged me to stay the course, no matter the noise of the market.
I must thank Philip Agbese, whom I don’t know, and never met. (Been trying to source his phone number, so I could express my appreciation to him). He wrote an article titled ‘Between CAN and Adesina; who is really wrong?’ Balanced, even-handed piece. I saw some malicious comments that I hired him to do the write up. Do you hire a person you’ve never met?
I thank all people of goodwill, who have been able to truly divide the word. I bear no malice towards CAN leadership, I only stand by every word I’ve written and said. Hatred may kill Nigeria if we are not careful, and to think church leaders would be part of the culprits, makes me shudder. Resentment is a poor prop for anyone to lean on. But the leadership of Christianity in Nigeria is sadly manifesting resentment against a man who has only come to serve, and empty himself for the country. Nigeria is not there yet in terms of security, economic revival, fighting corruption, but we are firmly on the way there.
I say it again. I have chosen the course I want to follow, and I have a right to it. Like Shakespeare wrote, if you hate me, I will always be in your mind. But if you love me, I will always be in your heart.
And like Timaya sang;
Many many years me I don dey go
Still dem go say me I no dey try
I can’t kill myself o
I can’t kill myself…
•Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Buhari