We have just successfully executed the presidential election which is acclaimed to be one of the best in our history. Of course, the winner & those who voted for him are celebrating and the losers & those who voted for them are disappointed. Some have expressed anger and have gone as far as to leading riots.
I believe this deep feelings expressed by both camps is another indication of our general belief that credible political leadership is what we need to build a developed Nigeria. This means, we expect President Goodluck Jonathan in the next four years to accelerate our development as a nation.
As much as credible political leadership is essential for the development of our nation, I believe nation-building is a product of a people rather than the product of one man (a leader). In history, no modern nation has been built through the effort of one man and in the rare occasion, it was a product of a dictator. That meant, the nation witnessed infrastructure development but no freedom to express themselves to the best of their ability. True nation-building is mainly about human growth and development which will result in the development of infrastructures.
This is why nation-building is always a product of numerous citizens developing by giving up their comfort, assets and expertise for the sake of the nation's development. Conducting credible elections and electing a credible candidate is essential but only part of the process, just like giving birth to a baby. Despite the huge effort put in for the 9 months even up till labour, the real work is in the efforts put in by family, friends & community to bring up the baby into a well-developed & disciplined adult.
The real work required to build a developed Nigeria demands the collective effort of all those Nigerians who put in the effort to vote for President Jonathan on Saturday 16th April and even those who voted for other candidates. It cannot be left to only President Jonathan and his government.
Easter is here again and because of the elections, it is almost being ignored. However, the Easter message provides the best teaching on the responsibility we all have to build our nation. Central to the Easter message is the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection 3 days after, for the sins of all humanity. But the central issue within that message was the shift of responsibility for our destiny and that of our nation, from one man to each of us. Let's explore this further and bear with me if you're of a different faith because the lessons from this exploration apply to us all.
Genesis 12 tells us, "The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you."
God's plan was to use one nation to bless all nations and that was to use the family of Abram (later called Abraham) to bless all the families of the earth (in the same vein, I believe God wants to use Nigeria to bless Africa). Out of Abraham descendent came a nation called Israel. God chose the nation of Israel to be the people that would go and teach others about Him. They would do this by modelling or living out the covenant relationship they had with God. This covenant included God's protection, provision and direction but it required faithfulness, accountability and responsibility from the people. When other nations witness the tremendous blessings upon Israel, they would be drawn into a loving relationship with their God. So God nurtured, protected, empowered and embraced his people and brought them into the land He had promised Abraham centuries before.
However, Israel failed in this task because they desired to be like the neighbouring nations and not the distinct people set apart to be used as a witness to the nations. They abandoned the covenant relationship and its commitments, and in its place got involved in the practices of their neighbours. They copied not just the religious practices and trust in these ÔÇśforeign' gods for deliverance when they encountered challenges but they desired to have the same monarchical government as their neighbours. In 1 Samuel 8:5, the elders of Israel on behalf of the people said "ÔÇŽnow appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." By so doing, they rejected their special covenant relationship with God who governed them but preferred to be like the surrounding nations who had kings. A king who rule over them, lead them into battle and carry their responsibilities.
They got their desire in King Saul after God acknowledged their rejection. The result was the shift in responsibility from the people to their king and along went their reliance on God to dependence on the king (putting their destiny in the hands of one man).
It is important to note that God warned the nation of Israel about the consequences of their handing over responsibility to their king in 1 Samuel 8:11-18, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plough his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day."
These warning did come to pass as kings after kings reined forcefully over the people (even the great kings like David and Solomon). But of even greater concern was that the people continued to fully delegate the responsibility and direction of their nation to their king. The end product was whatever their kings did, they did and for most of the time, their kings failed woefully, leading the nation of Israel to her collapse and consequent exile to other nations.
This was setting during the birth of Jesus. He arrived in Israel at a time when the people were forsaken, scattered all over the world and under Roman monarchy.
With His rising popularity due to His miracles, wise & inspired teachings and challenges of the religious authorities of the day, the people sought to make Him king. To them, their salvation or deliverance laid in the promised Messiah who will come in the shape of a king. This king will be as great as his descendent king David and he will conquer and destroy all the occupiers of the land of Israel, restoring the glory of the nation like in the days of David and Solomon. Again, they placed the responsibility for their nation on one man and not on themselves.
Jesus came with a different message and approach. He called His apostles and revealed to them the will of the Father and that was the transfer of responsibility for the nation from the King back to the people. He effectively started the process of nation-building all over again by transferring the responsibility for the nation from Him, the Messiah, back to the people. The salvation or deliverance of the nation was not to be found in the king who, to be honest, will rule for just a limited period of time and would not allow the people to be responsible or accountable for the building and sustenance of their nation. Salvation will be found in the people of that nation taking personal responsibility for their actions and then accepting His kingship to become part of God's kingdom, first spiritually and then physically. This was his message.
To build this new kingdom or nation, he chose 12 disciples whom he taught the new kingdom principles, starting with putting the destiny of the nation in their hands. To pave the way for the manifestation of these ÔÇśkingdom citizens', he allowed Himself to be killed by crucifixion on the cross and on the third day, he resurrected to establish the sovereignty of His kingdom for eternity.
His departure, rapture into heaven 40 days after resurrection, did not lead to the end of His rule as is the case with kings or leaders, who carry the responsibility of the people. Rather, His kingdom exploded as His ÔÇścitizens' took up responsibility for building the kingdom with the aid of His Spirit. The impact of this kingdom is equally as physical as it is spiritual and a good example of these is seen in western nations with strong Christian heritage being the most developed nations of the world today.
In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." He was saying He did not come to become an earthly king taking over the responsibilities of the people but rather, he came to take up the responsibility for the nation by serving the people and even give His life for many.
As the Christian faith celebrates Easter, I pray that she will wake up to this call to accept responsibility for our nation because only then will more Christians (& other Nigerians) focus on human growth and development which is product of accepting responsibility. This is effectively expressed in the compassionate serving of others, even to the point of laying down our lives. 1 John 3:16 said "We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters".
Nigeria is blessed with enormous material resources and a huge & diverse population. Nation-building (& of course Jesus) requires all Nigerians serving one another with their God-given talents, skills and expertise, which will then enable Nigeria fulfil her role of providing for her huge population and for the nations of Africa.
Now we've voted President Jonathan into office, I plead that we do not leave the development of Nigeria to our political leaders till the next elections. Let the message of Easter be a motivating factor to get us off our comfort zones and begin to build the nation in our families, communities, workplaces, schools and any other sector within our influence & interaction. Like President Jonathan, we all have been called to serve.
Bobby Udoh is a nation-building evangelist, passionate blogger, impact public speaker, trainer and change agent. Read more articles on his weekly blog ÔÇô http://nationarise.wordpress.com/