God does not call the anointed, rather, he anoints the called. This literarily means that whenever God wants to do an extra-ordinary thing, He does not look for people with extra-ordinary ability and strength, He empowers whoever makes himself available. He does not call the perfect people to do perfect things but He perfects the called. This analogy goes on and on.
In the same vein, God does not look for saints to do saintly work, He chooses the most unlikely people and bring out the saints in them and this explains why people always doubt their ability whenever God calls them. We could see this in the biblical calls and choices of Moses, Jeremiah, Gideon.
The word saint comes from the Greek word "hagios" which means "consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious." Or literarily it means a person of great holiness, virtue, or benevolence. These are virtues that are very rear to come by considering the level of corruption that has eaten deep into the marrow of our system. People who completely embody these characteristics are yet to be born but the question is â€˜do we need them'? A saint is a perfect man of impeccable character. Do we need one?
As God is ready to transform this country, God does not need saints nor does He need perfect men. The Perfect One has already perfected the ground. God only needs people who will make themselves available to be part of His plan and He will endow them with the transformative power.
General Murtala Ramat Mohammed came into power on July 29, 1975 not as a saint but as an imperfect man ready to do a saintly work. He became the leader with many allegation of corruption hanging on his head, the chief of which was his award of a mega-contract as communication minister to MKO Abiola led ITT without due process and transparency. MKO Abiola was the Vice President, Africa and Middle-East of the entire ITT corporation. The project that was poorly executed was to revolutionise the communication system in Nigeria.
Regardless of his past, Mohammed was dogged to rid the nation of corruption that he was part of and he did this till that fateful morning of February 13, 1976 when he was assassinated on February 13, 1976 in an abortive coup attempt led by Lt.Col Buka Suka Dimka. He was not born a saint, neither was he one until he chose to be. He was fully part of the system that created the mess he was trying to clear.
Muhammadu Buhari, who was the military ruler of Nigeria from December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985 was not a saint neither was his deputy, Tunde Idiagbon who was the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. The tag team sets out on a saintly mission even though they weren't. Their high-handed government through the War Against Indiscipline programme (WAI) was the only one on record apart from the short-lived Murtala Mohammed's government that showed seriousness in fighting corruption. Other governments only pay lip service.
Before becoming the Head of State, Buhari first came to limelight in 1975 when He became the Minister or "commissioner" for Petroleum and Natural Resources under then-Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo. He was also the Governor of the then newly created North Eastern State of Nigeria during the regime of Murtala Mohammed. He later headed the then newly created Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation where there was the incident of the missing #2.8 billion for which till date the more we ask about the money, the less we know. Apparently he wasn't an extra-ordinary man but he chose to be an extra-ordinary leader.
In the same vain, before Idiagbon became the defacto Vice President and the Czar of War Against Indiscipline (WAI) under Buhari, he wasn't known to be a perfectly disciplined man. He had served as a military administrator of Borno State in the 1970s under the military administration of Olusegun Obasanjo and he surely was also part of the corruption that he tried to end.
Governors Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Babatunde Raji Fashola were two â€˜unsaintly' saints who have chosen to do saintly works and take giant strides. Ordinarily, considering their pedigrees, they were not going to be saints (that they are today) when they embarked on their different missions. Both were unlikely people to bring sanity to the prevailing preposterousness they were so much immersed in.
Amaechi succeeds an overtly corrupt regime of Governor Peter Odili. As the speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999 to 2007, he was a very close associate of the governor and together, they prevailed over an administration that demonstrated failed governance, chieftaincy tussles, cultism, politics of acrimony and insurgency. The story of militancy in the Niger Delta could never be completely written without them.
Despite being the wealthiest state due to oil wealth and revenue receipt from the federal government allocations, Rivers State, under Odili recorded little or no improvements to the lives of the citizens. Today, Amaechi is re-writing the history of River State. He is not only building the State but also proving sceptics wrong that something good can come out of PDP - the ruling party. I salute the courage of a resolute leader.
Likewise, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, the â€˜Wonder Boy' who is doing the impossible in Lagos, transforming Lagos and giving her the face of a megacity. Fashola was an unlikely saint considering his closeness and association to his former boss, Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose eight years of being the governor of the most populous state in Nigeria was characterised by a moderate success on very huge promises and also marred with different corruption charges.
Prior to his appointment as Chief of Staff to Tinubu, Fashola had served under him in various capacities. He was the Secretary of the Lands Sub-Committee of the Transitional Work Groups established after his election as Governor of the State in 1999.
He later served on the State Government's Panel of Enquiry into allocation of houses on the Mobolaji Johnson Housing Scheme at Lekki. In 2006, he was appointed as a commissioner in the State making him the first person to be a commissioner and chief of staff simultaneously.
Fashola had the option of continuing in the style of his predecessor which he was fully part of but chose the more noble way of service doing saintly work of turning Lagos around. Kudos to an action governor who has chosen to succeed where others fail and shine like a star in the midst of darkness. He is probably the best thing to have happened to Lagos since Jakande's era.
In the world over, reformist, transformers and revolutionaries like Gorbachev, Fidel Castro, Martin Luther King (Jr), Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Lech Walesa are not born but are made. More often than not, they are an integral part or product of the old order they tend to change.
To bring about the required change, we don't need saints, we need to make saints in ourselves. Saul who later became Paul was at the tail end of evil before he allowed himself to be used by God and all of a sudden, he found himself at the tail end of saintly work doing good wherever he found himself.
Zacchaeus was a very corrupt man cheating people all around before he met Christ and hear what he said. , "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.".
God is ready to transform Nigeria and as many that will make themselves available, He shall use. Why not make yourself available irrespective of your past. God delights in a sinner who repents.
God bless Nigeria!
Nigeria go better!
Rufus Kayode Oteniya (OteniyaRK) writes from Milan, Italy