By Rev. Fr. Gerald Nwafor
During Lent we prepare for the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the savior of the world. The sequence is always seamless but this year we had a big divide in-between Lent and Easter, and we are being consumed by the in-between issue which is a big political shift in the landmark of Nigeria’s democratic demography.
Although, other factors came into play this season that were also unforeseen. One of them is the scarcity of the new naira notes (uko ego). The government of Nigeria behaved like the grasscutter that bites only when he is reminded that he should bite. From nowhere the government decided to change the Nigerian currency during the festive periods, for the apparent reason that most politicians have stockpiled the high denominations of the old naira. The second reason is not far away from the first, which is creating a law and flauting the law at the same time (Nghasa ochichi obodo).
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) told us multiple times that they will transmit the electoral result from the polling booth to the INEC Portal, which they have created in real-time so that everyone could have live access to the results. It was not done and to add salt to injury, they declared a winner without the result being transmitted. What did we catch with our head (Kedu ife madu ji isi kotenu biko nu)?
During the Lenten season we in the Christian tradition are supposed to be in a quiet mode and retreating mood. It is a time for prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. Now we cannot pray in this noisy situation because the rant of political jingle will wake you up as early as 4 am, since that was the time the INEC Chairman has chosen to announce the results. So, by 4 am you will be hearing sounds like, “Eluu Pee 74, Eluu Pee 75, Eluu Pee 76, Eluu Pee 77, Obi 78, Kererenke 79, Obi 80, Obi nwannem 81, renting the air and you will be hearing another group shouting Labor, Labor, Labor.
Now how can you concentrate on your early morning prayer ritual but start singing the song of the new redemption as formulated by the youth movement called the ‘Obidients’? The serene atmosphere necessary for the Lenten observances has been obliterated by the political atmosphere of the 2023 election. Moreover, the prayer pattern has changed also to focus on the people organizing the elections and those who think that they have the power to change the will and mandate of the people with their money. We call them the money bags; they want to use the money which they stole from the people to steal the election na anya ocha (in broad daylight).
The other two characteristics of the Lenten season which are almsgiving and fasting are also suffering mishaps because of this election. How can you give what you have not possessed? You cannot give what you do not have. The little money in circulation has been highjacked by greedy politicians and they are not ready to part with it except for selfish political reasons. To buy votes in some cases where it is possible and, in some cases, to bribe the electoral offices (EO). Now tell me how to give alms when you have nothing in your pocket.
And in the political trajectory, the person being supported by the youth and the majority of the people has said in clear terms and umpteen times that he node give shishi (he will not throw money around like others). Now we are stuck with a good man who does not want to be flagrant with money unnecessarily. That is why pure water is the most we can get after following him massively and shouting Obi Kererenke Obi. We come home with empty pockets with the hope that when he becomes the president the country will be good for everybody. The last characteristic which is fasting is really where the problem lies because obu ume ka eji afu oku (we need strength to blow into flame the fire).
Our tradition has said in clear terms that the chief priest would have some food before he can offer some to the deity (Nwa dibia lijue afo, owe choba mmou okwelu nkwa). How can we fast with this scenario? Imagine waking up by 4 am. Imagine no money in your pocket. Imagine no place to get the next meal. Imagine getting ready to go outside to confront the riggers of elections. The riggers of this election are young able-bodied boys who have been fed with food, alcohol, methamphetamine, and nkpulu-mmiri. Should we confront them on empty stomach? MBANU!! We must be ready to some level. Agbaro aka achu ife na ata alu (You do not pursue a dangerous animal empty-handed).
So, the spirit of fasting has been disrupted by this political season. We do not encourage fasting during famine or war. Nigeria is in political warfare. And there is famine in the land which was manmade by the government of the day.
My advice to the Catholic Church in Nigeria should go like this: After the election and the Nigerian people must have secured their mandate and the true will and wish of the people have been realized through the court process which, by the way, should be the major point of our prayer now, the bishops should call on the Christians to redo their Lenten observances because this political bruhaha threw a spanner into our spiritual engine room. Even if it is for a week before April 9th we should fast, pray, and give alms so that, the joy of the Resurrection should be total and complete.