The Nazarene peasant whose earthly father was a carpenter rose to international fame for so many reasons. He was born in a manger among goats and sheep. Today, over a billion people swear by his name. They swear by his name because his life is a compass, a total compendium of examples, a mirror of definitions. His life answers every question, illuminates every riddle, and provides definitions for everything.
We must examine such an exemplary life for a lasting definition of peace. The Nazarene peasant had two definitions of peace. One is the absence of conflict and chaos. Chaos could be a function of wars or of the anger of the elements. That is why he told the raging tempest and winds:
“Peace, be still.”
And they all sweetly obeyed his will.
And no water swallowed the ship where lay the master of ocean and earth and skies. And no grave in an angry deep had power over him.
Another day, another time, the Nazarene peasant gave the world a second definition of peace. The second definition should be the most important for his followers in the corrupt backwaters of Africa and the Third World. He defined peace as the absence of corruption. He defined peace as zero tolerance for corruption.
And this is where he adds a class dimension to his conceptualization of peace and fair. He says there can be no peace and no fair in the land when a class of people is perpetually allowed to corrupt the land. For him, peace is when you take decisive and resolute steps to deal with corruption; fair is when you deal with corruption in an all-encompassing manner, with no possibility of a soft landing for anybody.
To avoid any misunderstanding of this second definition of peace, the Nazarene peasant gave a practical demonstration. He took a koboko and went to the greatest haven of corruption in his day – the Temple.
And he flogged and drove away all the moneychangers. And swept the Temple clean of corruption.
No moneychanger was left unflogged and unpunished.
Had a euphemism committee appealed to the Nazarene peasant to “be fair” to the moneychangers, it would not have worked. He would have said that he sees fair from the perspective of the victims of the moneychangers, the victims of their corruption. He would have told them that his definition of fair is appropriate punishment for corruption without fear or favour.
Had he encountered goats and sheep as he furiously flogged corruption out of the Temple, my spirit tells me that he would not have developed a soft spot for the only companions he had in that humble manger. Goats and sheep were his benefactors because they shared their abode with his mother when she was in labour. Yet, goats and sheep would not have benefited from nepotism and special favours.
Oju wa ni won se bi – goats and sheep are the singular owners of this eye witness narrative of his birth but had he encountered them during his anti-corruption sweep through the Temple, he would not have treated them differently from the moneychangers. Every goat and every sheep would have had to account for every yam eaten.
These are the issues for President Buhari to reflect upon as he is subjected to one and the repeated visit by the Soft Landing-General of the Federation, Abdulsalami Abubakar. This retired General is a clear and present danger to President Buhari’s integrity narrative. How Buhari handles him will determine whether we can take his anti-corruption war seriously. It will determine whether Professor Itse Sagay will be allowed to function and deliver.
President Buhari went to the United States and talked the talk about the Halliburton bribery scandal. He said he would reopen that file. The creme de la creme of Nigeria’s leadership received and shared USD 180 million in bribes from Halliburton. Three former Heads of state were fingered in this bribery mess. Abdulsalami Abubakar is one of them. And that is not mentioning the monumental disappearance of funds he presided over in his short spell as Head of State.
President Buhari, how are you going to proceed with the Halliburton case when one of the indictees is constantly visiting you on soft landing (fairness is a euphemism) missions? He started with Hajia Desinatu. President Buhari, how is Professor Sagay to feel when he sees you in photo-ops with a man who may soon come to the attention of his committee? You have said that there will be no sacred cows in this new anti-corruption business. No sacred cows means no photo-ops with potential subjects of investigation and prosecution. The Nazarene peasant would never have entertained a handshake from any of the moneychangers he drove away from the temple.
President Buhari, one of your visitors owns a private jet. Recently, that jet was involved in a very messy affair in South Africa. That messy affair was supervised by the corrupt and discredited former national security adviser. Because the owner of that jet was untouchable under your immediate predecessor, an official lie was fabricated to cover up the mess and dissociate him from the money laundering and gun running scandal his jet was used for. Needless to say, nobody is satisfied with the tall stories told about how his jet came to be involved in such a messy affair. It is a file that you will have to reopen. This man should not be doing photo-ops with you until we are sure that we have no yams to retrieve from him. The Nazarene peasant would have been particularly harsh on this man. Did he not warn that “many shall come in my name?”
When next a committee visits you, look at the composition and receive only the credible people in it. There are unassailable public role models in that committee. Stick with those names and the public will not be jittery that they are visiting you. But the two I have mentioned make me nervous. They make the country nervous.
One last word for you, President Buhari. Do not joke with your personal security. Corruption is powerful. Corruption fights back. If corruption pleads and cajoles and appeals and you refuse to play ball, corruption will try to take you out – especially if you truly and genuinely move beyond talk and body language to actually touch that deadly Halliburton file. Stop your foolish populism of breaching your security instructions to mingle while you are fighting corruption.
Corruption fought the Nazarene peasant.
Corruption elevated Barabbas the thief above him.
Corruption conspired with the political leaders of the land to hang him on the cross.
Unfortunately for corruption, burdens are lifted at Calvary.