By Sr. Prof. Theresa Okure, SHCJ
Many pastors, men and women of God have been making all kinds of prophecies about the outcome of 2023 presidential elections in Nigeria. Prophecy in the Bible, in Israel was not primarily about predicting the future. It was about helping the people to see God present and acting among them, to understand the consequences of their actions and their failure to live up to their Covenant with God. Biblical scholars call them “the conscience of Israel”. Even future predictions had bearings on the present. In the days before the institution of the monarchy, Moses was both their leader and prophet, so too Eli and Samuel. We leave aside the period of the judges.
Prophecy in Israel arose as a separate institution (for want of a better word) when Israel demanded a king in order to be “like the other nations” (1 Sam 8:1-22). They felt that God had let them down in the battle at Aphek against the Philistines during which the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines and the two sons of Eli died (1 Sam 4:1-11). After God had granted them their desire for a king (1 Sam 8:22), and Samuel had died, prophecy arose in Israel as God’s way of staying outside the system to sanitise and liberate the human system and its structures from self-damage.
From then on, we see God acting within the community through the prophets, “the conscience of Israel”, who kept urging the people to remain faithful to their covenant relationship with God or face the dire consequences of failure to do so. The most devastating of such failure being the Assyrian deportation of the northern kingdom (1 Kgs 17:23) and the protracted Babylonian exile of the kingdom of Judah (2 Kgs 24:10-25:26).
In short, prophecy in Israel, in the Bible, is principally about the presence and action of God among the people on daily basis. Jesus was “the Prophet from Nazareth”, a place from which according to Nathanael, a member of his region Galilee, nothing good could come (John 1:46). Yet he, God-Word Become Flesh (John 1:1, 14), chose to be “called a Nazarene” (Matt 2:23).
Where does this very brief review of biblical events lead us with regard to the 2023 presidential elections in Nigeria? It invites us all to be prophetic and to discern, see and know God’s action in Nigeria today with respect to these elections. Christians are baptised into Christ, Prophet, Priest and King. So all have and are endowed with the gift of prophecy properly understood.
We are endowed with the gift to see, discern and proclaim God’s presence and action in this country and particularly in this current presidential election process, so that we can align ourselves with God’s action and encourage all Nigerians to do so, regardless of our and their party preferences and affiliations. It invites us to be thankful to God for the evident new deed that God is doing to liberate Nigeria (and through Nigeria our beloved African continent) from years of collaborative oppression, exploitation and impoverishment of the masses.
God’s New Deed in and for Nigeria
“Behold I am doing a new deed, even now it comes to pass, can you not perceive it?” (Isa 43:19)
So what are the clear signs that God is at work, doing something new in Nigeria; to bring to birth a new Nigeria? Let us discern and itemise them.
1. Since 1993, the Catholic Church has been praying minimum once a week at Sunday Masses all over the country the “Prayer for Nigeria in Distress”. We add to this the many other prayers currently being said, and the “Prayer for Free, Fair and Peaceful Elections in Nigeria”, still by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN). Faith moves us to believe that God is clearly answering these prayers now in our days through the events of the presidential election.
2. In Scripture when God intervenes to end evil and oppressive regimes, systems and their structures in favour of the people, especially the downtrodden and the oppressed, God does the following:
a) God works outside the system (kingship and priesthood) to sanitise it. Amos, the first of the writing prophets was a sycamore dresser from the south sent to proclaim God’s word to the northern kingdom that had constituted themselves in place of God. We see this in particular his confrontation with the priest Amaziah at the shrine of Shiloh (Amos 8:10-17). In our case God has intervened, not through the age-old APC and PDP (to cite the usual two leading parties), but through the Labour Party.
What are the clear signs of God’s intervention through the Labour Party (LP)?
i) This Party emerged to prominence from nowhere, so to say; and suddenly became a major threat to the regular, reigning parties APC and PDP, who have been described as birds of the same feather: their members move freely from one party to the other.
ii) In this party, a presidential candidate resigned to give place to Peter Obi, of whom it is reported that LP members sought to lead their party. Has this ever happened in Nigeria: that one candidate would cede to another without being bribed?
iii) People from other parties did everything possible to disqualify Peter Obi from running as the presidential candidate of the LP. They did not succeed.
iv) This party has the family. the core of society, as its logo: father, mother and child. Their logo is not the broom whereby the people in the party sweep all the wealth of the nation into their pockets and the pockets of their stooges and leave the masses in abject poverty, exposed to insecurity and banditry without visibly lifting a finger to stop it. Nor the umbrella where the party protects itself from economic sun and rain and leaves the people, the masses, to the mercy of the inclement weather of poverty and insecurity.
v) This party is called Labour Party. That means the people and the masses have labour, work, as their ethos. They are ready to work hard, to labour to make Nigeria become the country of their dream, of God’s dream and desire for everybody, father, mother and child, of every Nigerian. God commissioned the first human beings God created in God’s own “image and likeness” (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1-2) to work, to labour: “cultivate and take care of” the garden (Gen 2:15), not to loot, pillage and plunder the earth’s or nation’s resources: “Your own labours will yield you a living, happy and prosperous will you be” (Ps 128:2). God’s first employment given to human beings was to work, to till the soil. The Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi, has said over and over again that Nigeria needs to get back to the land to begin to feed its citizens and export to other countries. Agriculture is one of its major means of revamping the nation’s economy.
3. In Scripture, when God intervenes decisively, God works with and through the youth and from people who are counted by the powers that be as nothing. Examples:
a. David fought the giant Goliath, a most seasoned and formidable warrior, with only his catapult and sling and faith in God (1 Sam 17:32-54);
b. Daniel rose from nowhere against the seasoned old evil doers and judges bent on unjustly killing Susanna (Daniel 13);
c. Esther defied the order of the king to save her people because of her faith in God
d. Mary of Nazareth (Luke 1:26-38), Yes, of Nazareth, a place from which no good could come! God chose her to give birth to “the Saviour of the World” (John 4:42). “God has looked upon the lowliness of his handmaid, servant, slave. Yes, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:46-48).
e. Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah: “the one Moses and all the prophets wrote about. He is the son of Joseph from Nazareth. From Nazareth! Can any good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:45-46), he was from Nazareth in Galilee a region that proverbially “does not bread prophets”, talk less of the Messiah! (John 7:52). Yet the Messiah was not only from Nazareth in Galilee, he was God Word become flesh (John 1:1, 14).
f. The “young man named Saul” at whose feet the killers of Stephen (to protect the old system) laid his or their garments (Acts 7:57)”. God made him apostle of the Gentiles.
g. The Early Christians “illiterate” Galileans (Acts 4:13); many of whom were not well born or of noble birth (1 Cor 1:26-31), Yet God made them the bearers of the gospel that has revolutionised the world and has reached us today.
h. Generally, when God intervenes in Scripture in a war situation, God throws confusion into the oppressors’ camps. We see the internal conflicts in the APC and PDP camps, Moslem-Moslem ticket in a multi-religious nation, inner quarrel within the PDP in their choice of candidates, even against their constitutions.
Applying the Scriptural Evidence More Directly to Nigeria
1) The Nigerian revolution is clearly a movement of the youth. Rightly has the Obedients’ movement been called End Sars Phase Two. The enemies of the new Nigeria could destroy the first phase of the peaceful End Sars at Lekki Toll Gate because they were located in one place. This time they are all over the country. Further, they have managed to carry along with them many and even prominent grownups and most thinking Nigerians.
2. We add to this the integrity of the characters and records of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates for the Labour Party. And their watchword about their claims: “Go and verify”; their records give evidence why their word about their ability to revamp Nigeria should be trusted.
3. We think of the name Peter Obi himself. The rock on which God is building his nation Nigeria. The rock against which the forces of darkness, ignorance and selfish political ambition cannot and will not prevail. According to his running mate, Datti, Obi left the PDP because he could no longer tolerate the commercial aspect of the Party. “When you can do, you do; when you cannot do you move out and look for something new.” Both of them left the PDP in 2022. They stopped lamenting and sought actively for something new, the new Nigeria.
4. We think of the name that Obi’s teeming youthful followers have given themselves: Obedients. People who are ready and willing to be obedient to God and embrace God’s will and ways for Nigeria. The talents that have emerged from this Obedients movement are truly admirable. A foretaste of what awaits the New Nigeria.
The Nigerian Revolution: The Battle to Save and Own Nigeria as a Nation
It has been said severally that what we are witnessing is not just politics as usual, but a movement, a revolution. In this revolution, like all revolutions, the revolutionists do not need or wait to be paid; they recognize the need to be free and take it into their hands to effect their liberation (we think for instance of the French Revolution). In the political campaigns of the Labour Party, the youth do not wait to be enticed with voting money. They are out in the streets to promote their candidate, whether or not their candidate is present.
Actually the issue at stake is not Obi, but the nation, Nigeria. Obi comes in, in terms of character, experience, competency, record, because the youth see in him the person who can lead them to their desired promised land of Nigeria.
It has often been said that Nigeria never formed a nation. We were lumped together by the colonial masters. That was in the past. Today Nigerians are claiming that they are and want to remain one country. Everybody in the campaign and in the current cash crises is talking about Nigeria. The government needs to tell the Nigerian people. Nigerians are suffering; there is insecurity in Nigeria, etc. The dream of the formidable Dora Akunyili for Nigeria, “Great people, great nation”, is becoming a reality. She may have died or been killed; her legacy lives on and is today espoused by all thinking and well-meaning Nigerians.
The battle for one Nigeria today in this presidential election may be compared to what the Americans went through to make their country one nation. For the first time in Nigerian history, Nigerians are rising up to fight to protect, retain and own their nation as one nation.
Strong Caveat: Need to Beware of the West
While all this is true, we need to be aware of the subtle and open policies of the West (America, Europe, China in particular) to sabotage Nigeria’s rise to glory. Because if Nigeria ever rises to its God given glory, their game of exploitation will be over. Once Nigeria rises and becomes a formidable united nation in Africa, the centuries of exploitation of the continent will be over. There are videos upon videos to show that the West will not take this lying down. Because if that happens and succeeds, Nigeria will become the first world and Africa too, while the West will become the third world. By God’s doing, they will not succeed.
The Nigerian revolution, seen as God’s work, does not aim at impoverishing any other nation, black or white. All peoples belong to God (Ps 24:1-2). God wants the welfare of all the people that God has created out of love. Still we need to be watchful of foreign efforts to sabotage the birth of the nation, using unpatriotic or ignorant Nigerians to do so. Coming like wolves in sheep’s clothing. Ready to kill any African leader whom they cannot manipulate. As God lives, they will not succeed this time.
This sole purpose of this reflection is to strength our faith and hope in God. God works through us; we need to use our little sling and catapult to serve as God’s instrument to save Nigeria. Our little sling and catapult, like that of David, is our PVC, to vote come 25th February 2023. Some and even many of us have been disenfranchised by INEC for whatever reason, so that we will not be able to vote for God’s candidate for us. That does not spell failure of our ability to vote. The conclusive vote is that of God.
We all have another PVC, which neither INEC nor the politicians can buy, divert, nullify, render useless in the electoral process. That PVC is our united faith in God; our grateful recognition of what God is already doing in the country, and our firm faith that despite all hazards, the Labour Party candidates will win the election come 25th February 2023. It is only a matter of days. God told Ahaz when the coalition of two enemies were at the gate closing in to overrun the Judah, “If you do not stand by me [Emmanuel, God with you, God in your midst] you will not stand at all” (Isa 7:8-9). Let us, all Nigerians, stand firmly by God for God’s victory in this election.
The growth of the teaming youth in the country and across different faith affiliations, the fact that peoples of different faith affiliations are campaigning for the success of the Labour Party presidential candidate free of charge, is a clear sign that God is in our midst and that we do want to stay with, and stand by God, so as to make Nigeria stand firm. As the youth say, it is not Emi lo kan, but Awa lo kan. It is our turn, the turn for Nigeria. God’s time for Nigeria and through Nigeria for Africa, is now. No amount of force, politicking, sabotage and intrigue can defeat God’s clear work in and for Nigeria. To God be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
Please, brother, sister, help to get Nigerians, everyone in the nation at home and abroad, to reflect on God’s prophetic action in Nigeria. To see this action of God as the assurance that the birth of a new Nigeria is not only possible but that the birth pang time has come awaiting its birth on 25th February 2023. Let no Nigerian leave themselves out of this new deed that God is doing for our beloved country. Since it is God’s doing, everyone will be a winner, a winner joyful and happy to partner with God in building the new Nigeria. It is better to be foolish believing in God, than to be wise and fearful, failing to believe.
Sr. Teresa Okure, SHCJ (PhD)
Professor of Scripture (certified by the Congregation, now Dicastery,
for Catholic Education, Rome)
18th February 2023