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On the adoption of official prayer


The recent adoption of the second stanza of the National Anthem as the official prayer at all public functions by the Federal Government reflects Nigeria’s much-talked-about religiosity – a religiosity which ironically does not reflect in the country’s leadership, and indeed hardly influences our individual and collective endeavors. I addressed this paradox last year in this column under the title “Nigerians’ Ironic Religiosity” (Daily Trust, Friday, 2 September 2011).

Anyway, on receiving the news of this adoption I succumbed to a spontaneous and regret-induced smile, especially after learning that the logic behind the adoption is to discourage division along religious lines, which “separate prayers by different religious faithful at public functions” create, according to the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency, Mr. Mike Omeri.

Obviously my regret is not about the prayer per se or its adoption as official prayer. After all, whether this or any other religious prayer is adopted as official or not, I am already convinced that its recitation will always remain a mere normal practice in the agenda of official functions, without having any impact on the intents and acts of the officials in attendance.

Therefore with such conviction in mind my expectation in the system (if any) is too low to warrant any sense of disappointment in the first place. In other words, having felt consistently disappointed in the past by successive Nigerian officials, I have developed the appropriate mindset to keep my expectation in them at the lowest level; lest I develop unnecessary high blood pressure.

My regret is on how they always seek to drag the Holy Name of the Almighty into their messy and indeed unholy terrain of thievery, injustice and corruption. Incidentally, the practice of holding the Qur’an while taking oath of office, for instance, is in the same vein with such adoption of official prayer.

I really wonder what explains Nigerian officials’ fondness of pretending to involve God, the Almighty, in their official practices though they deliberately and unrepentantly betray the trust bestowed upon them. Is such fondness out of sheer ignorance of His Omnipotence, or is it simply out of doubt of His knowledge of their hidden intents?

Granted, we all commit sins – after all, nobody is perfect, and actually one needs not to be necessarily pure before he prays to God the Almighty – but one needs to be completely sincere in at least what he prays about, and to ensure conformity between his intent and his act on at least the particular needs he prays for.

Moreover, there is a difference between a spontaneous sin, which we regrettably commit in the course of our day-to-day endeavours, and a systematic looting of public funds through some phony procedural processes deliberately created with a view to perpetrating and entrenching the culture of breach of trust against a whole nation.

In other words, there is a difference between a person involved in spontaneous sins, who also consistently prays to God for forgiveness, and someone who effectively prays to God to enable him to succeed in committing sins and indeed prays for God’s “guidance” to successfully commit as many sins as possible.

An “elected” public office holder, for instance, who has manoeuvred himself to victory through rigging, or a political appointee, who has bribed his way into office and yet is reckless enough to place his palm on the Qur’an while taking oath of office, pledging to be just, honest and diligent in discharging his duties while in the depth of his heart he looks forward to enriching himself illegitimately and is prepared to dance to the tune of some individuals to whom he owes his appointment, is actually either doubtful of God’s knowledge of his mind or simply disrespects Him altogether.

In essence, most of the prayers recited before the commencement of official functions hardly if at all go beyond the tongues of the attendants, which explains why as soon as they are recited the officials start manipulating some mathematical equations to add, multiply and subtract figures to eventually loot and share public resources amongst them before they end the meeting with another round of prayers.

In reality, this adoption of official prayer is part of such unnecessary distractions to which Nigerian elite gives undue attention, having no concrete schedules to pursue and no political will to tackle the country’s persistent socio-economic and political crises. As matter of fact, I don’t rule out the adoption of unified religious occasions, and perhaps even a unified official religion for that matter, in order to end division on religious basis amongst Nigerians once and for all.

This hypocritical attitude of shadow chasing has to stop if we really want to get things right. And even if there is a real need to adopt an official prayer, I don’t believe such adopted stanza from the National Anthem is enough, considering the level of rot in the country’s body system. I believe that there is need to reword it in such a way that it inspires transparency and cautions against any foul play in discharging the official duties assigned to each individual.

I therefore humbly compose and propose the following draft prayer, which I suppose will serve the purpose better. It reads as follow:

“Oh God of creation, exert your wrath on whoever amongst us nurses any selfish ambition and intends to pursue it at the expense of public interests.

“Oh God, unleash all sorts of afflictions to him/her to gradually but consistently torture him/her, paralyze his/her limbs and bog down his/her fortunes in an overwhelming mess that will do away with it in no time.

“Oh God expose his/her intent, disgrace him/her and subject him/her to ridicule for the rest of his/her miserable life.

“Oh God of creation, grant your mercy to whoever amongst us renders his service with sincerity and keeps the public trust bestowed upon him/her.

“Oh God, guide his/her undertakings to success and bless him/her to the end of his/her meritorious life on earth and beyond.

I believe if this draft prayer, or any other prayer of similar style, is adopted and its recitation made compulsory during all official gatherings, it will over time clean up the country’s mess by divine interventions. After all, the mess persistently proves too sticky to be cleaned by human beings.

By: Mohammad Qaddam Sidq

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