- “If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives.”
- “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”
It was David, the shepherd boy who became a king, that penned the immortal words that best describe my feelings since the military occupation of Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park, where millions of Nigerians from all walks of life gathered together in a civil protest against a tyrannical and punitive policy of President Jonathan’s government. These words were not penned in a hurry; they were penned during the period a young patriot and his companions were running away from the injustice of an insane king. David, the son of Jesse, said:
- “Woe is me, that I dwell in Meshech, That I dwell among the tents of Kedar. My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war.”(Psalm 120:5-7)
As it turned out, there was a regime change in David’s domain, and in favour of seemingly rag-tag soldiers at the beginning of the impasse; such a phenomenal turn around that makes the words of Robert Ingersol true and applicable: “I am the inferior of any man whose rights I trample underfoot. Men are not superior by reason of the accidents of race or colour [and, if I may add – by reason of office, status, stature, or transient power]. Rather, they are superior who have the best heart, – and the best brain. The superior man stands erect by bending over the fallen. He rises by lifting others.” As part of SNG’s efforts towards de-freezing social mobility and unblocking the minds of our people, my humble contribution to this town hall meeting is titled: “Understanding How Power Works”. 1. Power is first an idea, or, if you like, a perception. The power I face is the power I perceive. Someone else’s power over you is your perception of their power. Their power is your thought. The source of their power is in your mind. Jesus of Nazareth – a Man attested by God to Israel – responded to Pilate, the Governor General of Rome in Israel – after he spoke these words:
- “Then Pilate said to Him [Jesus] Are you not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have power to crucify you or power to release you? Jesus Answered, You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given to you from above. Therefore, the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:10 & 11)
So, you see, the power you face is the power you perceive. 2. The power others possess over you and I is the power we give them. Their power is our gift. Therefore, if I have endowed people with powers they do not possess, then I face my power, do I not? My own power has become my opponent; my enemy. Under S.14 (2) of the Nigerian Constitution, it is stated that “power shall reside in the people from whom government shall derive its authorities and power“. The same Constitution also spells out that “the welfare and security of Nigerians shall be the primary purpose of government.” So what do we now make of the arbitrary use of that power by the government against the citizens who gave that power to the government in the first place? It is simply the abuse of power. Fellow Nigerians, the power we deliver to a power entity is akin to depositing our money at a bank. Before we open an account, the bank has no power over us or our money. The bank derives its power only after we deposit our money. Therefore, you find that:
- i. Your money is subject to the bank’s rules;
- ii. Your bank can use your money as it chooses;
- iii. It can co-mingle your money with other people’s money;
- iv. It can lend your money and earn interest on it;
- v. You can only take your money back if you follow certain procedures established by the bank;
- vi. It can co-mingle your money with other people’s money;
- vii. You must stand in line with others who have also given their money to the bank;
- viii. If you attempt to withdraw more than your deposit without prior approval of overdraft facilities by the bank, you could face penalties, in spite of the bank’s profit from your money lent to others with interest;
- ix. After you put your money in the bank, you become a mere account number alongside other account numbers;
- x. If, due to mismanagement, the bank goes under, your money, without your consent, goes down with the bank. How much you are able to recover from your deposit is subject to the decision of the regulating bodies
Fellow Nigerians, your bank deposit is like your vote, which is an acronym at the SNG for “Voice Of The Electorate” – V.O.T.E. Without we who bestow power on those in authority, those with power are powerless. If you are tired of any power entity – your bank, for example – you can withdraw your money before it is too late. In like manner, you can raise your voice against the abuse of power given by you to any power entity for the purpose of your welfare and security. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s all in your hands. Since the Ojota Freedom Park Rally, a new wind has been blowing across the Nigerian political landscape. It is the will of the people against the power of incumbency. Without a shadow of doubt, a new dawn of People’s Power is here. And, irrespective of how the fuel subsidy issue is concluded, Nigeria cannot be the same. Nigerians have discovered themselves this year. We must use our new-found strength:
- i. To re-negotiate our union. The time is ripe for a people-oriented constitution;
- ii. The system of governance must be restructured so that the rights, privileges, duties and responsibilities of the federating units are cleared spelled out;
- iii. We must initiate the process of just remuneration of Nigerians and their public servants in all the arms of government;
- iv. The prosecution of corrupt officials and their cronies in the corporate world must be on the front burner. In addition to ensuring that those found guilty are fully penalised for criminal enrichment, according to the law, we must equally demand just restitution.
Let me conclude this afternoon by drawing your attention and that of the government to what I call the three (3) rapid destroyers of any society, namely:
- a. Ethnicity
- b. Religious Bigotry, and
- c. Economic Deprivation
We must rise as a people to quench these negative fires and prevent them from spreading further. If we don’t, a conflagration is at hand, the end-product of which may be national disintegration, instead of the much-touted transformation.
For us to transform this nation, leadership must disembark the arrogant horse of brutality and embrace civility. Power can only be exercised in the service of that which is ostensibly good. Power is like gasoline. Spread aimlessly over the landscape, it can result in an inferno, causing untold harm. Correctly contained, it can cook our meals or transport us and our goods from place to place. As Plato said, “Access to power must be confined to those who are not in love with it”. Nigeria will be a better nation when the power of love replaces the love of power. Thank you for listening. God bless you all, and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
PASTOR ‘TUNDE BAKARE
Being text of speech delivered by the Convener of Save Nigeria Group (SNG) during a town hall meeting at Memorable Gathering in the Central Business District, Alausa, Lagos, on Monday, the 23rd day of January, 2012.