FEATURE ARTICLE

Sam AwedaWednesday, February 27, 2008
samaweda@hotmail.com


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A NEHEMIAH, MAY GOD RAISE FOR US IN NIGERIA

srael war commandant and hero, General Joshua, the son of Nun finally led the Israelites to their ancestral home after the death of Prophet Moses after they exited Egypt.


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The Scripture recorded that after Joshua and his generation died, the generation that followed did not know the Lord. The three centuries following 1375 BC when Joshua died, when they had Judges as their rulers were described as the period of 'apostasy' when, "Every man did that, which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6; 21:25) They did all the evil, which the Lord expressly forbid them. They forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt and followed the gods of the people that were round about them. They provoked God to anger. So the anger of the Lord flamed out against Israel and He delivered them into the hands of their enemies (Extract, Judges 2:6-15). The worst was yet to come.

The invasion of Jerusalem and its suburb in 605BC by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon and the suffering it inflicted on the inhabitants; including women, young girls and children is said to be the worst catastrophe that befell the Jews in the Old Testament history. There was serious hunger and starvation. The breast milk of nursing mothers dried up. Tiny babies wailed for food and then collapsed upon their mothers' shrunken breasts. (Just as it has been happening in many Nigerian homes since the 1980's) Jeremiah could not hold his tears until there were no longer tears in his eyes to shed. (Extract from Lamentations 2)

The affliction, which they suffered as reported by Jeremiah who wrote the book of Lamentations was as a result of cumulative sins from 1375 BC (approx) when Joshua died, till 605 BC (770 years approx), when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon first struck. The incidents that led to the hardship, which Jeremiah described is summarized in 2 Chronicles and I quote:

"All the important people of the nation, including the High Priests, worshipped the heathen idols of the surrounding nations, thus polluting the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. Jehovah, the God of their fathers sent His prophets again and again to warn them, for He had compassion on His people and on His Temple.

But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words, scoffing at the prophets until the anger of the Lord could no longer be restrained and there was no longer any remedy. Then the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them and killed their young men, even going after them right into the Temple and had no pity upon them, killing even young girls and old men. The Lord used the king of Babylon to destroy them completely. He also took home with him, all the items, great and small, used in the Temple and treasures from both the Temple and the palace and took with him all the royal princes. Then his army burned the Temple and broke down the walls of Jerusalem and burned all the palaces and destroyed all the valuable Temple utensils. Those who survived were taken away to Babylon as slaves to the king and his sons until the kingdom of Persia conquered Babylon. Thus the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah came true, that the land must rest for seventy years to make up for the years when the people refused to observe the Sabbath" (2 Chr 36:14-21).

Since God is ever faithful, at the end of 70 years, He fulfilled His promise of mercy and He stirred up the heart of their captives to let them return to their home.

The postexilic record produced several Jewish governors in Jerusalem from 539 BC when the first batch of captives returned. Nehemiah was yet to be born till many years later. In captive, he became king Artaxerxes cupbearer and had prospered. He got distressing news about Jerusalem and other captives who had returned to Jerusalem. The people (Jews) were in great affliction and reproach (similar situation which has confronted the majority of Nigerians for a long time) while the wall of the city was broken down and the gates burned with fire. He became burdened for his country and was prompted into prayers and fasting. The result was that, the king not only permitted him to go and rebuild the city wall; but was provided with protective escort and every material that were needed to re-build the city (Neh 1-2:9). He returned in 444BC and became the governor in Jerusalem for the next 12 years, 432 BC, when he led and supervised the construction of the city wall.

Nehemiah as Governor, dealt decisively to end the suffering (hardship) of the common people who were being extorted by the rich ones. The rich ones, Jews themselves, who most probably also brought their wealth from Babylon were profiteering on the poor people who had to sell their children or mortgage their fields, vineyards and homes to them (the rich men) in exchange for money to buy food. Some couldn't even do again because they had borrowed to the limit to pay their taxes. They protested to Nehemiah:

"We are their brothers, yet we must sell our children into slavery to get enough money to live. We have already sold some of our daughters and we are helpless to redeem them, for our fields, too, are mortgaged to these men" (Neh. 5: 5).

Nehemiah was angry with these rich people. At a public trial, he shouted at them and called their practice by the appropriate name 'evil'. He pleaded with them to stop the business of usury, restore the fields, vineyards, olive yards and homes to their poor owners immediately and drop any claims against them. Nehemiah invoked a curse of God upon any who refused, saying:

"May God destroy your homes and livelihood if you fail to keep this promise" (5:1-13).

It is worth it, to note that Nehemiah, in all the 12 years he was Governor (444 - 432 BC) when he worked prayerfully, relentlessly and selflessly to end the plague of his nation, he received no salary because according to him,

"The bondage was heavy upon this people" (KJV) or in the LB "They were already having a difficult time" (Neh 5:18).

"I would like to mention that for the entire 12 years that I was governor of Judah, my aids and I accepted no salaries or other assistance from the people of Israel. This was quite a contrast to the former governors who had demanded food and wine and a $100 a day in cash and had put the population at the mercy of their aids who tyrannized them; but I obeyed God and did not act that way. I stayed at work on the wall and refused to speculate in land; (i,e. Nehemiah did not travel out for once throughout his tenure as governor but faced the duty of rebuilding the country). I also required my officials to spend time on the wall (i.e did not allow his ministers to be attending "o wa nbe parties" all over the countries). All this despite the fact that I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides visitors from other countries! The provisions required for each day were one ox, 6 fat sheep and a large number of domestic fowls; and we needed a huge supply of all kinds of wines every ten days. Yet I refused to make a special levy against the people, for they were already having a difficult time" (Neh. 5: 14-18). i.e Nehemiah imposed no tax, nor VAT nor increased the price of gasoline all the years he was governor.

Father, God raise for us in Nigeria and other countries of the world that are suffering, millions, who will have the mind of Nehemiah.

It is worth it, to note that Nehemiah, in all the 12 years he was Governor (444 - 432 BC) when he worked prayerfully, relentlessly and selflessly to end the plague of his nation, he received no salary because according to him,

"The bondage was heavy upon this people" (KJV) or in the LB "they were already having a difficult time" (Neh 5:18).

"I would like to mention that for the entire 12 years that I was governor of Judah, my aids and I accepted no salaries or other assistance from the people of Israel. This was quite a contrast to the former governors who had demanded food and wine and a $100 a day in cash and had put the population at the mercy of their aids who tyrannized them; but I obeyed God and did not act that way. I stayed at work on the wall and refused to speculate in land; (i,e. Nehemiah did not travel out for once throughout his tenure as governor but faced the duty of rebuilding the country). I also required my officials to spend time on the wall (i.e did not allow his ministers to be attending "o wa nbe parties" all over the countries). All this despite the fact that I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides visitors from other countries! The provisions required for each day were one ox, 6 fat sheep and a large number of domestic fowls; and we needed a huge supply of all kinds of wines every ten days. Yet I refused to make a special levy against the people, for they were already having a difficult time" (Neh. 5: 14-18). i.e Nehemiah imposed no tax, nor VAT nor increased the price of gasoline all the years he was governor.

Father God, raise for us in Nigeria and other countries of the world that are suffering, millions, who will have the mind of Nehemiah.

In the midst of prevailing hunger, poverty, hopelessness and suffering across the length and breadth of Nigeria, joblessness of College graduates, comes the following headline as provided by the Sunday Vanguard:

Aso Rock budgets N2.3million daily for refreshment....N1.5m for eye glasses

Written by Emmanuel Aziken, Leon Usigbe and Tordue Salam, Abuja

Sunday, November 18, 2007

THE National Assembly has been allocated N65 billion out of the N2.5 trillion spending plan for 2008 proposed by President Umaru Yar'Adua. N2.2 billion of the proposal has been earmarked for food, details of the proposal obtained by Sunday Vanguard have revealed.

The Presidency including the State House has been allocated N26.9 billion in the 2008 spending plan with N1.301 billion going for feeding and refreshment in the State House.

The N1.301 billion feeding plan for Aso Rock Villa is broken into N827.4 million for refreshment while another N474.06 million has been proposed for the procurement of food stuff in the State House. In effect, the Presidential Villa would be spending about N2.3 million and N1.3 million daily for refreshment and procurement of food stuff respectively.

This budget proposal confirms again the submission of the former World Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz, when he was the World Bank chief in charge of Africa announced some years ago on a visit to Lagos that the ruling class of Nigeria constitutes only 1% of the entire population, yet it (ruling class) consumes 80% of the nation's wealth, leaving the rest 99% of the population to scramble for the rest 20% of the wealth.

I do not understand how Aso Rock villa could be so insensitively audacious to propose 2.5 million Naira/day for refreshment alone in a country where millions go to bed hungry, where millions live in shamble houses, where millions do not even have shambles to lay their heads, where uncountable do not have money to procure medication for their simple ailments and they die unnecessarily, where salaries of workers are unrealistic with market values. N2.5 million/day, in one month can inject into the employment market 8,300 youths on a salary of N9,000/month.

No one is protesting that entertainment of guests shouldn't be done at Aso Rock villa. No one says personal money should be used neither. Of course, in the historical excursion just narrated, Nehemiah did, with huge amount of his personal money. Prof. Wole Soyinka did not earn salary from the Government when he worked for the Road Safety. Someone recently appointed in Rotimi Amaechi's River State Government, whose name I can't remember, promises to do. Just a couple of days ago, I seem to hear a 3rd Republic Senator, David Dafinone, on AIT said he did not take salary as a senator.

This is where the much-noised 'rule of law' has its lapses. The proposal is made under the rule of law BUT is it one with human face in the midst of woeful poverty that most citizens are facing? Nehemiah refused to use government money but his own money to run the affairs of the state because "His people were already having a difficult time".

The money will be released to the officials in the Aso Rock villa under the rule of law and it will be retired (accounted for) under the rule of law but the question is what percentage of the money is really spent on entertaining guests of the allotted N2.5million/day and what percentage goes into private pockets? I bet the servant leader will hardly drink a can of soda a day and I can bet he does not drink beer. It is cheering to read that he has not dipped into the fund allocated for security.

I am always baffled, miffed, pissed off and at a loss when I travel through the towns, villages and cities of Nigeria and see beautiful architectural masterpieces of mansions from the blues in isolation (while the majority of the citizens live in squalor) and I am told that one civil servant or some public office holders own them. You will wonder whether their legitimate income all their service years can ever account for those properties. The mansions are the rewards of such budgets made under the rule of law but ends up in private pockets. They do it without fear and get away with it because ours is a country where no questions are asked about the source of wealth of anyone until the recent coming of the EFCC. And how many can the EFCC follow? And the masses rather than isolating the thieves, hail them with the notion that "Who will be in the vantage position and not do the same?"

I was very impressed with the former Speaker of the house, Alh. Bugaje. I hope I got his identity correctly. It was at the day of honour in respect of the late Chief S.B Awoniyi at Abuja on Thursday 29 November last year, 2007. The Alhaji stood up to announce that he begged to differ from previous speakers at the occasion. He said of one thing that always bothered him and which he was never shy to put across to the late Chairman of the Arewa Consultative forum, Chief Awoniyi. Bugaje said that hardly would there be any weekend when there would not be a gathering of who is who in the North for one ceremony or the other; be it wedding, naming of a new born, funeral, birthday etc involving spending of lots of cash, yet there would be one person, somewhere in the North who will need only N1000.00 for medication of his ailment but will not have it and will die. What a decent voice! Such voices should identify themselves to campaign to those with stupendous wealth to become Nehemiahs for Nigeria.

Alh. Musa Balarabe recently lamented the domination of politics by the ex-military Generals. They are able because they got all it needed. "Money", which they made from the peoples' treasury when they ruled the Nation in uniform. Their rule was largely responsible for the woe, which has plagued the nation. And after they removed their uniform, they and their civil Servants collaborators hijacked the civil rule, to remain the beneficiaries of the Nation's wealth, leaving the masses pauperized. Someone must counsel them that it is time they follow the example of Nehemiah. Someone thinks that is too much? After all, the money they call their own is actually the peoples' money and they should be happy to render further services without any further rewards because "The ordinary citizens were already having a difficult time"

Sam Aweda is President & Snr. Pastor, Jesus for the World Revival

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