Sunday, 10 November 2013

'A day with Jesus for Nigeria in Israel'

Once upon a time, Nigeria prided itself on its ‘radical’ foreign policy, which essentially meant supporting the Palestinians against the Israelis and the blacks against the whites. South Africa has since moved on, as the Palestinians must now be ruing following President Jonathan’s four-day visit to the Holy Land. The occasion, the first by a sitting Nigerian head of state, was apparently both spiritual and political - the Wailing Wall on the one hand, the Knesset on the other - hence the 3000-strong delegation of honourables and pastors (often one and the same) who accompanied him thither. Whether we ought to conflate the secular with the profane is questionable but then we never tire of telling ourselves that we are a religious people, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
As one might have expected, some of our Moslem brothers had a problem. Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, the ‘outspoken Islamic scholar and Grand Khadi of the Northern Region of Nigeria’, called the visit ‘a big political blunder’ and opined on his Facebook page that, ‘Nigeria along with many other African and world countries has sided with the plight of the Palestinians that were forced out of their homeland, killed and scattered,’ but then proceeded to spoil his case by indulging his anti-Semitism. Claiming that ‘the Jews...are traditionally known to be misers’, and that, ‘Charity is not in there [sic] lexicon’, he wasn’t above quoting Matthew 23:33: ‘Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?’ He should have stayed with his Koran. The Messiah was referring specifically to the Pharisees and scribes (themselves outspoken scholars in their day) who might be more fruitfully likened to our jet-setting pastors: ‘For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.’
Significantly enough, our Sheikh was silent on the myriad pilgrimages made by our past heads of state-but-one to Mecca. He might also have mentioned the N4.3bn spent annually by the federal government extending this facility to every street-corner Mallam – ‘And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers’ – against the N1.35bn for Christians intent on Jerusalem, itself just one of the disparities that might be expected to harden Pharaoh’s heart, as indeed his disciples have loudly articulated, for instance Asari-Dokubo: ‘Whether they contest or they don’t. If they say the blood of the dogs and the baboons will be soaked in the streets, or salt water in the streets, we will help them in blood in the streets.’ And this from the erstwhile militant who is now said to be building a university in neighbouring Benin Republic, having bemoaned the lack of facilities back home, the reason for his militancy in the first place, but it is now ‘our’ turn to chop and God (or Allah) help Nigeria.
As to why ‘My people them go dey follow Bishop/ Them go follow Pope/ Them go follow Imam...’, as the late Fela put it, might be a question our Grand Khadi should ask himself. And whatever one’s views of Israel – whether one believes, for instance, that it has inherited South Africa’s mantle, as Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of separate but equal, claimed: ‘they took Israel away from the Arabs after the Arabs lived there for a thousand years. In that, I agree with them. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state’ – we know at least that the country works. So much so, in fact, that we once imported orange juice from there before it was banned even as oranges rotted by the roadside in Nigeria (and continue to do so), and now we are hearing about the $40mn contract awarded to an Israeli arms manufacturer – Elbit Systems – to monitor all internet activity in Nigeria, including, presumably, the traffic emanating to and from Aso Rock – but they were doing that already.
In fact, Jonathan’s trip had less to do with the photo-ops at the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Sea of Galilee and all points in between and everything to do with the War on Terror, which his Israeli counterpart assured him was a matter of mutual concern: ‘This is important for us Mr. President, but I believe it’s important for Nigeria, I believe it’s important for Africa, for the countries of the Middle East, and for the world’. Jonathan concurred: ‘Combating the menace of terrorism is a challenge that we must address in partnership with all peace loving countries and peoples of the world. I seek the cooperation of your country to confront the security threat from terrorist groups that my country is now facing.’
There’s no denying that we are deeply embedded in our very own, very self-inflicted war on terror – lower case - but the two can hardly be conflated. Israel’s war is not ours and it is difficult to know what we gain by identifying so closely with a country which flaunts its double standards, currently being played out over Iran’s rapprochement with ‘the West’. Israel assures us that Iran has ‘systemically defied’ UN Security Council Resolutions but remains silent on the many resolutions which it has itself systematically defied. Israel points out that Iran signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and so cannot be allowed to develop the nuclear weapons which Israel, widely believed to be a nuclear power, has itself not signed. Israel argues that Iran now possesses the ability ‘to produce nuclear weapons’ but omits to mention that so do Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands.
There was a reason why Gowon, a Christian like Jonathan, severed diplomatic links following the 1973 Yom Kippur War (and restored, ironically, by Babangida, a Muslim, in 1992). But why we should tie ourselves so closely to its apron strings is something of a mystery. Bringing Jesus into the matter, as Jonathan insisted on baptising his pilgrimage in the quote which heads this blog, only underlines his muddle-headedness. As for me, I'm a Rastafarian and I want the federal government to pay for me to go to Jamaica.
© Adewale Maja-Pearce
Adewale Maja-Pearce is the author of several books, including Loyalties
and Other Stories, In My Father's Country, How many miles to Babylon?, A
Mask Dancing, Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, From Khaki to Agbada,
Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays, A Peculiar Tragedy, and
Counting the Cost, as well as the 1998 and 1999 annual reports on human
rights violations in Nigeria. He also edited The Heinemann Book of African
Poetry in English, Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal, Christopher Okigbo:
Collected Poems, The New Gong Book of New Nigerian Short Stories,
and Dream Chasers.

Click here to see Maja-Pearce's page:


  1. But as a Rastafarian shouldn't you be on your way to Ethiopia ?


  2. Me I am a traditionalist o! Where do I drop my passport? Second bass jare!!!