By Obed Minchakpu All efforts made in the past by Christians to have a united and common front in order to challenge these injustices have not brought about the expected results. Instead, Christians are more disorganized now than at any time in the history of the state. This is even as we meet in our churches, pray and fellowship together, but yet, we are not together in the spirit. Christians in Nasarawa State boast of being the most educated, the most politically conscious, the most vibrant set of people politically, and the most populous. And because of these factors, we believe that we should spearhead structural development of our state. In spite of these, we have not had the privilege to get into the corridors of power, or even have the opportunity to make the necessary appreciable impact in the political process in Nasarawa State. Questions that may readily come to mind are: what is the problem and what has gone wrong? Why are we not able to create the necessary and positive impact in this state? Why are we not able to take over the control of the affairs of governance in Nasarawa State? And, where have we got it wrong? Who is responsible for our plight and this sorry state we have found ourselves. Are we responsible for our undoing or those we perceive as our enemies? We may have ready answers on our finger tips to these questions. On the one hand, some may say that the reason Christians in Nasarawa State have not had the privilege to govern the state may not be unconnected with the fact that there is a gang up against Christians in the state by the Islamists who desire to control and dominate us. Others on the other hand, may say that we as Christians have not been able to forge a united front in order to challenge such injustice against us. Whatever school of thought you subscribe to in our effort to answer these questions raised above, we may not be wrong in our understanding of the problems confronting us. This paper is an attempt to answer these questions. I will provide answers to these questions from a perspective I believe is empirical. I therefore, plead your indulgence, to patiently listen to what I have to share with you here on these important life and death questions. If at the end of our discourse we are able to answer these questions with all sincerity of purpose, then I believe that we would have already began a move that would not only serve as a fulcrum for the liberation of our people who are under the firm grip of evil, but also, would have succeeded in setting the stage for our overcoming the schemes of the enemy and ushering in a new dawn in our state. I am sure that you have had others speak to you already about the situation we have found ourselves because I was told that this is not the first meeting or fellowship you're holding. I assume that others too, must have attempted to proffer solutions in various ways to our problems. What ever it is they told you in the past, I am sure that they must have identified certain vices that have contributed to our present predicament and some of these vices may be repeated here in my position paper. Whatever it is, I intend to dissect our problems through a perspective I believe is empirical, and this perspective is God's perspective. God speaks to us through his word, the Bible. And so, I will allow the Bible speak to us about God's mind pertaining the predicament we have now found ourselves in Nasarawa State. We are going to enter into dialogue with God through his word. God himself had entered into discourse with his people throughout the ages through direct contact with Adam and Eve and with Moses. He also entered into discussions with the Prophets and gave them specific instructions to penned down for the people to read. And finally, God himself incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ and dwelt among the people, preaching the gospel and teaching about his kingdom. So, what we are going to be doing here today is a continuation of a discourse between God and his people. The Bible reveals to us that our God is a God who discusses with his people and directs them to do that which is pleasing to him. We read in the Bible how the Prophet Isaiah had a discussion with God and this is what God told him to communicate to the nation of Israel. Come Let Us Reason Together: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isaiah 1:18 KJV). From what God says in this verse in the Bible, the question may be asked: What is reasoning? There are different ways of defining what reasoning is all about. But there is one definition of this term that has brought it into a clear perspective and situates it within the context of our discussion; And this definition is that presented by Wikipedia. This Online resource defines reasoning as: "Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, applying logic, establishing and verifying facts, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, mathematics, and art, and is normally considered to be a definitive characteristic of human nature. The concept of reason is sometimes referred to as rationality and sometimes as discursive reason, in opposition to intuitive reason." Reason or "reasoning" is associated with thinking, cognition, and intellect. Reason, like habit or intuition, is one of the ways by which thinking comes from one idea to a related idea. For example, it is the means by which rational beings understand themselves to think about cause and effect, truth and falsehood, and what is good or bad. It is also closely identified with the ability to self-consciously change beliefs, attitudes, traditions, and institutions, and therefore with the capacity for freedom and self-determination." Having defined the term Reasoning, I would attempt to situate and contextualized it in the context of the challenges that are confronting us, Christians in Nasarawa State. Doing so would enable us know what our problems are, their solutions, and steps we are expected to take in order to overcome these challenges. However, I know that in the course of this discourse there are issues I will raise that may be disturbing to some of us. I will not be surprise if some of us leave this place bitter about certain things I will be telling you. But let me make this clear, whatever I say here is that which comes from the word of God. I did not write the Bible, but God did. So, I am only being used by God as a vessel to communicate his thoughts and truth to you. If you find anything I say here that is unpleasant to you or very offensive to your sensibilities, your being angry at me will not change the situation. Here is an advise, if you get angry, talk to God about it. But get this very clear, I owe no one no apology. What I am about sharing with you is that which God wants me to communicate to you his people. Truth Liberates: We start our discussion on the premise that in order to be able to identify the problems that have befallen us and the solutions to them, we must first understand what point of reference we are to adopt to look at the issue at hand. We call ourselves Christians, that is, believers of Jesus Christ. And because of our claims, we cannot effectively diagnose our problem(s) without situating them within a frame of reference. Therefore, we shall be looking at this issue through the perspective of Truth. God is truth and therefore, his word is our guide in the course of this discussion. The Bible is the microscope through which we shall be examining our problems, and I can assure you that whatever we find in there will provide us with solutions to our problems. If we may ask, what is truth? Merriam Webster's Dictionary Online defines Truth as: "sincerity in action, character, and utterance." In addition, the dictionary says truth is: "a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality." From these definitions, we can comfortably say that truth is an embodiment of sincerity, the manifestation of godly character, and exhibition of truth through saying what is right and positive. The spiritual dimension of truth is that it is transcendent, that is, something that is beyond the ordinary. In short, it means, truth is the character of God and must be seen to reflect in our lives as believers of Jesus Christ. Against the backdrop of this, we would not be wrong to say that when we know the truth about our situation, we would have succeeded in solving these problems. The Bible says if we know the truth, it shall liberate us. And if this is the case, our liberation must begin with our search for truth: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32 KJV). After a careful investigation into the cause(s) of our problems in Nasarawa State, I found that the following are some of our challenges: Ungodly leadership, Disunity, Ethnic Cinflicts, and, Idolatry. These vices have become stumbling blocks on our path to development in Nasarawa State and we shall discuss them extensively here. Each of these vices would be examine in the light of the scripture and at the end of such exercise, solutions would be provided.
1. Ungodly Leadership: If there is anything that has held us captive in our state, it is the lack of God fearing leaders. We have had leaders who have not only misappropriated state resources, but have in wicked ways, stole funds meant for the provision of social services to our people. And because of this sad development, our state has continued to remain a rural state and development indices have rated us the most backward state in Nigeria. Other states created at the same time with Nasarawa State have experienced development to the point that it is even a shame for us to compare Nasarawa State with them, Unfortunately, one of the principal reasons that we know that has caused this is the lack of God fearing leaders. Christians who should have provided the state with such leaders have not been given the opportunity to do so. This has made it difficult to make a comparative analysis of our leaders based on their religious convictions. This not withstanding, some Christians in Nasarawa State have had the privilege of serving in other capacities either at the state or at the national levels. And from this, can we say that these Christians have impacted positively on the people of Nasarawa State better than their Muslim counterparts? If the answer to this question is in the affirmative, what is the prove, and if not, why is this so? The Bible says: "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn." (Proverbs 29:1 - 29:2 KJV). So, we have experienced underdevelopment in Nasarawa State because we have had wicked rulers. This can be seen in the unending ethnic conflicts that have engulfed the state. So also, the fact that in the eighteen years of the existence of our state social infrastructures have remained at abysmal level is a clear indication that those who claim to be our leaders are no other than a band of robbers. Unfortunately, our Christian brethren in political circles have not prepared themselves for the positive and godly roles they are expected to play in the act of governance. Instead, we have men and women who have betrayed the trust of their Christian brethren, and have been fighting themselves with the intent to amass wealth for themselves and their families to the detriment of the collective interest of Christians and the people of Nasarawa State. This is one of the reasons Christians have not been able to make the desired impact in the political arena in Nasarawa State.
2. Disunity: Another challenge facing Christians in Nasarawa State is that of Disunity. This problem is so pronounced that it runs through all social strata of the various communities and ethnic groups in the state. People groups from the various tribes in the state are engaged in fighting themselves over spoils of battles with perceived enemies. The thing is that, in Nasarawa State, each ethnic group is claiming that it is the most dominant and hence, power must be handed over to them. This one of the contentious issues that has made it difficult for a Christian to emerge as the governor of Nasarawa State. Such bickering between Christians is a stumbling block to the emergence of godly leadership in the state. The church has not been spared of this virus of disunity. We find ethnic groups that have conspired to take over leadership of our various church denominations, all in the name of fighting for the interest of their respective ethnic groups. Now, where is the love Christ has taught us? How can we forget that which binds us together? Are not aware of the fact that we all belong to the body of Christ, irrespective of our ethnic backgrounds? The Bible quotes Apostle Paul as writing that: "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5 KJV). What this implies is that, we may come from different ethnic groups, but because we all are believers in Christ, we are one people. Can we say this is true of Christians in Nasarawa State? If we are why all the conflicts and differences even in the house of God? Jesus warns against being disunited. In one of his teachings, Mark reports Jesus as saying: "And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand." (Mark 3:24 - 3:25 KJV). So also, Matthew quotes Jesus as saying: "And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand."(Matthew 12:25 KJV). What can we learn from the teachings of Jesus? Are we not disorganized because of our bickering? Are our villages not in desolation because mercenaries and Fulani gunmen have been invading our villages? By this development is the word of God not being fulfilled in the lives our people? We, the Christians in Nasarawa State can only do exploits in the name of Jesus both in the church and in the political arena if we see ourselves first as members of one family under the banner of Jesus Christ, instead of ethnic champions who are fighting to have their own fiefdoms.
3. Ethnic Conflicts: This also, brings us to the third challenge confronting us. I have heard stories told about the reasons we have had crisis and conflicts in Nasarawa State. And one of the reasons identified by Analysts of political events in our state is claims of land ownership which has pitched one community against the other. In all these cases of conflicts, thousands of lives have been destroyed, properties worth millions of Naira also destroyed, and thousands of persons displaced. These conflicts have brought underdevelopment to the state as our people who are peasant farmers have been displaced from their places of abodes. In short, all spheres of their socio- economic and productive activities are affected: their children are no longer in schools and basic social services provided to them are no longer being enjoyed as these facilities have also been destroyed. Why must this trend continue and What are we gaining from these conflicts? I don't believe that this is a good development for our people and Nasarawa State. We must put an end to these senseless conflicts as they will take us nowhere, except leaving us more impoverished. Let me even ask, if we chase out all our neighbors, would we be able to live happily alone? I don't think so and I don't believe this will help any ethnic group. We all need each other. It is very necessary for our communities to be a mix where inter-relatedness becomes our philosophy of development. If we truly desire to experience peace and initiate developmental projects that can ameliorate our challenges and bring about rapid infrastructural development in our state, then we must all appreciate the fact that we need to show love to each other, irrespective of our religious affiliations and ethnic backgrounds. I also do believe that we also must learn to love those who see us as their enemies as it is only through showing them genuine love that we can live peacefully with them. America is an example of a nation built on the foundation of human diversities. The people of the United States of America are from different countries and ethnic nationalities in the world. It is not possible not to find an ethnic group that cannot be found in the USA. I know of many of our people from Nasarawa State who have become citizens of America. Furthermore, Israel is another nation whose people are also from different national backgrounds. I am aware that even Arabs who are avowed enemies of Jews, have been granted citizenship of the state of Israel. In fact there are Arabs in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. This is in spite of the hostilities between Jews and Arabs. If this is the case why can't we learn to accommodate each other irrespective of our religious and ethnic diversities? Why are we killing ourselves, and what do we stand to gain by doing so? I think it is very necessary to pause here and see what God has to tell us about our situation. If we call ourselves the people of God, then we must be prepared to obey God's command as there are no two ways about this. "And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:33-34 KJV). This passage is telling us one thing, that we all are strangers in the land. And this is the truth. If we are to trace the history our various ethnic groups, you'll be surprise to know that each of our ethnic groups migrated from one part of Africa to the present abodes we all reside in Nasarawa State. What this means is that, we must all be ready to accommodate everybody, including those that have come to settle among us. We must see them too, as part of us. Forget about the notion that they will dominate you. God who has given the command that we show them love knows how to protect us from them. Remember that our ability to overcome our adversities is not by our might but by the power of the Holy Spirit.
4. Idolatry: The last problem under focus in this paper, is the challenge of idolatry. As a result of the multiple challenges already discussed above, idolatry has resurfaced amongst our people in Nasarawa State. Many think that there is nothing wrong in going the ways of our ancestors, that is engaging in fetish practices of following dead gods of the past. I don't know what the proponent of this evil theology are trying to achieve. But one thing I know is that, the devil unfortunately, has succeeded in gripping the heart of some of our brethren through this deception. I am at pains whenever I reflect on how the spiritual lives of some of us have degenerated to a beastly level. Some boast that a return to the ways of traditional occult practices or witchcraft and consulting of mediums is not a sin. The shocking thing is that even pastors in some church denominations are involved in this evil practices. This development has now forced me to raise the following posers for the proponent of this theology of evil. If these ancestral gods are powerful, how come we now have the Fulanis invading our villages successfully? Where are the witch doctors and their voodoo schemes? Why are these witch doctors not able to stop the killings going on in our villages? We cannot take God's commands for granted and think that all will be well with us. Let us see what God has to tell us about this sad development. Read Deuteronomy 18: 9-14: "When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do." (Deuteronomy 18:9 - 14 KJV) "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:31 KJV). Let us also read: 1 Samuel 28:3 -19: Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. (V3). From the above passage we see that Saul in obedience to God, killed all that were engaged in sorcery, witchcraft, and divination. Now, let me ask this question, don't we have such men amongst our communities in Nasarawa State who claim to be Christian communities? Why are we having agents of the devil living among us and misleading our people? I am not suggesting that we kill such men, as doing so would amount to an illegality in the eyes of the laws of Nigeria, but we can ask the people not to patronize them. It is incumbent on us to ban such practices in our villages. "And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die. And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing." (vs 4- 10). The nation of Israel was confronted with the challenge of insecurity. A great army from the Philistines surrounded the nation of Israel, posing great security risk to the country and the people. The leader of the nation of Israel, was distraught, he panicked and did not know what to do. And why did he panic? God had departed from him because he did not obey his commands. And because he disobeyed God, he was not able to get answers to problems confronting him, and hence, he resorted to panic measures like consulting sorcerers and witch doctors, a group of people God had warned him not relate with. We read in the Bible that when Saul consulted the witch, the Prophet Samuel appeared to him and told him that what he did has made God depart from him. And the consequences of this is that he kingship will be taken away from him and his family and he and his children would be killed in battle with the Philistines. What an irony! Let's read the passage again. "Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbor, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines." (vs 16 -19). Have we not disobeyed God by serving other gods? Have we not turn our backs on God and been dining with the devil in the name of ancestral worship? I was shocked recently to learn that some of my people, some Mada people have now resorted to panicking measures by consulting sorcerers and getting charms to wade of attacks from perceived enemies. This is not different from my Eggon brothers who of recent have been paddling the gospel of Baba Alakyo and his ancestral worship. Now tell me, how can God relate with us in such a situation? Why have we turned our backs on God and are now following dead gods, those that cannot save? Could this be the reason our enemies have succeeded in uprooting us in our villages through incessant attacks by the Fulanis? There is no doubt that the glory of God has departed from Nasarawa State because of the disobedience of those who claim they are Christians, but are seen consulting with the Baba Alakyos in our villages. The spirit of Ichabod has taken over the minds of our people as the glory of God had departed from our land. Let us also ask this question: why did God command that we should not consult mediums and spirits? The answer is this, God is a jealous God. He does not want share his glory with other gods. "For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." (Exodus 34:14 KJV). "(For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth."(Deuteronomy 6:15 KJV). "I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images." (Isaiah 42:8 KJV). In addition, it is not possible for satan to rise against himself. Both the sorcerers and Muslim fanatics who seek to dominate us are agents of the devil. Both are posses by domineering spirits. So, how can they fight for you? We would be living under illusion if we believe the devil can empower one agent to fight another agent of his on our behalf. What you see these agents of the devil do is just a deception from the devil. Jesus while speaking on this said: "And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?"(Mark 3:23 KJV). God warns us seriously about the consequences of disobeying him and serving other gods: "And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people." (Leviticus 20:6 KJV).
What Is To Be Done?: 1. Repentance of our Sins: Repentance is defined as: "the action or process of repenting especially for misdeeds or moral shortcomings." What can be deduced from this is that when one realizes that he or she has done something that is wrong and unpleasant, he or she needs to make amend. This is what is referred to as being reconciled to God. From the foregoing we have no doubt, offended God by not keeping to his commands. And in order to be reconciled to God, we must confess our sins, both personally and corporately. The word of God tells us that if we repent of our sins, our God is a merciful God, and he will listen and forgive us our trespasses. "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV). Are we prepared to have a change of heart and retrace our steps back to God? It is not too late for us to make this very important decision, here and now. Let us all stand in the gap on behalf of our people and the body of Christ. Let us repent of wrong doings. We must repent for the blood that has been shade in our land. We must also be ready to be the true disciples of Jesus who are ready to preach repentance to our people.
2. Love Each Other: Above all, we must be ready to shade off our ethnic affiliations and see ourselves as one people under the banner of Jesus Christ. For it is only when we see ourselves this way that we can conquer our adversities and adversaries. Jesus during his earthly ministry, emphasized this in his messages. The Apostle John, a disciple of Jesus, quotes our Lord as saying: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34 KJV). Jesus stresses this very important fact again when he said: "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12 KJV). Lastly, our Savior is quoted as saying: "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." (John 14: 23 KJV). Therefore, I plead with you all, that we make love to be the central and focal point of our Christian ministry. We must love all persons within and without our state, irrespective of their ethnic or religious affiliations. For it is only through love that we can conquer. This is the word of God.
Conclusion: We can only provide Godly Leadership for the church and Nasarawa State if we repent of the sins of wickedness, disunity, ethnicity, and idolatry. Corporate and personal repentance must take place in our lives for positive change to take place. It is therefore, incumbent on us to obey God's commands if we truly desire to see the change we all desire in our state. Unless we do this, we will continue to languish in self pity, and positive change will continue to elude us. It is my prayer that we shall harken to God's voice and do the needful so that we and the generations yet unborn, can be reconciled to God and witness a new dawn in our state under the banner and leadership of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen! References: 1. Wikipedia: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason 2. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/truth 3. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/repentance 4. The Bible, King James Version *Minchakpu is a Media Consultant and sent in this article from #6, Noad Avenue, Jos, Nigeria.