Many of us may have heard that ‘Believers’ are the Five Wise Virgins, and that ‘Unbelievers’ are the 5 Foolish Virgins while others have been told that the Foolish Virgins are those who lack the ‘Oil’ of the Holy Spirit.
The parable or story of the Ten Virgins is one story I love to tell. I have told this story over and over to the Sunday School class in my local church and still observed the same excitement in the different batch of the children.
Looking at the Igbo question and the way we have proceeded in recent time , I find this parable relevant, hence I am retelling the story here with the hope that it will help us as a people to revaluate and prepare us for the journey ahead if we must avoid being found among the Foolish Virgins.
When some of our youths embarked on the mission to restore Biafra, we the elite class condemned them as misguided on the assumption that a restructured Nigeria remains a better option.
We spoke of restructuring without really making any conscious effort to clarify and determine what restructuring will mean to our people.
If we look closely in the Scriptures at the characteristics of the Wise Virgins and the Foolish Virgins, we can determine whether in the present circumstances we are among the Wise, or among the Foolish. Then from what we see in the Scriptures, we can decide to get ready and be better prepared.
In Mathew 25, 1-13, Jesus told us that ‘’the kingdom of heaven is likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh’’.
President Buahri’s speech at the UN General Assembly where he struggled to condemn political and social marginalisation of Muslims around the world without a single thought on the atrocities of his own government, especially his very unfriendly disposition towards the Igbo and Christians in Northern Nigeria and of course Governor El-rufai’s Chatham House conversation where he spoke eloquently in support of a restructured Nigeria , something all of our South East governors are too timid to canvass.
I do not know why and how and at what stage El-Rufai transformed from Saul to Paul but I do know that at UN and the Chatham House the world has provided us with a rare opportunity to challenge the commitment of our leaders to the peace and unity of Nigeria using their own very words, but it seems we are too distracted to notice.
On President Buhari’s speech at the UNGA, I know for sure that he does not write his speeches and that he lacked the historical and current affairs information as contained in those remarks for if he does , he has not demonstrated any sense of history by the way he has grappled with the challenges of office.
I nevertheless acknowledge that his speech writers were at their best capitalising on his religious and tribal sentiments when they included Yemen, Myanmar, Bosnia, and Rwanda with regards to injustice to Muslims and ethnic cleansing in those countries. They also made him talk about the Palestinian people once again.
If Buhari supports self determination in Palestine then he should allow those who want to be independent in Nigeria the freedom of expression and association as provided in our constitution. I dare President Buhari to lead by example.
Also at the UNGA, President Buhari talked about restructuring of the UN whereas he is opposed to restructuring in his own country. Many of the world leaders listening to him who are abreast of current happenings in Nigeria were left wondering what manner of a leader that Nigeria is unlucky to be gifted as a leader.
His speech writers deliberately played on his military ego as a general by letting him talk about how the region is being kept under check with Nigeria’s (ECOWAS) intervention in The Gambia and Ivory Coast. They also made him talk about a UN Security Council delegation to North Korea which he said should include members from all regions. He conveniently forgot that the security council in his own country does not include the Igbo speaking South East of Nigeria. That he has refused to run an all inclusive government is one of the reasons for the Biafra agitation.
At Chatham House , Governor El Rufai did the unthinkable by consenting to nearly all features of true Federalism and restructuring. According to Rufai who I believe was speaking for the preponderance of the Northern establishment, he said ‘the Federal Government needs to shed weight and return powers and resources to the states where most government functions can be more efficiently undertaken. For the states to take on these powers, they need to access a greater share of the nation’s resources. And we need to sort out the notion of citizenship so that every Nigerian can enjoy the protection of the constitution wherever they choose to reside.
“In many communities, people still use the notion of ‘indigene -ship’ to consign compatriots to a position of ‘settler’ and, by implication, perpetual exclusion from enjoying the full political, social and economic opportunities guaranteed by the constitution to every citizen.”
El-Rufai also identified 12 contentious issues, including the creation or merger of states, derivation, fiscal federalism, devolution and what should constitute the federating units.
I align myself with the position of El-Rufai which is not very different from the position of the South West and to a large extent the demand of the minority tribes.
What appears lacking in the entire debate is the Igbo position. What does restructuring mean to the Igbo? Talk to ten Igbo leaders on the issue , and you will get ten different answers. What does the Igbo want? Else we are caught napping like the five foolish virgins, I think it’s time for us to eschew our bile and bitterness, and begin a painstaking process of identifying the kind of a restructured Nigeria that we want. Do we want a restructuring where the South East is given an additional state or restructuring based on the reconfiguration of the regions to pre 1966 era or a restructuring that will address the excesses and ills of Nigeria that made the nation unworkable. May be when we take the time to examine and analyse the issues with an open mind we may discover we all want a better Nigeria after all .