I have largely stayed away from commenting on the kidnap saga that is currently the buzz in Nigeria, due mainly to the fact that there have been conflicting details regarding the whole episode and a lot of controversy has generated due to the sketchiness of the information which until recently came in trickles.
It had also become clear that we as a people were beginning to lose our sense of shock, not only at the brazen violence inflicted on Nigerians by the Boko Haram sect, but also at the total inability of the government to arrest the situation and stopping it from assuming the dangerous dimension that it has now taken. I guess this is borne out of the fact that week after week of news of bombings, killings and kidnappings had begun to take its toll on all of us and we were all beginning to accept it as normal.
As shameful as that may sound, it pretty much sums up our “collective response” to the happenings in the North due to Boko Haram, until now.
It is however not my intention to “psychoanalyze” Nigerians or presume to speak for over 160 million people. My desire is to examine the issues on hand, not only as a Nigerian, but especially as a Christian who lives in a Nigerian context.
So then, what do I, as a Christian, make of all of this?
God is Sovereign (Psalm 115:3; Daniel 4:35 NASB):
Well, what did you expect?
This is my basic starting point and it is at the heart of all that helps me to make sense of everything.
But what has that got to do with Boko Haram?
God, the Scriptures say, “HAS MADE EVERYTHING FOR ITS PURPOSE, EVEN THE WICKED FOR THE DAY OF TROUBLE.” – Proverbs 16:4 This clearly shows that God is in fact in control of the situation, as troubling and out of control it may seem, and that Boko Haram, with all its murderous rage, will not (because it cannot) take one life more than has been decreed by God. The truth about God’s sovereignty also means Boko Haram’s days are numbered. That there will be an end to all this. Despite the gross evil perpetrated by this group or its seeming invincibility, despite all the cache of weapons the group may claim to possess (or in fact possess) and despite all its intention to establish its agenda through bloodletting and wanton killings, it will pass from the scene at the appointed time. “YET A LITTLE WHILE AND THE WICKED MAN WILL BE NO MORE; AND YOU WILL LOOK CAREFULLY FOR HIS PLACE AND HE WILL NOT BE THERE.” – Psalm 37:10
God is Just (Deuteronomy 32:3-4 NASB):
A caller on a call-in program I was listening to on the local radio station, expressed very cautious optimism about the latest news by the DSS (Directorate of State Security) on the capture of those behind the Nyanya bombings. He said something to the effect that, “I hope they don’t go ahead and release them after they have publicly paraded them”. Now that may sound a bit far fetched, but one thing is clear; Nigerians do not exactly have great confidence in our Justice system. I can imagine the frustrations of those who have lost loved ones since this insurgency began, either at the hands of Boko Haram or at the hands of the authorities, in the case of mistaken identity. I can also imagine the frustration of those who have hoped for speedy justice against the killers of their relatives but instead have to endure the very slow grind of the “wheels of justice” in our nation. All this coming together makes one wonder whether these murderers will ever face justice. Well, as a Christian, I am comforted by the fact that God is not only sovereign, God is also just. The Scriptures affirm, in 2 Chronicles 19:7 “NOW THEN, LET THE FEAR OF THE LORD BE UPON YOU. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU DO, FOR THERE IS NO INJUSTICE WITH THE LORD OUR GOD, OR PARTIALITY OR TAKING BRIBES.” I therefore know that not one of the perpetrators nor their collaborators, will escape God’s righteous judgment. It is rumored that these terrorists have support from people in government and this means some of them may escape justice. But as a Christian I rest in the knowledge that NO ONE will escape what they justly deserve from God. “ASSUREDLY, THE EVIL MAN WILL NOT GO UNPUNISHED…” – Proverbs 11:21
God is good (Psalm 100:5, 145:9 NASB):
In January of 1971, Idi Amin, the then commander of the Ugandan Army overthrew the government of his boss, Milton Obote in a military coup; about 8 years later, between 300,000 to 500,000 Ugandans had been killed, murdered at the hands of their own government. In April 1975, the Communist Party of Kampuchea, led by Saloth Sar (later known as Pol Pot) came to power in Cambodia; in just 4 years of his rule, an estimated 1 to 3 million of his own people lost their lives due to the policies of his government. Need I speak about Adolf Hitler, who saw to the annihilation of nearly 6 million Jews within a period or 4 years or Josef Stalin who also murdered many of his countrymen. All these murders were carried out by governments that were “ordained by God” for the purpose safeguarding their citizens. (Romans 13: 1-7) As humans, our starting point in nearly every calamity is that we are recipients of what we do not deserve and that if God was truly good, He should not have let this or that evil befall us. We have become so used to God’s mercy, so used to being spared the consequences of our individual and collective rebellion such that whenever the Lord sees it fit to refrain his hand and allow us reap the fruit of our actions, we are quick to point the finger at the Divine. In spite of how deserving we are of a government akin to the ones described above, in spite of how utterly devoid of the fear of God our rulers have proved to be, the Lord has been pleased to spare us the pain of being led by a murderous government. God is indeed good. Furthermore, God has spared this nation from the calamities that a government unprepared to fight terrorism could impose on its people. “OH GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD, FOR HE IS GOOD, FOR HIS LOVINGKINDNESS IS EVERLASTING.”- Psalm 107:1
Governments are ordained by God (Romans 13:1-7 NASB)
Not only does the Bible make this very startling assertion, it goes on ahead to state exactly what purpose any government is ordained by God for. In verse 4 of Romans 13 it says, “…FOR IT IS A MINISTER OF GOD, AN AVENGER WHO BRINGS WRATH ON THE ONE WHO PRACTICES EVIL.” The Bible also does not state any further task for governments beyond this task of punishing the practitioners of evil and thus, by implication, commending those who are law abiding. This singularity of purpose is also clearly implied in verse 6 of Romans 13, “FOR BECAUSE OF THIS YOU ALSO PAY TAXES, FOR RULERS ARE SERVANTS OF GOD; DEVOTING THEMSELVES TO THIS VERY THING.” It is therefore amusing to see governments attempting to do everything except the singular purpose for which it exists, while it fails woefully at its reason for being, “punishing evil doers”. I am therefore often amazed when I read or listen to people attempting to “sell” administration after administration as successful on the basis of its “economic policies.” Imagine commending a government for staying out of what it has no business doing in the first place and ignoring the ONE THING for which the Lord God Almighty ordained it. Of course this means that men who are in authority and yet fail at their duty will be judged by the righteous Judge.
Governments fail because they are peopled by men who at their very core are rebellious against God (Romans 1:18-32, Romans 3:9-16 NASB)
There is no other reason why governments fail apart from the fact that there is no fear of God in the hearts of those who govern. While I don’t believe that a person must be “a Christian” to rule a local government, a state or the nation; I believe that a fundamental criterion of some modicum of morality is required for anyone to successfully rule a nation. Now, the bible does not give the qualifications required for holding political office the same way it does for those who would seek to either lead a family or shepherd God’s people (I guess the reason is that the mandate for rulers is quite simple – punish evil doers); that is why I am not particularly interested in where a man comes from or what he professes as his faith as long as he has a track record of making morally sound decisions and he has enough fear of God in him to confront evil.
As a Christian, I speak against all this (Ephesians 5:11-12 NASB),
Especially against the lack of will on the part of government to confront evil, not because I think they will listen, but as a witness against them so that they have no excuse. I have nothing to say to the Boko Haram sect, because the Boko Haram sect has been appointed for destruction; and the instrument of God, with the duty to bring about that destruction is the government (Romans 13:4). So, if government does not rise to its responsibility, as a Christian, I have the duty to point it to its complacency as a witness against it.