By Femi Adesina
Our country is at war today on many fronts. Nigeria battles insurgency, terrorism, banditry, kidnappings, armed robbery, cult killings, ritual murders, and war of tongues.
War of tongues. Is that a new one? No, it’s as old as man, but it is perhaps the deadliest of all the wars. It is fiercer than insurgency, terrorism, banditry, kidnappings, armed robbery, cult killings, ritual murders, all put together.
A war of tongues has been unleashed on Nigeria, her leadership, anyone in government, in fact anybody serving the country in one capacity or the other. Want to become an enemy of the public? Then just take a position in government, major or minor. Irrespective of where you were coming from, your stature and station in life, you become an enemy. You may have served creditably in the military, rising to become a General, been a military head of state, headed the Petroleum Trust Fund exceptionally, and now a two-term civilian President, a war of tongues that is so virulent and mind-boggling, is unleashed against you.
A vicious war of tongues is raging in the country, and from President Muhammadu Buhari, down to the least political appointee in government, no one is spared. And who are the warriors? So-called social activists and commentators. Newspaper columnists. Talk show hosts on TV, radio, influencers on social media, bloggers, anyone who can afford an Internet-enabled smartphone, politicians, and very embarrassingly, clergymen. The ones who should teach us to bridle our tongues. They say things that make the flesh tingle, with a chill running down the spine. No grace, no decorum, using words that are not seasoned with salt. Do they read another Holy Bible? Another Holy Quran? Holy Moses!
President Buhari left these shores on March 30 for “routine” medical checkups. Mark the word: routine. Did you hear all the ululation that attended the announcement and the trip? War of tongues: oh, he’s sick again (as if there’s anyone who’s 100% healthy. If there is, let’s see the person). Resident doctors are going on strike, the President is traveling! Couldn’t he have built world class hospitals in Nigeria within the six years he has been in government? He’s going on medical tourism again! How much is the trip costing us o? Are we sure he will come back anytime soon?
To take it to very ridiculous level, some Nigerians in London organized a ‘one million man march’ (attended by a huge crowd of five people), went to the Nigeria House where they said the President was staying, and attempted to “force him back home.” People in the gall of bitterness, overtaken by paroxysms of hatred.
The executive, legislature, judiciary, military, police, indeed, all national institutions are the butt of war of tongues. You find all sorts of commentators in the media condemning everything and everybody, but themselves. In their lives, they have probably never been a class monitor, not to talk of school prefect. They can’t even run their riotous homes, with obstreperous children and wards, yet they come out to abuse the President daily. A man who has ruled as military officer, was brought back 30 years later because of his sterling records, and running a second term in office as democratically elected leader, yet they call him all sorts of names on TV, radio, social media, simply because there’s freedom of speech. But ask them what they have achieved in life, compared to that of the President, and they are blank.
There is a rabid focus on negatives in Nigeria today. Agriculture revolution. Infrastructure renaissance. Prudence and probity in government. Doing a lot more with a lot less revenue. IMF revises growth projection for the country upwards. Nobody talks about that. It doesn’t interest them. They only focus on job losses. Poverty rate. Killings, maiming, unhappiness. Yes, those are germane, but too much sunshine makes a desert. That is not all there is to Nigeria. “Life is like being out on the sea,” said the philosopher, Marcus Aurelius. “A body has to take the rough and the smooth.”
No government would love to see its citizens killed. Maimed. Displaced. Unhappy. And if anything, the Buhari administration is doing so much in battling the insecurity in the land. But sadly, it faces another deadlier war-the war of tongues. Why don’t we pause and think that it is the only country we have, and begin to speak better, more positive things?
I am surprised at some of our clerics, particularly the Christian ones, since it is the religion I am more familiar with. They speak as if they read another Bible. They preach hate from the pulpits, propagate falsehood, generate animosity against government. And when these things are fully grown, the animus boils over, leads to violence and upheavals, lives are lost. Don’t these preachers of hate know that they are liable, and won’t be found guiltless? May God save us from war of tongues, even from those who should be showing us examples.
As you speak into the ears of God, so shall He do to you. (Numbers 14:28). When we speak evil about our country, and its leaders, it comes back to us. What we say is what we get. It is an inexorable spiritual law. Sow wind, reap the whirlwind.
In Nigeria of today, if there are no issues to bellyache over, some people will create one. There must be no quiet time. The war of tongues must continue. Pity.
However, what we don’t know is that war of tongues is a two-edged sword, which cuts both ways. It wreaks havoc on the person wielding the sword, and on whom the blow is directed. “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. So is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the whole course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell.”
War of tongues cause acrimony, discord, disharmony. But let not the person who causes that war think he will get away with it ultimately. His tongue eventually gets set on fire of hell. (James 3:6)
Nigerians, let’s watch it.
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity