Like Jabez, Like Buhari By Idang Alibi

By Ikenga Chronicles February 4, 2017

The story of Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency of Nigeria so far reminds me of the story of a man in the Bible named Jabez. Told in the book of 1 Chronicles 4: 9-10, the account chronicles the life of a man dogged repeatedly by what we in our times would call ‘’bad luck’’. Jabez was not a victim or a tragic hero on account of certain flaws in his character; his misfortunes essentially laid in the hands of certain elemental forces unseen and unknown simply because of the name his mother gave him.

According to the Bible, ‘’his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow’’. And a litany of afflictions, woes, sorrows and near success syndrome became his biography.

Jabez’s story is told in only two verses but the tale of his early failures and the heartfelt prayer he prayed one day which changed his story for good are so gripping and inspiring that the two verses are among the most commented upon verses of the Bible. Some years back, a Bible scholar and preacher called Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book entitled The Prayer of Jabez and the book promptly became a worldwide best seller in Christendom.

One day in my church, a very good and imaginative Bible preacher asked us to play a ‘’Jabez game’’ by imagining and voicing out certain scenarios of the kinds of misfortunes that would have dogged Jabez’s life if he had lived in our times in order to bring home to the congregation what life was really like for Jabez, until his change came.

One man said if Jabez wrote the common entrance for admission into our country’s Federal Government Colleges better known as Unity Schools and the cut off mark for his state was 120, that Jabez would score 119 and miss out on gaining admission to one of these prestigious schools. Another said that if Jabez had a very important appointment to see a very important man in his office in Maitama or Asokoro in Abuja that would change his story, that Jabez, in all probability, would take off from his home somewhere in Auta Balefi, an outpost village that is very far from the centre of Abuja, Federal Capital Territory. That, knowing his perpetual indigence, he will most likely enter an ‘’El-Rufai bus’’ that would stop at every bus stop and that every traffic light on his way would turn red at his approach and he will end up missing the very important appointment by about one hour!

Another said that when Jabez comes of age and a fair damsel that is the desire of every young man of his age came onto the scene, Jabez would have an honest design on this fair damsel and persuade his parents and elders in his family to make a move on his behalf. The delegates would arrive at the damsel’s parents’ house and make their intentions known only to be told that another young man had come with a delegation only the previous day for a formal introduction!

Smarting from this disappointment, Jabez would approach not a very fair spinster who is 38 and whose marital passport is about to expire, yet even this Still Searching Spinster (SSS) would cup her index finger with the finger next to it and whip it round her head and curse that she would rather remain a perpetual spinster than marry the likes of Jabez!

Church was great fun that day as so many interesting scenarios were painted to dramatise and vividly bring home the many misfortunes  of Jabez but let me limit myself to these few. But from the narration so far, we can see the near similarities in the misfortunes that befell Jabez and what is befalling Buhari. Buhari’s presidency seems to have been born into a catalogue of sorrows.

However unlike Jabez, Buhari’s presidency was not born in sorrows. He came into office with an approval rating that is only comparable to Murtala Mohammed’s and a fund of good will that was sky high. But that seems to be the only positive Buhari has over Jabez and the only parallel from Jabez’s story.

Shortly after Buhari sat on the presidential chair and looked around, he discovered he had no money to fulfill his many promises to the eagerly expectant people of Nigeria. The treasury was empty. In the course of time, oil prices fell dramatically. Not long after, some foreign investors who invested in our domestic economy reportedly took away about 80 billion dollars creating the foreign currency shortages we have since been battling with.

The BBOG campaigners who helped to bring the Goodluck Jonathan government down and who seemed like erstwhile comrades- in- arms to Buhari’s APC, turned antagonists and have since made the presidency hellish for him. A group called the Niger Delta Avengers also came calling and sought to avenge six decades of neglect of that golden region on a government that just happened on the scene for the right reason but at the wrong time.

Suddenly money that used to flow like tap water has ceased and many are saying Buhari, a frugal, austere and parsimonious Fulani man, has decided to dam the flow to punish Nigerians for being too profligate.

Fulani herdsmen have decided to unleash the type of terror that was not seen in previous times, leading to speculation that they have been emboldened to perpetuate their mayhem because a fellow Fulani now sits on the throne of Nigeria where impunity is the name of the game.

Murphy’s Law that anything that is destined to go wrong will go wrong seems to hold true for Buhari. Every attempt to correct things seems to fall flat. Petrol price was adjusted upwards last year to put an end to long fuel queues instead of outright deregulation of the downstream sector of our oil-dependent economy. Now subsidy issue has reared its ugly head again. What will Buhari do in order not to be damned by Nigerians? If he deregulates, there will be trouble and if he does not deregulate, there will be trouble. The man is caught on the horns of a dilemma. In many sectors, not -easy -solutions challenges assail the man. Many are loudly asking, ‘’is this the type of change that we bargained for?

Since the second quarter of last year, the Nigerian economy went into a recession.  As if there will be no end in sight to Buhari’s woes, Standards and Poors, a rating agency, is reported to have downgraded  Nigeria, passing a vote of no confidence on the efforts to revive the economy. Everything seems to be bursting at the seams for Buhari and Nigeria.

Some of us feel genuinely sorry for Buhari. In the boom and burst life of Nigeria, the man seems destined to always arrive at the juncture when Nigeria is experiencing a severe burst. In 1983, he arrived a day after the NPN lavish party had left the treasury empty and now he also arrived just when our years of collective profligacy and foolishness have left us prostrate.

I have been taught that every incident recounted in the Bible, every man or woman that is mentioned therein is done to teach us what is good or bad, to counsel us on what to do or not to do. This, I have learnt, is the whole purpose of the Bible. What, then, should Buhari do to overcome the series of misfortunes dogging his presidency, taking example from our friend in the Bible called Jabez?

We are told in verse 10 of the aforementioned book of the Bible that, ‘’But Jabez prayed to the God of Israel, ‘Bless me, God, and give me much land. Be with me and keep me from anything evil that might cause me pain’; And God gave him what he prayed for’’.

Like Jabez, I think Buhari needs to cry out loud to God to enlarge the coast of Nigeria and reveal to him all the hidden treasures of his country so he can reflate its prostrate economy. He also needs plenty wisdom to know which fights to fight, which ones to avoid and for the fights he must fight, the right timing for fighting them. I am sure if he does this from his heart, God will hear his story of pains and grant him reprieve. Like his ‘friend’ Jabez whose happy-ending story was told from the beginning thus: ‘’And Jabez was more honourable than his brothers’’, I want the end of his story to read: ‘’And President Muhammadu Buhari was more successful than all his predecessors’’.








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