I believe that this universe was created out of nothing, an endless boundless, universe. There is a Creator – the First Mover – according to the great deist philosophers. But I am not a deist like the Jewish-Dutch philosopher Baruch de Spinoza. Neither do subscribe to the god of the theosophists and the masters of the occult. I believe in the Creator-personal God; the Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; a personal God who knows me by name. For only a personal Creator could have created sentient beings such as ourselves; beings who enjoy the enchantments of love, the beauties of the setting sun, the symphonies of Mozart and the immortal sonnets of Shakespeare.
I believe that all men and women are made in the image and likeness of the Eternal. And He made us to fellowship with Him. And because this is so, all life is sacred. I believe in the philosophy of the Franco-German thinker, musicologist and medical missionary Albert Schweitzer. His theology may have been rather dodgy, but his heart was in the right place. I share his philosophy of reverence for life – Erfurt vor dem leiben. I therefore do not believe in capital punishment; believing that it serves society no purpose to take the life of even the worst of killers.
Yes, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I was born into the evangelical reformed tradition of the missionaries that visited the Middle Belt of Nigeria at the end of the nineteenth century led by a German–English missionary known as Dr. Karl Kumm. But I am also a believer in the unity of the body of Christ. I believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic church. I believe in the priesthood of all believers. I am completely at home with teachings of the Catholic Church and with all denominations that teach the true gospel of Jesus Christ. But I am increasingly drawn towards the Eastern Orthodox faith: the Fathers of Alexandria, the monks of Mount Athos and the saints of the Russian Orthodox communion.
I believe in the communion of saints and in the life to come. I do not believe that this world is all there is to it. If everything were to end in this world then we would be of all men the most to be pitied. There is life after death and there are only two destinies open to human souls: those who live pure and holy lives will live in everlasting joy with the Almighty and the angels and saints; those who pitch the camp with the demons will roast with him in everlasting flames. God is a God of justice. He is holy. Nothing unclean can come near Him. And only the pure in heart shall see His face.
I am also persuaded that there are elements of truth in all religions. I learned some Quranic verses as a child. I still know large chunks of them by heart. Some members of my extended family are of the Muslim faith. And because I lived and worked in the Arab-Islamic world, I am very much at home with Muslim culture. I am in awe of the Golden Age of Muslim civilisation, particularly Medieval Spain and Cordoba, al-Andalus and Samarkand. I have been in awe of the medieval Arab-Muslim thinkers such as al-Farabi, al-Kindi, Ibn Khaldun and Jalaluddin Rumi. I have a fellow-feeling with modern Muslim intellectuals such as Mohammed Iqbal and Ali Shari’ati. I believe that Muslims and Christians are all children of Abraham.
I happen to believe that the Jewish people are the first-born of Abraham, the father of faith. I am at home with the Talmud and Zohar. I have drunk deep from the fountains of Jewish mysticism –the Baalshem Tov, Martin Buber and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Jewish philosophers have always resonated with my deepest intellectual quests; from Albert Einstein to Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin and Yehezkel Dror. I believe in the Jewish philosophy of vivek olam. It teaches that humanity’s vocation is to partner with God in making the world more perfect.
I am also a student of the Bhagavad Gita and the other sacred texts of ancient India. I have been in awe of the royal priest and Emperor Asoka as I am of the realism of Kautilya. I have been influenced by the great cultural renaissance that gave birth to modern India – Rabindranath Tagore, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. I have been influenced by Gandhi’s teachings about nonviolence.
Two figures that have inspired me for much of my life were directly inspired by Gandhi. The first is the German protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945). Bonhoeffer was the son of an upper class German neuropsychiatrist and eminent professor of medicine. He earned a doctorate in theology at the precocious age of 21 and was among the first voices to rise in opposition against Adolf Hitler as early as 1933. In a famous radio programme Bonhoeffer condemned the concept of Fürher as a sacrilege against God Himself.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer must have changed his mind at some stage on the applicability of nonviolence in the circumstances of Nazi Germany. He joined in the underground movement to assassinate Hitler. When the plot was discovered he was imprisoned and eventually executed in April 1945.
African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr (1929-1968) was indubitably the greatest disciple of Mahatma Gandhi in the twentieth century. The King approach to nonviolent social resistance resonated powerfully throughout the United States and beyond. His message was embraced by white men and women of conscience, including the likes of influential evangelist Rev. Billy Graham who supported King both financially and morally.
As evil increases in our world, while intolerance, injustice and violence become the defining feature of our age, we need the message of Gandhi more than ever before. We need Satyagraha in the way we do our politics and in the manner in which we exercise leadership. For my part, I have been a Gandhian since my teens. I have never lifted my hand to commit violence and have never advocated the use of violence against any individual or group. I believe that love conquers hatred. To love even those who hate and revile you is to have the Mind of Christ.
I am also an admirer of late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first and only Prime Minister. I believe in his ideals of “Mutumin Kirki”, i.e. in terms of integrity, humility, compassion and love of justice and fairness. Mallam Aminu Kano, whom I met as an undergraduate at Ahmadu Bello University, is my ideal of the organic intellectual and progressive politician. Like him, I aspire to serve the talakawa with dedication and commitment. The late Chief Solomon Daushep Lar was like a father to me. I identify with his politics of emancipation. I admire Nnamdi Azikiwe as a great nationalist and one of the founding-fathers of our country.
I am also deeply influenced by late Eze Dr. Akanu Ibiam, one of the greatest Nigerians of all time. As a young man I used to visit him in Uwana, Afikpo. I revere the late Chief Simeon Adebo, the greatest civil servant Nigeria has ever produced. He was our Chairman when I was a young Research Fellow at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru. I am inspired by the ideals of goodness and virtue as found in our great Nigerian culture. The Yoruba define it as “Omoluabi” while among Ndigbo it is known as “Ezigbo mmadu”.
But my greatest inspiration in terms of leadership philosophy is Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo. He was an economist, lawyer, philosopher and statesman of the highest order. When he passed away, the London Times obituarist declared that he was a man who could have headed any western country.
He once confessed: “While many men in power and public office are busy carousing in the midst of women of easy virtue and men of low morals, I, and a few others like me, am busy at my desk thinking about the problems of Nigeria and proffering solutions to them. Only the deep can call to the deep.”
I believe that if Awo were President today, he would have brought his profound scientific mind to bear on the enormous challenges facing Nigeria today. For one thing, he was extremely parsimonious with respect to public finances. He would have stemmed the mindless borrowing that has blown our national debt to more than N18 trillion. He would have ensured that we cut costs across all departments of government to free enough money to finance vital development projects.
He would not have left the arduous business of governing in pursuance of common thieves. Rather, he would have put in place effective systems to checkmate financial haemorrhage. He would also have reorganised the civil service to ensure a developmental state apparatus that delivers optimal performance rather than the Byzantine nightmare of grand larceny, nepotism and sloth that we have today. He would have applied rigorous management principles to supervising and implementing infrastructure projects. He would have tackled frontally the electricity and power deficit.
Awolowo would also have taken bold steps to reorganise the military and salvage the morale of our armed forces which is today at its lowest ebb. He would never have borrowed to fight Boko Haram, just as he did not borrow to execute the civil war. He would have called the bluff of the Fulani militias.
Above all, he would have placed a premium on education, innovation and full employment. He would have launched an industrial revolution; constructing world-class infrastructures. He would have built high-speed rail networks linking the entire country. He would have embarked upon a programme of political reform and restructuring to place our federation and democracy on a better footing to meet the demands of the twenty-first century. He would have built a social protection safety net for the poorest groups and the physically challenged and would have embarked on mass job-creation schemes for the youths. His cabinet would have comprised the best and highest talents that our country could boast of.
Like all great men, he was not without some weaknesses. He was sometimes inflexible and could rather be blunt. He was easily predictable to his enemies. This is why he was denied the ultimate prize.
More than ever, Awolowo’s ideas and philosophy are needed to salvage our ship of state from the jaws of catastrophe. Despite his shortcomings, he was a great nationalist and patriot; an avatar who saw the future; a statesman of great vision who understood Nigeria’s high destiny. He shall be our model and our guide.
Outside Nigeria, I have been inspired by Abraham Lincoln, one of the most illustrious statesmen in the history of the American republic and by Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela. Among the European leaders, I admire Vaclav Havel of the former Czechoslovakia and Angela Merkel of Germany. My ideals of social justice were shaped by political philosophers John Rawls and Sir Isaiah Berlin and a log of Muslim thinkers from Jalaluddin Rumi to Muhammad Iqbal and Ali Shari’ati. I have been influenced by the ideas of policy scientist Yehezkel Dror. As an economist, I share the views of Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen.
I love Nigeria; I love Africa. I am a citizen of the world and a corresponding member of Socialist International.
I believe that to lead is to serve. My name Obadiah means “Servant of the Most High”. And Mailafia in the Hausa language means “the harbinger of peace”. We are called to serve. The Nigeria that we want is a country that will be at the front ranks of civilised nations; a progressive, technological-industrial society anchored on the rule of law, peace, justice and equity. In the words of Micah the prophet: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
, Martin Luther King Jr