Quoting from Ephesians 5, Pope Francis of the Catholic Church, once spoke of ‘Speaking the truth with love’. When one looks at the prevailing circumstances in Nigeria, one is likely to wonder whether we as Nigerians know what the truths are. When you read through what our Social Media disseminate, it becomes difficult to separate the truths from falsehood. When you study what our political leaders, particularly those entrusted with governance, say, it becomes difficult to separate truth from lies. Why? This is because at national, regional, state, communal, corporate, or individual levels, what is being peddled is an admixture of lies, truths, half lies, half-truths, naked prejudices and partisan affections. In these circumstances, can the leader, follower, man or woman, speak what they do not know ‘in love’.

Ordinarily there are three categories of people when it comes to speaking the truth with love. First, there are some that speak the truth but without any trace of love. Such people always seem to be angry. Most times they always have a point to prove and are therefore prone to pound into the ground anyone who has a different view. They believe so much in the righteousness of whatever they believe in that they don’t believe that there can be other options. They also believe that anyone who holds a contrary view must either be demonic or Satan. For example, when the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket dominated the political space, we certainly can recall those who spoke in anger and sometimes took those who had different views to the cleaners. There was so much noise and anger that it became so difficult to understand what was at stake. You find these righteous and angry people at homes, clubs, societies, organisations, communities and all levels.

Second, there are some who cunningly try to deceive in an effort to manipulate the people into accepting that maintaining a religious balance was irrelevant. Sometimes they suggest that maintaining the balance was not the truth so long as there is balance of performance. They can, sometimes, be more loving than those speaking the truth. Their loving mannerisms are part of the deceptive attempt to ensnare the gullible. They lovingly argue that does religious balance matter when your ethnic nationality has been reflected. They can sweetly say your religion is foreign but your ethnic nationality is authentic and more important as a criterion of evaluating candidates. Such people are great, warm and loving before the camera and pressman. Once the press leaves, they revert to their cunning, cold religious bigotry. Don’t forget what the Yoruba say…you masquerade and campaign with other peoples’ behaviour, when you win, you come out and govern in your true colours. You find these types of people everywhere and in every circumstance. They are masters of deceit and manipulation.

Thirdly are people who are so desirous for love that they become a prey to those who want to fleece the people. They believe that love is so important that the truth can be marginalised into irrelevance. They do not want anybody hurt or angry. You need to see such people when they are settling quarrels. Nobody will be wrong. Nobody will be guilty. Most times, it is the devil that caused the problem and therefore must be held responsible for everything. They forget that no matter how loving, the truth must always be told. It’s equally important that the truth must be presented in love, in a way that it will not be outrightly rejected.

Let’s go back to the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket as a case study. During this period there were too many people trying to impose their will or agenda forcefully on all others. There were many who hoodwinked many others by masquerading ethnic agenda as a struggle for religious balance. And there were many others who masqueraded struggle for religious dominance as a struggle for ethnic balance.

Unfortunately in all of these, not many appeared to care about the voice of the Lord and his command. They were fighting a battle without the will of the Lord being done on the earth as it is heaven. Bearing a Christian name does not make you a Christian in deed and truth. Unfortunately because the body of Christ is so fragmented, everyone seemed to have his/her agenda and seemed to be promoting their own causes. Because of this, they didn’t bother to ask for God’s will for Nigeria.

For example to ordinary mortals it was inexplicable why God chose to intercept Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus? Why will God commission a common criminal, a known killer of Christians as an Apostle to the Gentiles. When you read Acts 9:1-5, you find that even Ananias, the prophet, could not understand why God would send him to such a character. God has to clearly direct Ananias “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their Kings.

In the whole drama, did the Christians ask for the specific will of God. Did they remember what God told Prophet Samuel in the house of Jesse that “the Lord does not look at the things, the way man looks at them. Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart “. In Isaiah 55:8-9, God said “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”. Did the body of Christ ask for the thoughts and ways of God? Did they remember that Jesus Christ did not give a religious system or program to follow. Instead, he made Christians a new creation to do all things for his glory.

All through and even now, what is the truth that must be spoken in love? Are we, as Nigerians, in the full knowledge of the truth? Are we walking in the truth? Are we holding the truth in love? Romans 13:8-10 in summary shows that truth is love and love is truth. You drop one and you lose both. 1John 4:8 states clearly that GOD IS LOVE. John 17:17 also clearly states that YOUR WORD IS THE TRUTH.

It is important that we must always espouse the truth. The church in leading the people must remember that only God’s words are the truth. Psalm 119:89 says “Forever O Lord your word is firmly fixed in heaven”. Matthew 8 says heaven and earth may pass away but his words remain. Did the church use the truth eloquently stated in the Bible to educate the people. Did the church lead the people to understand the concept of servant- leadership? Didn’t Jesus Christ teach that those who will lead must serve? Did the church teach about the six, indeed seven, things they said God hates in people as stated in Proverbs 6:16-19? I’m just citing a few truths in the Bible that would have assisted the people in making a rational choice. After all the leaders has to be a right combination of his vision, competency and character. And there are basic truths based on his words in the Bible that the church could have assisted the electorate to make an inspired and appropriate choice.

Sometimes we are told that people don’t care for the truth. Yet it is important to speak the uncomfortable truths, because people must be guided by these truths. 1Corinthians 13:4-7 defines clearly the attributes of love. It talks about love being patient, kind, not envious, not rude, not proud, not boastful, not self-seeking, not easily angered, and rejoicing in the truth. Some of our eminent Pastors, men of God, and political leaders forgot all these and turned their pulpits into campaign rostrum. Some completely forgot their roles as shepherds as they descended into the political arena, emitting rude, crude, abusive words and sometimes curses. In our business of journalism, we say FACTS ARE SACRED. Similarly standing on the unchanging truths enshrined in the Bible will guarantee that we cannot fail as individuals and as a country.

We must remember…the church must remember that truth without love is harsh judgementalism and dogmatism. It’s like the cactus full of thorns that drive people away. Love without truth is blind sentimentality. It’s like cotton candy of no use.

Yesterday might not have been the best in our country.

Unfortunately that poor or indeed bad past is already eroding into the present, so much so that Government spokespersons at all levels mix up facts with fictions, truth with falsehood, public relations and propaganda. It has become so bad these spokespersons can no longer be relied upon. Unfortunately the spokespersons of the opposition are not different. It has become so difficult to know who is speaking the truth because the truth is lost. The truth has become the first casualty in this mad race of each party trying to outdo the other.

As we pretend to celebrate our 63rd anniversary as an independent country, we must have a sharp break with our odious unhappy past where truth and lies are marketed freely by our leaders in all aspects of our life, as if that’s the correct thing to do. Call them liars over and over, they will still lie. They have murdered transparency, accountability, integrity, truthfulness as they willfully deceive the people.

God bless you all.

God bless Nigeria as move into another year.

Yemi Farounbi