Former Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibajo, was the Guest Speaker at the Graduation Ceremony of Lead City University, Ibadan a few years ago. It was an excellent speech, as is usual of him. In that speech, he told two stories.
The first has to do with an Assistant Lecturer in his Department when he was Professor and Head of Department of Public Law, University of Lagos. This Assistant Lecturer was much appreciated by everyone in the Department. He was known to be industrious, hardworking and religious. His ambition, which everyone identified with, was to do postgraduate studies in an American University, for which he would need a Teachings Assistantship or Scholarship or Fellowship. Everyone was on the lookout for this to assist him in fulfilling his life ambition.
Everyone knew that he was keen on this, and was not only praying hard, but also fast regularly for days. Suddenly the Department was given an offer of Scholarship for which the Department was to nominate someone. The Department had only hours to make the nomination fill and return the forms along with the data page of the nominee’s passport. The Department agreed to nominate the Assistant Lecturer. He was duly asked to bring the photocopy of the data page of his passport. He then looked confused and bewildered. To the astonishment of everyone, he said he had no passport. Everyone was shocked. They asked him, you had no passport and you were praying and fasting for a Scholarship. How could someone who wanted to study in USA not have a passport? How can you be praying so hard for God’s mercy and grace, and you fail to do your own little bit? Of course, someone else who had a passport, who was not expecting it, was nominated.
There was no one in the Adeline Hall of Lead City University who missed the essence of the message meant for the new graduands. What’s the lesson in the story? Prayers and fast alone can never be enough. Can you imagine Joe Frazier, or Mohammed Ali or even the Nigerian boxer, Joshua, going in to the boxing ring for a world championship without months of hard practice, relying only on praying and fasting? Can you imagine the Falcons or the Super Eagles going in Olympic Football Competition without practices and/or trial matches, relying on only praying and fasting to win? Even Pele, Maradona or Messi practiced and prepared long to maintain top form.
This reminds me of the story of the match between Shooting Stars and a Tunisian club in Ibadan years ago. It was rumored that the Shooting Stars spent more time praying and fasting than practicing on the field. Their most prominent fan, Baba Eran, was running round shouting “balu balu ni t’afin”… meaning that because the Tunisians were white like Albinos and therefore will not see clearly. All the jazz didn’t work and Shooting Stars lost the home match.
Let’s imagine a farmer, who failed to prepare land and plant seedlings, but assembled prayer warriors to pray and fast for a good harvest. It will never work. You can only reap and harvest what you sow. God will only bless the work of your hand. God asked Moses what was in his hand. It was a staff. God blessed the staff and it became his instrument for effecting earth-shaking miracles. There was also the widow of the prophet who was living in multidimensional poverty like 132 million Nigerians in urgent need of palliative. She went to the prophet, who asked for what she had in the house. It was the small oil she had in the house that became an oil refinery. Scientists will say you cannot create something from nothing. You cannot pass JAMB EXAMINATION by going from one prophet to the other or one Alfa to the other or one herbalist to the other. You must do your own bit by reading well, understand the JAMB answer processes and then you can invite God to complement your efforts.
This is the basic lesson that VP Osibajo taught the Lead City University graduands. It is a lesson that Biblical Nehemiah taught very well. Never act without praying. Never pray without acting. Simply put…WORK AND PRAY. For Nigeria God has done what it should do. He has given us a landmass of 1m sqkm…covering various soil types, climatic zones with over 33 minerals in the soil. God has given us about 47% of GDP, and 205m people of immense and diverse abilities and capabilities. God has given us almost as much as he has given USA. If we have chosen for ourselves a succession of incompetent leaders, or allowed poor, unimaginative leaderships to inflict themselves on us, NA OUR FAULT BE THAT. It is not a function of inadequate praying or fasting. Nigeria has surplus of churches, Mosques, prayer Mountains, prayer beaches, crusades, revivals, vigils and fellowship. Certainly Nigeria does. What we lack is focused determination by Nigerians to work creatively hard. Either as a country or individuals, leaders or followers, we certainly do not ACT ENOUGH. We certainly do not do our own bit to complement what God has done. We abandon to God what he has equipped us bountifully to do. I believe in prayers. I do not believe in prayers without work.
Visit Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Quarta, Israel, Saudi Arabia and India. You will see what creative, focused, determined, hardworking people backed by God have done. Marvelous in every sight. Come to Nigeria and see the peculiar mess, as late Adelabu Adegoke would call it, and that the ever praying but not acting or working Nigerians have made of the enviable gifts God has given them.
Professor Yemi Osibajo ended with another story of a hardworking Typist in a pool in his Department in University of Lagos. He got to work before other Typists. He closed later than others, always ensuring he left no backlog of typing assignments till next day. He was the most sought after Typists by the lecturers and professors in the Department. Always smiling and welcoming. Never grumbling. As it happened, Nigeria’s former Attorney General, late Prince Bola Ajibola was appointed to the International Court at Hague, and needed a competent Typist. He asked Prof Osibajo to help him find one. They all unanimously recommended this outstanding Typist, to the surprise of the Chief Typist, who thought that as the Head of the Typing Pool, he should have been the natural choice. Nobody cared about the seniority, or the religion, hours of praying and fasting. All that mattered was PERFORMANCE, COMPETENCE, ATTITUDE TO WORK, WILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY. Hard work pays. You never know who is watching….and when the reward would come.
I plead with you. Pray as hard as you can. But work and act as hard as the intensity of your prayers. DO NOT ACT WITHOUT FASTING AND PRAYING. BUT NEVER PRAY AND FAST WITHOUT ACTING.