“Oh God, if indeed there is God;
please save my soul,
if indeed I have a soul”
That is the popular prayer of the agnostic or moderate atheist, specifically associated with such philosophers as T. H. Huxley and George Berkeley. Like every genuine philosophical position, it is at once an honest confession of the need for spiritual help, and admission of limitation in the knowledge of spiritual matters.
The virtue of the agnostic attitude is in its honest and humble declaration of lack of indubitably certain knowledge in the existence of God in the rigid epistemological sense in which we know what we know as a matter of fact. This is because admission of ignorance on a particular issue is the first condition for the acquisition of true knowledge on that issue. After all, “he who knows not, and does not know that he knows not, is a fool”.
But in Akwa Abasi Ibom State, you risk being the odd one out if you as much as broach agnosticism. And why should you when the name of the state itself is a glib and implicit declaration that God does not only exist, but is the owner of Akwa Ibom. From that premise, it is easy to see why the name of God can be dropped in everything, including ordinary day-to-day business transaction. Of course, the purpose of such name-dropping is often to scramble the need for personal integrity and commitment which are the sine-qua-none for successful business in places where people are prepared to exhaustively do their part before bringing God into an issue.
The real test of this God-hype, however, comes when there is a crisis bordering on threat to vested interest. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “the true measure of a man is not how he behaves in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of controversy and challenges”.
A top Akwa Ibom politician whose name even begins with “God” once taunted a God-dependent governorship candidate in the state thus: “I will see how God will make you governor without me.” Unfortunately, the candidate did not make it to Government-House. Obviously, that revealed the God-craze for what it truly is in the state: a perfunctory ritualism.
Fast forward to 2015, the year of the advent of Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel and the sounding of the Dakkada bugle: “Akwa Ibomites, rise to the faith of greatness! Rise to the faith that with God all things are possible. Rise to the faith that Akwa Ibom was created by God out of greatness. Rise to the faith that as a people we can move beyond ethnicity, religion and gender….”
Why “beyond religion”? Most likely because hitherto our religion had consisted in “a form of godliness, but a denial of the power thereof”. In the dakkada creed, the Governor was thus introducing a new and radical octave to our religious attitude, one espousing “faith that with God all things are possible”. And the opportunity to prove this absolute belief in God did not take long to come.
In 2019 – alienated by his erstwhile mentor – Governor Udom Emmanuel had to prosecute his second-term bid against the teeth of a hostile Federal Government, his arsenal consisting in just the “Only-God” battle-cry. Though the battle went all the way to the Supreme Court, the Governor surprised the entire country as he proved that “one with God” is in fact a” majority”.
Through all these, he seized the initiative in demonstrating the efficacy of faith in God for divine intervention in the affairs of men, and spear-headed a refreshing departure from the ineffectual jingoism and commercial blitz to which religion had been reduced by prayer contractors in the state. Yes, Mr. Emmanuel seized the initiative and can justifiably be considered today as not just the prophet-governor in Nigeria, but one with a national patent on how to win the collaboration of heaven for political ends.
No wonder that in June 2020, Governor Godwin Obaseki, reminiscent of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon of old, came seeking Governor Emmanuel’s “best kept secret” at the height of his own second-term-bid quandary. As formidable a foe as Governor Obaseki was up against at the time, the “God of Udom Emmanuel” saw him through and the “Only-God” mantra clearly got nationally vindicated and canonized as a veritable weapon of war.
What then do we say to current hostilities to “That Same God” who began a new thing in 2015, proved himself in an historic way in 2019 and has now in his omniscience decided to put up one of our very illustrious sons, Pastor Umo Bassey Eno, as the next governor of the state, using his proven and tested vessel, Governor Udom Emmanuel, to communicate the decision?
The fronts for the opposition in the state against the idea of “Divine Choice” range from a section of the clergy; competing aspirants, their supporters, to other assortments of unbelieving believers. This small clique of clergies should be ignored as persons who had forfeited their presumed role as the mouth-piece of God. For, rather than exploit the “power of the Resurrection” and establish themselves as “vessels of honour meet for the Master’s use”, theirs has been “cunningly devised fables” with an eye solely on lucre.
Those who balk at the idea of God choosing a candidate as governor, while at the same time promoting their own aspirations with such slogans as “Akwa Ubok Abasi”; “One with God”, and “Amazing Grace of God”, unwittingly canvass a theocracy with regulated Divine involvement. For them, God can be used to window-dress a project for selfish ends, but He must not be allowed to take ownership of the project to the point of making an obvious personal choice. God is merely to rubber-stamp their fantasies – period!
We may pull punches with those who are probably so addicted to the “use and dump” strategy that they may even try it with God. Not so with anyone with the smallest pretention to a brief within the vineyard. For these, the express command of scripture is this: “But thou, oh man of God, be watchful in all things; endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist and give full proof of thy ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
Giving full proof of the clerical ministry is being the instrument of open-air Divine intervention when all hope is lost in human terms. Abraham; Isaac and Jacob did this in biblical times, and became the names by which God is invoked. That is why we hear: “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!”
In his own time during the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state, the governor picked up the gauntlet which he himself had thrown down through the Dakkada Creed. He gave full proof of his faith odyssey when he emerged victorious in the election; demonstrating, perhaps for the first time and at the highest level of state affairs, that God can be more than a device employed by emergency clerics in a circus-show marked by sleight of hand.
In pragmatic, demonstrable divine intervention, Udom is therefore the current Nigerian reference-point. He holds the patent in theocratic experimentation across the country, and Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state and others can attest to this fact, having personally benefitted from Udom’s Divine open-sesame.
The story is told of a certain philosopher who had firmly embraced and steadfastly promoted the agnostic prayer all through his life. Upon his death, however, a piece of shriveled parchment was found concealed in the lapel of his coat with the inscription: “to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!” He was an agnostic in his public life, but in his heart of hearts, could not ignore the strong evidence of what God had manifestly wrought in partnership with these heroes of faith.
That is precisely the proselytizing force of potent demonstration of Divine power such as was witnessed during the 2019 gubernatorial miracle in Akwa Ibom State; and thereafter, other infrastructural wonders, among them: the undeniable Ibom Air; Ibom Deep Seaport; the Coconut Oil Refinery, et al.
Particularly in Akwa Abasi Ibom State, Governor Emmanuel is a certified hero of faith. Just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and without pretending to be a cleric – he has by sheer faith in God, set the pace in drawing down the finger of God for blessed reassurance amid human quandary such as we presently have in the state. God can therefore be rightly addressed as the “God of Udom Emmanuel”.
Anyone else who sincerely craves Divine direction in politics should do well to follow the Emmanuel Leading. Either that, or they spare us the God-alignment pretense, revert to and go the full hog with their familiar boast in “chariots and horses”, leaving God alone if all they want is for Him to rubber-stamp their selfishly envisaged schemes.
*Robinson writes from the Office of the Akwa Ibom State Deputy Governor