Thursday, June 12, 2008

Suntai and His Prayer Routines

With all the blithe associated with politics and governance generally in Nigeria, the need for the invocation of spiritual intervention cannot be out of place. That explains, perhaps why most churches and mosques and other worship places devote time to praying for those in authority.
It is probably in pursuit of that belief in the efficacy of spiritual intervention that the governor of Taraba State has ordered members of staff in the state’s Government House to ensure there is a break from routine work three times during work hours to offer prayers to God. The prayers according to Suntai’s directive, which has become a compulsory state policy that must be obeyed, must be said by all staff of Government House at 8.00 am (to thank God for a new day), at 12.00 noon (to thank God for having worked till mid day) and at 4.00pm (to thank God for bringing them to the close of work). The prayers must be said by all Christians and Muslims in their various praying venues at the stipulated time.
Those not comfortable with the directive have been asked to “relocate” from the Government House. We are not sure if “relocate” is a euphemism for resign.
On the surface, the directive is aimed at driving workers to maintain closer relationship with their God. For a17-year old state which, like several states in Nigeria, has not made appreciable progress in terms of development, no amount of prayer is considered too much.
But to “decree” a prayer timetable, so to say, in a government establishment, we fear, is dragging too many things into government and dragging government into too many things. First, the compulsory directive is an affront on the provisions of the constitution which declares Nigeria a secular state. Yes, Gov Suntai may not have imposed any religion/fate on the workers, but the directive infringes on the freedom of worship which the constitution guarantees the workers. Given the compartmentalization of the prayer groups—Muslims or Christians - what allowance is created for workers who may neither be Muslims nor Christians in the state?
Besides, if workers must gather to pray at work, which we really do not object to, why should this be done three times in a single day of just eight hours of work?
We do not know how long each prayer session is expected to take, but we fear that the frequency of the prayer sessions is likely to affect the flow of work schedules and ultimately lead to loss of valuable man hours, and thus poor productivity.
Already, Nigerians are obviously a very religious set of people. Thus they are often in the mood of prayers both in public or private places. To therefore make an iron-cast policy on enforcing a prayer culture and timetable, is an over kill.
While we stress our belief in the efficacy of prayers, we are not convinced it must be so dramatized at the workplace, as is being directed by His Excellency, Gov Suntai.
Indeed, we know that a multitude of prayers is not a sign of good governance, neither is it a co-efficient of responsible governance.
We believe that making participation in the ordered prayers a pre-condition for retaining one’s work in the Government House is unfair and unconstitutional. Suntai’s predecessor, an ordained clergyman who ruled the state for a total of ten years, did not impose such a religious code.
What counts at the end of the day for Gov Suntai, is not how many times prayer or religious activities were held in the state , but how he has been able to improve the living standard of the people of Taraba State. This, we believe, can be achieved through mainly efficient management of the abundant human and material resources in the state.