Vocation in Nigerian context
If we access the key performance indicators of workers today in Nigeria, is it likely that the production output of every worker would be such that we can say that every worker is answering a divine call to serve in their various vocations, professions and careers? In the present day Nigeria, is it factual to say that one really chose to be in the Police Force, Army, Custom, Immigration, Air force, Navy, Para-military, Civil Service and Public Service as a response to a divine call? Can we say that every ordained and consecrated person is truly answering a call to the Priesthood and Religious Life? Is every Pastor or minister of the gospel genuinely responding to a call? In the current Nigerian context, can a person really desire any of the above vocations or professions and succeed in realizing the dream?
These questions are relevant because, the failing economy and unemployment are serious factors that condition many people to do any type of work merely to survive. Many merely do something not because it is their vocation, profession or chosen career because the bizarre ways government structures are managed have killed their dreams. Failure of Government to provide jobs today have put some graduates who should be professionals by training on the streets to take alternative jobs like gate keepers, drivers, laborers, traders, sex workers, kidnappers, ritualists, cultists and terrorists. Some simply become self-ordained ministers who sell miracles to the highest bidders.
When I entered Saints Peter and Paul Major Seminary, Bodija-Ibadan, Nigeria in 1983, the number of Seminarians were not up to a hundred. Then we prayed every day for vocations to the Priesthood and Religious life. Then the only challenge for University graduates was how to choose out of the numerous jobs available to them. Graduates knew where they would work after passing out of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC). Some were retained in their places of primary assignments. Today, there is a high number of seminarians in some Seminaries because some youths perhaps see the Seminary as the only hope for the future in terms of employment. Consequently, it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern if a seminarian is truly and genuinely responding to a divine call to the priesthood. Here we cannot rule out the tragedy of some Ministers of God who have turned their vocation into mere business, striving endlessly to always have their way in evil machinations even if it means lobbying the authorities with money.
In some African traditions, it is believed that it is God that crowns the king. In the Old Testament of the Bible, the sages in Wisdom literature trained the youths to be future kings. This is based on the belief that governance is a divine vocation. The prophesy of Daniel alluded to Jesus Christ as the King of Kings. “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14). In the Catholic Church, every baptized person shares in the kingship of Jesus Christ hence, the President of a nation, Governor of a State and other political leaders share in the kingship of Jesus Christ whose kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Jesus came to serve and not to be served (Matthew 20:28).
If governance is a vocation, how are the leaders of the nations prepared, trained and formed for leadership as servants? When I was a student, I asked the lecturer who was teaching us political science why the political scientists do not often participate in partisan politics. I asked because of my impression then that political science prepares the students for governance in any nation. In the context of the Nigerian constitution, I was wrong because higher education is not required to be a President or Governor. Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.” In Section 117 of the same constitution, a person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if “he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.” I leave the interpretation of these sections of the constitution to those who are divinely called to be lawyers.
With the tension that exists in governance today in Nigeria raging from the conflicts between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary to electoral malpractices, can we say that those who made the laws for the federation were God’s instruments akin to Moses through whom the ten commandments were given to the Ancient Israel? Would some Muslims agitate for Sharia law if the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria were operated in a way and manner that the basic needs of every Nigerian are taken care of? Would there be agitation for secession of any region if there were no structural injustice? Would there be mutual suspicion if the constitution could defend and protect the rights of the poorest of the poor irrespective of religion and ethnicity? In other words, are those who interpret and execute the constitution for the nation endowed with divine vocation to do so? When legal intellectuals take to physical violence instead of using the legislative power to resolve issues in the National and State Assemblies, the question of their divine vocation lingers. Is it not a contradiction if the law makers excel in breaking the law?
The agitation for human wants is another reason for misplaced vocation and profession. The result has been the tendency to put a square peg in a round hole and this has caused dichotomy in life. According to the Second Vatican Council, “The dichotomy affecting the modern world is, in fact a symptom of the deeper dichotomy that is in man himself. He is the meeting point of many but feels untrammeled in his inclinations and destined for a higher form of life. Torn by a welter of anxieties he is compelled to choose between them and repudiate some among them. Worse still, feeble and sinful as he is, he does the very thing he hates and does not do what he wants. And so he feels himself divided, and the result is a host of discord in social life (Vatican II, Gaudium at spes, 7 December 1965, No. 10).
The Religious leaders ought to make a difference in a divided world. The minister of God who is conscious of a divine vocation must be a voice of the voiceless. When Saint Oscar Romero knew that his life was in danger for rendering true service as Archbishop of El Salvador, he said to his baptized lay faithful, “If some day they take the radio station away from us, if they close down our newspaper, if they don’t let us speak, if they kill all our priests and the Bishops too, and you are left, a people without priests, each one of you must be God’s microphone, each one of you must be a messenger, a prophet. The Church will always exist as long as there is one baptized person (Daniel P. Cronin; Words of Encouragement, Makati, St. Paul’s 1992, Page 14). Those who are truly responding to their divine vocation are ready for the supreme sacrifice like the apostles. May we all uphold the banner of divine truth and justice!