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Out of Africa
RegalCopyright © 2004 C. Peter Wagner and Joseph Thompson
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Chapter OneRising from the Mediocre to the Miraculous
Originally from Nigeria, Joseph Thompson is the founder of Yeshua Ministries, which focuses on city transformation, church growth and leadership development. Networking, deliverance and spiritual warfare are key components of his ministry. A gifted teacher of the Bible, Joseph served as associate pastor to Pastor Ted Haggard at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for over four years. In addition to his extensive travel schedule, he currently serves as teaching pastor at New Life. Joseph's academic background includes a bachelor's degree in graphic arts, a bachelor's degree in Christian ministry and a master's of divinity. He travels across the United States and to many other nations, teaching in local churches, conferences and seminars. His easy and humorous delivery style makes the demand for his ministry continuous. Joseph is the author of a book entitled I'm a Christian, So How Can I Have Demons? Joseph has lived in the United States for over 12years. He and Sola, his lovely wife of 15 years, have three children: a son, Demi, and two daughters, Bimi and Temi.
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The streets are jammed with people, blurring the lines between pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Some people are dressed in the brightest of colors, in their traditional garb, while others are wearing the more familiar Western business attire. The traffic is bumper-to-bumper and stretches as far as the eye can see. Exhaust fumes pollute the air, adding to the very real discomfort of the humid, 96-degree weather. Horns are blaring angrily as frustrated commuters shout their displeasure at one another. Street hawkers parade their wares along the barely moving lines of traffic, trying to sell everything from cell phones and T-shirts to bootlegged videocassettes of American-made movies that have not yet been officially released in the United States. Adding to the ever present crescendo of noise and seeming confusion, enterprising young men on mopeds take advantage of the snail-paced traffic. They weave in and out among the cars and offer to transport frustrated commuters who have given up on their taxicabs, usually keeping their promise to get them to their destinations on time. The risk on the moped, however, is being hit by an impatient driver jostling for space to maneuver his or her way out of this virtual parking lot. In the background are the sounds of laughter and loud conversation as everyone attempts to be heard over the swell of noise. This is Lagos, Nigeria-its myriad exotic smells, its endless cacophony of sounds, its ostentatiously colorful people! This is Africa's most populous nation. In fact, Nigeria boasts the largest concentration of black people on Earth, an estimated 140 million. At the worst of times, it would appear as if they are all out on the streets of Lagos at once!
The Pearl of Africa
This is what first-time observers see when they visit Nigeria. Underneath all of that activity, however, lies the real Nigeria, the Nigeria that is often referred to as the Pearl of Africa. Nigeria appears, to all intents and purposes, sleepy and unproductive-the one voted most likely to succeed but who ultimately failed. One writer observed that "Nigeria is an oil-rich Cinderella state that never quite made it to the ball. During the 1970s, when oil prices rocketed, Nigeria looked set to become the shining example of a prosperous and democratic West African republic but perversely managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It has had the odd moment of oil-induced triumph but its history is littered with tin-pot dictators, massacres, bloody civil wars, human rights abuses, and horrific famines. It is now a country that is saddled with a soaring crime rate, massive unemployment, overpopulation; and it's still recovering from a military government run on bribery and corruption." If you close your eyes and imagine for just one moment, you could easily believe that I have just described the history of Israel as recorded in the Scriptures. Like the nation of Israel in the days of the kings, Nigeria has had its share of impotent governments and corrupt leaders, but that is Nigeria's history. Its present and future are shaping up to be quite different. A new day has dawned and Nigeria is truly set to become Africa's miracle, fulfilling its destiny as the Pearl of Africa. But before I get ahead of myself, let me give you some insight into Nigeria's beginnings. The details of the following political and economic history primarily come from the study and guide on Nigeria at 1Up Info's website.
The Birth Pangs of a Nation
Nigeria officially became independent from the colonial rule of the British on October 1, 1960. The nation began as a loose amalgamation of different tribes that were formed into autonomous political regions, but the history of these tribes extends back more than 2,000 years. The country guide at the 1Up Info website records, "The earliest archeological finds were of the Nok, who inhabited the central Jos plateau between the Niger and the Benue rivers between 300 B.C. and 200 A.D. A number of states or kingdoms with which contemporary ethnic groups can be identified existed before 1500. Of these, the three dominant regional groups were the Hausa in the northern kingdoms of the savanna, the Yoruba in the west, and the Igbo in the south."
The European slave trade in West Africa in the late fifteenth century significantly impacted Nigeria, as Nigeria became a major center for shipping slaves. In 1807 Britain oulawed the slave trade and sent its navy off the coast of West Africa to enforce the ban, ultimately leading to Britain's intervention in Nigeria. During this period, European missionaries began spreading Christianity in southern Nigeria. At the same time, Islam was introduced along the caravan trade routes of northern Nigeria; a holy war waged between 1804 and 1808 was instrumental in the spread of Islam. With Nigeria's rich supplies of palm oil, cocoa and peanuts, commerce with the European powers soon overshadowed the slave trade. Britain established a colony in Lagos in 1861. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, Britain controlled Nigeria using local rulers. By the time of World War II, however, Nigerian nationalism was rising. Education and economic development opened the door for an organized labor movement to arise. Various political parties were created during World War II. Nigeria finally became an independent republic in the early 1960s, but trouble was brewing. Following low voter participation in the 1964-65 elections, widespread violence erupted, which led to the deaths of as many as 2,000 people. After a series of coups and countercoups, Lieutenant Colonel Yakubu Gowon established a military government; and tensions began to increase between the infantry, who were primarily from the North, and the Igbo soldiers, who were from the South. In 1967 the conflict escalated into a civil war, known as the Biafran War. By the end of the war in 1970, about 2 million Nigerians had been killed. How did this come about?
The Battle for Control
According to research posted at the African Postcolonial Literature in English website, Nigeria began as a republic with four regional governments. This was not a comfortable political situation, especially since the ruling party that dominated the new nation was made up largely of those from only one of the four regions, the North. Explosive ethnic tensions developed between the Igbo from the southeast and the Hausa from the North. Widespread murders on both sides became the order of the day. In 1966 the four regions unsuccessfully attempted negotiations to return to a republican form of government. The situation deteriorated even more, and in 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu declared the eastern region a sovereign and independent nation, the Republic of Biafra. The federal government declared a state of emergency and divided Nigeria into 12 states. Fighting broke out, and a civil war was on. The fighting ended in 1970, by which time the federal forces, through starving the Biafran population, had forced them to surrender. Ojukwu fled Nigeria, and a delegation from Biafra formally surrendered on January 15, 1970, ending the short-lived Republic of Biafra.
The Problem of Oil
With the civil war over and the country hoping to rebuild its ailing economy as well as its bruised international image, Nigeria turned to oil as its primary export and foreign exchange earner. Petroleum had been discovered in the late 1960s in commercial quantities, and in 1971, Nigeria became a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Rather than strengthen the Nigerian economy, however, the discovery of oil created unforeseen problems. Foreign investors reaped most of the profits, while the local indigenous people in the oil-producing regions gained little or nothing. Policymakers demonstrated their deplorable lack of foresight by granting "Udoji awards," bonuses for every government worker as a result of increased oil revenue. Meanwhile, they tended to neglect all other national resources that had previously undergirded the nation's economy. Nigeria was experiencing a classic case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. In addition, the economy suffered dearly from a three-year drought in the early 1970s, forcing huge numbers of farm workers to relocate in the cities.
After another series of military coups, in 1976 Lieutenant General Olusegun Obasanjo came to power; and in 1979 a new constitution, calling for democratic elections, was drafted. Obasanjo focused on preparing Nigeria for the upcoming democracy. A combination of the weak political structure, the problems associated with the discovery of oil and fraud in the 1983 elections caused the army to step in once again. Major General Muhammed Buhari, who determined to end widespread corruption, became head of state. However, he was deposed by the Armed Forces Ruling Council, which purported to prepare Nigeria for a return to civilian rule. This took the form of economic restructuring. A national economic emergency was declared in 1986, and as a result, Nigeria received aid from the World Bank.
The Nigerian Brain Drain
Along with all of these economic, tribal and political tensions were frightening increases in corruption, armed robbery and drug dealing, for which Nigerians were fast developing international notoriety. Student riots became more frequent and more violent, and outspoken dissenters would suddenly either disappear or end up in prison. Universities would be shut down for months on end as a result of student unrest, and pretty soon both students and professors began to seek opportunities outside the country. These educational crises, coupled with massive inflation that raised the cost of living to unbearable standards, preceded what has come to be known as the Brain Drain. Many of Nigeria's best qualified academicians began relocating to other countries where they and their families could enjoy a higher standard of living. As a result, the government embarked on a huge campaign to encourage the educated Nigerian elite to stay in the country and help rebuild the crumbled economy. A clarion call for patriotism was heard across various media. During this period, Nigerian morale reached an all-time low. Inflation, poverty and widespread corruption became the order of the day. What was the government's response to the cry of the people against the tyranny of injustice? "We cannot afford to complain as long as we haven't resorted to eating out of trash cans." This represented a sad departure from the Nigeria of old, for which the standing joke was, "Money isn't our problem in Nigeria; it's how to spend it that is the problem!"
An Open Door to the Demonic
The year was 1977 and the Lagos traffic stretched the length of Western Avenue all the way to Iganmu. Eko Bridge was bumper-to-bumper in both directions and the pedestrian traffic was thick. An atmosphere of festivity filled the air as flags from every African nation adorned the streetlights running the length of Eko Bridge. All the traffic seemed to converge at one spot, the National Arts Theater. This superb edifice, a monument to Nigeria's oil wealth, stood proudly isolated from all other structures. Costing millions of American dollars to build and designed to look like a military general's cap, it was an ingenious feat of architecture built on swampland, which also cost millions of dollars to dredge. The occasion for all the festivity was FESTAC 77, the second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture. This event was designed to be a showcase of African cultural identity. It issued "a clarion call for all Africans throughout diasporas, to come home to invoke and celebrate the Motherland." It was billed as a "historic Gathering of Tribes." Listen to what Joseph Okpaku says in volume 8 of The Arts and Civilization of BIack and African Peoples:
When a people, indeed an entire race, decide to formally define their place in history and to dramatize that demarcation by asserting their unquestionably important position and role as a primary cornerstone of mankind, such an event is significant. When that race is Africa with its colossal cultural and intellectual heritage, that occasion promises overwhelming inspiration.
The overarching idea behind FESTAC 77 was the rediscovery of the cultural and spiritual ties which bind together all black and African people the world over. Rediscovering African traditional currents of thought and arts was paramount. Therein lay the root of Nigeria's problems. There is where the dark doors began to open. The colorful display of culture and the demonstration of Africa's rich and varied heritage were not all that was celebrated during FESTAC 77. Africa has always been a continent with a strong animistic heritage. The celebration and worship of multiple gods in the form of graven images cannot be divorced from African arts and culture. Unwittingly, as we celebrated the reuniting of our cultural and artistic heritage, we were also laying out a welcome mat for all of the ominous spiritual forces embedded in the various African cultures. The celebration of an animistic heritage and consequently of idols, along with their accompanying demons, carries with it grave consequences.
Excerpted from Out of Africa Copyright © 2004 by C. Peter Wagner and Joseph Thompson. Excerpted by permission.
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