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Feet Washing With A Nigerian Pope By Emmanuel Ugwu

A couple of days to his sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus Christ imparted to his disciples a lesson in humility, love, and stewardship. He, the master, girded his loins with a towel, stooped down like a servant, and washed their dirty feet. He bent the iron law of the tradition of that age with that unprecedented gesture of grace.


Two thousand years after that poignant deed, it remains a fresh precept in Christendom. Many churches rehearse it as a routine spiritual exercise. Other denominations reenact it as a strictly annual pre-Easter ritual.

For example, the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope, every Easter Week, washes the feet of select individuals in celebration of Christ’s example. The candidates for this papal ministration often represent the base of struggling humanity: aliens, lepers, the terminally ill.

This Holy Thursday, Pope Francis knelt down, washed, and kissed the feet of Muslim, Hindu and Christian refugees. He called them ‘’brothers and sisters’’; people from Mali, Eritrea, Syria and Pakistan.

I am inclined to dream that if there was a Nigerian pope, he would be moved by exigency to minister feet washing to these local newsmakers as  follows:

1. Bukola Saraki

As soon as the Code of Conduct Bureau filed a 13 count charge against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Senate President Bukola Saraki went into overdrive, working to freeze his trial, and excuse himself from the arduous interrogation of justice.

He has run through all relevant strata of the Nigerian court system in search of a ruling that would extricate him from charges of fraud, theft, and false declaration of assets. He went up to the pinnacle of the Nigerian justice system, the Supreme Court. The Justices ruled that he return to the CCT and face trial.

Instead of bowing to the pronouncement of the highest court in the land like a sane citizen ought to do, Saraki started another round of quest to procure the same relief. This time, he unleashed his reconstituted legal team –a former Attorney General, 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria, and 80 lawyers –to scavenge everywhere for the verdict the Supreme Court had clearly denied him.

Saraki’s merry-go-round of judicial vagrancy is something beyond the pale. His flirtatious siege of the Nigerian judiciary represents a persistent assault of pressure on the unwilling seller. It’s a desperate buyer’s bid to harass the market into conjuring goods that doesn’t exist!

Saraki’s many walks from this court to that to court and back to square one should have worn the soles of his shoes and earned his feet many layers of dust.

The pope washes Saraki’s feet, towels them, and intones: ‘’Son of Oluoye, may your cleaned feet help you STAND trial!’’

2. Tompolo

Tompolo naturally follows Saraki. The former Niger Delta militant is also fugitive from justice. The only difference between the kindred spirits is that Tompolo is a different kind of evader. He prefers physical invisibility to Saraki’s tactless court excursions.

Tompolo is wanted in court. EFCC filed a 22-count charge against him. The charges border on his fraudulent conversion of several millions of naira, dollars and property belonging to Nigerian Maritime Administration Agency (NIMASA) to his personal use.

EFCC alleged that he appropriated N601, 516.13, $1,766,428, N27, 690, 113, $17,491, 378 belonging to the federal government agency.

A ‘General’ should not play hide and seek. But Tompolo has inexplicably turned into a coward. His present existence in obscure hibernation contrasts sharply with his pervasive omnipotence during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan.

At a time, Tompolo threatened to waste Festus Keyamo. And he ventured as far as publicly warning the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria not to step foot on some Delta community for a scheduled ground-breaking ceremony. President Jonathan deferred to the former militant –one of the understated reasons why Jonathan merits the Nobel Peace Prize!

Under President Buhari, though, Tompolo has disappeared into a hole. And he has even learned the fear of God in hiding. He reportedly asserted that ‘’Jehovah God’’ will make him emerge from this trying period stronger!

The pope recognizes a modicum of faith in ‘‘High Chief’’ Government Ekpemupolo. The pope urges Tomplo to submit himself to the judicial process…so that he may prove the authenticity of that ‘’Jehovah God’’ he necessarily discovered after he was declared wanted for collaborating with former Director General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, to plunder NIMASA.

The pope washes Tompolo’s creek-miry feet in absentia. The pope intones, ‘’May your cleaned feet lead you to STAND trial!"

3. Nellie Mayshak

This Canadian-Nigerian oversold herself as one of the most competent technocrats in the Nigerian Diaspora community. This self-hype landed her the job of the Director General of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) –at the monthly salary said to be 60 million naira!

But she recently earned a suspension after an audit report revealed that she was complicit in the theft of billions of naira.

This is an apparently unaccountable mystery. Wasn’t such a huge wage supposed to have tamed her greed? Was she not saving enough of her salary? Or was she throwing the windfall into a bottomless abyss?

PTAD was established as a remedial answer to the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT). Abdulrasheed Maina, the former Chairman of PRTT, stole over N2 billion pension funds in his care, and vanished into exile. Mayshak was tapped to sculpt the successor organization to Maina’s task force. She was supposed to be everything Maina wasn’t: professional, decent and clean.

Mayshak failed. She proved to as avaricious as Maina. Many years of Canadian acculturation impacted her accent. On the other counts, she was simply no better than any homebred Nigerian thief!

The pope regards her pitifully. He washes her feet and her painted nails, and intones: ‘’May these clean feet not help you do the disappearing act. May they help you STAND trial!’’

4. Audu Ogbeh

When some herdsmen invaded Agatu and made such a grand killing vultures would ordinarily consider an invitation to a rich feast, Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture, saw in the tragedy only what the trained eyes of an aged Nigerian politician could see: An opportunity to import a putative solution!

Ogbeh advanced that Brazilian grasses would end the recurring clash of migrant herdsmen and farming communities. He would import grasses and naturalize them and the herdsmen would unlearn the habit of herding their cattle into people’s farms, and slaughtering the crop growers when they complain about the trespass.

The constant, gratuitous killing is foremost an issue of criminality. And it is not a tiny law and order problem. It is a terrorist question. The Nigerian herdsmen have long leapfrogged, by virtue of their bloodthirst and a warped value system that prizes cattle above human life, to the fourth place on Global Terror Index.

The Nigerian state has over the years held the notion that the domestic supply of beef must be underwritten by occasional human sacrifice. This is why, in spite of the frequent butchery, Nigerian security agencies have yet to improve their zero record of arrest by the capture of one culpable homicidal herdsman!

This tolerance has promoted impunity. It is the reason why herdsmen invade, kill, and occupy the village of their conquest.

Ogbeh fancies that fixing the grass will fix the problem. It’s worth the try. The experiment may succeed. It might make us the first country in history that stanched its perennial bloodshed… with exotic grass!

Another possible benefit: The contact of the feet of Nigerian football players with Brazilian grass may improve their genius. And we win the next world cup!

The pope washes Ogbeh’s feet and prays:

“Corruption scandals are convulsing Brazil. Thousands of protesters are rallying in the streets. They are asking for the head of their president on a platter.

May you not import the seeds of a scandal from Brazil. May your clean feet not have to STAND trial!’’

5. Abdulrahman Dambazau

The Minister of Interior loves shoes. But he loves them only to the extent that they are free of dust. That’s why a speck of dust made him request for an instant shoe laundry in the midst of a public event!

The pope washes General Dambazau’s feet and intones: “May these feet be born anew. May they not trample on other humans!’’

6. Rauf Aregbesola

The State of Osun is almost bankrupt. But Governor Rauf Aregbesola won’t let the hard times demystify him. He won’t separate himself from his gubernatorial private jet!

The pope regards Ogbeni’s feet and sees hubris. He washes them and intones,”May you learn the virtue of trekking at such a time as this!’’

7. President Muhammadu Buhari

President Buhari is the last on the queue. The pope rises, declining to wash Buhari’s feet. Buhari is astonished: He asks whether the pope is now weary.

The pope smiles and says with avuncular softness: ‘’Junketer-in-Chief, go and sell eight of those ten aircraft in your fleet: Then, you will be ready for feet washing!”

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