Approximately, three weeks from today Nigeria will experience an important transition. Precisely on May 29th the present ruling political party will hand over its power not just to a different president but also to a different political party. What used to be the ruling party for the past sixteen years will then become an opposition party. What a change! This will be the first time an incumbent President will be conceding defeat in the history of Nigeria politics. Indeed, history is about to be made not just in Nigeria but also in Africa as a whole.
Yesterday, Christians celebrated the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before the ascension of Jesus into heaven, Jesus handed over his authority and his ministry to his disciples. They were to continue from where he stopped. This did not in any way diminish his reputation; rather he was exalted far above all principalities and powers. His fame has spread throughout the world. What he could not achieve within the short period he was in the world was achieved by his successors.
Most leaders, especially African leaders often think that handing over power to a successor is a mark of weakness or a sign of defeat. But history shows that the ability to handover is indeed a mature and honourable act. A tree can never make a forest. The world itself is like a relay race. A relay is not a one man show. Someone started this race and handed over the baton to someone else. This continued until it gets to us. The leaders of hundred years ago are not the same leaders today. In the next fifty years the present day leaders must definitely retire. If they do not want to retire voluntarily, nature will force them to retire.
A foolish leader is someone who doesn’t believe that one day he must leave his office for others to continue from where he stooped. A wise leader, on the other hand, takes his time to prepare his successor. And he is ever ready to hand over his power and even his heritage to the right person at the right time. Today we want to reflect on some of the handover ceremonies that took place in the bible. The peak of these ceremonies is the handover that took place between Jesus and his disciples shortly before his ascension into heaven. As we reflect on these handover speech and ceremonies, I believe, this will help the Nigerians as they prepare their political handover in the next two weeks.
ABRAHAM’S FAREWELL SPEECH: Abraham was among the few people in the bible that lived a righteous life and because of that he was well advanced in years; and the Lord blessed him in all things (Genesis 24:1). Abraham died at the age of a hundred and seventy-five (Genesis 25:7). Before his death, he secured a wife and a landed property to his son, Isaac. He said to his servant, who was in charge of all that he had, “The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, swore to me, ‘To your descendants I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there” (Genesis 24:7). Apart from getting a good wife for his son, Abraham ensured that his landed property was secured for his descendants.
JACOB’S FAREWELL SPEECH: Jacob said to his son, Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. Moreover I have given to you one mountain slope which I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow” (Genesis 48:21-22). He then summoned his other sons and said to them, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in days to come…” (Genesis 49:2-27). Israel blessed his twelve sons one after the other before his departure.
After blessing his twelve sons, Israel then uttered his final speech, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite… There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebecca his wife” (Genesis 49:29-32). When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.
JOSEPH’S FAREWELL SPEECH: When Joseph completed his mission here on earth he said to his brothers, “I am about to die; but God will visit you, and bring you up out of this land to the land which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob… God will visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Genesis 50:24-26). After saying this Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten years old.
JESUS’ FARWELL SPEECH: The most interesting and most inspiring farewell speech in the bible is that of our Lord Jesus Christ. His farewell speech contains a lot of insights. Within a short time in office Jesus was able to accomplish his mission here on earth. Without any constraint he was ready and willing to handover his authority and his ministry to his successors. In his farewell speech Jesus said: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:12)
One of the reasons why leaders find it very difficult to handover to their successors is because of unaccomplished agenda. It is very difficult to find a leader who could proudly say that he has successfully completed his mission and is willing to handover power without force or electoral defeat. Jesus was the first leader that tested power and when it was time for him to handover the power to his successor he willing did so; thereby paving way for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who perfected what he started.
Jesus told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus did not keep his authority to himself. He handed them over to his disciples before ascending into heaven.
After his resurrection Jesus breathed on his disciples and he said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sin of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). Among the Jews, this is the highest authority on earth. For them it is only God who can forgive sin. The first time Jesus exercised this authority when he told the paralytic “My Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5) they attacked him vehemently, saying “It is a blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7).
Jesus proved to them that he not only possess the authority to forgive sin he also has the authority to heal a paralyzed man. He then told the man, “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” Instantly the man started walking. The people were all amazed and they said, “We never saw anything like!” (Mark 2:12) This is the same authority Jesus gave his disciples before he ascended into heaven.
In his farewell speech Jesus assured his disciples, “John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). Jesus did not leave any landed property with his disciples, no estate, not even a cheque. Rather he gave them something more than wealth. He gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the embodiment of all gifts. That is why he said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8). This is the highest authority on earth. With the Holy Spirit all things are possible. When Jesus had said these, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight (Acts 1:9). What a glorious ascension!
Here in Africa most parents are finding it difficult to handover their wealth and landed properties to their children. So many people have died without sharing their belongings among their children. Most families do not even have legal will to guide their children in the distribution of their heritage. That is why the moment the head of the family dies there is always war in most families, especially when it comes to who inherits what. With this reflection I encourage every head of the family and leaders to start preparing their successors. Delay may be dangerous. The brave ones are those who know when come in and when to bow out.
Rev. Fr Damian Adizie