My life alongside God's word, volume 3. 21st century issues section.
by - Dr. Alex Bolek Abuk
Well-kept archives and files are as powerful as the sun that never loses its potency and
luminosity though billions of years old. Records are silent and faithful custodians of important
information. This is evidenced by a story that this article takes its title from. An ancient story
goes that one time a powerful politician, a King ruling over a vast territory was one night
sleepless and not able to sleep. What was bothering him? The reasons for his sleeplessness are not given in the story. Perhaps his mind was occupied with affairs of his kingdom and worried
and concerned about the welfare of his citizens and thinking how to better serve his people and how to keep his kingdom moving forward. Perhaps there were threats and crisis of some kind coming against his kingdom and wanted to work out strategies to overcome or avert them.
These are ‘good reasons’ for a ‘good politician’ to spend a ‘good sleepless night’ on them.
Medical sciences give us a long list of causes of insomnia like significant life stress, illness, emotional or physical discomfort, environmental factors like noise, Some medications, interferences in normal sleep schedule (jet lag), depression and/or anxiety, pain or discomfort at night. Was the king suffering from any of these? No! So what was the problem? From reading the story and studying it carefully, it is evident that God the Creator, Who created and controls the sleep centre in the brain, was behind that insomnia to reveal to the king something important that was hidden and forgotten for a long time in his kingdom’s files.
It was around 486–465 BC and the politician was King Xerxes of the vast Persian Empire that extended from India to Cush (Sudan) with 127 provinces (Esther 1:1). The king was one night not able to sleep and was staring all night. So what did he do in that sleepless night? Here is what the Bible tells us: “That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him” Esther 6:1.
What do people who cannot fall asleep including politicians normally do? In this age of modern triad of sleeping pills, satellite TV and Internet, high-ranking politicians like kings, presidents, prime ministers and ministers, speakers of parliaments, … name them…, have these in their disposal. They would take a sleeping pill to take them to bed so that they get up fresh the following morning for another long and busy day. They would put on the TV and watch some news or movies, or go online to pass the time until sleep comes! The twenty first century has been called the ‘Aspirin era’ where people use a lot of it to kill pain. In my opinion, sleeping pills need to be added to that to call this century ‘Aspirin and sleeping pills century.’ Why? This is because millions of people around the globe today use sleeping pills to enable them to sleep. The American author Norman Vincent Peale in his book The Power of Positive Thinking (page 102-capitals mine) says: “’EVERY NIGHT in these United States more than six million sleeping tablets are required to put the American People to sleep.’ This startling statement was made to me several years ago by a drug manufacturer at a convention of that industry where I was giving a speech.
Though his assertion seemed incredible, I have been told by others who are in a position to know that the above estimate is now an understatement. In fact, I heard another good authority assert that the American People are using about twelve million doses of sleeping tablets per day. That is enough to put every twelfth American to sleep tonight. Statistics show that the use of sleeping tablets has risen 1000 percent in recent years.
A more recent statement is even more startling. According to the vice-president of a large drug manufacturing concern approximately seven billion one-half-grain tablets are consumed yearly, which works out at about nineteen million tablets per night.”
Sleep induced by pills is an artificial sleep created by pharmaceutical tablets that cannot take away anxiety and worries that keep people from falling asleep. Sleepless people in this modern age buy sleep with a pill which when its effect is gone, the same cycle of worry, anxiety, fear and sleeplessness returns! Have you read the poem titled ‘What Money Can Buy’? One of the lines in that poem says ‘Money can buy a bed but not sleep.’ Only God can give peace of mind and heart that gives us good and peaceful sleep, not sleeping pills.
King Xerxes was different and unique from his generation of politicians and today’s leaders. In his time there were neither sleeping pills nor satellite TV or the Internet. Alcohol and beer – CNS (Central Nervous System) depressants that could induce sleep – were available for him to use to take him to bed. But King Xerxes chose not to take a sleep inducer; he did not take a sleeping pill to go to sleep. He instead decided to spend his sleepless night doing something productive and edifying for his kingdom. He decided to spend the sleepless night opening and looking at old files of his reign. He turned the ‘sleepless night’ into a ‘working night!’ This is a sign of maturity! An immature, young politician would spend that sleepless night drinking and enjoying himself. This is what the Bible says: “Woe to you, O land whose king is a child and whose princes feast in the morning. Blessed are you, O land whose king is of noble birth and whose princes eat at a proper time — for strength and not for drunkenness” Ecclesiastes 10:16,17.
In this scripture, we see two types of political leaders. Those that are children (immature) and love eating and drinking early in the morning (childish habit) and those that are
mature and eat at the proper time for strength and not for drunkenness. King Xerxes is of the latter type. He did not get up to eat and drink at 2:00 or 3:00 am but to look at his work files. Immature politicians according to the above scripture are a curse to the land but mature politicians are a blessing to a nation.
I had wanted to add a paragraph here to say something more about ‘maturity’ and ‘immaturity’ but for space sake, let me leave it for you dear reader to analyse for yourself and come up with your own definitions and characteristics list for each one of them. Who is a good or bad leader and what are his/her characteristics?
King Xerxes decided that he spent time going through the pages of the Chronicles or annals of his kingdom where all the matters big and small were recorded. But why review files at night when there are eight (8) working ours of daytime? Night hours as we all know are more calm and our mind and thinking is clear and better. People get revelations, productive dreams and thoughts at night. Wicked people in this world know the importance and value of night hours very well so they carry out their wicked plans at night and execute them during daytime. The Bible tells us: “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds (at night)! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it” Micah 2:1. If the wicked people of this world use the quality night hours to plan evil, why should the righteous and good people in this world not spend good night ours planning or reviewing files for goodness sake?
When politicians in our time and part of the world have insomnia, will they have some files and issues to review like King Xerxes or will they turn on the TV, take a cup of alcohol and watch movies until sleep comes to take them back to bed? What a waste of precious night hours! The most difficult diagnosis and description God gave to leaders of His people Israel in the past repeats itself in all nations around the globe and at all times.
Listen to this passage from the book of prophet Isaiah; this is not me but God speaking and describing the leaders of His people Israel that are more or less similar to many leaders today: “Israel’s watchmen (=leaders) are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep (italics mine). They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain. “Come,” each one cries, “let me get wine! Let us drink our fill of beer! And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better” Isaiah 56:10-12. Look at that! Leaders are complacent and indulge in eating and drinking while thinking that tomorrow will be a good day like today and even far better! This is not right. If we spend this day drinking and wasting time it is already a
bad day therefore tomorrow will not be far better but far worse! It is said that ‘Tomorrow’s
outlook depends on how today is spent.’
The most important question about how tomorrow will look like is: “Did I do everything I could today to make tomorrow the way I want it to be?” If we spend this day, this week, this month, this year, this decade, and this century in corruption, in fighting, in laziness and sleeping, in drinking, … what do we expect to reap? I do not have to tell you the answers. You know the consequences! What man sows is exactly what he reaps
(Galatians 6:7). I hope and pray the above description does not apply to our political leaders. I hope the leaders of this nation are visionary leaders who don’t waste time but use their time well to take the people of this nation to their desired haven of a better future (Psalm 107:30).
A vast empire with 127 provinces (if we take South Sudan’s 10 states for provinces, it is just
about 8% of that empire) was a big responsibility on King Xerxes’ shoulder! It was not therefore an easy thing for him to rule such a vast kingdom. This is why any time he gets an opportunity even from insomnia, he uses it to visit different files of his kingdom to make sure that every page and stone not left unturned in his kingdom. He was a great leader! The wise King Solomon says: “To search out a matter is the glory of kings” Proverbs 25:2.
When Sudan was still one with its 1,000,000 square miles and tens of provinces, somebody joked that some parts of the country were not developed probably because they were so remote that the Republican Palace (the seat of the government) has forgotten them! Their development files remained hidden under heaps of files and unopened for decades. I believe this is one of the factors that contributed to Sudan’s problems as some regions remain for decades since independence or since the time of Adam and Eve according to Dr. John Garang De Mabior in his 'Mission from the extraordinary SPLM leader, Dr. John Garang', 2005, without any services while others
(more central regions) have all the services like schools, universities, healthcare, better roads infrastructure etc. People in remote parts opened their eyes decades later to find that their regions and people are not developed. ‘Marginalised’ is now the common terminology people use in Sudan that wise leaders in both parts (North and South) should work hard to exchange with the opposite ‘attended to’ which can only be done by reaching out with services to those parts of the country that seem to be forgotten.
Although King Xerxes had governors over the provinces, he kept track of what was happening in each province, he had a page on almost everything in his kingdom. I imagine that when his secretary was reading out the pages of his annals to him; the king would say to him, turn to the page on province (state) X. What are the development projects in that province? Are they completed or not? What is the timeline for completion of those projects? Look at the sub page on Roads, Bridges and Dams. From the 127 provinces, what is the province we have not opened its file recently? etc. He would go from one important page to another in his book of chronicles! He would also go to section on recorded ‘events of national importance and significance’ in his kingdom! What a beautiful night!
I wish and pray our politicians are like that! King Xerxes had a book of annals of his kingdom. Kings, presidents and all government officials in our time
similarly have files with records in their offices. But how many of them spent a night or at least an evening going through those files? Records ensure that important information and documents are not lost. Did the king waste his quality night hours opening files? Never! Those hours he spent opening files were the most important in his lifetime and in the history of his kingdom for they went into eternal records. What happened that night found its way into the Bible pages! If he did not sacrifice that night’s hours, we would not be enjoying reading that story today in the Bible and learning from it. God always reward anything we sacrifice including sleep hours and time!
Eternal Discovery: A forgotten story and incident came to surface.
What did King Xerxes discover while searching his files? When the book of the chronicles was being read out to King Xerxes, it reached a page where an important incident of ‘national importance and significance’ was recorded and a forgotten story popped up that night. Some time back, two of the king’s palace guards conspired to assassinate him but a man, a Jew called Mordecai who was working in the king’s palace at the time, exposed their plot and therefore saved the king’s life from sure death. The Book of Esther tells us: “It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes” Esther 6:2. This is an incident that happened many years back and it was almost forgotten in the files. But records are faithful in keeping stories. As already stated, records ensure that important information are not lost.
Recorded national events never get rotten if kept well. They will come to surface afresh in due time. “It was found recorded…” is the phrase/clause I very much love in the above scripture. If that story was not ‘recorded’ it would have not been ‘found recorded.’ Record keeping is of utmost importance. Sometimes it is shocking to see important papers and documents getting lost in big and respectable offices just because there is no proper record and filing system. A friend told me an important paper he personally handed to one important office was nowhere to be found when he came a day or two later to follow up! Drawers and different files were searched including other offices it might have been ‘referred to’ but was not found. What a mess! Stored information is important for history and researchers. What if a researcher comes up today and asks about some information on an incident that happened years back in a respectable office. Would there be a file where information on that story could easily be located?
Results of the discovered story: Mordecai’s honour and recognition.
That night Mordecai’s unrecognised and forgotten heroism came to life. Mordecai who exposed the conspiracy to kill the king was not rewarded at that very moment probably because he was a Jew, a foreigner working in a palace of a Persian King. That heroic role was ignored and not recognised because of his ethnic background and nationality. No any importance was placed on that big national duty he carried out to save the king’s life. He was truly ‘marginalised’ and therefore not rewarded. But the faithful God did not forget Mordecai. That night when the story and the incident was read out to the king, the first question the king asked was whether Mordecai was honoured and recognised for that or not. “What honour and recognition (italics mine) has Mordecai received for this?” the king asked. “Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered” Esther 6:3.
People forget, marginalise, minimise and put aside any good thing or role we have done but the faithful God is never unjust, He makes sure people who do good are recognised and rewarded even after a long time. It is equally true that those who do evil will also
reap and receive painful justice for their evil acts if they do not repent (see Isaiah 33:1).
Some heroes and heroines are recognised and honoured posthumously. People should not work hard to expect rewards from human being. True and genuine reward comes from God. If we do our duty faithfully well, God will bring our hidden files to the surface in due time and make sure we are rewarded. This is why the Bible urges us to do our normal duty as if we are serving the Lord God, and not the government, organisation, company or human being. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” Colossians 3:23.
As I said in the beginning of this article, I strongly believe that God caused the king to be sleepless to bring to surface Mordecai’s story because His (God’s) timing for Mordecai’s reward has come. When King Xerxes came to know that Mordecai was not honoured and recognised, he immediately ordered that he (Mordecai) be given the reward and recognition he deserved. The king acted on that information he got. Information is for decision-making and taking action. The king acted promptly to reward Mordecai for that heroic role. King Xerxes was a leader who acted on any genuine information he received.
Here is what the Bible says: “When Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honour?” So he answered the king, “For the man the king delights to honour, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king
delights to honour, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, `This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour!’“ “Go at once,” the king
commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for
Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.” So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honour!” Esther 6:6-11.
What is the relevance of this story to South Sudan?
Like Mordecai who was not rewarded immediately after doing good, people of this nation had fought many battles in many fronts for over 50 years and the only reward they received so far is the acquisition of independence. However, independence without its accompanying fruits is frustrating. Our independence is now disturbed and interrupted by strife. Three years have already passed and people are still in pain, agony and misery of war, starvation, diseases, corruption, land grabbing, lack of basic services like running water, power, proper health services, housing, … name them! Is that the reward, honour and recognition they deserve after all the years of their struggle?
What are the Mordecai’s-type of honour and recognition people of this nation expect from their politicians and government especially after independence? What are the
files that citizens of this nation expect our leaders to spend some sleepless night on if they can sacrifice some good night hours and time? My humble opinion is that there are at least three (3) important files that the citizens of this nation expected our politicians to have revisited or expect them to review in the coming period (we pray that God causes some healthy and productive sleepless nights to come upon them):
File # 1: File of basic services and development priorities:
When Dr. John Garang de Mabior introduced SPLM mission (Mission from the extraordinary SPLM leader Dr. John Garang, 2005) to be accomplished, he emphasised five main areas top on the list is basic services:
Secure the basic need,
Liberalisation from poverty through Agriculture development,
Equality - equal rights of men and women, and
Child protection and care.
Basic services and development are things that are on citizens’ lips all the time. Each day citizens ask: When will power and running water come to our homes? When will our roads be in better shape? When will health services improve in this nation? When will our schools and universities run regularly? When will lasting peace and security come? When will this nation be stable and peaceful? When will…? The list of citizens’ expectations is endless.
Let us see for instance the file of basic services in the city of Juba that is the seat of our
government as an example since we cannot refer to services in states outside the capital when the capital is going without. It is strange that the capital Juba that has two or three layers of governments (national, state and city council) has little basic services like power, running water and proper roads three years in post-independence period. Who is responsible to make Juba look like a capital city, the national or state government or both? Or is it solely a responsibility of Juba City Council that is part of the state government? Thanks to the new mayor who has started off well with roads maintenance on some of the main roads. Or it is because Juba is a temporary capital as we will soon (?) be moving to our Abuja, which is Ramciel? We cannot talk of better services in the states when the capital is not in good shape. Yei, a small town for comparison sake is enjoying 18 hours of city power while the capital Juba is in darkness, except for small pockets of city power to some privileged residential areas where VIPs live. Is it a management
problem or political?
Few weeks ago I read a big and bold heading on the front page of The Citizen Newspaper (November 18, 2014) that there was a ‘power blackout’ in our national
parliament! This to me was a little amusing. The parliament that speaks on people’s behalf for services has power while the people they are representing go without power.
During the French Revolution in 1789 when the people were revolting in the streets of Paris for lack of bread, Marie-Antoinette (Bride of France’s King Louis XVI) said “Let them eat cake”. This is because she never experienced any ‘stock-out’ or ‘blackout’ of these commodities in her life in the palace. She thought ‘cake’ is everywhere when the country was starving. Is this not what is happening? Our parliament experienced only one day of power blackout and it was making headlines! For the ordinary citizen of Juba, there has always been a constant blackout not only of electric power but of many services and it was not on any newspaper!
I am writing these lines when there is acute fuel shortage in Juba and South Sudan. What is the reason for this? I repeat the question: Is it a management problem or political? Or there are hands behind the scenes playing with fuel supply for their own gain? The Bible says “People curse the man who hoards (hides) grain (to make it rare and expensive to gain from), but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell” Proverbs 11:26.
Issues like ensuring of security, development projects, and basic services are common agenda that all citizens and politicians regardless of their political affiliations and umbrella should have consensus on. All political parties should have a national consensus on those basic services because if this is at the back of each politician’s mind, then whoever comes to office knows that these are expected of him/her no matter what political party or umbrella he/she is under.
Opinions may differ on system of government like federalism but not on basic services and development issues although these are influenced by the system of government in place.
File # 2: File of governance system:
Laying a long-lasting stable political system for a newly born nation like South Sudan is one of the most important and difficult tasks politicians can ever have. Another important file that citizens of this nation expect politicians to spend a sleepless night on is the file of system of governance. This is an important stability factor; it is what determines future stability in a nation.
I believe that political stability comes when there is a strong democratic system in place with peaceful power rotation among political parties. Power and wealth sharing must be clearly defined in whatever democratic system adopted. Leaders of a young nation like ours that need the right political foundation to be laid down must spend some night hours thinking, researching and opening files to be able to come up with an ideal system of governance that will benefit the coming generations. If a good and strong political foundation is laid now, it will avert crisis in future and ensure stability for generations to come.
I believe the ruling party (SPLM) and all the other political parties in this nation have enough files in their shelves that contain their visions, objectives and strategies for better future of this nation. What citizens now see and experience on daily basis is unnecessary fighting (4 rebellions so far since independence!), crisis in power sharing, corruption, land grabbing (read professor Taban Lo Liyong’s open letter to SPLM leadership on the issue of land grabbing - Juba Monitor Newspaper, July 11, 2014 – page 6) and lack of basic services as already mentioned. These are not signs of a good foundation for a stable
future political life of the people of this nation. Has the political compass been lost? What kind of political system was envisioned after independence? What was SPLM’s wealth distribution and power sharing strategy post independence?
What kind of political system was in SPLM’s mind after independence? Life on earth is not permanent. This means great leaders like Dr. John Garang can depart to their eternity home but their vision will always remain viable to be carried forward by their brothers and sisters who are still alive. Dreams and visions never die. Leaders like Julius Nyerere of Tanzania for instance laid the right foundation for his nation before he left for eternity. Citizens of this nation expect to see the nation taking a better direction to the future.
This can only happen when all political parties come to a common ground of laying the right political foundation for this nation. This can only happen when political leaders from all parties diligently spend nights opening and searching files to find out what system of government is best for our context.
File # 3: File of national reconciliation.
My humble opinion is that this should have been the first file opened in post-independence period or the first file to be opened in the coming period when the current civil war stops. Many atrocities have been committed in the last 50 years of civil wars in the former Sudan to this moment. Acts of brothers killing brothers, rape, and looting of citizens’ properties have been witnessed in this nation. It is important to go down to all communities at grass-root level to initiate reconciliation process. But it should not end at grass-root level. It must come up to political level to be a complete reconciliation. We are grateful to our Church leaders who have been and are working hard on this mediating between the warring parties. Christ has given and mandated the Church with that ministry of reconciliation. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:18.
Healing of wounds comes first. Wounded people or parties cannot share power and work
together in one office to avail services unless a genuine and sincere forgiveness and
reconciliation happens. I believe the December 15th crisis sparked out because old wounds and grudges among the SPLM/SPLA leadership, that have accumulated since the time of the struggle in the bush, have not been dealt with properly after independence. Wounds hidden under the mask of politics easily flare up and get infected with fatal results. A divided kingdom and a divided home cannot stand the Lord Jesus said. “Jesus said to them: ‘Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall’ ” Luke 11:17.
This is why it is important to reconcile first before agreeing on power sharing and delivery of services. Rwanda is taking a new direction to a better future because its leadership and citizens have taken a firm and resolute decision to reconcile with one another after the 1994 genocide. Reconciliation is a subject that needs an article by itself. In fact many books and articles have already been written on the subject. Without going to philosophies and books, the Lord Jesus has given clear directives towards reconciliation.
A simple but bold step is to go and talk to your brother/sister who has offended and wounded you and tell him/her where he/she has wounded you (frank talk with each other) including involving other parties if he/she refuses to reconcile followed by true forgiveness from heart. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he
will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:15-18).
Reconciliation begins with sincere apology, forgiveness and healing of wounds of harm caused. Some will say, “Why take us back to open files of old wounds? We got our independence and are now free why say sorry for any harm committed during a liberation process? Citizens will understand it without any apology. We instead should focus on the future and celebrate our new nation and not go back to open old
painful wounds.” This reasoning is not in line with God’s mind as we have seen in the words of our Lord Jesus above.
Opening wounds and old files of harm committed in love, and saying sorry to each other and to affected communities pave the way for a true national reconciliation and healing. Remember dirty and covered wounds do not heal or heal slowly while open and clean wounds heal faster. Liberation and freedom will not make sense to those communities that have been affected by the events which have taken place until a true apology is given. The ruling party as well, needs to reconcile with its self to be able to perform better in the coming period.
In conclusion, these three files when opened with good will shall bring Mordecai’s-type of
reward to the people of South Sudan.
The file of basic services will improve citizens’ life and health indicators.
The file of stable political system of government will lay a good and strong political foundation and stability for the country and eliminate tensions and rebellions in future.
The file of national reconciliation will bring peaceful coexistence to the people of this nation to jointly serve this country together in harmony as one people and as brothers and sisters.
These files combined will take the nation to a new future and level of development.
God bless our political leaders who spend nights thinking and opening the files of this nation for the better.
(originally written in The Citizen newspaper, December 12th 2014).