Rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft.
From 1986 to 1988, I was Special Adviser to Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, then Nigeria’s Minister of External Affairs. It was a great privilege working with Professor Akinyemi, a man of great intellect and vision. In that position, I traveled the world. I met many dignitaries personally, including the Queen of England in Vancouver, President Houphouet-Boigny of Cote d’Ivoire in his palace in Yamassoukro, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia in Lusaka, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in Harare. I also had the privilege of traveling several times with President Babangida and Vice-Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, then Chief of General Staff.
A year later, Professor Akinyemi informed me that President Babangida had decided to offer me the job of Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. I felt highly honoured but ended up declining the offer. My stint in public office had somewhat demystified it. The vacuum in my life was spiritual. It was a vacuum only God could fill and only God has filled.
When I was at External Affairs, I was given a diplomatic passport. This enabled me to breeze in and out of Murtala Mohammed International Airport. When I left the ministry, I took my diplomatic passport with me. It soon expired, but that was not a handicap. Any time I travelled, I would just flash the passport at immigration officials. Once they saw the red colour, they never bothered to check its details. I was immediately ushered through customs.
The Lord kept pricking my heart that this practice was dishonest, but I continued to kick against the pricks. After all, I fooled myself; it was not a major issue.
Then one day, I was going abroad and could not find my fake diplomatic passport. I knew instantly it was the Lord who had hidden it. That made me even more adamant. Samuel says rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft. I told myself, “How can God hide this passport from me in this house?” I was determined to find it and I searched everywhere, but to no avail.
So I told the Lord: “You’ve won” and decided to travel without my fake passport. On my return to Lagos, I knew the Lord would have set a trap for me. Without my fake diplomatic passport, the customs officials would turn my luggage upside down. But when I got to customs, the officer surprised me. I did not know him from Adam but he said to me: “Welcome back, Dr. Aribisala” and waved me through. I did not need to be deceitful in order not to go through the hassle of a customs check; I only needed the Lord.
Immediately I returned home, I found my fake diplomatic passport but dared not use it again.
Chastening of the Lord
This brings to mind a dream I had after I had just received Christ into my life. A committee had been set up to look into the affairs of the library of my research institute and to come up with recommendations for reform. I was privileged to be a member of that committee.
At the end of the exercise, we were all seated at a roundtable. The committee chairman decided to read the approved recommendations to us, before sending them to the management committee of the institute. “In the first place,” he said, “we have to make sure Femi Aribisala does not steal any more books from this library.”
I was shocked and embarrassed. The chairman’s statement completely caught me off guard. “But I am a member of this committee,” I protested. There was a deathly silence. “But I don’t steal any books,” I continued, becoming a little more strident in my protest.
No one argued with me. The chairman brought out a book. Or should I say he brought out something that looked like a book. When he opened it, it opened like a computer notebook with what seemed to be a television screen. He switched on one of the dials and a recorded film came on. There I was on the screen in the library, reading a newspaper.
All the members of the committee were watching the recorded episode on the screen with rapt attention. There was no place to hide. I just knew it was a matter of time before I would steal something from the library. But before I could see exactly how the theft was executed, my wife came and woke me up.
Thieves and robbers
I believe God inspired her to wake me up out of his love and mercy, for love will cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Nevertheless, the dream was eloquent enough. God had revealed to me, without room for contradiction, that I was a thief.