Thoughts On The New Year

(By Okechukwu Emeh, Jr)

To make 2014 eventful, we should compassionately consider the plight of the less privileged in our society – especially the unfortunate victims of deprivation, privation, poverty, alienation and economic austerity. That the level of squalor among a vast majority of our people is spiraling out of control today is not an overstatement. Those in the corridors of power at all levels in Nigeria are besought to respond swiftly and vigorously to this worrisome development through good governance and delivery of dividends of democracy by way of provision of infrastructure and social services, as well as articulation of safety nets of poverty alleviation, skill training and social opportunities.

THIS is a season of joyous celebrations, goodwill and renewal of hope. Last December, Christians all over the world celebrated Christmas, in remembrance of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, the begotten Son of God and saviour of humanity, more than 2000 years ago. Now another festivity: the New Year. In the twinkling of an eye, 2013 has gone with all its ups and downs and 2014 has arrived with expectations and individual resolutions. For those who passed through agonizing times in the year that just ended, they should use this joyful occasion to be thankful to the merciful and mighty Creator for His abiding love, care and protection, which have enabled them to be alive and kicking in the New Year. Such people should be hopeful that despite the vagaries of life, it shall be well with them in the fullness of time if they are faithful. Despite the frustrations and disappointments of 2013, they should not see themselves as a failure or complete write-off. After all, failure should not always be perceived as negative or end of the road in the struggles of life, considering that it would make us to be introspective in order to identify where we made mistakes and how to make amends and forge ahead. In the unforgettable words of the late Dr. Nelson Mandela: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing but in rising every time we fail”. And for those who 2013 brought a lot of good fortunes, they should give all the honour and exaltation to our Heavenly Father for His amazing grace and loving kindness by being faithful, pious, kind-hearted and altruistic.

  With 2013 gone forever, we should now forget about the pains and disillusionment of that year, if there was any, and move on in the New Year with unflinching spirit of hope, optimism, perseverance, equanimity, resolve and determination in order to change things for the better. This is paramount because those who only look to the past or the present are certain to miss the future. While learning the worthy lessons of the preceding year, we should go back to the drawing board to chart a new promising course, mindful that those who fail to plan are definitely planning to fail.

  In this New Year, we should not continue to lament over our predicament(s) or pander to fatalistic resignation or self-pity, which rarely solve any problem but create more confusion and uncertainty. Rather, we should count on Divine help through earnest prayers, with clear conscience, while being upbeat and maintaining a momentum of grit and courage to survive and overcome, even in the face of great adversity. Needless to say, the centrality of Almighty God in surmounting the battles of life is beyond doubt.   This is because in His will, as the overall sovereign of the whole universe, lies our peace, our future and our salvation. What is more, the mere mortal man, no matter how powerful, can propose and an unforeseen circumstance can dispose. Again, no one can predicttomorrow (or the future) with certainty except the all-knowing Supreme Being. This is a valid reason we should not repose all our trust in fellow human beings who can disappoint when it matters most but in the Good Lord who never fails those who worship Him whole-heartedly.

  On our part, in the midst of the storm of life, we should remain unperturbed, focused and resolute, relying on the resilience of the human spirit, which would see us through the darkest moments. This is because man will not merely survive but will endure. Of course, the human race never solves any of its problems, it only outlives them.

  What life might have taught some of us, with calm and reflection, is that those who have absolute confidence in Divine providence while working assiduously to succeed are not the likely candidates for want and even tragedy. Such people are God-fearing, spiritual, moralistic, meek, contended, compassionate, humane, benevolent, altruistic and self-effacing. To them, what matters in this transient earthly existence is not what they can always get for themselves but how to serve God without attachment to material gain(s) and give back to the society through goodwill – which is the hallmark of a meaningful and fulfilled life.

   We should see 2014 as a year for a new thinking. We should rethink individualism, selfishness, personal aggrandizement, greed, covetousness and avarice. Apart from undermining or destroying inter-personal relationship and imperiling both our moral and ethical values, these retrogressive factors are also responsible for the upsurge in crimes like corruption, fraud, armed robbery, kidnapping, murder, human trafficking, prostitution and crude oil theft. Rather than being obsessed with self, we should be thinking of the well-being of others and the entire society. Building such an enviable altruistic order that will rise above the confine of “me-first” syndrome, which has turned our society upside down, will require a sea change in the aspects of our altitude and behaviour that are negative or repulsive.

  To make 2014 eventful, we should compassionately consider the plight of the less privileged in our society – especially the unfortunate victims of deprivation, privation, poverty, alienation and economic austerity. That the level of squalor among a vast majority of our people is spiraling out of control today is not an overstatement. Those in the corridors of power at all levels in Nigeria are besought to respond swiftly and vigorously to this worrisome development through good governance and delivery of dividends of democracy by way of provision of infrastructure and social services, as well as articulation of safety nets of poverty alleviation, skill training and social opportunities.

  On the part of our religious bodies, especially churches and mosques, they should help build a beneficent system by channeling a sizable portion of donations made by their faithful into mitigating poverty and suffering in the land through evolving of micro credit programme and provision of affordable schools, medical centres and housing. This is of urgent necessity because according to Walter Rauschenbusch, in his doctrine of “Social Gospel”, any religion, which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that sear the soul is a spiritually moribund religion.

  In the same vein, people of unimaginable wealth in Nigeria are enjoined to imbibe the noble spirit of giving by helping those who have fallen into the nadir of poverty and human degradation. They should go beyond the quixotic and escapist exhortations of work hard and self-determination by setting aside part of their enormous wealth for charities, in the way renowned multi-billionaire Western benefactors like Bill Gates have done. Our rich and famous should not be giving donations only to religious institutions, perhaps out of showmanship, while those around them are languishing in hunger, poverty and neglect. This is not only an anathema to God but also the height of insensitivity and contempt for human worth. Notably, the escalation of violent crimes like armed robbery and kidnapping in Nigeria in recent years has shown that the rich would no longer have a place to hide when the impoverished and the deprived around them are hungry, miserable, hopeless and desperate. Suffice it to say that such crimes are symptomatic of emerging class war arising from the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, as well as fast and shocking decline of social solidarity and human compassion.  John F. Kennedy, the late American President, had this dreadful scenario in mind when he warned in clear and unmistakable terms that: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich”.  So, in this New Year, we should spare a thought for the poorest of the poor around us and think of how to engender a more harmonious society where the rich would help the poor survive and the poor ensure that the rich are safe and secure in a manner shorn of morose envy.

  We should also think of how to make this year a new era of vigorous spiritual revival. Despite the religious effusion of most Nigerians, as accentuated by their willingness to defend their faith at all costs and proliferation of places of worship like mushroom, it is lamentable that acts of immorality, crime and criminality have claimed a latitude as wide as they had enjoyed before – including the seemingly unheard-of developments such as kidnapping, hostage-taking, virulent ethnic nationalism, religious fanaticism, terror attack, suicide, acid bath, rape, gang rape, paedophilia (or sexual exploitation of children), the so-called baby factories and human trafficking. In addition to these awful acts are worsening of traditional crimes such as armed robbery, sea piracy, assassination, homicide, ritual murder, communal bloodshed, cultism, bribery and corruption and advance fee fraud, as well as hatred, wickedness, vengeance, inhumanity, dishonesty, selfishness, greed, jealousy and immoral acts of Sodom and Gomorrah proportions like incest, homosexualism and adultery. To confront some of these nauseating problems head-on and build a good society, we should strive to address the spiritual/moral emptiness and anomie that inform them. In this wise, we should work ceaselessly towards spirituality, which requires developing and maintaining deeper personal relationship with the Creator by worshipping Him in spirit, truth and faith. This is in contrast with religiosity, which harbours hypocrisy and bigotry and the attendant evils.

  It is impossible to conclude without mentioning the great significance of 2014 for our fatherland. It is exactly 100 years this year that the Northern and Southern protectorates were amalgamated by the erstwhile British colonial administrator, Sir Frederick John Jeatry Lugard, to form a country named by Flora Shaw as Nigeria, i.e. a nation state in the River Niger area. Regardless of the painful twists and turns the country has undergone since its formation as a political entity on January 1, 1914, as exemplified in bloody civil war, minority uprisings, political upheavals, military interventions of the mid-1960s through the 80s and intermittent communal pogroms, there is still hope for the future. If anything, such traumatic events and those subsisting should be seen as part of the birth pangs of our nationhood, which other countries had passed through and come out more stable, united and peaceful. In this most agitated period in our political history, marked by outburst of ethnic nationalism, religious extremism and political posturing, there is a new sense of urgency for us to put emphasis on those things that unite us as a people like our common humanity/African brotherhood, shared colonial experience and common national challenges, not ethnic, religious, cultural, political and class differences that divide.

With outlandish display of will and determination, Nigerian people can build bridges of understanding across the divisions of such differences through open, frank dialogue and engagement with a view to mending fences and spreading a civilisation of love, tolerance and forbearance in the country for peace, stability and prosperity in our time. This is not the time to equivocate on the future of Nigeria, especially now when we are marking our centenary; it is time for outlining grand vision for progress in all aspects of our national life. Basically, our centenary calls for good governance, leadership accountability, democratic consolidation, relentless campaign against corruption, dutiful citizens, dynamic political class that upholds national unity and is attuned to the needs of playing according to the rules of the game, coexistence among our complex and diverse groups on equal terms, social justice, growth-oriented and inclusive economy and sustainable development.

• Emeh sent this piece from Wuse 2, Abuja

08036895746, okemehjr@yahoo.com

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