The birth of Jesus Christ, which was celebrated on Wednesday, December 25, is the portentous event of the Incarnation, from which Christianity draws its essence. Christians the world over, marked the birth of the Son of God and the Savior of mankind, whose spectacular life of virtue, revolutionary teaching and sacrificial death on the Cross of Calvary, form the basis of the over 2000-year-old Christian religion. Even in a world overrun by secularism and materialism and other social forces impacting negatively on religion and morality, a world witnessing an inexorable decline in Christian values and Christian worship especially in western industrialized societies, the continued influence of Jesus Christ in a global context is unmistakable.
Across the globe, Christmas has come to be associated with festivities, family reunions and the celebration of family life and friendship with the exchange of greetings, visits and gifts. It is that time of the year when many are inspired to stretch out the hand of fellowship and solidarity in charity and thanksgiving to all who have survived the stresses and the strains of the passing year. The legend of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of all generous people played out in the form of Father Christmas or Santa Claus, has always excited the curiosity of children.
For Nigerians, however, Christmas 2019 brings to a close a year of shocks and pains and blood and tears. Nigerians have been struggling to cope with bad governance, decrepit social infrastructure, worsening economic fortunes and widespread social insecurity. And as the year draws to a close, many are counting their losses with a fair dose of stoicism and characteristic hope. The groundswell of euphoria and hope for change engendered by the election of President Muhammadu Buhari, turned into disillusion and despair as the country plunged into its worst economic recession in decades. Against this background, there are justifiable reasons to be cynical and incredulous over the rash of statistics extolling the Nigerian economy, since this curious inventory of positive macroeconomic success hardly reflect the reality of Nigerian living conditions.
The UNDP Human Development Index ranks Nigeria deep among low-income, least developed countries. Despite the decrepit infrastructure, the government allows budget recurrent expenditure to crowd out capital spending on infrastructure. The situation calls for a budget philosophy that tackles corruption, waste, inefficiency and poor governance. The economy is actually at its nadir because absolute poverty is a depressing 70%.
The Nigerian condition has taken on a life of its own, however, somber such life. The average Nigerian’s life is brutish with no value. Security of life and property is completely prostrate, leaving agents of death on rampage, wreaking havoc. Besides insecurity, the continuing spectacle of petrol scarcity in the country is an embarrassment which is further compounded by oil theft. More importantly, Nigeria is yet to achieve an acceptable level of power supply, badly needed for economic development. The entire country is in darkness. It is regrettable that despite the much-flaunted reforms in the electricity sector, the situation has only gotten worse. Nigerians are tired of excuses and are now much more interested in solutions. As the self-acclaimed giant of Africa, Nigeria has failed to lead by example. Pretending that all is well when the electoral process is abused is a disservice to democracy. The huge loss to the state, damage to the people’s psyche and truncation of a people’s destiny are best imagined when elections do not reflect the preference of the electorate. This democratic backsliding must be halted.
In spite of the agony and social chaos that have endured in the country, however, the celebratory spirit of the Nigerian will not be dampened. The incurable optimism in the Nigerian is what appears to have secured the peaceful quiet that prevails in many quarters amid the subsisting trauma of life in the country. Perhaps in the view of many, Christmas is too important a milestone in the Christian life cycle to be abandoned to the vagaries of disoriented and misguided groups who are reinventing and orchestrating a hate culture of intolerance for the country. Many Christians, even in the troubled cities of the war-ravaged Northeast, will go out to celebrate, if only to demonstrate that they do indeed have a substantial stake in this country and they cannot and will not be denied the peaceful conduct of their religious obligations and festivities.
Nigeria’s social conundrum today is exacerbated by the heightened incidence of corruption and obscene display of stolen wealth by public officials without due regard for the majority of citizens who continue to wallow in poverty and misery. The result has been rising criminality by unemployed youths who have resorted to kidnapping and armed robbery, such that travelling home for Christmas has become risky and daunting as weathering the siege of war.
Nigeria has massive potential but the country faces serious challenges from corruption, decrepit infrastructure to general insecurity. The country is bleeding. The continued success of kidnapping for ransom is a clear manifestation of the gross ineptitude and incompetence of the security agencies. That criminals have be allowed to run riot; challenging Nigeria’s national security, and advertising their brazenness to an already traumatized civilian population; is an affront on the government and the people of Nigeria that is inexcusable, and unacceptable.
Christmas is, however, the proclamation of good news. It is a celebration of joy and of hope. The Christ, whose birth is marked every December 25, has given the world a roadmap to abundant life, peace and prosperity. Taken seriously and applied in our individual and corporate lives, the values preached by Jesus Christ, namely sacrificial love, justice, compassion, leadership by service, forgiveness, humility and purity of heart, will transform Nigeria for the better. The disposition towards crass materialism, excessive wealth accumulation and blind pursuit of pleasure is clearly at variance with the spirit of this holy day.
And so beyond the festivities of Christmas, Nigerian Christians are once again challenged to live up to the core values of their faith and impact positively on their country. There is need for sober reflection on the imperatives of the socio-economic and political challenges facing Nigeria today. The values which symbolize the life of Christ – love, truth, justice, humility, service, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, remain elusive. Incumbent and aspiring Nigerian leaders must abandon the path of selfishness, greed and inordinate ambition for power. Against the palpable fear that Nigerian leaders may have irretrievably betrayed the country’s destiny, Christians and non-Christians alike must embrace the higher value of sacrificial leadership that make for lasting peace and prosperity.
Huhuonline.com wishes its readers and partners, and all Nigerians, a Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year 2020.
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