Editorial: Eid-el-Fitri 2017 and Nigeria’s Redemption

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As Muslims celebrate the Eid-el-Fitri, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan or the end of 30 or 29 days of mandatory fasting, Nigerians can only hope that the feast of the ram as it is popularly known, will provide yet another opportunity for the faithful to embrace the fear of God as the beginning of wisdom. Declaring Sunday, June 25, 2017 as the day to mark the Eid-el-Fitr, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, Abubakar urged Nigerians to continue to live in peace irrespective of religious, ethnic and cultural differences. The Sultan who said the new moon was sighted in Adamawa, Borno, Kaduna, Katsina and Sokoto States, underscored the fear of Allah as the very essence of the feast, not the voluptuous eating and drinking that many have erroneously associated it with. Indeed, the lesson is not to over-indulge in merriment, but to use the occasion to foster peace, love one another, care for the less privileged, help the needy and generally strive to uplift society. At no better time than now does the message of Eid-el-Fitri; resonate with Nigeria, a nation in dire need of redemption. All those leaders - Christians and Muslims, who are beating the drums of war and championing the dismemberment of Nigeria, should, in the spirit of Ramadan, reflect and change their ways. Nigerians must begin anew the work of rescuing the country from the forces of darkness and halt the doomsday descent into anarchy.

To appreciate this fundamental need for sobriety, Muslims and non-Muslims are reminded of the origin of Ramadan, thousands of years ago when Prophet Abraham (May the peace of Allah be upon him) took out his only son at the time, Ishmael, for sacrifice to God.  The action was sequel to the revelation, in dreams, to Abraham in which God asked him to sacrifice his son.  At the appointed time, and just before Ishmael was slaughtered, God miraculously provided a ram in replacement. In appreciation of this merciful act of God, many people have correctly interpreted Ramadan as the feast of life. Obviously, it would have been difficult to replicate the scene had Abraham sacrificed his son at the time.

It is worth emphasizing, therefore, that Eid-el-Fitri is a time for sober reflection; a time for all Muslims to appreciate the divine mercy of Allah in preserving their lives, and for them to reciprocate by seeking to walk only in the way of Allah. The significance of obedience to the will of Allah is underlined first by the fact that, pained as he was in deciding to sacrifice his only son, Abraham never hesitated in carrying out Allah’s commandment. That was an exemplification of his trust in Allah. And Ishmael who knew from his father that he was to be sacrificed, never complained, again because he had the fear of Allah.

These are the lessons of the celebration, which Muslims and all people should imbibe. They are lessons about having unwavering faith in Allah; being ready to make personal, even painful sacrifice for one another; and refraining from acts that are detrimental to fellow citizens or to society. On the other hand, this year’s celebrations come when the nation is at a crossroads politically, economically and socially; hardly an atmosphere for religious felicitation, especially as primordial sentiments by some Muslim youths are fanning the embers of national disintegration following the quit notice by Arewa youths to Igbos residing in the north.

This year’s Ramadan is, therefore, significant, first for the different template it brings to the country and for the opportunities it offers those who perpetrate evil in the name of Islam, and for leaders who jettison the commandments of Allah in preference for self-aggrandizement and primitive accumulation. On the whole, the example of Abraham seems lost in Nigeria, where greed and corruption run riot. These are difficult times for Nigeria as events in the political arena already portend crises as the coalition of northern youth groups insists that Igbo residing in their region must leave by October 1 or face dire consequences. The groups are urging Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo to allow the Igbos to secede and form their independent state of Biafra from Nigeria.

The position of the northern youths indicates that there is no easy solution to the crisis over the eviction notice despite the assurances by the Federal Government and some leaders. Beyond these, what should not be lost on Nigerians is the essence of the conscious sacrifice. Too often, the pervasiveness of religion is directly proportional to the level of criminality. Ramadan is an opportunity for all Muslims to retrace their steps and seek the peace, blessing and mercy of Allah. Forgiveness of sins, which Ramadan entails, ought to be complemented with a desire to contribute positively to the society, and to eschew acts that hunker Nigeria down. Muslims and indeed all Nigerians need to offer special prayers of atonement and show remorse and seek Allah’s forgiveness. Leaders at all levels should resolve to stop the corruption. gross mismanagement of public resources, nepotism and flagrant acts of injustice, which impoverish and undermine the dignity of the people who put them in power.

As Nigerians celebrate, they must not lose sight of the notion of selfless and sacrificial love that is central to the life of Abraham. Authentic religion and genuine worship necessarily involve sacrifice and self-denial. What appears to be popular in Nigeria today, however, is religion of convenience that glamorizes wealth, pleasure and power with scant regard for sacrificial love, self-denial and self-abnegation. As adherents of the two major religions of Christianity and Islam, when Nigerians abandon hypocrisy and, live out the high ideals of their religions, redemption is certain. Believers in Nigeria must therefore capitalize on the best ideals of their religion to transform the country from a land of endemic corruption, greed and graft, led by opportunists, to a corrupt-free one under visionary leaders.

Ramadan is an opportunity to reflect on the state of the nation. A nation may be awash with corruption and official malfeasance. It may even be tottering on the brink of collapse. But Nigerians need not give in to a death wish. They can dream dreams. Nigeria can rise to new heights and regain her dignity. Nigerians can make Nigeria work for everyone. It only takes sacrifice, discipline, determination, focus, commitment, integrity, and visionary, selfless leadership. There is need for sober reflection on the moral imperatives of the political and economic choices before the nation. The values for which Abraham was to sacrifice his only son – love, truth, humility, service, self-sacrifice, remain elusive as Nigerians struggle for the soul of the nation. Muslims and non-Muslims alike must embrace the higher values of sacrificial leadership that make for lasting peace and prosperity.