SOMETIMES, it’s easy to lose perspective in the moment. But not this year. Not this Christmas. 2020 has invaded our attention, commanded and tested our individual and collective determination in ways no previous year ever did. Perhaps no Christmas in modern times will be celebrated in such sombre and low-key fashion as this one. Nobody needs to tell anybody why this is so. The truth is that a combination of factors has squeezed us to a corner. Covid-19 upended lives and livelihoods and brought global and domestic economies to their knees. Insecurity and bad leadership have conscripted us. The result was that our government was, like always, unprepared for existential crisis. It has always behaved like an overfed father who cannot take care of its frail children. All of that is why this Christmas will not be like previous ones. It’s a season made even worse by recession ravaging our economy.
If you need reminding, Friday is Christmas – the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It will be Christmas like no other in living memory. However, many do not know it’s Christmas because the socioeconomic conditions in the country have squeezed them into a corner. They don’t know where their next meal will come from. Look around you, some are rummaging through the dustbins for what to eat. If in doubt, watch that bedraggled cart pusher in your neighbourhood. Most Nigerians no longer believe government is working for their interest. Indeed, the general belief is that those in government are working for their own interests and that of their families.
Poor Nigerians are scrambling for palliatives. And some of them have died in the process. We are almost at that point where the citizens may engage one another in a fight to survive. Late Chief Tony Anenih once said, when Nigerians begin to fight themselves on the street, that’s when to know things have got out of control. We are fast getting to that tipping point. What happened in Port Harcourt, Rivers state last Tuesday represents a moment to reflect on. It was that dreaded point of extreme hunger and poverty in the land. The worst may still be ahead. Let’s refresh your memory if you lost perspective in the spectacle in Port Harcourt.
According to reports, about 8 people died and many sustained various degrees of injury in a stampede, during the distribution of Christmas palliatives by a Non-Governmental Organisation around Rumudara town in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. An eyewitness account said the stampede occurred when a huge crowd turned up to redeem their Christmas palliatives at an office owned by the NGO. Each beneficiary had reportedly registered with N10,000.00. The crowd at the venue was uncontrollable.
Do you blame them? The government has failed them. It was hunger drove many of them to that venue.
In the face of poverty, and two days to Christmas, how many Nigerians understand the spiritual significance of the birth of Jesus Christ? Do they truly understand that the message of Jesus Christ is encapsulated in His liquid love? His love flows, his words and actions are laden with love. Everything about Him is an expression of divine love. Are we celebrating this season with this consciousness, this joy and warmth? Does a hunger, poverty-stricken person see Christmas as Christ in his or her ? Understanding this is what makes Christmas worth celebrating, that the totality of His personality is love.
For Christians, this is the message: If Christ does not live in you, then you don’t understand Christmas, even though you will join others to celebrate it this Friday . You have only heard a story, but you have got to believe, and come into the vital experience of the story by believing what his birth means in your life, that Christ in you is the reason for Christmas. That’s what I have been taught, and I believe in my heart and have confidence in His love.
At this season, we need to ask: How much do we care for, and love one another? How much does the government care for the people and do what will uplift their well-being? The truth is that when government and leaders lack vision, they lack the stuff of political life to move the nation forward. They settle for second best . This is why our country is getting progressively worse rather than making better things happen for the citizens. There’s always a good place in history for any leader who wants to succeed. The starting point is to define his goals and vision in a way that gives coherence. He cannot achieve these goals, this vision and purposes if they are packaged in a mishmash manner. Sadly, that’s the situation in Nigeria today.
Perhaps it is appropriate to use this season of Christmas to once again look at how we have been governed, why the love that the birth of Christ means is lacking, why our leaders are not measuring up on the leadership scale, and why the citizens are disconnected with the leaders. Last year, we hailed President Muhammadu Buhari when he lamented the level of poverty in the country. He was quoted to have said that the situation troubles him . He spoke during the breaking of fast at Ask Villa. He noted that too many Nigerians were unable to find something to eat. His words as reported by the media: “When I drive round the country, what upsets me very much is the status of our poor people in this country – you see the so-called Almajiris with torn clothes, with plastic bowls. They are looking basically for what to eat”. Well spoken. But what action did his government take? In his “Democracy Day” speech on June 12, 2019, the President emphatically promised to “lay the enduring foundations for taking a hundred million Nigerians out of mass poverty over the next 10 years”. That will mean 10 million Nigerians will be lifted from poverty each year . What have we got from that promise? Next to nothing. Instead, 10 million more Nigerians will enter into poverty trap , according to the World Bank. The gritty truth is that pessimism has supplanted hope in the country. The government is floating on the ocean of confusion, losing focus and direction where it wants to take the country.
There’s not the tiniest of doubt that this will be the toughest Christmas ever for most Nigerians. Covid-19 has made things even worse. How will people celebrate the season amid a ravaging pandemic, with a second wave already here ? Meanwhile , over 1,200 Nigerians have died and more than 76,000 infested by the virus. People are afraid to travel this season because of insecurity. Bandits and kidnappers are prowling all over the place because insecurity has reached a frightening dimension. Price of food items have hit the rooftops, with inflation at 3- year high of 14.89 percent. Everywhere you look, hope is fading in Nigeria. It’s worst at state level where governors want to dip their sticky fingers into the pensions’ funds that most of them have not contributed to. There’s a trust deficit in government. But, we still shouldn’t lose hope because hope is eternal. In the absence of hope, life becomes meaningless. Nobody is saying that President Buhari’s has the magic wand to make Nigeria great overnight or eradicate poverty with the speed of light, but his administration has not been able to initiate concrete programmes of action to stop it from getting to the present, frightening level, to the extent that about 91.6 million Nigerians are living in poverty, making the World Poverty Clock to place Nigeria as the “poverty capital of the world”. All said, let’s not forget the reason for the season: Merry Christmas, folks!