Dear Nigeria, should I say happy new year or not? Don’t turn up your nostrils, wondering what kind of citizen would not send best wishes to his country on the birth of a brand new year? Don’t nurse a doubt: I love my country. I truly wish her well. I wish for the best for my compatriots, fellow countrymen and women. So, why am I asking whether to say a happy new year to my country or not?
Here is why: You can’t blame me or anyone who’s confused about what to tell his country at new year, when the year that had just passed was, to put it mildly, one hell of a year! So, it must be out of foreboding for what the year harbours that makes the heart pound and ponder what lies ahead.
Man of little faith? Not so. One hell of a year depresses you to the extent that you don’t want to be too exuberant or presumptuous in your New Year expectation for your country. It’s no disrespect or ingratitude to God. Not in the least; after all, across the streets, in the part of Lagos I live, voices of congregants in churches, bangers and lightings, boisterous voices of revellers, all herald the joy of a new day, a new month and a new year. Nigerians, even some with a wry smile, are all euphoric as they bellow: Happy New Year.
But, 2017 is not a year to forget in a hurry. The year of the tumbling and summersaulting naira; job losses, ballooning unemployment, bloodletting in some states of the federation, the year of killer-herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorists. The year of fuel hell, ghost-appointees by the Federal Government; several avoidable scandals and tardiness in government business. Those were the hallmarks of the year that’s gone into history, never to resurrect again, except by some quirky means some folks choose to exhume its ghost.
But amid the hopelessness and hardships of 2017, it was the year of triumphs for young Nigerians in the entertainment industry. The Davidos, Wizkids, among others, did Nigeria proud. Through dint of rigour, personal sacrifice, hope and optimism, the Nigerians who are ruling the entertainment world are proving that there can be no obstacles hindering anyone from realising his dreams or ambitions. They are surmounting the hopelessness of a nation, which offers no talent schools or incentives to creative Nigerians. I am thinking: what if the entertainment sector was better funded, would these guys not win Oscars and Grammies? Would the skies not be their limit, if there was conducive atmosphere for them to blossom?
Not just in entertainment but all sectors: education, sports, medicine, etc. How come our kids flunk their school certificate examinations here but go on to make all-round ‘A’ in the United States and the United Kingdom? How come we once produced Hakeem ‘the dream’ Olajuwon and other sports greats in the field of soccer outside this country, but who never made much waves back home? How come Nigerian surgeons and other medics are rated best in the world, while they never got the opportunity to prove their mettle here?
Of course, the answer is obvious: visionless leaders, greedy leaders; hope killers, killing the hopes of Nigerians. The hope of a better Nigeria, where electricity goes uninterrupted, industries flourish, employment booms, citizens don’t need to open an eye at night while sleeping, housing is not a luxury; where life is truly beautiful.
Is it possible to truly have a Nigeria of our dreams? Of course, it is. Are we going to someday get the leadership that would rev the engine of growth and development? Yes, again. The signs are there. Nigerians are becoming more conscious of their rights. They are becoming more discerning by the day. They are asking more questions. By 2019, the stakes would certainly be higher.
The Nigerian you meet on the streets today is not only hungry, but angry. He is mad at the hopelessness in the land. He knows this is not the way things should be, if not for the inefficiency and stealing still going on in some quarters. He knows those frustrating his dreams and hopes.
But, amid the hopelessness in the land, should we be hopeless even with the birth of a new year? I don’t think so. If we hope to be a great nation, we must keep hope alive. We must never lose hope, because, like I once reflected in this column in a piece titled HOPE, IN A SEASON OF LOVE, “Hope keeps the world going. And the German, Martin Luther, says: ‘Everything that is done in the world is done in hope.’ Life is lived with the hope of getting the best out of it. In whatever pursuit, hope is the critical factor that links all others. With hope, you have everything; without it, you lose all.”
The poet, Alexander Pope, believes and rightly so, that, “hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Ardis Whitman also says: “Look forward to the beauty of the next moment, the next hour, the promise of a good meal, sleep, a book, a movie, the likelihood that tonight the stars will shine and tomorrow the sun will shine; Sink roots into the present until the strength grows to think about tomorrow.” So be it in 2018.
X-raying Buhari’s New Year speech
I have just read President Muhammadu Buhari’s New Year message, which, as you read this piece, you would also have listened to or watched on radio, television or read in the social media.
Even though I do not agree with some of the positions he canvassed, like the one on restructuring, where he seems to jettison the loud calls for restructuring of our lopsided federation, I still believe that this (New Year message) was a marked departure from the previous addresses.
Did you notice the dramatic shift in the diction of the President? Did you notice a marked difference in his choice of words? For once, the President communicated with his fellow citizens; for once, he spoke like a leader not a ruler; he spoke with empathy and sympathy. He was not raising hell, fire and brimstone throughout the address. He was not talking down to Nigerians as if we were conquered vassals. Kudos to the presidential speech-writer, who penned the words spoken by the President this morning! He deserves a huge pat on the back.
Since he came into office, not many Nigerians have been put off by presidential communication to Nigerians. He had often come across as a man doing Nigerians a favour by presiding over them. He had often sounded off like a messiah. That has been my point of departure with the Buharists, attempting to deify him. No man is God, and everyman is fallible.
In my view, the speech this morning was human: he acknowledged the hardship in the land, the fuel scarcity, among others; and then offered hope in the new year. By so doing, he gave life to the expression: A leader is a dealer in hope.
I am not saying I agree with every point he has raised or took for granted every project he has promised to accomplish (2018 is electioneering period more or less, and politicians can speak nicely and make promises). All I have done is simply to x-ray the language of the broadcast, and I find it different from the past addresses. This is how a broadcast should sound. My humble submission!