It is yuletide—Christmas—the commemorative festival of the birth of Jesus Christ. And by tomorrow, it will be a brand new year. In spite of the depressed, receding state of our economy, which we need to work very hard at—both as government and citizens– to prevent from lapsing into a depression, the Christians and their friends in all other religions tried hard to celebrate in a jubilant mood, just as their Muslim counterparts were for Eid- el-Maloud two weeks before. Everywhere in the Christendom, it is jingle bells, carols, and cantata. But these were done with very few jingle coins. Where salaries were paid and people rushed to the banks so they can pick a few items to celebrate Christmas, money was not coming forth from the ATMs in appreciable quantity. It was queues and anxiety galore. So, Christmas Turkey was relished in whole only in opulent homes, the wings in average homes and the smell of cooking in poor homes. If you spent Christmas in the county-side like I did, merry-making was scant. Those of us who went home with a bit of money had to hurry back , unable to satisfy the genuine needs of the poor lot, many of whom went away with disappointment and disbelief that we did not (as we could not) give even a little to them as we did in previous Christmases. The general talk around town and villages is Dollar don cos (dollar has gone expensive) as the price of food items had soared unbelievably. Pepper and onion hawkers, like vulcanizers and mechanics who have hardly set their eyes on the American currency, the dollar bill, answer you back when you complain about the cost of their wares is simply–dollar don cos. No doubt, the festival, like all religious festivals, deserved to be celebrated in bright colours and scented garments. The kitchens ought to provoke salivation and whet appetites. Wines of all kinds ought to flow because it is Christmas. However, as you know, in this recessed economy, Christmas was not as merry as it used it to be.
On the side of merriment, there was a painful shortfall. But of course, this is not all that Christmas should mean and connote It should not just be chicken, rice and mounds of pounded yam, the kind Achebe described in Things Fall Apart—where people on the opposite sides of the pounded yam mountain sighted themselves for the first time as the mountain crumbled into the stomachs? It is also the instruction of the significance of the symbolism of Christ that should endure and from which we must learn in our society today, over-taken by anti-Christ vices at all levels, and especially at the level of governance.
Christ, the Deity incarnate, stands for humility, love, long-suffering, selflessness and self sacrifice for redemption. These are the attributes of the Messiah which are greatly lacking in our society today, especially among our leaders. We are in an age bereft of heroism—an age of criminal self-service, where leadership equates obscene and rapacious acquisition of filthy wealth, while the followers wallow in abjection and misery. The leaders waste and the followers want. With the kinds of stories coming out from government’s crusade against corruption—frightening sums of money stolen from the most inhuman places—Boko Haram operations funds—money for weaponry and even for rehabilitating ravaged places, refugee camps f internally displaced persons, homes of judges and so on, budget padding and so on—there is hardly anybody among the leadership of this country cognizant of the lessons of Christmas.
The birth and death of Christ epitomize humility. He was not born in marbled mansions with glittering neon lights or in a six star hotel. He was of the lowliest imaginable birth—in a manger, meant for sheep and goats. He grew up, humble, submissive and obedient. When it was time for his spiritual mission, he led with unmistakable sense of vision, exemplary and pragmatic in style. He walked all through his mission, riding on a horse very rarely indeed. He shunned violence, even at great provocation, to the angst and exasperation of his disciples, with a dictum that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Now, what does this tell us of the kind of children, parents and leaders that people our earth and our country today? Children are often ashamed to claim the lowliness of their parentage—especially because, in such an unequally run society, the child of the poor has no hope of making it in life. There can be very little or no dignity in poverty as a heritage.
Some of our leaders who were of lowly birth—some of them fetched wood and carried water, literally to be able to go to school. When they climb the ladder of leadership and prosperity, they not only forget their past, they subject and condemn their electorate to criminal abjection, want and misery. They are not done until the future of the land is ruined, irredeemably. They are not fulfilled until they burst the banks at the seams, home and abroad, with filthy lucre, while the land groans under the yoke and burden of poverty, joblessness and unemployment—in a land flowing with milk and honey. Whilst Christ sacrificed his Mercurial comfort to suffer humiliation, assault and a painful death for mankind’s redemption, our leaders convert the followers to fodder to feed their greedy politics. They drive bullet-proof cars with tinted glasses to shield them away from the screaming want in the streets—filled with beggars—and this in the midst of frightening economic depression.
Christ preached and practiced love among his people. The summary of his doctrine—faith, hope and charity–essentialized love; love thy neighbours as thyself. Today, the core value of good neighbourliness, which is interred with the indigenous African cosmos, has been relegated. In its place, ethnic hatred, ethnic cleansing, predominates. Our religions have shunned the gospel of love. It has lost the values of faith and hope. We have become faithless religionists as churches and mosques proliferate without the love and peace content, which the founders extolled and upheld. Religious intolerance and violence have led to mayhem, fratricide, arson and wanton killing of fellowmen and women. Look at what happened in Plateau State before the mother of all violence erupted in the North Easter part of our country—the Boko Haram warfare, which luckily is about to end, with the routing of the Sambisa forest, even though the Chibok girls are yet to be rescued. For good reason or no, the Niger Delta has become renewedly eruptive as pipelines burst galore further reducing the number of barrels of petrol that we get and our national revenue. Herdsmen have become a potential source of another war, if not handled more swiftly and properly. And in Kaduna state, after the Shiites tragedy, and the raging battle in Southern Kaduna, violence has become the grammar of governance. It is thus obvious that the perennial situation in which politicians manipulate ethno-religious sentiments for partisan political ends with innocent electorates becoming the fodder to feed capricious political ambitions subtend.