By Isaac N. Obasi
IN spite of the noticeable differences among people in society due to their socio-economic class, ethnic origin, religion, gender, and political party affiliation among others, our common humanity is not in doubt. And, being created by one God and in his shared image, mankind is one. To give meaning to this oneness is the golden rule which requires that ‘we treat others as we would like them to treat us’.
Mutual love and respect would therefore continue to be a cherished divine injunction. But, a look around the world shows that there are increasing threats to the value of this universal brotherhood of humanity. In our country Nigeria for instance, the concept of shared brotherhood of humanity is fast fading away as a result of the increasing level of hatred and distrust among people across ethnic and religious divides.
Many who go through the online reactions on news items and opinion articles in various newspapers, and on other social media platforms, would no doubt be apprehensive of the growing phenomenon of hate comments among Nigerians, majority of whom I believe are youths. This growing phenomenon along ethnic lines is sometimes frightful as it appears positively correlated with the growing phenomenon of lack of empathy among many Nigerians. Yet, many forget that there is, and should be, a shared brotherhood of humanity in Nigeria. But happily enough, there is a ray of hope noticeable among people of the older generation. One, therefore, needs to draw the attention of the younger generation to this ray of hope if only to awaken in them the consciousness of the shared brotherhood of humanity. I draw three examples to illustrate this from men of the media and in the ecclesiastical circles.
First, the classical case of friendship between two professional colleagues in the media, namely Mr. Mike Awoyinfa (a Yoruba) and the person commonly referred to as his ‘twin brother’, the late Dimgba Igwe (an Igbo), is a very inspiring one. Mr. Awoyinfa has at any appropriate moment eulogised his friend in a manner that simultaneously evokes sympathy and admiration. Here is one of Mike’s quotes that touches the heart: I am missing him every moment. I am always wondering why a righteous man will go like that’…I was in England when I heard of his death. For me, it was like the end of the world. It was like my own death.”
Through their friendship, Mike and Dimgba demonstrated (more genuinely than politicians) the proverbial selfless handshake across the Niger.
And, still on true friendship, the case of Messrs Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese, Yakubu Mohammed and the late Dele Giwa constitutes another inspiring illustration which can give hope to the younger generation of Nigerians. Their friendship further demonstrated the shaking of hands across both the Niger and Benue rivers. And in an excellent rebuff of the insinuation that they have a case to answer on the death of their friend, Mr. Dele Giwa, Messrs Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed persuasively left these statements on marble: the three of us believe in the inviolability of friendship. We see it as a bank account to which you must continue to make deposits so that it can grow. It is a sacred relationship, a present of unquantifiable value that you must give to yourself…A lot of people ask us what is the magic behind our strong relationship of almost 40 years. The answer: friendship (See Daily Sun, Wednesday, October 19, 2016, p.30 on ‘Dele Giwa’s assassination: The verdict of history’). This statement offers an instructive lesson for those who enter into business partnership for the purpose of exploiting others, even up to the point of elimination so that they can devilishly appropriate what constitutes a joint wealth.
The third inspiring illustrative case comes from the very humble Catholic Bishop of Ekiti Diocese in the person of Most Rev. Felix Femi Ajakaye whose life continues to embody and promote the shared brotherhood of humanity. In a rare demonstration of his strong belief in this philosophy, Bishop Ajakaye invited yours truly to be the reviewer of the new and expanded second edition of his book, Beyond Ideas, that was launched on Friday October 21, 2016 in Ado-Ekiti. My choice was simply influenced after his reading one of my articles in the Daily Sun which decried some of the unwholesome practices in our churches today. Again, his choice of Dr. Reuben Abati in 2007 as the reviewer of the first edition of the book was first on the basis of his knowing him on the pages of The Guardian newspaper. Think of the fact that both of us were invited by a man who comes from Ekiti – a land famed for great enlightenment – the home of great, distinguished, acclaimed, erudite, and world class professors in contrast to what some call quota professors. Yet, this is not just why I singled out Bishop Ajakaye for our illustration. One of the reasons is that while in Ekiti for the book launch, I found out to my pleasant surprise that three of his guests who came from Lagos and Abuja, were all non-Yoruba with whom he has maintained exemplary and true mutual friendship. This is not to exclude many others who came from Lagos and Ibadan under very excruciating traffic condition on our very bad roads. But more importantly, I singled him out from the contents of the book Beyond Ideas which unhypocritically defined the man as a social crusader, lover of humanity and promoter of social justice par excellence. And his passionate call in Beyond Ideas that Nigerians should join hands with God as co-creators than with the devil as co-destroyers, resonates well with genuine efforts towards true moral rejuvenation of our decadent society. Indeed, it resonates well with a revised populist slogan- change begins with all of us but starting with the leaders.
Prof. Obasi writes from University of Abuja ([email protected])