Every year, the whole world stands still to hail the virtuous and heroic martyrdom of a Catholic priest, St. Valentine, as far back as 496 AD. A selfless and patriotic servant of God, St. Valentine was ascribed to have been officially bumped off for his love and concern for humanity, especially the youth.
Historically, he was killed for imploring for and nursing back to health the frogspawn of his jailor. In another renowned ascription, St. Valentine was exterminated for celebrating Christian marriages for forbidden youths in secret, and before he was in jail, he used to write the youths engraving, ‘’Your Valentine’’, on his letters, not the negative and rapacious derivation of modern and mendacious carnivals and season of merrymaking. It is, therefore, incumbent on pious leaders to redirect our people from celebrating mendacity to the real message of this great and selfless guardian of youth and by extension the public.
Instead of making this heavenly season a tide for social events, Nigerians need to reflect on the way forward fundamentally from a saintly undercurrent, morally, politically and economically. St Valentine we commemorate was an angel of good leadership characterized by love for the oppressed, the marginalized and unjustly treated. This is the season our political leaders should learn from this selfless servant of God and society, to see politics as a vehicle for love of fatherland, and the response to the socio-political harms of the modern world.
St. Valentine was an answer to Jesus’ sanction in the gospel of St Matthew chapters 5 and 25 where he enjoined us to love, cherish and provide integral basic rights of the public. He is a sign of good leadership whereby he died for his parishioners and youths in general. Our political leaders and our youths ought to know that it’s only in true love that happiness is to be found. The happiness of others whose lives one has touched through good and effective leadership and respect to divine commandments engrossed in true love and charity.
St. Valentine season is a time to renounce our ethnic, tribal and selfish ideas and practices of sinful and wicked adventurism which afford scope for pride rather than service. St. Valentine advises us, no matter our religious or political leanings, to renounce ethnic marginalization, religious brutality, democratic misadventure in order to elevate and ennoble true federalism, restructuring justice and equity. Our politicians, and youths must renounce the recycling of old but visionless politicians whose stock-in-trade is the spreading and elongation of oligarchy, cabalism, tribalism and integral developmental disaster.
Our revolution, based on the fearlessness, patriotism and Christian spirit of St. Valentine, is to join the bandwagon for an ideological and intellectual revolution going on in the country for the love of fraternal, charitable and ethnic integration. This year’s celebration should ginger our politicians and youths to be strong and resolute in being constructive, proactive and positively democratic and nationalistic in order to build the happiness of others. St. Valentine invites all Nigerians, especially our leaders in all ramifications, to humanize the already dehumanized Nigeria via criminalities of herdsmen’s rampaging killings and maiming, youth cultism, political thuggery and profligacy, sexual immorality, armed robbery and kidnapping, ritual killings and rape.
St. Valentine’s message is for us to end the evils of child and human trafficking, drug peddling, political intimidation and ethnic chauvinism St. Valentine, as an enigma, lived a selfless life, and taught us the essence of common brotherhood, purity of mind, body, soul and spirit.
Our political and socio-economic sphere needs millions of dedicated and hardworking medical doctors, political leaders who will deliver divinocratic dividends of free and qualitative healthcare, education, industrial employment, suppliers of electricity, security, food and all sorts of human basic needs without charge. Millions of Nigerians need dedicated teachers who are more interested in the things of heaven and wisdom for societal change.
Nigerians need morally and spiritually cleansed civil servants who are above corruption and dereliction of duty. Since two out of every three Nigerians are hungry and dissipated by bad governance, selfishness and heartless leadership, our new crop of youths and political leaders must become cultivators of the soil and mind to produce bread for the needy from this badly cultivated political and economic land of ours. St. Valentine enjoins us that we need each other whether Igbo, Hausa-Fulani or Yoruba, hence we all must strive to engrave love, justice, equity, respect and the fear of God in our daily national politics. This is what Valentine needs from us in this year’s Valentine’s Day celebration. Nigerians must be each others’ Valentine. St. Valentine we celebrate today, was also a dispenser of love and an epitome of justice, equity and selfless sacrifice, hence a big challenge to every Nigerian. He sacrificed his freedom, time and personality to solemnize Christian marriages for youths who were needed in the military formation of the country.
Valentine sacrificed his integrity and reputation by having the faith to pray for the ailing daughter of his jailor. He sacrificed his life in obedience to God, hence answered the biblical call in the gospel of St. John 3:16 ‘’this is how much God loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that nobody should be destroyed, by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life of joy, peace and happiness. As Christ came not to judge and condemn, so Valentine came to help, to put the world right again. Rationally, since St. Val gave up his life for others, what can you and I offer today as we cherish his moments of glory on earth. Can you offer that chieftaincy title that has bastardized your community? Can you offer that small piece of land that has torn you and your community into enemies without borders?
Hence, St. Valentine is an eternal lesson for us to always know that “to the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world. We must not continue to materialize the essence of this celebration, since St. Valentine was a priest whose lifestyle was embedded in chastity, charity, kindness, self-control, forgiveness, reconciliation and gratefulness.
As Nigerians join this global event, St. Valentine urges us to live in peace and harmony, common brotherhood, equity and in restructured climate of fairness, honesty, integrity and respect for the dignity and fundamental rights of all, inspite of any differences. As Erich, a psychologist, once said, ‘’love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person.
Fr. Valentine teaches us, therefore, that pure love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love as well as faint hope.
Rev. Fr. Offor writes from Enugu.