Nigeria
Nigeria

In normal times, the celebratory and festive season of Christmas is a joy to experience. But Christmas 2015 was anything but normal as many Nigerians are enduring hardships in precarious circumstances. There is a palpable feeling of entrapment with the socio-economic downturn and the consequences of a convoluted political transition, where the new APC administration seems not to have a plan to address the life and death challenges facing the country.

Nigeria
Nigeria

The values Christ symbolized – love, truth, justice, humility, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, remain elusive as Nigerians struggle for the soul of the nation. There is therefore a compelling need for sober reflection on the moral imperatives of the choices facing the nation.

There was once a time when Nigerians would prepare assiduously towards Christmas and carve out their travel schedules to join their families for the festivities. The roads, in whatever condition, would be crowded with travelers desperate to reach their destinations on time. Even those who can afford air travel, scramble for tickets on scheduled flights. But those days are long gone. The insecurity and rising criminality by unemployed youths who have resorted to kidnapping and armed robbery, made travelling home for Christmas as risky and daunting as weathering the siege of war. Many Christians, particularly in the North, celebrated Christmas in a state of siege, with security outfits primed on high alert, to preempt and frustrate terrorist attacks on places of worship.

Surely, these are no conditions for merriment; and Nigerians, particularly Christians, should recognize this, and accordingly, observe the birth of Jesus Christ in deep retrospection and moderation; even as they celebrate the central mystery of their faith, the mystery of the incarnation, by which God sent His Son, Jesus Christ into the world to save mankind from sin and damnation and to establish on earth a civilization of love in accord with the will of the Almighty Creator. Such civilization is characterized by love, peace, mercy, compassion and universal brotherhood. Christmas is about Christ, the child born over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, and whose profound life and teaching gave birth to Christianity.

Nigeria is celebrating Christmas in an environment plagued by monumental corruption, leadership profligacy, executive lawlessness, widespread impunity. On the whole, the level of public or social morality in Nigeria is at its lowest ever. These and other factors have combined to depress the economy to such an extent that many live in near destitution, with youth and graduate unemployment at an all-time high. Many young people have lost hope and any sense of meaning in life and taking to criminality. There is indeed so much misery, hunger, suffering and human degradation, that Christmas is celebrated amidst the wails and groans of the ever increasing population of poor Nigerians whose fortunes seem to be worsening by the day.

Amid the senseless campaign of bombings, mayhem and mindless slaughter by armed bandits and Boko Haram terrorists, Christmas 2015 ought to serve as a poignant reminder of the deadly introduction of an unmerited scale of violence into the social fabric of Nigeria. Nigerians must not forget their compatriots in the Northeast, and who are paying a high emotional and psychological price under the long-drawn strain of the Boko Haram insurgency. Many remain traumatized and were deprived of the opportunity to profess and practice their faith, and thus of the joy of any celebration.

That a band of insurgents can be allowed to run riot; challenging Nigeria’s national security, and advertising their brazenness to an already traumatized civilian population; is an affront on the people and government of Nigeria that is inexcusable, and unacceptable. The continued success of terrorist attacks is a clear manifestation of the failure of leadership and the gross ineptitude and incompetence of the security agencies whose primary duty it is to protect the innocent citizen against the criminally-minded in society.

Nigeria’s social conundrum today is exacerbated by the heightened incidence of corruption and obscene display of stolen wealth by public officials without due regard for the majority of citizens who wallow in poverty and misery. Hence, Christmas 2015 should not just be an opportunity for merry-making and other voluptuous eccentricities. As Nigerians thank the Almighty God for surviving a turbulent year in one piece, the nation must spare a thought for all those who are suffering one form of violence or the other – violence of Boko Haram, violence of poverty, hunger, unemployment, and deprivation; violence of armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, physical and mental abuse; and the violence of the callous abdication of their constitutional obligations and outright abuse of trust by Nigerian leaders at all levels. Yes, we must spare a thought for our country that has been repeatedly and systematically raped with brazen economic sabotage by public officials.

Many Nigerian Christians proclaim joy, peace and liberation to a troubled country. As Christmas is celebrated with an air of sobriety induced by the mood of the moment therefore, all Nigerians must remain firm in faith and resolute in hope and refocus on the core values that Christmas truly represents. Yet, to make any meaning of the object of our celebration of Christmas, Nigerians e must keep dreaming of, and working towards a better tomorrow. Nigerians of all religious persuasions must strive to give practical witness to the Christian virtues of love and forgiveness, mercy and compassion, and kindness and generosity.

As a people claiming one destiny and one nationhood, Nigerians are far removed from the spiritual sobriety that the life of Christ and the season of Christmas demand. The nation is structurally, environmentally, socially and politically fractured and polluted, and the joy normally associated with the celebration of Christmas is more in evidence in its absence. And this should be a major source of embarrassment not only to Christians, but also to all who profess any religion at all. The level of economic and social destitution that has blighted the joy of Christmas for many a family should be a subject of deepening concern for all especially those in positions of leadership who profess Christianity.

Nigerian leaders must abandon the path of selfishness, greed and inordinate ambition for primitive accumulation and self-aggrandizement if the country would prosper. The Christ, whose birth is marked every December 25, has given the world a roadmap to abundant life, peace and prosperity.

The disposition towards crass materialism, excessive wealth accumulation and blind pursuit of pleasure is clearly at variance with the spirit of Christmas. Beyond the festivities, Nigerian Christians are challenged to live up to the core values of their religion, and impact positively on their country. Christians and non-Christians alike must embrace the higher value of sacrificial leadership that make for lasting peace and prosperity.

Nigerian leaders must utilize this special Christmas season as a genuine retreat to imbibe the values and virtues that Christ taught the world by His life and His death. All Nigerians should take these truths to heart so that it shall be well with the nation.

Source: EMMANUEL ASIWE/huhuonline.com

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