By; JEROME-MARIO UTOMI
On Sunday April 4, 2021, Christians in Nigeria joined their counterparts across the globe to mark/celebrate the great feast of Easter. Also called Paschal or Resurrection Sunday, the feast of Easter as we know is a Christian festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD.
In reality, each time Nigerians celebrate this great feast, it’s not only a tradition but ritual of the sort that torrents of messages from public office holders in Nigeria, religious, socioeconomic and political leaders’ fly around the country.
Take as instance, President Buhari, in his 2021 Easter message signed by his Spokesman, Femi Adesina, reminded Nigerians that Easter celebration is an opportunity to renew hope and faith, show love and appreciation to one another and not to despair, no matter the challenges of the period, noting that Nigerians should not allow the antics of a few mischief mongers to fragment the unity and faith that the vast majority of citizens of this country cherish and believe in.
Indeed, it is important that Nigerians (both Governors and the Governed) adhere strictly to the above admonitions. However, to make this year’s celebration most rewarding for Nigeria and Nigerians, there is, need for all to, within this period, graduate from mere exercise of goodwill messages to reflecting about our nationhood and asking solution oriented questions.
Among other concerns, we must ask; how as a nation, we can truly achieve a people- focused leadership in the country? Accelerate economic, social and cultural development? Make promotion of peace our dreams? And support of our industries and improvement of our energy sector our central objective?
Most importantly, for the sake of clarity, these questions could further be classified into two; one that focuses on entire Nigerians. And the second is majorly public-office holders’ specific, But in all, providing answers to them all is the objective of this piece,
Beginning with concerns that focus on entire Nigerians, we must, as we celebrate this year’s Easter recognize that the future of our nation is full of opportunities as it is fraught with opportunity. As it is said, “the destiny of the ship is not in the harbor but in sailing the high sea’’ and so shall our collective responsibility be, not to destroy this great nation but join hands to nurture and sustain it . We must wholesomely admit that If we are able to manage the present disunity and re-order our tribal loyalty which is currently stronger than our sense of nationhood, and navigate out of dangers of disintegration, it will once again, announce the arrival of a brand new great nation where peace and love shall reign supreme. But, then, we can never achieve such a feat without admitting that no nation enjoys durable peace without justice and stability without fairness and equity!
To therefore, perfectly achieve this envisaged goal, individuals, communities, tribes/ethnic groups must stop flaunting the qualities that raised you above others.
As succulently warned by the sage, ‘never be so foolish to believe that you are stirring admiration by flaunting the qualities that raised you above others. By making people aware of their inferior positions, you are only stirring unhappy admiration or envy that will gnaw at them until they undermine you in ways that you may not foresee’. It is only the fools who dare the god of envy by flaunting his victory.’
With this highlighted, let’s focus more on the concern that public office holders’ must also do away with.
First among such attitude by the public office holders that urgently needs to be dropped in the spirit of Easter is the barefaced illusion by leaders that they are more nationalistic or patriotic than other citizens. Forgetting that globally, Individuals, groups and communities have a right in decision making, planning and implementation of programs that affect them, They must come to terms that government has a duty to enable people affected by its policies and programmes participate in ways capable of transforming their social, political and economic conditions rather than merely using them as instruments to legitimize predetermined goals and priorities.
Also, within this period of reflection on Christ resurrection/demonstration of love, it is important for the haves (the advantaged, the rich and nation’s politicians) with more political influence than those at the bottom, to drop attitudes like corrupt enrichment, intimidation of the poor and the less privileged. Such behaviors we must not fail to remember not only undermine representational equality, a key feature of democracy but promote disunity and fracture the nation’s amalgams.
But irrespective of the above, this call for restructuring is to my mind viewed as a one-sided narrative and which we should handle with care in order not to end up curing the effect without scratching the cause. The problem that necessitated this agitation is more man-made than natural. The deliberate demonstration of impunity, as well as superiority by one group or region, led to this burning agitation today.
Within this period, our leaders and policymakers must revisit and address the unending call for the nation’s restructuring. Particularly as the factors fueling such call bothers around misrule and very high propensity for corrupt nepotistic practices on the part of our leaders. These leaders in question have allowed themselves to become the primary reality that the people worry about as a result of their nefarious actions and inactions. What is playing out today in Nigeria is the result of the practical demonstration of the will of man as against the rule of law as practiced in the time past. Leaders without ‘disciplined thoughts and actions’ are the people holding sway on our political fronts and that informs the reason for our not having a disciplined political and socioeconomic culture as a nation.
Another issue that needs to be addressed in this season of Easter is the public office holders’ mindless policies which daily heats up the polity. In recent past, they (public office holders) have not been able to draw a distinction between politics and leadership. They play politics all the way. In doing so, they use the people to further their own end which is unpleasant, selfish, narrow-minded and petty. Their politics involves intimidating people, getting things done by lying or other dishonored means’. These need to be dropped.
To make this Easter celebration enduring as well as bear the expected fruit, let us be holistic in approach. Let us commence first by restructuring thought-system as a people and through that process, restructure the nation.
This step is important as no matter how beautiful a policy appears, no matter how strong an institution tends to be, we always have deconstructionists who can undermine it. Bearing this in mind, our primary concern should be to work out modalities for instituting a reorientation plan that will erase the unpatriotic tendencies in us as well as usher in a robust nation. Let us bear in mind also that restructuring a political entity called Nigeria is important but restructuring our mentalities is not just essential but fundamental.
In the same vein, every generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it. Now that restructuring has graduated from mere rhetorics to become an issue of national concern, your responsibility and mine also graduate double-fold. First, it is time for us to use our intelligence devoid of emotional attachment to ask solution oriented questions in a solution- oriented manner.
Very outstandingly also, the fact is that we should develop a ‘war room’ using our resolve and powers to fight the undemocratic and criminal tendencies in our consciences in order to usher in a truly egalitarian nation we all yearn for. This pivotal step must be taken as failure to achieve this may render our quest for new Nigeria elusive.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via; firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374.