“Many are landlords in the CEMETERY; many are tenants in the MORTUARY; many are candidates of OBITUARY. But we are here, still worshiping in His SANCTUARY. He has been keeping us since January; His good news filled up our DIARY; He’s doing all these without collecting SALARY. He’s indeed an awesome God! If you know he is truly an awesome GOD and you are alive today, He is the reason I am testifying …. Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.”
The words above encapsulated the text of a message sent to me on Christmas day, exactly eight days ago today. The message came from a former civilian Governor of a state in the South-south geo-political zone of the country. The theme of this message is the definition of God as the Supreme Being. It describes the ephemeral nature of life which ultimately reduces man to “tenants in the mortuary” and eventually as “landlords in the cemetery”. He says the world is God’s vineyard which he describes as “His sanctuary”, where we all worship, that is, carry out our daily activities under the guidance and supervision of God even though we do not as much pay Him a dime as “salary”. He reminded us that He is an awesome God and the reason why we are alive today.
The message here is that we owe a duty to God Almighty our creator. Whether we call Him Allah, Yaweh, Olodumare, Oselobua or Chineke, we are most certainly referring to only one Supreme Being which we all owe allegiance to either as Christians, Muslims, pagans or even animists. Today, we are all exchanging banters that we have witnessed the dawn of a new year – 2014. Many people did the same thing this time last year, but today, they are no more. They are either still tenants in the mortuary or have since taken up permanent residency as landlords in the cemeteries all over the place.
For us in Nigeria, it is a mix bag of celebration to witness a day which signals the beginning of what may look a tempestuous year ahead of the coming 2015 general elections. Going by all the happenings in the country in the last few months, especially on the political firmament, I don’t think we need a soothsayer to tell us that this year promises to be more exciting and exhilarating as we move closer to the general elections scheduled for next year. In some states, the elections will be held this year and the politicians across various political divides are already girding their loins for the epic battle which many see as do or die.
However, President Goodluck Jonathan is not unaware of the turbulence that is lurking around the political horizon. Perhaps, that is why he has devised a ploy to diffuse the political temperature by introducing a National Conference which may get on stream anytime soon. If properly managed, it is expected that such a forum will afford all the contending groups, tribes and ethnic nationalities in the country an opportunity to ventilate their opinions on the way forward if we are to remain as one homogeneous political entity. At the end of the talk, there could possibly be a change of attitudes in our politicians. This is because for so many years, the average politician has always played and preyed on the intelligence of the voting public. The voters are brainwashed, cajoled or even coerced to vote only to be abandoned the day after by these politicians who then choose to run after their personal gains rather than what will benefit the majority of the people who voted them into power in the first instance.
At any rate, politics is going to take centre stage in the affairs of this country this year. We have witnessed a lot of political alignments and realignments in the past few months. The gulf between those hitherto considered to be conservative and the so-called progressives appears to be disappearing. In the ongoing political reengineering, strange bedfellows have decided to cohabit and stay together for good or for ill. The enemies of yesteryear are fast abandoning their hard-line postures and are coming together to forge a common front. This is because, as it is, the country appears to be inching gradually towards the precipice if recent events are anything to go by. As the day progresses, there is this inclination that dictatorship and totalitarianism are gradually creeping into our political lexicon.
For quite some time, Africa has variously been described as a continent where the best of the news emanating from the continent is replete with wars, disasters, famine, disease and poverty of unimaginable proportion and other things associated with the vicissitudes of life. Those who hold on tenaciously to this belief may be right after all. Take a look at the ongoing debauchery, genocide and pogrom that is going on in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, where people sharing the same umbilical cord have suddenly become sworn enemies. A lot of destruction is taking place and so much blood is shed on the altar of ignorance, poverty and bondage. Back home in Nigeria, we are all living witnesses to the enormity of destruction being wrought on the corporate existence of Nigeria by the Boko Haram terrorist group.
Apart from the high incidence of terrorism in the country, there is also a serious security threat occasioned by rampant cases of kidnapping and violent robberies in many parts of the country. This has almost stretched the elasticity of our security agents beyond the limit and a drain pipe to our dwindling financial fortunes. This situation is further exacerbated by the uncontrolled massive theft of oil, the nation’s cash cow, which has led to significant drop in oil revenue in the last few years. This has reduced the financial muscle of the government as oil theft persists thereby drastically infringing on national revenue earning.
Due to some financial recklessness by our leaders, it is no longer news that the nation is broke. In the last six months, this situation has resulted in many states not being able to pay salaries of workers and honour other financial obligations because of the shortfall from their shares from the federation account, which is a monthly ritual where states are given financial handouts from a common till to meet their financial expenditures. This month, almost all the nation’s federal universities will be throwing their doors open for their students to resume school. This is coming after six months of closure due to a national strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, the umbrella union of Nigerian university lecturers, seeking improvement in funding of university education.
Unfortunately, while the lecturers are returning to classes, the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, which suspended a five-day warning strike by its members a few days to Christmas, is gearing up for a more devastating strike action if its demands which include payment of allowances and consolidation of appointments are not met. With the sensitive nature of the health sector, if the NMA is allowed to go on its planned strike, it may be the mother of all strikes with devastating consequences on health care delivery in the country. And the body has threatened that the strike will be total, that is, it will involve both the public and private practitioners. If that happens, where does that leave the country?
There are so many things to talk about, but we should bear it in mind that the economy of the country is like blood that flows in the body – if it dries up, then the person is gone. If we don’t take steps to strengthen the economy, diversify our economic base from oil earnings and tackle corruption headlong, all this talk about 2015 and which person, party or tribe will take over the mantle of leadership in the country will amount to mere balderdash.
I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year in good health!
By Dele Agekameh