Lessons of Christmas By Eze Onyekpere

I am thrilled at being in the land of the living to celebrate this year’s Christmas and the New Year that is coming in the next one week. The Christmas Day celebration – when Christians celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, offers an opportunity for deep reflection, sober thinking and an opportunity for change and transformation rolled into one. This season is beyond the festivities, merriment and the sometimes overdose of enjoyment that go along with it.

President Muhammadu Buhari in his Christmas Day message urged Nigerians to reflect on the love of God aptly espoused in the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus Christ; peace that comes in the midst of trials and tribulations.He urged Nigerians to pray for divine guidance to overcome our current challenges. Very well said, we shall overcome if we imbibe the sacrifice and selflessness of Jesus. Beyond Christmas, we celebrate so many Christian and Muslim festivals which remind us of the duties of loving one another, doing unto others as we want them to do to us and being our brother’s keeper. This brings us to the recognition that Nigerians are deeply religious, attending churches mosques and other worship centres on a regular basis. We begin every ceremony with a prayer and end with a prayer which shows our outward commitment to God and the prophets.

However, it seems that the Bible and its teachings are for Sunday mornings and during the church service. So also it seems for the adherents of Islam who think of the Koran on Fridays and thereafter everyone goes their own way. On Sundays, I sit back and ponder over the thousands and millions that attend different church denominations. To be modest, not less than 75 per cent of those who profess Christianity attend church services and this runs into tens of millions across Nigeria. Beyond Sundays, we also attend a number of occasions and ceremonies. But I always get puzzled over a poser: if only half of the persons that attend church service are holy indeed, in the state of grace and keep the words that the pastors roll out, how will Nigeria look like? Will there be no change in attitudes, dispositions, public morality etc.? Even if we reduce the number to 50 per cent of church goers, there will still be a revolution in favour of a new Nigeria, a new beginning, where the cardinal virtues of honesty, patience and hard work will reign supreme. In such a society, there is bound to be economic growth and development and improvement of living conditions. This is applicable across all major religions.

Yet, Nigeria everyday sinks deeper into the morass of mismanagement of public resources, leaders hold the followers in utmost contempt and consideration for society has grown cold in the hearts of many. Every society grows and falls by the depth of its values which are the motivations for action and inaction; the jurisprudential and philosophical bases of human conduct. Great values always link up work hard with, innovation and service with wealth and riches. It understands the connection of sowing and reaping, investment and profits or reward. It has no place for the get rich quick and overnight syndrome. Great values promote tolerance, peace, neighbourliness and respect for others including respect for the planet and its sustainability. I am not aware of any major religion that encourages or that does not outlaw stealing, mismanagement of public resources, looting of the treasury, dereliction of duty, incompetence, and lack of compassion for others, etc.

Christmas offers Nigerians the opportunity to walk the talk, to do the needful and to use scriptural teachings for nation building and achieve greatness. It is my considered point of view that what Jesus Christ and the prophets represent and preach is not only about the life to come; it includes the basic principles that lead to life in larger freedom including freedom from want and fear. The teachings properly followed will lead to great nation building devoid of unnecessary rancour and selfishness. If we must imbibe the teachings of Christmas, the war against corruption ought to be fought with a nobility of volition, across party, ethnic and religious barriers and devoid of discrimination. The message of Christmas is a call to remove frivolities from the budget and spend the saved sums on the improvement of the living conditions of the poorest of the poor.

Christmas therefore offers the country’s leadership the opportunity to retrace their steps and make a vow always to act for the public good; not to allow their greed to come between hem and the people they were elected to serve. Yes, they need to only take what rightfully is their remuneration according to the dictates of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission. Saying one thing and doing another is outlawed under the human law and the law of God. It is a fact known to only a few Nigeria that the official remuneration of public office holders is nothing as fantastic as to attract everyone one into politics or to seek public office. The large perks and ostentatious lifestyles are only products of corruption. They are not legitimate income according to the stipulations of the RMAFC.

For the led, the light of God shown by Christmas is an opportunity for boldness to fight for rights and basic freedoms. And this should include the fundamental freedom to live a in a corruption free society and to have access to the basic needs that make life worth living. These demands are not beyond the capacity of our government if and only if monies are spent for the right things. It is an opportunity to speak truth to power; to conquer fear and to enlist in the struggle for a better society. Again, it is an opportunity to vote right during the next elections and not to vote according to the mentality of the herd; to say no to mischief and to abandon killing under whatever guise.

Nigeria has shed enough innocent blood. The message of Christmas presents the template for the authorities to do all in their powers and within the confine of their call to duty to stop the shedding of blood that has characterized our national life. From the killings by herdsmen to the robbers, kidnappers and those whose merchandise is the trade in suicide and other bombs; the reason for the season dictates a change. Enough of senseless killings and blood shed; no nation progresses by killing the innocent.

Jesus Christ did not come to planet earth to sustain the status quo of corruption, underdevelopment, indolence, hedonistic living, etc. He came with a new thought process that unshackles a people, to take their destiny in their hands through transformational change of hearts and minds that emphasises respect for values, orderliness, good neighbourliness, a good days work for a good days pay; and trust and faith in God. May the celebration of Christmas 2016 not be in vain and may both leaders and the led derive the appropriate message of a transforming change.

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