WITH A LITTLE LIGHT

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Our little light can do others a lot of good, writes Sonnie Ekwowusi

A few days ago I engaged a certain lawyer friend in a telephone conversation. Half way in our conversation he frankly opened up and said to me, “Sonnie, what is happening to us in this country? “What do you mean”, I interjected. “Are there not enough sane people in this country who could come together and start reasoning properly, or, are you suggesting that we outsource Nigeria to a civilized country which can manage her properly? Look, our humanity is being defeated every day. It seems as if we are living in a dark tunnel without any hope for the future. Are we going to continue living like this?” he concluded.

I must confess that I had no answer to the aforesaid thought-provoking questions. I was so lost in thought about the state of affairs in our country that it was difficult to utter a word. But I think I have an answer now. No honest person who has carefully reflected on the quality of life we are living in Nigeria especially in the last few years would remain unperturbed. Our lives in Nigeria are ruled by perpetual fear. Although a seemingly external calm and peace may pervade the atmosphere but beneath the seeming calm lies a great fear, the fear that the government which is supposed to be a bulwark of liberty is unleashing terror on the citizenry; fear that our next neigbour may turn out to be an armed robber or a kidnapper capable of pulling the trigger and snuffing life off us; fear of the incapacity to eke out a simple living in our professional work; fear of the future of our children; fear of losing our jobs in our places of work; fear that we might go to bed and not wake up the next morning.; fear that the air we breathe has been adulterated by our enemies. In short, our lives are so ruled by fear that we are even afraid of ourselves.

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· I agree. This is not life. We are not living in Nigeria. But nothing is gained by being perturbed or fleeing the shores of Nigeria. Each of us has a light that we must show to light up our dark tunnel otherwise we will continue to grope in the dark forever. Many years ago at the UNIV International Forum in which I attended a certain university student asked Dr. Christopher Kolade how he could positively change Nigeria. Without giving the question a second thought, Dr Kolade gave the student an unexpected simple answer. He simply told the student, who probably was expecting a very complex scientific answer, that he (student) could effect change in Nigeria by the way he makes his bed in the morning. There was a momentary silence among the students followed by a loud ovation for Kolade. A loud ovation because it probably did not occur to any of the students that the way we make our beds in the morning could contribute to national development.

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Therefore wherever we find ourselves, whether in public places, at the bus stops, in government offices, in stadia, at home, in the village squares, in market places, even in churches and mosques we should try show the light. Let your light shine before men wherever you are. In his bestseller novel “The Little Prince” (translated into about 300 languages), Antoine de Saint-Exupery invites us to consider that in our respective places in the wider universe each of us is a light bearer. We cater for the sick, the poor and marginalized in society. We share and exchange ideas with others. We respect the dignity of the people around us and so forth. But, conversely, when we rush anyhow, shout anyhow, talk anyhow, abuse other people, injure others we cease being merchants of light and instead become merchants of darkness.

The social relationships between most people are of course but a small part of the complex pattern of organization of a country, but it is indeed crucial in assessing the progress of a country. Our little light can do others a lot of good. There was this little girl who upon seeing the economic hardships her parents were going through decided to write a letter to Jesus Christ. In the letter entitled “Dear Jesus”, she complained about all the sufferings her parents were experiencing. She told Jesus Christ that her father had lost his job and that her mother could hardly cater for the family with the little money she gets from her petty trading. “My Mum cannot pay my school fees, Jesus. Jesus, help us. I am always hungry”, she wrote. After writing the letter she folded the paper carefully and put it inside an envelope addressed to Jesus Christ. Then one Sunday after Mass she took the letter to the Parish priest of her local church to deliver on her behalf to Jesus Christ. When this girl’s parents learnt of this from the priest they resolved with greater determination to work harder and provide for this girl and for the entire family.

Good girl. By doing what appeared childish in the eyes of adults this little girl rejuvenated her parents drooping spirit. It is sad that we now live in an age of unbridled individualism and egocentrism when many people are just out to cater for their stomachs and nothing else. But our common humanity dictates that we should play a role in the promotion of the well being of our fellow human beings regardless of their creed, tribe, social status or political affiliation. In fact one does not need to be in government or wield any political power to contribute to the good of the society. There is a nice story which many people I know keep retelling.

It is about a young youth corper who hails from Enugu State. This corper was posted to Lagos State for his youth service. While commuting from Mile Two to Festac area of Lagos one day this youth corper saw a decomposed body lying across the expressway. Instead of looking away or feeling unconcerned as most motorists and passers-by were doing, the youth corper quickly got hold of the phone number of the nearest local council in that area and telephoned the council to hurry up and remove the corpse. Guess what happened thereafter? The corpse was removed within three hours. This goes to illustrate once again that with our little light always shining we can make the world a better place as Michael Jackson is wont to sing. Nothing is too small when our talents are put to better use. We cannot bury our talents as the man in the gospel did. Neither can we shut ourselves up in our different cocoons unmindful of the problems of our fellow human beings.

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