I decided to keep my birthday low key and spend sometime in quite contemplation for a variety of reasons. First, this birthday coincides with the end of my service in the Nigerian Senate, a significant achievement in my political journey, and a unique privilege given to me by the people of Rivers South East Senatorial District. A grand party to celebrate my birthday and my tenure in the Senate would have been in order.
Unfortunately, as I stand down from the Nigerian Senate, Rivers South East, just like every other part of Rivers state, and most parts of Nigeria, is plagued by rampaging insecurity. People are being killed, kidnapped, robbed and terrorized on a daily basis. I feel it will be most insensitive of me to roll out the drums in the circumstances.
Secondly, the ghastly crash of my party the ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS in the last general elections in Rivers State, no matter where you place the blame for what happened and continues to happen to the APC in Rivers state, remains a source of deep pain in my heart. A whole generation of politicians had their careers truncated by the needless bickering in the APC, not to talk of the fact that Rivers people did not get a fair chance to participate properly in the last general elections.
No matter what way I looked at it, I just do not feel that a great celebration for me at this time will be in order. As I step down from the senate I cannot help but think of all the old friends who ordinarily should take prominent seats with me at a birthday party that should have ideally doubled as a celebration and a thanksgiving for the time I have spent in the senate.
Unfortunately, the political atmosphere in Rivers State has become so toxic, the hatred and ill will amongst us former comrades , allies, colleagues and old friends across the parties have been damaged beyond belief. No peace, no cooperation, no friendship amongst us.
I have simply decided a celebration at this time is just not worth it. When the atmosphere improves in our state I will hold a thanksgiving service to mark the end of my service in the Senate.
For now let me just thank my God privately for the gift of life in good health, for my wonderful wife and children, amazing friends and faithful allies. Count your blessings they say and name them one by one. I can count my blessings in the millions but I certainly cannot name them one by one, for everything and everyone around me is a blessing.
I will continue the struggle to try to be the best Magnus Abe that I can ever be, to appreciate that I am no better than any other Nigerian, to accept the opportunities of service to my fatherland as a unique privilege for which I will remain eternally grateful, and not a right I earned by excellence.
Today will come and go, tomorrow will certainly come, we may not yet have the country of our dreams, but we can have a dream for our country.
We should not be afraid to dream. I will keep dreaming of a multi- ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural society that brings out the best in every citizen. A country in which hard work and excellence is celebrated, and where no one, no matter how highly placed will get an unfair advantage over another.
If we are looking for a doctor from Anambra state, let us insist that we take the best doctor that Anambra can produce. If we want an engineer from adamawa, let us take the best engineer from Adamawa. We can have federal character powered by merit. So that every citizen in every corner of our great and diverse country strives to bring out his best.
Federal character powered by merit will allay fears of sectional domination, and still force each component state to focus on producing its best. Leaders who are products of merit will recognize and champion merit in every process. Only the best should be good enough for Nigeria.
We can have a country in which political parties will be owned, funded and financed by their members, and become genuine champions of proper participatory democracy. We can have a country in which justice will truly be blind and be delivered in the equal measure to all citizens. We can have a country in which citizens pay their taxes because they are paid, and the government is there for you in your hour of need. We should not be afraid to dream impossible things and work towards them.
While yet I draw breath, I will not just dream of a better Nigeria, wherever I am I will make just that little more effort to make our country more like the one I dream about and less like the one I see.
We can build a great country, but only if we try. Truth is the only foundation on which justice can rest. Without justice there can be no peace.
A nation founded on deceit will never know peace. We must be bold enough to tell each other the truth about Nigeria, not our sectional, ethnic or religious versions of the truth. Once truth is established there will be justice and there will be peace.
These are the thoughts and reminiscences on which I will dwell today as I mark my birthday quietly and simply.
I sincerely thank all those who will wish me a happy birthday today, and to all of you who are just too busy, don’t bother to give it a second thought. The only thing that makes today different from any other day is what you do to make the world a better place. Nothing else matters.
*Magnus Abe is a Nigerian Senator