Anticipating favourable outcomes is one virtue Nigerians must not lose in these difficult times, writes Monday Philips Ekpe

This piece could also be titled differently to reflect the predominant mood of most Nigerians. There are indeed few of them who are hopeful of any re-enactment of happier days very soon. No need to rewind too far. On Christmas Eve, while many people were making last-minute preparations to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, suspected terrorists invaded parts of Plateau State and murdered hundreds of defenceless men, women and children. Even by the standard of the state that has witnessed too much blood-shed since the early 2000s, what happened two weeks ago was unprecedented.

Some days before that massacre began in what was once Nigeria’s most tranquil state, gunmen from Cameroon entered Taraba State and unleashed terror on helpless towns, leaving hundreds of people dead by some accounts, in violation of Nigeria’s sovereignty. That incident hasn’t even been adequately reported and analysed in the media. Some commentators have argued that it’s either the press is overwhelmed or the entire public space in Nigeria is becoming numb to the country’s depressing realities. A clear sign of systemic tragedy.

My settling for an upbeat headline, against the run of these negative indices and occurrences, is borne out of what should hopefully be agreeable to most people: the idea that any new year deserves to be received with some level of positivity, no matter the prevailing conditions. Before you shrug this off, think of the millions of citizens, especially Christians, who braved security and logistical challenges to attend the thousands of “watchnight” and “crossover” services that were held on the night of December 31st. After all, it helps the psyche to believe that a better tomorrow is possible, that light would surely show up at the end of every dark tunnel. Numerous individuals and groups subscribe to this line of thought which, by the way, enjoys a respectable place in human psychology. Not to mention the favourable disposition of the teachings of the country’s main religions towards it. But, unfortunately, over time, the over-indulgence in this aspect of faith has produced citizens who capitulate easily and fail to confront irresponsible and insensitive governments. And the nation has continued to pay the price of aloofness, docility and cowardice.

Even before Nigerians were declared the happiest people on earth a couple of years ago by some international rating organisations, I had come to terms with the mainly lukewarm stance of my fellow citizens towards the country’s ugly situations which have so far proved too stubborn to surmount. I find it difficult to place how Nigerians react to issues that could upset or even destabilise some other countries. Nonchalance? Complacency? Resignation? Cowardice? Maturity? Resilience? Or, stoicism? Whatever the answer, this inertia has produced plenty of corporate inaction and other known vices like lack of accountability and transparency on the part of those who should be answerable to the people. And what manner of democracy without a socially and politically active citizenry?

Nigerian leaders know this sad profile very well and utilise it to their advantage. Last Monday, President Bola Tinubu, took his turn to patronise the enduring laid-back attitude of his countrymen and women in the new year’s presidential broadcast. According to him, “From the boardrooms at Broad Street in Lagos to the main-streets of Kano and Nembe Creeks in Bayelsa, I hear the groans of Nigerians who work hard every day to provide for themselves and their families. I am not oblivious to the expressed and sometimes unexpressed frustrations of my fellow citizens. I know for a fact that some of our compatriots are even asking if this is how our administration wants to renew their hope.

“Dear Compatriots, take this from me: the time may be rough and tough, however, our spirit must remain unbowed because tough times never last. We are made for this period, never to flinch, never to falter. The socio-economic challenges of today should energize and rekindle our love and faith in the promise of Nigeria. Our current circumstances should make us resolve to work better for the good of our beloved nation. Our situation should make us resolve that this new year, 2024, each and everyone of us will commit to be better citizens.” Carefully woven words of empathy that should elicit understanding and resilience, no doubt. Sadly, these are no ordinary times. People are being brought to their wit’s end. Worse still, many Nigerians have now reached a point where quitting on aspirations and goals seems inevitable. In this kind of situation, hope – one word that has been overused by Nigerian politicians and which has lost any practical meaning to majority of the people – must be redefined and re-engaged somehow, anyhow. 

This president is certainly not a stranger to rhetoric. On a good day, a speech like that should resonate with people who are besieged by hydra-headed hardships and urgently need something, just anything, to cling to. The missing link here, however, is that Nigerians have for too long sought exemplary leadership without success. Even though Tinubu has spent only seven months in the saddle, he ought to have arrived on the job prepared to inherit the mistrust, sometimes disdain, with which the citizens have held some of their previous leaders. The soothing tone that characterised his recent message should naturally have struck the right chord if there were concrete reasons for his listeners to believe him. If the promises of Nigeria’s political leaders were creditworthy, the nation wouldn’t have been in its current anaemic state.

As things stand, the picture ahead, especially in the near future, doesn’t look good. Even billionaires feel the pinch of the calamity that has befallen the people’s purchasing ability. What then is a poor man’s fate? The mere thought of rent, tuition fees and other school bills has since put many providers on a high jump. I’ve chosen not to even think of those who sent their wards abroad for schooling when the naira still had some bite. As for the effects of the cascading increases in food prices, millions of families have been compelled to make peace with all sorts of combinations and concoctions that now pass for meals.

In the midst of these developing tales of deprivation, desperation and despair, we truly can’t afford to succumb to the antitheses of hope. Let’s keep expecting the good life for the benefit of present and future generations. This bouquet of timeless words is, therefore, my own humble new year gift to my ‘kontri’ people.

Albert Einstein: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Lyndon B. Johnson: “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” Tim Cook: “Life is fragile. We’re not guaranteed a tomorrow, so give it everything you’ve got.”

Jack Ma: “Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” Lord Byron: “Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.” John Wayne “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”

Charles Spurgeon: “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” Jesus Christ: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”

Dr Ekpe is a member of THISDAY Editorial Board

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