Ever since the emergence of the Black Taliban in 2004, Nigeria has gradually become a theatre of barbaric assaults against the ideals of social harmony, religious pluralism, and national unity. The 2010 Independence Day twin car bombings, which occurred near the Eagle Square, shattered our cherished illusion of national freedom from terrorism. In a sense, it seemingly signalled a burial of Pax Nigeriana in the graveyard of history.
It is estimated that since 2009, when the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency started, it has claimed the lives of over 20,000 compatriots, and displaced 2.3 million from their homes. This development has adversely altered our national character and history. Until recently, our nation was a haven of peace. Our strategic peacekeeping efforts were marks of glory that set us above 53 African nations.
Grezgorz Walinski, an ex Polish Ambassador to Nigeria, noted that since 1960, Nigeria has expended around $13 billion on peacekeeping efforts. Similarly, we played leading roles in United Nation’s sponsored missions around the globe. As Walinski noted, we have deployed over 250,000 Nigerian servicemen and women to UN peacekeeping operations. These were possible because we enjoyed the dividends of peace.
It is impossible to rightly think of the essence of Christmas without focusing on peace. This is because, peace, which is a vital recipe for human flourishing, is central to the angelic message proclaimed at the birth of Christ; “…on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”
A thought in the Queen’s 2009 Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth should guide our contemplation on the significance of Christmas to our collective destiny, and our quest to rebuild a peaceable nation: “We know that Christmas is a time for celebration and family reunions; but it is also a time to reflect on what confronts those less fortunate than ourselves… Christians are taught to love their neighbours, having compassion and concern, and being ready to undertake charity and voluntary work to ease the burden of deprivation and disadvantage. We may ourselves be confronted by a bewildering array of difficulties and challenges, but we must never cease to work for a better future for ourselves and for others.”
The Queen’s admonition is instructive against the backdrop that terrorism is eroding fellow feelings in Nigeria. Our collective capacity to empathise with victims of terror attacks, and ameliorate their subhuman plight is dwindling. We dwell and derive false security in cocoons of sameness, thereby; engaging otherness is no longer a distinctive mark of Nigerians. No thanks to the social media. Since, the conventional rules of gate-keeping do not necessarily apply in cyberspace; it is suffused with mind-numbing lurid pictures, and hate messages.
This contributes to creating sinister climate of fear, hatred of difference, and emotional atrophy. As fear keeps darkening our national conscience, and divisive narratives become more popular, even the best of will become prone to behave like people “educated” in the wild, instinctively attuned to wrecking violence. Is it possible for us to act like aliens to the codes of civility, soldiers of extreme ideology, and simultaneously build a strong, united, and prosperous nation?
In fact, our moral foundation for enduring national development is bound to collapse, if our society is marked by a huge deficit of fellow feelings or what the Queen in her broadcast refers to as “compassion and concern.” Hence, it is important for all well-meaning Nigerians to seize this season of spreading love and peacemaking to restore the communal ethos of African civilisation.
For Christmas to be a panacea to the barbarity, and reign of chaos terrorists have entrenched in our land, it is vital for us to draw inspiration from the life and teachings of Christ, which aimed at humanising humans. Every citizen of this great nation must always strive to nourish the nobleness of the human spirit. Enriching the philosophical treasure of Nigerian cultures, and enlightening benighted agents of dystopia are the supreme task of the moment.
In this season of reminiscing and forward-looking, we should endeavour to renew our national sensibilities, and deploy our arsenal of love against the causes of alienation from community, so that, the tyranny of the primitive will end. No Nigerian should have good reasons to feel unwanted by society, and become public enemy. Government cannot do this alone. It requires civic love to build an inclusive nation. The love and warmth of this season should be unleashed against tribal walls of enmity and extremism. Love remains absolutely superior to the forces of evil, including extreme ideologies that fan the embers of terrorism.
The unprincipled ways of Boko Haram cannot subvert Nigeria’s greatness, if in the spirit of the season everyone desists from hate mongering, and scripts narratives that extol the wonders of love. Nigeria will slide into coma, if we jettison our shared values, fail to render patriotic services, and secure the common good.
These gestures will abate the reinforcement of what Samuel R. Huntington aptly calls the “dynamics of fault line wars”, and exorcise us-against-them devil from our national psyche. More importantly, they will renew our hope that we can subjugate the socio-economic forces turning many Nigerians to mosaic of miseries, destitute of hope, and agents of national destabilisation. As we allow the spirit of Christmas to guide our conduct and inspire patriotic acts, we can optimistically look forward to a new era of Pax Nigeriana.