BY BEB AGANDE, JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU, JOSEPH ERUNKE & CALEB AYANSINA
As Christians in Nigeria join the rest of the world to celebrate Christmas today, President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President, David Mark, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, yesterday, urged Nigerians to make personal sacrifices for the good of others and ensure the ideals of peace, harmony, tolerance, love and goodwill manifest in interactions with others during the yuletide period.
President Jonathan, in his Christmas message, promised Nigerians to practice the virtues and ideals which the Messiah preached and exemplified during his earthly ministry.
He said: “I join our Christian compatriots and all other Nigerians in giving thanks to God Almighty, whose grace and benevolence has helped our nation to overcome the many challenges it has had since we celebrated Christmas last year.
“The annual commemoration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ is a most auspicious time for us as individuals and as a nation, to rededicate ourselves to the virtues and ideals which the Messiah preached and exemplified during his earthly ministry.
“Let us all, therefore, resolve to make the ideals of peace, harmony, tolerance, love and goodwill to all more manifest in our interactions with others this season.
“It remains my sincere belief that no height of human accomplishment is beyond us as a nation if we can overcome our differences, such as they are, and forge a binding national consensus to put the progress and well-being of the country above all other considerations.
Jonathan expresses hope for nat’l confab
“My administration will do all within its powers and abilities to ensure that when representatives of our people assemble for the forthcoming national conference next year, they will have every opportunity and encouragement to make very significant contributions towards forging the required consensus for sustained national peace, unity and progress.
“It is also my expectation that the national conference will contribute in no small measure towards the urgent resolution of contentious issues, which currently hinder our progress as a nation.
“With God Almighty as our guide, strength and enabler, my administration will continue to implement its agenda for national transformation in furtherance of its avowed commitment to improving the living conditions of all Nigerians.
“On behalf of myself, my family and the Federal Government, I wish you all very joyful Christmas celebrations, and a peaceful and prosperous 2014.”
The Senate President, David Mark and the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu in their separate goodwill Christmas massages to the nation, appealed to Nigerians to sink their ideological-cum-political differences irrespective of their religious, ethnic or political beliefs and make paramount the unity of the nation.
Senator Mark, in a message by his Press Secretary, Paul Mumeh, urged Nigerians to make peace and religious harmony the cornerstone of their relationship with one another.
The Senate President, who specifically called on the political class to lead the way to peace, law and order, cautioned that national interest and cohesion should not be sacrificed on the altar of individual or group ambitions.
He said that politics should ordinarily be a game and not a battlefield and reminded those fanning the embers of war or disunity not to set the house ablaze before they even get there.
He said: “We have come a long way as a people. We should see ourselves as one people; one nation with a common destiny. We cannot be moving in the reverse order when other nations are going to the moon.
“We have always admitted that the challenges are enormous but we must realise that nobody is coming from the space to solve our problems for us.”
He assured that the national assembly would always stand by the people.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, in a message by his Special Adviser, Media, Uche Anichukwu, urged the Christian faithful to emulate the humility of Jesus Christ with a view to eschewing all forms of bitterness so the nation can move forward.
Ekweremadu, who regretted that the progress of the nation had been seriously compromised by unforgiveness, also said that the current overheating of the polity was partly ego-driven.
He noted that mankind would have been eternally doomed had Jesus Christ put self first or considered himself too important to take the form of man to restore peace and reconcile mankind unto God.
He said: “At Christmas, we have to learn to emulate the virtues of selflessness, commitment to common good, and total love, which the birth of Christ among men symbolises.
“Whatever the grievances are, we must shove them aside and live in the full consciousness that this is the season of unconditional love demonstrated by God.”
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, in his message enjoined Nigerians to continue to reflect on the positive tenets that unite the nation, strengthen the polity and enhance its stability and prosperity as they celebrate Christmas.
In his message, by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mallam Imam Imam, Tambuwal also called for sustained prayers for peace, unity and stability in the country, even as he admonished persons of all faith to be their brother’s keepers and shun all vices and negative acts that can jeopardise the efforts of government in providing democracy dividends.
He said: “This period calls for sober reflection and continued prayers for our dear nation.
“We must replicate the teachings and lessons of Christmas and continue to exhibit good character and extend hands of fellowship and build blocks of unity and understanding to all irrespective of our perceived differences.”
The President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, also called on Nigerians, particularly, Christian faithful, to reflect on Christ’s external messages, as the country joined the rest of the world to celebrate Christmas.
Oritsejafor, in a statement signed by his Media Assistant, Kenny Ashaka, yesterday, urged “all Nigerians, irrespective of our religions, to display the true spirit of devotion which originates from our systems of religious beliefs as enshrined in the holy books.
“Christmas is a season to construct our religions in an ordered way as Christ did by shunning all forms of devices designed to hide the true motive of its celebration. It is a season for us to ponder on the gifts that come with the birth of Jesus Christ.
“I call on all Nigerians to use this occasion to reflect on Christ’s external messages of abstinence, integrity, love, compassion, humility and to pray for our leaders, representatives, the growth of the economy, the advancement of democracy and a violence-free nation.”
The Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Lagos West, Right Rev. Olusola Odedeji, called on all Nigerian Christians to use the occasion of this year’s Christmas celebration to seek the face of the Lord for peace to reign in the country.
In a statement yesterday, the Bishop said: “This is not a time for wild celebration, but sober reflection on the state of the country.
“The roles of Christians are living peaceably with all men and women and inviting divine visitation to overcome the evil forces that have held the country hostage in the recent past.
Odedeji called attention to persecution of Christians in parts of the country.