By Sam Eyoboka
IF the spectacle one witnessed last year in the oil city of Warri, Delta State during the 48th Independence Day anniversary celebration is anything to go by, then Nigerians are in for another colourful carnival that will, not only propel them to a new epoch but will also prepare them for a new experience capable of rejuvenating the patriotic spirit.
A trip on the popular Airport Road in Warri which begins at the Warri-Sapele Road junction and terminates at the Ajamimogha Roundabout, takes a few minutes but on that day even enthusiastic okada riders notorious for their impatience were seen struggling for a piece of the action as they joined colourfully dressed members of the Christ Embassy as they joyfully drummed, sang, clapped and danced while distributing free copies of that year’s special edition of their monthly devotional, Rhapsody of Realities. Loud speakers mounted on beautifully decorated long trucks wafted gospel music to the delight of young men and women who were dancing along the road as they freely distributed copies of the devotional.
The objective was, first, evangelical but the leadership of the church told the nation that the gesture was to re-awaken the patriotic spirit in the youths of Nigeria and prepare them for the intimidating challenges ahead of them. To the church, pre- and post-independent Nigeria saw ethnocentrism, tribalism, sectarianism (especially religious), and neo-patrimonialism play a visible role in Nigerian politics, while economic development was hindered by years of military rule, high level corruption and mismanagement. The resultant effect of this on the polity was poor healthcare delivery, poor living conditions, insecurity and high crime rate, negligence of the educational sector and a near-state of anomie amongst other objectionable ordeals.
Speaking on the objectives of the now yearly ritual, Pastor Tuoyo Edun, a member of the church’s governing council, recently told a band of journalitsts in Lagos that the term â€œindependenceâ€ began to have a sour and unpalatable taste in the mouths of many Nigerians who had also become disinterested with activities marking the nationâ€™s freedom from imperialist rule for there appeared to be nothing worth celebrating. “The attitude and orientation of many Nigerians became one of discontent, dissidence, lack of patriotism and absence of faith in their fatherland,” he said, adding that this lacklustre trend began to change in 2007 when Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and his Christ Embassy engineered a movementâ€”the campaign of re-building, re-orientating, re-educating and â€˜re-brandingâ€™ of Nigeria and Nigerians on the need to demonstrate a positive outlook towards the nation, and arousing in them the consciousness of patriotism through the Reach Out Nigeria Campaign!
“So, to answer the question, ‘What is worth celebrating in 49 years of Nigerian independence?’ Nigeria is much more than a geographical expression. A nation is not the infrastructure or the systems, but the body or community of people. Thus, Reach Out Nigeria is a celebration of the Nigerian peopleâ€”a resourceful people; a celebration of the strength and resilience of a people, acclaimed worldwide as ‘the happiest people on earth’ irrespective of past ordeals and misadventures in our politics and government,” Pastor Edun said, stresing that Reach Out Nigeria “is building a future and the Nigeria of our dreams. That future is worth celebrating, so the initiative is a celebration of the Nigeria we hope for and which we have seen.”
On why Rhapsody of Realities as spearboard of the campaign instead of converting the money spent on printing so many million copies to build a school or a hospital or sponsor people to go for surgery outside the country, he asked: “How many people will one hospital treat in a year? How many people will a school educate in a year? The school, the hospital or any facility will be situated in just one geographic location and can only cater for the people in that immediate environment. But Rhapsody of Realities would inspire, educate and motivate different people in different locations in our country to build schools! It would motivate different people in different locations to build hospitals! It has caused criminals to change their criminal tendencies, it has inspired missionaries to go into the forgotten creeks and neglected places like the Niger Delta to open schools and churches which today complements governmentâ€™s efforts in those places.”
Come October 1, he boasted, 10 million free copies of the October edition of Rhapsody Of Realities will be distributed to the highest authorities in Nigeria, political office holders, communication moguls, captains of industries, student leaders, Christians, Muslims, Animists and indeed to as many Nigerians as possible. It will be distributed from the metropolis of Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Bauchi, Port Harcourt, Ilorin, Ibadan to the hinterlands of Bomadi, Ogoni, Kafanchan, Kebbi and every major city, town and village will be reached during the Reach Out Nigeria With Rhapsody Of Realities Campaign.
So, what is special about the devotional and of what relevance is it to the nation’s developmental voyage? Pastor Lanre Alabi was on hand to provide answer, saying that it is special in the sense that it is particularly packaged to commemorate Nigeriaâ€™s 49th Independence anniversary celebrations.