By Sam Eyoboka & Olayinka Latona
FORMER Nigerian president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Monday, declared that man can only find genuine happiness in Jesus, through Jesus and from Jesus by the grace, love, mercy and providence of God, our heavenly Father, contending that relational connection with God is the source of true happiness. And that is the way to pursue happiness attainably.
Making a distinction between joy and happiness, the first Nigerian to have ruled the nation twice, said: “When I was in prison, I had joy inside me daily and never was there a dull, sad, sorrowing or dark moment. I was always bubbling, active, teaching and preaching to other prisoners. I realize that it was not happiness; it was joy which I derived from finding the presence of God, though I was in incarceration. It would be abnormal almost to the point of insanity to say that one is in prison and one is happy.”
Obasanjo made the assertion while delivering the keynote address titled; “Man: In pursuit of happiness,” at a Public Symposium to mark the Bible Society of Nigeria, BSN 50th anniversary at Muson Centre, Lagos, arguing that all man’s effort to attain happiness through mortal wisdom will always tantamount to failure if God was not involved.
According to him, “although I was incarcerated but I still had His joy within me. I did not deserve to be in jail and after my release, I went to great friends, family members including the Alake of Egba Land and I would tell them, Elewon n kii yin (meaning a prisoner is greeting you).”
Drawing inferences from Aristotle, Napoleon, Adolf Hitler, Augustine, the biblical stories of Cain and Abel, Pharaoh, Naaman, Peter the Great, King Solomon and several other characters, Obasanjo expressed reservation about Aristotle’s definition because “I have come to realize that happiness may not encapsulate all the human desires…man does a lot of bizarre things and makes great acquisitions and possessions in the hope of making himself happy, invariably to no avail.”
He further argued that happiness and peace may not necessarily go together, stating, “one may have peace and not have happiness. And one may have relative peace around himself without peace inside himself. In the same token, one may have peace around him and yet be unhappy,” noting that man’s failure to achieve happiness was because he continues to look at the wrong direction, rather than fixing his gaze on God who is capable of giving man joy, contentment, happiness and satisfaction.
He further contended that even greatness, whichever way one looks at it, “is not synonymous with happiness. The more atrocities most of these great men committed, the more unhappy they were. Methuselah is known on record to be the oldest man that has ever lived on earth. He lived 969 years (Genesis 5:27), yet the biblical account did not associate happiness with his longevity.
“From time immemorial, man in different positions had sought and pursued happiness in variety of ways but to no avail. We should ask, why and how have they carried out the pursuit? The saying goes in my part of the world that whatever is unavailable that you keep looking for cannot be found. Happiness cannot be accessed by man for man from man because at best happiness attained by man for himself is partial victory or ephemeral.
“But why, throughout history, have leaders in all walks of life, including Christian leaders, continued to chase shadow as far as pursuit of happiness is concerned. The first reason is ego. Every human being has ego and most people believe that in a state of happiness, their ego is boosted and enhanced. The next reason which is very close to the first is ostentation, popularity and show-off. Most people believe that, a state of happiness is good for their image, position and reputation. For some, selfishness and self-centredness lead to atrocities in the hope of securing happiness,” he maintained.
Obasanjo therefore averred that mankind who lost his sense of significance, identity, security after committing sin in Garden of Eden, can only experience happiness economically, socially, politically, within and around them when he surrenders to the rulership of God, arguing that man’s quest for happiness through power and knowledge will remain a futile effort outside God because we cannot get happiness or satisfaction outside God. “God is the author and source of happiness, those who abide in Him experience happiness.”
The guest speaker, former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, erstwhile Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku commended the efforts of the BSN in translating the Holy Scriptures into 24 Nigerian local languages within 50 years of its existence.
Gowon and Shonekan, in their separate remarks, urged Nigerians to put God first in their individual activities, stressing that one cannot achieve anything meaningful without the help of God. “We should always put God first in whatever we do in our lifetime.”
Gowon, a BSN patron, also urged Christian bodies and individuals to support the good cause of the organization.
Describing happiness as an expression of joy, Shonekan said Nigerians should show true love to one another not forgetting the less privileged in their communities.
Three highpoints of the occasion, besides the senior jokes between the two retired Army Generals bordering on their experiences in government, were the unveiling/presentation of the Legacy Bible said to be largest bible in the world, the instant ordination of the Balogun of Owu Kingdom, and the presentation of Lifetime Award to former BSN CEO, Rev. Fred Odutola as well as Selfless Service Award to Pastor Abraham Akinosun, Pastor (Mrs.) Janet Ohiwerei and Engr. Gabriel Adewumi. The Legacy Bible comes in English and four Nigerian languages; Efik, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba with a genuine leather cover and specially-made bamboo case expected to last for 500 years. Only 500 copies of the bible are currently in print and it costs N150,000.
Some of the dignitaries in attendance included Chairman, Fidson Healthcare Plc, Elder Felix Ohiwerei, former CBN Deputy Governor (Operations), Mr. Tunde Lemo, traditional rulers, representatives of Lagos State and Kogi State governors, of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Bible Society of Ghana and others.