By Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa
IT is traditional to make wishes for a new year. And it is also normal for everyone to wish for better in a new year. Many Nigerians have wished each other many things for the new year. One common or universal wish is “happiness”. That is why almost every Nigerian must have wished many other Nigerians “happy new year” since the mid-nite bell rang on December 31, 2018 ushering the new year- 2019. Indeed the same thing has happened globally, just as it has happened every year since I was a child. I cannot say when the greeting was first used but it must have been since the first century or so. But my earliest vivid recall of hearing and exchanging this greeting was at age five. And that’s over six decades ago and yet this greeting remains current and indeed the major goodwill exchange every new year.
Thus, it becomes very clear that the attainment of happiness is one the greatest needs of man on Earth. But what is happiness? Many dictionaries and psychologists have different takes on the concept of happiness. Vocabulary.com say that happiness is “ the sense of well being,joy or contentment, when people are successful or safe or lucky.” Another author defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment and a good feeling about yourself and your life. It is a positive emotion that makes you feel good and satisfied. It is joy, satisfaction and well being and a sense of bliss.”
Another psychologist defines a happy person as “some one who experiences frequent positive emotions such as joy, interest and pride and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety and anger.” An ancient Greek philosopher said “happiness is the joy that we feel when striving after our potential” and another adds “happiness comes from within you, rising into your awareness, when the mind is calm and quiet”. Finally another author concludes that “happiness is about loving yourself, while constantly changing to become better. This comes from deep inside your heart and soul. Outside circumstances may create difficulties and hardships, but true happiness prevails because you know that you will survive and move beyond this point in life”.
From the above, it is clear that there are two components to happiness- intrinsic and extrinsic. Who you are and what happens around us. While those with spiritual anchors and who live purpose-driven lives will experience more happiness than those who do not, it is indisputable that external factors do contribute to happiness. Thus, while my primary wish for Nigeria and Nigerians in 2019 is that they experience true happiness, I would wish that the external conditions are such that will help them feel truly happy all year round.
Safety of physical life is essential for sustainable happiness. When people live in fear of physical harm or death like what has been happening in many parts of Nigeria but specifically in the North East, North Central and parts of North West, it is difficult for them, no matter their spiritual strength to have complete happiness. When people in the South of Nigeria fear to sleep in their villages for fear of kidnappers and armed robbers, they are robbed of complete happiness. My wish, therefore, is that whatever has been causing the untimely killing and shedding of innocent blood in these regions must stop in 2019 so that these Nigerians can better experience happiness. It is indeed hard to live happily in refugee or IDP camps. I wish that all the internally displaced will return to their homes this year.
Negative emotions of anxiety, fear and uncertainties detract from happiness. Many Nigerians have entered into 2019 with so much anxiety concerning what will happen with the 2019 elections. Matters are not helped by the refusal of the President to sign the Electoral Bill after four amendments. Only last week, INEC raised the anxiety level when an alleged blood-relation of the President, Amina Zakari, was announced as the head of the election result collating committee. Ninety one parties under CUPP have protested this appointment and many other Nigerians and observers think this is unnecessary stoking of the fire.
INEC must not take any action that will increase the level of tension and suspicion already associated with the elections. Amina may never do any thing untoward in collating the presidential election result, but as they say: “Perception can be worse than reality”. There are many other national commissioners in INEC who can fit the role without raising the kind of eye brows Amina has raised.
The political parties are key stakeholders in the electoral process and INEC is well advised to pay attention to their concerns in a key democratic exercise. My real wish is that Nigeria will have a free, fair, credible and non-violent elections. The way we prepare for the elections, conduct the campaigns, execute the elections, announce the results and handle the post-election responses will in large measures determine if Nigerians will be happy or not in 2019.
Luckily, so far we have not heard such rhetorics as ‘baboons being soaked in their blood’ or ‘we must win by all means’; but we can feel fierce competition in the air. It will, therefore, be appropriate to impress upon the politicians to temper their desperation to win. I encourage all to see elective competition with the eyes and demeanor of President Goodluck Jonathan who repeatedly declared that his “victory was not worth the blood of any Nigerian” and when the test came, he discharged himself creditably and honourably.
By the grace of God, I am a spiritual person but I know how one’s spirituality can be challenged by involuntary fasting or hunger. They say a hungry man can become an angry man. And I do not see how anger can add to happiness. I know how one’s spiritual stability and equanimity can be challenged when bills are not paid and children cannot return to school. I, therefore, wish that Nigeria’s economy will grow faster than our population growth in 2019 and that unemployment will significantly decrease from the high levels we ended 2018 with.
Therefore, it becomes imperative that the governments we install at the Federal and state levels must be manned by men and women who understand how jobs and wealth are created. The idea of putting novices or untested men in power just hoping that they would know what to do, has proven costly to us over the years. Let us shine our eyes to choose wisely and avoid “nmakwara”.
The other major wish I truly have for Nigeria in 2019 is that Nigeria becomes a land of peace where everybody will live at peace with each other; a land where justice, equity and fair play will reign; a land where discrimination against Ndigbo in Nigeria will cease. I wish that all governments at every level will run inclusive governance where majority and minority are included and where all segments of society are treated equitably and fairly. What ever made cattle herdsmen turn from carrying sticks to carrying AK-47 rifles must never be allowed to happen again.
Nigeria needs peace-builders and those who bear no grudge against any ethnic group to rebuild national cohesion and peace. This is actually my greatest wish for Nigeria in 2019 and I pray that the Lord will grant me these wishes. I can not hear your Amen!