Sunday Perspectives

January 20, 2019

The inexhaustibility of thanksgiving

By Douglas Anele

According to Buddhism, the universe is characterised by transience and impermanence, which means that everything in the world, every phenomenon, comes into being and passes away. In conformity with this cosmic law of being-going-into-non-being, the year 2018, like every other year in human history, has come and gone. 2019 is already twenty days old, and like previous years it is pregnant with possibilities and opportunities. For every human being on this planet, irrespective of where you live, how you live, your age, socio-economic and educational status among others, last year was a mixed blessing, as it has always been and will continue to be till the end of time. Human life, therefore, is existential, meaning that as humans we are constantly faced with the vicissitudes of life.

That is why when my religious friends, especially those that attend some of these new-fangled, miracle and prosperity intoxicated churches pray that God should remove all problems from their lives, I know they are asking for the impossible given that human existence is primarily a hard school where each and every one lives by learning the lessons of life and eventually dies for himself or herself. It follows that 2019 presents another opportunity for us to begin again so that we can improve on our practice of life by adding value to ourselves, to our families, friends and, indeed, to everyone we encounter in our everyday transactions.

Most people do not realise that designating a period with a number, say 2019, is a matter of convenience derived from the calendar reformed by Gregory XIII in 1582. In otherwords, that we are in the first month of the new year 2019 is not a natural fact or universal phenomenon imposed on us either by geography or astronomy. Rather, different peoples and different civilisations calibrate the passage of time in different ways. Traditional African communities, the Muslims, Chinese and other non-European communities divided time in accordance with the totality of their life experiences and culture. It just happens that the Europeans powers which dominated the world from the middle ages to the modern period adopted the Gregorian calendar and spread it worldwide. Even now, the Chinese and Muslims have their own idea of the new year in conjunction with the Gregorian calendar.

Last year, I, like every other human being, faced several challenges. Nevertheless, I managed to surmount them because of family members and friends who served as pillars of support for me. Now, despite the uncertain political cloud hovering over the country as a result of the upcoming elections, I am optimistic that this year will be better than 2018 if we work together cooperatively as brothers and sisters.

One of the best things that happened to me last year was the confirmation of my full professorship by the University of Lagos, which was also backdated by some years. My elevation to the zenith of academic profession proves that hard work, patience and perseverance will eventually be rewarded. Again, I had a successful surgery to remove a benign small lesion in my face. In general, my health condition in 2018 was really good despite the inclement financial conditions, and I believe that this year it will be better especially if I am lucky to interact with the right people at the right time.

It is evident, from what I said above, that without the help of others I would not have achieved whatever I accomplished last year. Human beings are fundamentally social beings, a fact confirmed by our greatest invention, language. We need each other to be fully human. Indeed, conception requires something from a woman and a man, which implies that at least two people are needed before a human being can be formed. Our inexorable social nature entails that we need one another to thrive and achieve our projects, ambitions and dreams.

We cannot develop our potentialities without the help of others. In this connection, it is imperative that whatever we have achieved in life, we must remain humble and be grateful to the individuals that, in one way or another, assisted us in the journey of life. This is where the relevance of the topic of our discussion today leaps into bold relief. For the attitude of being grateful, of thanking anyone that has shown us kindness no matter how little, is at the very core of respect for others. Just as gratitude is a sign of personal maturity and consideration for others, ingratitude is the negation of our sociality.

An ingrate is someone who does not appreciate what others have done for him or her. Such an attitude is inimical to genuine friendship, and blocks the flow of kindness because it tends to dampen the instinct and desire to help others when the occasion demands. Consequently, there is no end to thanksgiving, of expressing gratitude for acts of kindness and support.

As is the tradition in this column, I wish to thank those who contributed positively to my life in 2018. I begin from the place where I work for my “stomach infrastructure” and job satisfaction, namely, the University of Lagos, Akoka, an institution I have been emotionally attached to since my undergraduate years in the 1980s. To begin with, I am grateful to the hardworking Vice Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe. Over the years, even before his current position, Prof. Ogundipe has always been nice to me and I appreciate it. Sir, your efforts to take the university to greater heights will succeed beyond your expectations.

Prof. Ugboru, a plastic surgeon at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, I thank you so much for the surgical expertise you displayed in my treatment at the Medical Centre. May your able hand continue to do good this year, and always. For their graciousness, my sincere appreciation goes to Profs. Ben Oghojafor, Oluwole Familoni and Folasade Ogunsola, Deputy Vice Chancellor Management Services (MS), Academics & Research (A&R), and Development Services (DS) respectively. The Dean of Arts, Prof. Muyiwa Falaiye, Dean of Social Sciences, Prof. Iyoola Oni, and Dean of Student Affairs, Prof. Ademola Adeleke, surprised me with brotherly kindness, and I am really grateful to them. My life was made better by good people like Drs. Dave Aworawo, Henry Ogunjewo, Isaac Nwogwugwu, Boniface Igbeneghu, Rev. J. Ekong, Seyi Kenny, Obi Iwuagwu, Profs. Osinubi, C.C. Anunobi, Chimdi Maduagwu (Co-Director, Confucius Institute, University of Lagos), Omololu Soyombo, Adebayo Ninalowo, Duro Oni, H.O.D. Longe, Ndubuisi Nwokoma, Augustine Nwagbara, Samuel Owualah, J. Mojekwu, Ropo Akinsoji, Adeyemi Daramola, Hope Eghagha, Peju Layiwola, Iwu Ikwubuzo, Ngozi Ezenwanebe, Solomon Akinboye, L.O. Chukwu, Ngozi Osarenren, Virgy Onyene, Victor Ariole, Chris Agulanna, Isaac Ukpokolo, O. Oyeshile – my sincere gratitude to you all.

I acknowledge with thanks members of the Philosophy Department (both teaching and non-teaching staff) that added value to my professional life in 2018. Great friends made last year a relatively pleasant experience: they include Chief Raphael Obidubah, Chief Emmanuel Offodile, Nduka Iheanacho, Genetic Criminal, John Jogging, Jude Obaro, Tyreman, Dee Tony, Bede Egbufor, Bishop Njoku, Wale, Jake Epelle, Bar. Osarenren, Hajiyah, (both big and small), Mike Enyinnaya, Frank and the crew of Papa’s Place, Lekki, Kalu Onuma, and Dr. Robert Obioha. My co-residents, notably, Dr. Ifueko Bello-Fadaka (a tough lady who I fondly call hurricane), Profs. S.B. Hassan, D.E. Esezobor, Uche Udeani (Director, Distance Learning Institute), Emeka Ezike, Nduka Nwabueze, Dr. I.P. Nwadinigwe, Mrs. Titilayo Solanke, Deji Medubi, Emeka Udeani and others. Generally, you are good neighbours, although some are more considerate than others – I am grateful to all of you.

I sincerely appreciate the help I received from Lugard, Matthew, Ben, Debo, Lanre, James, and the crew of Automedics, especially Gbola Oba. My elder sister, Bar. Ihuoma, and husband, Dee Sam, are hereby wholeheartedly acknowledged for being there for me whenever the need arises. My younger brother, Emeka, and his wife, Chinwendu, hosted me well when I travelled to the village about a year ago – thank you so much. It is with regret that I remember the death of my immediate elder sister, Miss Felicia Ngozi Anele, who died late December 2017. Uncle Sam Amuka-Pemu (Publisher, Vanguard newspapers), Jide Ajani (Editor, Sunday Vanguard) and all the people that work there, my heart-felt appreciation for providing me with a reliable avenue for expressing my thoughts publicly every Sunday.

My wife, Ijeoma, and my two daughters, Nwanyioma and Nwadiuto; words are inadequate to capture fully what you mean to me. I may not have been all you expected of me. Yet, because three of you are in my life, you have justified why I am still around in this planet. I will continue trying to be a better husband and father. To my readers, especially Dr. Isu and others who call me sometimes or send text messages of encouragement, special thanks to you all. To all these people, and others I did not remember, just bear in mind that without you my life would be, in the words of Thomas Hardy, like a fraction looking for its integer!