By Muyiwa Adetiba
As those who have been on a religious pilgrimage to Israel would have noticed, the journey to Calgary, the place our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified from where he was ‘sentenced’ to death is a short one.
It is a busy route for the most part of the year as pilgrims who wish to feel what Christ felt and walk where Christ walked will always find some connection there.
But it would have been especially busy this time of the year which is the Lenten season and particularly this week which is the Holy Week for Christians. Yesterday was the time in history when Jesus walked that route in agony and passion. And those who walked the route on Good Friday (yesterday) like I did almost ten years ago, or indeed any time during the Holy Week, could not but feel the passion of Christ all over again.
There is an aura around the place, a haunting feeling which brings it all home. Clearly depicted along the short but religiously significant route was the place where Jesus was scourged and the places where he stumbled, fell and rose. Three times He fell. Three times He rose. Though Nigeria is on its knees now – some will say Nigeria has fallen flat on its face – it shall rise again.
Those who have faith in the unfathomable ways of God and believe that God can make a way where it seems there is no way, can draw some strength and comfort from the seeming similarities in parts of the story of Nigeria and parts of the story of Christ. Here was a man destined for greatness with many Jews, including some of His close disciples, believing He was the earthly King who would liberate Israel.
A week before His death, He rode majestically into Jerusalem. Or put differently, He rode in majesty. Many of those who threw garments and palm fronds at Him and paid Him obeisance along the way, would have felt He was going to Jerusalem to reclaim His Kingdom. Perhaps that was what got the ‘coup plotters’ jittery and made them to act fast.
But the man with the regal mien who rode in majesty into His nation’s capital bore little semblance in everything but name to the man who was derided, spat on, insulted and generally humiliated a week later before He was beaten, stripped naked and given an agonizing death.
Now look at the similarities. Nigeria at independence was full of promise. Many believed it had all it takes to lead the Black Race out of servitude. Nigeria’s path to greatness seemed settled with the discovery of crude oil, the black gold.
That combination of human and material resources which the country seemed to have in abundance was one the world could not ignore. It also pointed to Nigeria’s potential as the authentic African leader. The effective role Nigeria played during the apartheid years seemed to have sealed Nigeria’s destiny as the eventual emancipator of Africa.
Some even say the Black Race. How often have we heard the cliché ‘if Nigeria gets it right then Africa will get it right?’ Or ‘the Black Race will be given its due respect the moment Nigeria earns its respect’. The path to greatness seemed so clear and so certain that the citizens became over indulgent.
Yoruba will say ‘won f’ayobaje’. (They messed up.) Despite the flashes of brilliance and industry among some of its enterprising citizens, the slide to irrelevance once it started, continued apace for the country.
The giant of Africa was gradually reduced by successive leaders, to a groveling, sniffing dwarf, begging for loans and sustenance from the same financial institutions it once lent money to and from nations it was once in economic parity with. The one everybody thought was a matter of time before it took its rightful place at the UN’s Security Council, is now on its way to becoming a failed nation.
The hopes raised during the apartheid years of the 70s, some of which were rekindled when the country repaid its external debt about two decades ago, seemed to have been dashed completely. Now, friends and foes are watching Nigeria from a distance as terrorists rule the land and kidnappers control its homes.
Now compare this again with the last days of Jesus when his disciples including those two who wanted to sit next to him in his kingdom ran away, and Peter, the heir apparent, denied Him all of three times within the space of a couple of hours. The man who filled the synagogues to capacity, who had fed thousands with spiritual words before feeding them with bread had been stripped of dignity and honour and led away like a common thief. Symbolically today at noon, gross darkness descended on the land and the veil in the temple was stripped in two.
That was recorded as the darkest hour in Israel; the nation’s lowest moment. A few hours after that came the glorious dawn.
Is Nigeria at its darkest hour yet? Is it at its lowest moment? Is the veil that shrouded the progress of the nation about to be torn? Are we poised to await a glorious dawn? It seems so with faith and determination. And prayers. The darkest hour is usually before dawn.
A renewal, a new birth, could be round the corner. In a few months, the political flag bearers will emerge. I am one of those who believe that one man in the right place at the right time can make a difference.
Our job in the next few months is to watch the serious contestants closely. We should match what they say with what they have done in the past because no one can give what they don’t have.
Our job is to find that person who has the intellect, the capability and the world view to run an inclusive government. A man of his own mind who is not swayed by ethnic or religious persuasions. A man with a road map who will not mount the soap box to mouth the usual inanities. A man who can make us proud in the comity of nations.
Nigeria can rise again. It will rise again. But we will have to play our own role by identifying and voting for a man who can rise above primordial sentiments. Especially ethnic. A glorious dawn beckons. But we must all want it badly enough to be involved and to rise above self, tribe and religion for the good of the nation. Happy Easter celebration to all. And to the Christian faithful, a glorious resurrection.