Welcome to 2019. Let us thank God for granting us the grace of entering into the new year. Thank God we are not in the statistics of those killed by Boko Haram insurgents, militant cattle herdsmen, kidnappers, armed robbers, police/ military stray bullets and sundry marauders who combined to turn Nigeria into a killing field in 2018 particularly. We thank God that we did not die on the road, on the sea, or in the air. We really must thank God that there was no fatal air crash, despite several reported near misses, including air craft doors opening in mid flight or cabins being decompressed in flight. I am starting this way, because it is normally necessary to thank God for crossing from one year to another but every Nigerian, including the military must give more thanks for surviving 2018. It was a bloody year from the first week of January starting in Benue State and concluding in the last week of December in Zamfara State.
Importantly also, we must continue to pray, first for the comfort of the family of the bereaved. Except you have been through similar experience, it is difficult to truly understand how it feels to lose a family member through brutal human violence. It is extremely distressing to go to sleep and wake up in the morning to see your home ablaze and sometimes watch family members who are running away from danger being cut down with guns and knives as happened in several parts of the middle belt during the outgoing year. What is worse, is when no meaningful effort is made by the authorities to arrest and punish the perpetrators of the heinous crimes. Then some busybodies arrive to preach peace to you asking you to live at peace with your neighbors, only for them to depart and the attackers return, sometimes under the watch of security agents, to kill and destroy what was left from the earlier attack. That is the burden, some of our country men and women are carrying today and largely everyone else gets on with their lives, oblivious of the deep pains in the hearts of these victims. Secondly we need to pray with greater intensity for the mercy of God on Nigeria and its leaders. The blood of the innocent shed all over Nigeria continues to cry for judgement, justice and appeasement. Unless God shows mercy, there will neither be sleep nor rest for the perpetrators of the crime, their agents, collaborators or those who failed to exercise the duty of protection over the innocent.
Thus we arrive 2019, a year that is already pregnant. What shall it deliver? A child of destiny or a child of perdition? Me I think a child of destiny, though the signs indicate it will be otherwise. In 2015, the world predicted that Nigeria would walk down the road of perdition. It was widely predicted that Nigeria would split. But Nigeria disappointed the world. That was essentially because the church prayed. Is the church praying for 2019? True, the church is praying hard. In addition, 2019 elections is not between the North and South, neither is it a contest between Islam and Christianity. For the real first time in Nigerian political history, religion and region will play very minimal role influencing voting preferences at national level. And for me that is a good thing. For instance, the two principal contestants for the presidency are from the North and they are both Muslims. Thus other critical criteria will play significant roles in determining who wins. The first criterion in my view is believability. Which of the principal candidates do Nigerians believe most? Making promises is the forte of politicians, but living up to promises is what differentiates one politician from another. I am persuaded that most Nigerians can differentiate between facts and propaganda. Luckily both leading candidates have been in the public space and Nigerians can assess who is best able to fulfil promises or political campaign manifestos. I believe that Nigerians have been disappointed too many times that they must be wise enough to interrogate all political promises. They must now be wise enough to separate propaganda from reality. I will like to believe that Nigerians can predict what a politician can do in the future from what he did in the past. If you promise buoyant economy, is there evidence that the economy was buoyant when last you were in power? If you promise a secure and safe nation, what was the situation last time you influenced national security. If you promise employment, how much jobs did you create at the last opportunity. If you promise democratic freedom, how much freedom did we see at your last opportunity? If you promise a nation free from corruption, what was the situation the last time? If you promise peace and unity, how peaceful and how united was Nigeria when last you were in position to influence both?
I truly believe that Nigerians have never had a better opportunity to make rational decisions as to who governs them at state and federal levels this time than they ever did in the past. That is what gives me hope that 2019 will be truly a year of destiny. My prayer therefore is that Nigerians must take the opportunity and responsibility with both arms. If we miss it, then we must blame ourselves not ethnicity or religion. 2019 is our year of manifest destiny. Happy New Year Nigerians!
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR, FPSN