Happy New Year to my highly esteemed readers. It is my prayer that the good Lord will, in the new year, give us reasons not only to smile, but to laugh heartily all year round. We certainly do not deserve less given what we have all gone through in the last few years. I therefore urge you, and all patriotic Nigerians, to join me in praying that the Almighty God will guide aright our leaders, especially the President, who is the Father of the nation, in their onerous state duties. I particularly wish the President well.
I was initially going to write this week on ‘Arewanistan’ and #Northisbleeding, the former being Bishop Hassan Kukah’s expressed hope that the North will not become another Afghanistan, while the latter is the Northern youths’ belated attempt at protesting against anything that seems, in their view, to rub Northern leaders the wrong way.
But then this is the season of goodwill, and good tidings, and I need not seek to be misinterpreted in any way, especially so early in the new year; today being the very first time you’d be holding a copy of The Nation in your hands in the year of the Triple Two (2022).
We shall therefore go spiritual today believing that praying to God, and praising him are efficacious in all circumstances. Indeed, Praise is the greatest form of prayer.
Roman’s 12:12 speaks to: “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer”. What then about Praise? Thessalonians 5:16-18, says: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
What does the Bible say about praising God in hard times, the type we are going through in Nigeria today? In Psalm 34, David reminds us that we should praise God through the good times as well as bad times. Praise, he admonishes us, should fill our hearts every day, no matter our circumstances –particularly when we are going through seasons of great trials. “Praise God in the storms, through the battles, and when life gets hard”. Then you may ask: What happens when we praise God in difficult times? Of course, we gain new hope, remembering that God is in control and that He is always working for our good. He is
never surprised by the things that come our way because he knows all, and sees all. He is never taken by surprise: no, not by the floods killing in thousands worldwide, not the tornados, the type that recently ravaged a city in America, nor the Covid -19 pandemic, and its sundry variants which, for the past two years have devasted the world, turning it completely upside down, and making the abnormal normal.
It is in these circumstances we must learn to always praise the living God. As Nigerians, given our level of suffering – the grinding poverty, the indescribable insecurity, and the fact of life in our country having become short and brutish, we can, understandably, choose to disdain praising God because as the Yorubas say: ebi ki wonu k’oro mii woo, meaning that when you are hungry, you can hardly think of anything else besides food. We can justifiably remonstrate against our leaders, both at the national and sub national levels who, through their errors of commission and omission, have railroaded us into harms way.
But that would, indeed, be the mother of all foolishness.
In fact, we can do that only if we choose to close our minds, and eyes, to all that is happening, not only around us in Africa, but the world over.
At this juncture, we will have to go back a little, into Nigerian history, at a time when you were proud to say you are a Nigerian, and not now when the world remembers us, first and foremost, for the number of our compatriots butchered daily and sent to their early graves, and that is on the few occasions when the bereaved families can give their departed member a decent burial.
It has not always been so in this country.
In the good old days of Nigeria, when our foreign policy, for instance, was such that we could not only dream big, but project a new world order, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi, as Nigerian Foreign Affairs minister, initiated what he called a CONCERT OF MEDIUM POWERS. Sixteen in number, the countries were selected on the basis that they each exercised considerable regional influence in their own part of the world. These countries, among them, Brazil, Argentina, India, Sweden and Switzerland, were now expected to “act together in mediatory capacity in pressing global conflict-situations, as well as act as a bridge between competing interests in the international system” so as to enable its membership exert greater collective influence in world affairs”. So seriously was Nigeria taken in the fledgling organisation, that at its maiden, exploratory meeting in Lagos, attended by all the sixteen countries in March 1987, the initiative was named “The Lagos Forum”.
That must sound like ancient history today!
I apologise: that Nigerian diplomatic exploit of the golden 80’s is not the issue today. Our interest in it centres on only two of the sixteen- Brazil and India – two countries which, unlike Nigeria, have made giant strides, since that date, in all areas of human endeavour – science and technology, industrialisation, health, education, even space science. For instance, in 2008, India launched as many as eleven satellites and went on to become the first nation to launch ten satellites on one rocket. Brazil, on the other hand, with agriculture as the base of its economy, has today become a major world supplier of automobiles, producing nearly two million vehicles per year. Her other major manufactured products include electrical machinery, medicines, chemicals, aircraft – yes aircraft – steel, food products, and paper.
Iwopin Paper Mill, Epe in Ogun state, was effectively killed by Nigeria’s successive federal governments.
But all the above not withstanding, when you hear the monumental destruction Covid-19 wrought in these two countries, there will be no doubt, whatever, in your mind, that Nigerians must ceaselessly praise God, whatever our circumstances.
But first things first.
God Almighty was definitely at work, and guided President Muhammadu Buhari in his choice of the members of his 12- member Presidential Task Force on Covid-19. Most unlike what we have become used to in his other appointments, he appointed ‘round pegs for round holes’, with the following persons as the moving spirit behind the PTF, and since then, they have not looked back in their delivery of quality service to Nigeria and Nigerians: Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, as Chairman, Dr Sani Aliyu as National coordinator, Dr Osagie Ehanire, the sitting minister of Health and, in particular, the brilliant, and extremely hardworking Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, whose sterling exertions in executing the policy decisions of the PTF could not have gone un noticed by the World Health organisation, as Director- General. Ihekweazu, an epidemiologist and public health physician, has since been appointed the World Health Organization’s assistant director-general of health emergency intelligence.
With the stupendous work done by the PTF which has an unfettered access to the President, enjoyed his confidence and had almost all the needed support from the President, Nigeria was spared the gory sights Covid – 19 wreaked in both India and Brazil.
It will be most ungodly to delve into the ravages of the pandemic in both countries – especially its death tolls and the excruciating last hours of the patients, as even the CNN had to plead for viewer discretion before relaying the coverage done in India by its reporter, Clarissa Ward.
In both countries, there were huge shortages of oxygen, hospitals were heavily overwhelmed and highly short staffed that many who could as much as reach a health facility never had a doctor attend to them.
Brazil is the third-worst affected country in the world and there was shortage of everything imaginable. I hate to write this, but the dead were being delivered to graveyards day, and night, with tractors being deployed to fill up the graves. It was no less heart rending in India where the huge population did not help matters.
Such was the anger in both countries that their Presidents, both allies of former U.S President Trump, are now having a torrid time of their lives. The Brazilian senate’s 1,180 page report on Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic is damning . It chronicles not just bad leadership but “wilful and lethal acts of folly, carried out by a Donald Trump mini-me, who sacrificed lives on the altar of his own unfounded presumptions. It recommends that President Bolsonaro face criminal indictments for a catalogue of actions and omissions that may have led to as many as 300,000 avoidable deaths”