Year after year, we join our Christian brothers and sisters around the world to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus and the beginning of what was to be an exemplary life. But, this year, more than ever, Nigerians must pay keen attention to the message of love, peace and sacrifice, which Jesus preached during his time on earth.
Over the past months, a number of dark forces have combined to accentuate divisions in our country. In the areas of politics, religion and tribe, there seem to have been constant fractiousness and restiveness, with people of different groups exchanging threats or actual harm. That is why we need to remember the love that Jesus taught. We must love our neighbors as ourselves, do good to them and mean them well, whether or not they belong to our group. Nigeria cannot move forward as a country until each and every one of us realize that what is good for one should also be good for the other.
In the same vein, we must seek peace with all mankind, as Jesus taught. We must be our brothers’ keeper. We must realise that it is only in an atmosphere of peace that we can expect to lay the solid foundation for prosperity. Millions of our brothers and sisters in the northeast of Nigeria currently face starvation, disease and death in various refugee camps across the region. (Ditto for some others in Benue and Nasarawa and several other places afflicted with strife). A few years ago, these ones were settled in their own homes in their villages, farming and fending for themselves. The loss of their livelihoods and means of subsistence is the result of the peace that the entire region lost, that has led to devastation. We need look no further than these unfortunate ones to understand the high price to be paid for stoking the flames of violence, for whatever reason and under any guise. In the end, the price paid is always far too high.
Jesus also taught and exemplified sacrifice, living and giving his life for others. Each and every one of us in Nigeria should, especially at this time of the celebration of Christmas, consider giving of ourselves to others, especially to the less fortunate. Many orphans, victims of Boko Haram who have been made refugees in their own land, widows and others in various unfortunate circumstances, will go hungry and will have nothing to celebrate this Christmas season –unless you and I step in and reach out to them in love. The economy may be tough and we may claim not to have enough for ourselves as it is, but that is where Jesus’ message of sacrifice comes in. Whatever little we can spare, whatever inconvenience we can suffer, can make a huge difference in someone else’s life.
Have a Merry Christmas and may love, peace and sacrifice reign in our great country, Nigeria.
Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999-2007