You are an incurable optimist. And how do I know that? You made it into another year, that’s how. You survived! The bumps on our roads did not dislocate your hip from its socket; you didn’t choke from all that pollution and stench on our streets and the armed bandits didn’t get you. Better still, you weren’t hacked down on account of yet another socio-political crisis. The religious miscreants didn’t get you and the Lagos bomb blast didn’t blow you to smithereens. People come and people go, but you certainly are a die-hard if ever there was one.
I stayed up until midnight on New Year’s Eve. No I wasn’t in an all night gig and I wasn’t watching a thriller flick. I was just way too excited to sleep. There I lay on the living room couch staring at the clock as it ticked on the wall. At midnight precisely, I jumped to my feet and in between fielding phone calls waltzed about the house congratulating my loved ones for a job well done. They survived! No mean feat when you take a good look around this jungle that we live in.
I was in euphoria for days until I was confronted by the same old challenges. I soon came to realize that the world, nay the country, hadn’t changed and that it was me who had become more enthusiastic and expectant. Yet to my chagrin, the old villains remained unrepentant.
What is it about the New Year that gets everybody all keyed up? It compels even the abjectly poor to spend their hard earned savings on firecrackers. Overnight we become inspired to wine and dine like kings and queens, or rather governors and first ladies. We make-believe for a season and then return to the asphalt hardness of our financial realities. The merchants, who hiked their prices over the yuletide spell, soon find that they were merely clutching at straws and have not found true prosperity. The overfed folks return to jilted weight loss programs and the spendthrifts gnash their teeth remorsefully. The lull ceases and the hustle and bustle once more begins. We travel the same rough roads and hear the same old lies from our politicians.
What is it that makes a New Year better than the previous one? What is it that makes our heart so sing? Hope, that’s what! The optimism that perhaps we shall see a red sea parted and a ground on which to walk upon.
One of my favorite childhood stories was about the Englishman who went on a cruise and got himself into various over-the-top escapades.
I’m Ibo so obviously I journeyed to the East over the Holidays (though not by sea!). But I didn’t see midgets. I saw a legion of lepers turned music minstrels, donning filthy rags as they lined our deserted expressways. And while my fellow passengers on the coach compassionately tossed Naira denominations at them, I resolved that I would champion their cause using the medium I know best: my ink and my tongue.
What are we to do about these our lepers? If their confines were any good they wouldn’t abscond from these shelters to spend the better part of the day wringing their hands (or stumps) desperately for alms. It’s hard enough being a leper, without having to cope with being a beggar. To make matters worse, they are breeding defenseless babies by the week (the favorite pastime of the poor and uninformed!).
It’s no news that the Nigerian government has failed the people who need it the most (dependent and deprived citizens), but while we keep our toes and fingers crossed for luck, what is it that we can do to make their lives more dignified? How can we rehabilitate them: educate them? The handouts help, but they need so much more for the long haul. They may be outcasts, but they are our own people too and part and parcel of the future of this potentially great nation.
If you are reading this and know one or two influential people in the non-governmental organizations or even in private business, please help pass this message across. ‘Human life is sacred and everyone deserves a chance.’
Happy New Year, Nigeria! Things can only get better.
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