Nigerians celebrate today Easter Sunday. For Christians the world over, the weekend marks the end of the forty-day period of Lent, a celebration of the central mystery that defines the Christian faith – the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. To Christians, without the Power of Resurrection, there would have been no Christianity. And so the Easter Sunday appears to be the most significant event Christians the world over celebrate so loudly because ‘death could not hold Him captive even in the grave’!
It is from the miraculous event of the Resurrection of Christ that Christianity draws its essence and inspiration. Christians of all denominations are convinced that without the fulfilment of the promise Jesus made that he will rise from the dead after three days, Christianity as a religion would have no meaning, no legitimacy. In his lifetime, Jesus preached the message of sacrificial love, forgiveness, mercy and compassion, non-violence, the brotherhood of all peoples, and all that makes for peace and human solidarity.
He showed His followers that commitment to the welfare of others, especially the poor and the lowly, is the sure way to true lasting happiness. He demonstrated that authentic religion is not synonymous with the ritual elements, but a daily commitment to loving God wholeheartedly and loving one’s neighbour as oneself.
Jesus was nonetheless gruesomely executed by those who were determined to maintain the status quo of empty ritual worship, political domination and economic exclusion, and whose various positions were threatened by his new teaching.
The crucified Jesus rose from the dead as he had predicted and a new fellowship immediately formed around the witnesses of this glorious event. For Christians, the Resurrection represents the power of life over death, the triumph of good over evil, the victory of light over darkness, and the conquest of the forces of hatred by the forces of love.
Though he taught many lessons through his parables and miracles, Jesus’ greatest lessons were those of his own life of humility, service and self-sacrifice.
Easter is an occasion for Christians and all men and women of goodwill everywhere to reflect on the paradoxical truths of humanity – namely, that it is in giving away that we truly receive; it is in dying that we are truly born; and that victory belongs to the meek and humble, not to the oppressor whose power is only transient and ephemeral.
The death and resurrection of Jesus challenge incumbent and aspiring leaders in Nigeria, as elsewhere, to abandon the path of selfishness and greed, and the inordinate ambition for power at whatever cost, which have been the bane of our socio-political history. With Jesus’ commitment to a life of love, humility, service and sacrifice, vindicated by the event of the Resurrection, Christians and non-Christians are challenged to embrace those higher values that guarantee fulfilment and lasting peace for individuals and societies.
As Nigerians celebrate this year’s unusual Easter, a muted celebration across the country amidst the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, all citizens should reflect seriously upon the way they have been. We should reflect on what our actions have put us at this time when our healthcare system has failed us.
Whereas authentic religion and genuine worship necessarily involve sacrifice and self-denial, the practice in this country appears to be a religion of convenience that glamorizes wealth, pleasure and power and that makes little provision for self-sacrifice. This is the time to ask our leaders at all levels questions about service delivery. Do we have servant leaders that Jesus exemplified?
But if the nation cultivates a new disposition in discipline, service, sacrifice and visionary leadership, it will rise to new heights in politics, economics and social development, and thereby regain its dignity in the comity of nations. All Nigerians should thus spare some time for reflection on the way forward for the country during this Easter holiday.
Elections have come and gone. There should be good governance. There should be a rule of law. There should be national unity. No more the hate culture, no more the character assassination, the threats of violence and the vows of national calamity. No more the abuse of integrity and the glamorous promotion of corruption in high places.
There should be less of rampant impunity and more of decorum and civility under the law. The entire country should begin to witness a resurrection of its latent potential for greatness. This country deserves a change in focus, in attitude, in orientation, and in commitment to the highest standards of leadership and citizenship.
As the fear of Coronavirus pandemic wanes, the government must rebuild the social construct that has disrupted the economy and social cohesion. Government must seek durable answers to economic diversification, and catalyse a domestic economy that will tap from the readily available human capital and abundant natural resource.
Nigerians would look to see our leadership identifying with the masses of this country in the manner in which it goes about comporting itself. For the patriotic leader, cutting the cost of governance and espousing frugality as a living example, would indeed be the prize for integrity and credibility. High on the new agenda has to be national security – the urgent imperative of making the national environment safe.
As Nigerians celebrate Easter, they must spare a thought for the Chibok girls, Citizen Leah Sharibu, the iconic Christian school girl from Dapchi among others, who remain in captivity. It would be a national shame if the girls end up as a statistic on the conscience of this country. Our prayers are with them as our hearts go out to their families. This newspaper would like to appeal to all our citizens to observe the social distancing order. It is in our interest to shun governors who are playing politics with Easter Sunday by relaxing physical distancing order. Some of the governors want people to perish for lack of knowledge of the implications of wider transmission of the deadly virus pandemic. We should stay at home for our own good at this time. We wish all Nigerians a happy Easter celebration.