“Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13)
For us here in Nigeria, October First is our independence day. On a day like this, the question we ask ourselves is: “Is Nigeria worth celebrating?” Most often, the answer to this question is the long list of things that have gone wrong with this nation. In truth, the mood around us today is not that of celebration but a mixture of anger and frustration. Most of us are so ashamed to be identified as Nigerians that we are ready to do whatever it takes to leave or rather, run away, from this country just as the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary and Joseph) ran away from Israel to take refuge in Egypt.
The flight of the Holy Family to Egypt would never have happened if there wasn’t a problem with its leadership at that time. As we read in today’s Gospel passage, God sent an angel to warn Joseph in a dream to take the child and his mother and run to Egypt because Herod was about to destroy the child. Indeed, any country where its leaders value their comfort over that of the young (children and youth), where there is no serious commitment to education is not worth staying in.
However, unlike the Holy Family who were just three persons, it would be practically impossible and even senseless for over ninety million persons to flee. The only flight we can afford is not out of Nigeria but into a better Nigeria; that is, we the citizens working with our own hands making use of the abundant resources which God has already endowed us with. Perhaps, this better Nigeria may not even be a single country (topic for another day), but for this entity to be better, we all must be willing to pay the ultimate price for it. No country ever became what it is by luck, it is a question of the calibre of people who identify themselves as its citizens.
Dear friends, stop thinking of Nigeria as some abstract reality existing in the air, Nigeria is not just a map neither is it simply landmass and waterways. Nigeria is people. Nigeria is me and I am Nigeria. The goodness or badness of Nigeria so to say is only a function of my own goodness or badness. If I am dishonest, lazy and wicked, that is exactly what Nigeria is. I cannot be hoping for a better Nigeria to happen when I am not willing to change my own evil ways. I cannot be praying for Nigeria to become good when in my sphere of leadership, I am worse than Herod. I cannot be dreaming of a new Nigeria when I can afford to see my fellow Nigerians suffering, yet, I partake in the looting of public funds.
Nigeria will only be good to the extent that I am willing to be good. This is the reason why while there are some individual Nigerians who keep surprising the entire world with mighty feats and positive achievements, some other Nigerians are just doing the opposite. The funny thing is that even those involved in crime and other nefarious evil claim that they desire a better Nigeria as if it was possible for that to happen without their contribution.
During the just-concluded elections in my state, I saw video clips of persons who were arrested not necessarily by the police or the army but by fellow citizens for trying to buy or sell votes. For the first time, I felt there is hope for our country; that as a people, we have been able to identify our problems and we are now willing to make the sacrifice for things to change.
Yes, a lot rests on leadership. While our Gospel passage speaks of the Holy Family running because of a bad leader, our first reading contains a prophecy of an extraordinary leader who will actually make life beautiful for the people. This leader will have the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord, he shall be impossible to bribe, in fact, righteousness shall be the belt in his waist. Wouldn’t you rather become such a leader for Nigeria?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, your mother understands hardship, may she intercede for a better Nigeria. Amen. Bible Study: Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-17, Ephesians 2:13-22 and Matthew 2:13-15.19-23).