Merry Christmas to you, and you, and you…

Merry Christmas to you and yours. Depending on who/where/what you are, this season might either be the “most wonderful time of the year”, or just another day filled with dread, rancour, or even worse, nothingness.

I’ve spent the last 20 odd minutes browsing through social networks as people exchange the warmest greetings with friends, family, and loved ones. And it made me think that there might be some who at this time won’t be unwrapping gifts from Santa, heading out for a day of festivities (maybe debauchery), or staying home to host the tons of people who will visit to share a laugh, drink, and a bite (and maybe a pressie or two). And so this is my message to you, you, and you.

Here’s my list, you’re welcome to add to it.

1. Nigeria’s security forces, especially the rank and file, and even more for the ones serving in the North East. Merry Christmas to you keepers of our land (second to God of course), first in line for whatever havoc Boko Haram and other evil entities think up per time. Especially under the poorest of conditions, the most demotivating remuneration, and appalling, unacceptable gear. The petty extortion on the roads, allegations of human rights abuses, appearance of cluelessness on the one hand, on the other you are our heroes. And to the ones who were sentenced to death for mutiny (apparently more soldiers have been added to the number), you’re in my thoughts and prayers.

2a. Internally displaced persons, who by no fault of theirs, have become refugees in their own land. Merry Christmas to you now without homes/farmland/livelihood, now dependent on the selflessness of groups like #SantaGoesToYola #ChristmasOnTheStreetz (God bless you guys), and the pungent hypocrisy of politicians who only visit for the photo ops. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering, I cannot imagine the questions you sleep and wake with every day, I won’t even try to imagine the conditions you currently face, despite the fact that you have state governors, house of assembly members, local government chairmen, and all the others who from the comfort and safety of their plush mansions in Abuja condemn the insurgency.

2b. Families who have lost brethren to the insurgency. Is it ok to say Merry Christmas? Whatever could be merry about it? From October 2010 and the bombing at Eagle Square, families have sent off their loved ones to work/school/play in the morning, only to receive their lifeless, decapitated bodies in the evening. Some have not been fortunate to receive more than a body part, some others, nothing at all. Where do I start from? Is it the Buni Yadi boys? Or the ones blown up while standing at morning assembly at Government Technical Science College in Potiskum? The hapless ones who got blown up in mosques, churches, bus parks, markets, malls? My thoughts and prayers are with you today and everyday.

3. Parents of the Chibok Girls. We must never forget there have been many kidnapped before these girls taken on the 14th of April, and many taken after (less than 10 days ago it was 185 taken from Gumsuri, a village near Chibok, also in Borno state). Eight months after, it’s moved from windy tales to the ‘only thing that matters’ – the elections in 2015. Never mind that Boko Haram might be breeding an army (one of the girls who escaped was four months pregnant in September, that there are chilling stories of how many times they get raped), and that these girls are walking shells of confusion, hurt and psychological trauma. All that matters to our government is getting re-elected in 2015, whether there are any of us left to vote or not. I am not a parent, but I felt separation anxiety for a toddler on his first days at school; I cannot imagine your grief (which has killed some), or your disappointment in this Nigeria we call ours.

4. Dr Stella Adadevoh’s family. Very special mention must be made of this strong, principled daughter of God who single-handedly (shame on the government for accepting the praise for her work and then wheedling out of giving her a national honor) put a plug in what would have become the biggest outbreak of Ebola this year. You (literally) died so we could live. You are our hero. Today, and always. Merry Christmas to the family you left behind.

5. Nigerians. Merry Christmas to us, wherever we are. We weathered another year, bumps, warts, and all, and must (all things considered), appreciate the fact that we are alive to see another year come to an end. Some of us have lost friends and family to disease or natural causes (rest in peace Lami, aunty NK), children have been born; loves have been won or lost, life has been what it has been to us. Devaluation of the naira, extreme insecurity, abysmal electricity, and the general feeling of hopelessness aside, we’re here. Still here. And it is at least one thing to be grateful for.

Merry Christmas.

SOLDIER

I’m starting a ‘one word series’ with a dear friend who’s learning to write better. The basic idea we’re working on is to take any word and spin 600 words around it. I thought it would be good for me too so here goes…

When I hear ‘soldier’, three things immediately come to mind, depending on where I am, and the circumstances under which I hear it.

The first thing could be ‘soldiers of Christ’ which we are always admonished to be at church. Being a soldier of Christ (and indeed any kind of soldier) requires quantum amounts of discipline, perseverance, endurance, and a very active determination to keep at it regardless of challenges that may come your way. Denying ourselves the pleasures of sin, sharing the Word with others, and more importantly leading lives worthy of emulation are part of our duties as good soldiers in the Lord’s army. 2 Timothy 2:3 says Take [with me] your share of the hardships and suffering [which you are called to endure] as a good (first-class) soldier of Christ Jesus.” (Amplified Bible – Lockman)

‘Soldier’ also takes me back to my childhood when I wanted to be one! I know, this my crazy, funny mind right? Amongst others, I went to a Police Children’s School in Ilorin, Kwara State, and I remember the driver of our school bus was known to us as ‘Oga Emma’; he was big and we all adored him. One day he was driving us home and at a traffic light a civilian who had been driving rough and insulting him pulled up beside us. Oga Emma (dressed in his Police gear) got down from the bus, went over to his side, and used his boots to ‘brush’ the guy’s face. When we continued moving, he told all the now awestruck kids that if he was a soldier his boots would have been bigger and he would have given the guy a bigger ‘brushing’. I was eight years old at the time, and there and then, I decided I was going to be a soldier so I could have ‘big boots’.

On to the third; a friend in high school was the last child of her parents. She had three elder brothers, with six years between her and her immediate elder brother. She was my friend, and would always refer to her brothers as her soldiers. And yes, she was very troublesome!! In JSS2 she was already driving and in my mind was the coolest kid ever. We all have our stories but that’s where I started referring to boys as soldiers; especially when one family has only them.

Amongst the many characteristics that soldiers should possess, ‘others before self’ ranks high on my list. Whether as a soldier for Christ or in carrying out their duties (not like our Oga Emma o), soldiers have the mind-set that they are there to serve, obey, and defend, and to the best of their ability. They will endure uncomfortable and even dangerous circumstances without complaining, never taking their eyes off the ball.

That’s why you can’t ever have ‘baby soldiers’ (except they’ve been forcefully co-opted into an army by the likes of Joseph Kony and the LRA but that’s a tale for another day). The needs and wants of babies trump everything and everyone else, and they’ll make life unbearable for everyone till they are satisfied. For them, it’s ‘me first’ and then the world can either come second or just go to blazes.

So, two things; what’s your own soldier story? And are you a baby or a soldier?

P:S – Happy Mother’s Day to the soldier with the largest heart I’ve ever known, my darling mother!! God bless you richly, and keep you to see the fruits of your labor in Jesus name!! We love you loads!

P:S – one of us needs a soldier now…. His name is Okeoghene Ighwiwotho and he’s diabetic, has been for going on 10 years now. On the 24th of March 2006, he suffered an injury that’s refused to heal and has slowly consumed his feet. He was supposed to have surgery in January this year but he needs 5 million naira for that to happen. He can be reached through the phone number, 08063255842 and his banking details are Ighiwoto Okeoghene John (0012913007 – GTB) or Ighiwoto Okeoghene John (2054468076 – UBA). God bless you as we stand up for this young man!