By Sonnie Ekwowusi
All man’s strivings on earth are inevitably, a search for happiness albeit many search for happiness in the wrong things. The young, the old, rich, poor, destitute, socially-dislocated, footballer, prisoner, freeman, manual worker, intellectual worker and all are all searching for happiness in their respective life endeavours. Not even human adversity can stultify the overflowing joy of the human spirit. Every time I re-read “As I Lay Dying” by Richard John Neuhaus I always marvel at the triumph of the human spirit over suffering. In that book, Neuhaus vividly recaptures that cheerfulness can be compatible with human suffering. In his epic book, The Consolation of Philosophy, Ancius, Boethius writes that human adversity and physical confinement do not diminish human freedom and human happiness. Reading Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk To Freedom, one cannot fail to appreciate that the 27 gruelling years which he spent in physical confinement in prison did not diminish his inner freedom, human spirit let alone his boisterous cheerfulness. Many years ago I visited the Kirikiri Maximum prison Lagos, in company with some young lawyers. It was a Sunday afternoon when prisoners are allowed to have some recreation within the prison including playing the game of football. As the prisoners were coming out from their respective prison cells or dungeons, we spotted out a very cheerful young prisoner among them wearing a stylistic haircut. Before we could utter a word, the other prisoners pointed at him and said to us; “he is innocent, he is not supposed to be here”. I wonder the fate that has befallen that cheerful young prisoner today.
I have heard it said several times that the poor-street beggars and destitute and others in that category-are the happiest people in the world. Pope Francis corroborates this in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Lamenting how the misplaced reliance on technology have led to the sorrow of many people, Pope Francis says that it is among the poor that we encounter people who are truly and really happy.
So, everyone longs for happiness. But as I said earlier, many look for it in wrong things. For example, the murderer who murders another believes that by committing that horrible act he could attain happiness. On my way back from the Badagry High Court two weeks ago, I met a soldier who narrated his recent encounter with young Boko Haram fighters in Maiduguri, Borno State. “Those young Boko Haram boys are prepared to die. Even when you catch them and torture them they will not reveal anything to you, said the military man. Obviously those Boko Haram boys believe that the only way they can be happy is to maim and kill those whom they have been sent to maim or kill.
Now that Christmas is here many will be seeking happiness in the orgy of self-deification, capricious expenditure and militant consumerism. To them, pleasure is happiness. At Christmas all sorts of vices start rearing their ugly heads: the commercial bus driver drives recklessly; the trader swindles the hapless customers; the worker embezzles his employer’s money; the kidnappers lays siege to the country highways to kid Christmas travellers. The motorists cruise at prohibitive speed. Everywhere, there is disorder as many searching for happiness busy themselves in buying and selling. Instead of seeking joy in the true meaning of Christmas, many seek it in drunken orgy. Asked how he would celebrate the Christmas, a driver wasted no time in answering that he would be inside the green bottle on Christmas Day, meaning that he would drink himself to stupor on Christmas Day.
This is certainly not the message which Jesus preached with his humble birth in Bethlehem. The self-sacrificing service of Jesus, Mary and Joseph at first Christmas is a spur to mankind to be less self-centred and attend to the needs of their fellow men and women. There are many Nigerians suffering from illness, frustration and poverty. Therefore, this Christmas is a good time to reach out to these suffering Nigerians and share the joy of Christmas with them. More importantly, Christmas affords many families the opportunity of reuniting and sharing the warmth and love of a family.
Following the selfless life of Jesus, our political leaders should bring light to the dark land; hope to the hopeless; justice to the oppressed and integrity to the wasteland. The people, on the other hand, should eschew vices of greed, avarice, laziness and corruption. It is no use blaming the leaders for being corrupt when the people condone injustice and corruption. Beyond complaining that Nigeria is not good, the people should get up and do something to bring about an honest political leadership. It is no use sitting down and gossiping without doing anything to assist in remedying the many injustices and wrongs committed in the land. Evil thrives when the so-called good people sit back and do nothing.
Today this column intones the Nunc Dimittis as it signs off for the Christmas vacation, to return, God willing, in January 2014. Thanks for the company in this tortuous journey of trying to clothe the naked public square. Obviously the road this year has been strewn with thorns and thistle, but as St. Josemaria Escriva writes in The Way of the Cross, “Where the hand feels the prick of thorns, the eyes discover a bunch of splendid fragrant roses”. We live in sad world, but with the smiles on our faces we can rid the world of its sadness and melancholy.
Wishing you and your family a joyful Christmas