* Now postponed to March 28th.
For many people, Nigerians included, February 14 immediately points to the celebration of Valentine. This year, it means so much more for Nigerians. On that day the nation chooses her leaders for the next four years.
Nigeria is a richly blessed country: 8th world exporter of petroleum; fastest growing economy in the world after China and Qatar (by 7% according to a recent CNN study); a great 170-million-strong population; abundant natural resources like tin, coal, iron ore, zinc and gas which are in great quantity but largely unexplored (Nigerian gas deposit is in fact more than her petroleum).
Unfortunately, particularly in the last five years, she is more popular these days for the ravaging insurgency of Boko Haram. How fast fortunes can change, somebody would say. The problem of Nigeria is however not limited to the 5-year, crippling insurgency of these terrorists. It has had a long history, arising from many unsatisfied cravings including but not limited to the following:
1. The cravings of about 80 million youths who see a country so rich, yet with so much poverty; poverty amongst plenty, in familiar terms. To know the import of that number, remember 80 million is like the population of Canada and Spain combined. This is just the population of Nigeria’s youths.
2. The cravings for a even faster growth. I give transportation as an example. The present administration has done well by working on the rail system to connect a nation of 170 million, after many years of unfulfilled expectations and degradation of this infrastructure by culpable neglect. But for all its worth, that success is a far-cry from what would be sufficient even for smaller nations. It is even claimed that the standards of the trains being brought in even now, late as it is, are lower to what one would expect in a 21st century year. In a word, while the country is growing fast, the level of past neglect and wanton maladministration makes such growth almost unnoticeable. This is just an example from the transportation sector, but true of all other major sectors of life in the country: education, health, housing, insurance, etc. So much is going on, yet much more needed. Simply because much has been left to decay for many years and so there is need for even much more change and development in the country.
3. Unsatisfied cravings of religiosity. Nigerians, like the average African, are so religious. Such religiosity has however not yielded the best of results as one would expect. The vision of a religion, at least according to the Catholic Church, is the perfection of the human person and a betterment of the society, while expecting a new heaven and a new earth (cf. Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church, nos. 33-39 ).
For all its religiosity, Nigeria witnesses a monumental disproportion between religious avowals and actual existential values. The situation is even made worse by hundreds of freelance pastors who preach a gospel of prosperity, thus slowing the advancement of the crusade for hard work, resilience, and truth. As a result of this fake gospel, many citizens just look for the easy way out, feeding high on the religious wheat of the gospel of prosperity.
We could go on enumerating the sources of Nigeria’s woes, but suffice to say this is a great nation which is undergoing a very painful rebirth, and has now come to a crossroad of an election which has been described as one of the most volatile elections in the history of the country. It is set for February 14.
Do you now see why February 14 this year means much more than Valentine for the Nigerian people? There is so much hope in the air, yet so much fear and anxiety, made worse by the insecurity that is rife in the country. The question is whether February 14 would deliver a season of love and joy to Nigerians at the coming elections, and if the anxiety for a true change would finally birth a new beginning.
For Nigerians: Get your Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) and vote wisely!For the Nigerian government: Ensure a credible election. The whole world is waiting and watching. For our other friends and the entire world: Assist us with your prayers and diverse technical resources for a successful election.