FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, August 5, 2019
SILO@depaul.edu
Chicago, USA
WHY I AM NOT CELEBRATING MY BIRTHDAY THIS YEAR

his week is my birthday, but I will not be celebrating. Let me confess that I feel so undeservedly blessed by God in many ways. I am grateful for my family and numerous friends, colleagues and well-wishers whose love sustains me every day. However, this year I will ask you please don't send me any greetings on Facebook. Please donít send me any cards or flowers. Please donít call me to wish me a happy birthday. Rather, please pray for me and pray for Nigeria and pray for those who are suffering today in Nigeria because their loved ones have been killed in the senseless violence running out of control under the watch of President Buhari who came to power with a promise that he will keep us safe. These are the reasons why I cannot celebrate my birthday this year:

I cannot celebrate because I am grieving the gut-wrenching murder of my friend and classmate, Fr Paul Offu. This sad incident took place in Enugu State. His body is in the morgue!!! This has put me and many people who knew this wonderful and happy priest in a choke-hold. It feels like a ghost limp syndrome right now and I am suffering from severe emotional and spiritual trauma.

I cannot celebrate my birthday when the body of my friend and colleague is in the mortuary and we do not know yet who killed him and who among us will be next to be killed in this unprecedented orgy of violence and blood-letting in Enugu State, Nigeria. I cannot celebrate when my country of birth and my people in Eastern Nigeria are under siege from home-grown criminal gangs from Eastern Nigeria, and invading Fulani Islamic jihadists/terrorists who pretend to be cattle herdsmen. I cannot celebrate when we have a failed government and a failing state under our very eyes and many of us are pretending that this is a passing phase while we stand aside and watch to use the words of Bob Marley. Our government have failed our people, especially our young men and women. Our leaders or rather office holders have destroyed the bonds which hold us together and we are turning against each other.

With over 30% unemployment rate for young people in Nigeria (more than 16 million Nigerians under 35 years are not gainfully employed), and 37% illiteracy rate for young men and women in Northern Nigeria, we have produced unhealthy minds, spirits, and bodies as jobless youth in Nigeria. These benighted young men and women are living for nothing and are willing to die for nothing. They have no value for their own lives nor do they appreciate the inviolability of the lives of other people. They have nothing to live for and nothing to die for. In their desperation and anger, they have become kidnappers, killers, terrorists, murderers, arsonists, criminals, and devilís workshops whose place of abode is only in bushes and forests, and whose tools for work are guns, bayonets, charms, amulets, spears, arrows, and grenades. In place of healthy food and healthy ideas, their minds are consumed by drugs, and hot drinks, smut, and all kinds of garbage from social media. The Nigerian nation produced these monsters. The Northern oligarchs who siphoned a greater percentage of Nigeriaís wealth without educating their young men and women, producing more than 35 million illiterate young men and women produced these conscienceless husks of humanity who are ravaging the land!!!

I cannot celebrate when our hard-working women can no longer go to their farms in many rural communities in the South-East because they are afraid of being raped by marauding criminals who are having a field day in a country where lives and properties are no longer secure.

When the Nigerian civil rights leader and environmental activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa was judicially murdered by the Nigerian state, his last words were, "what sort of country is this?" I cannot celebrate when millions of poor, worried and long-suffering Nigerians are asking the same question, "What sort of country is this?"

Nigeria, a land that devours its inhabitants. Nigeria, a nation where nothing works. Nigeria, where religious sentiments overflow amidst the overflow of lies, deceits, dishonesty, false religious claims, and human blood. Nigeria, a nation where our leaders are sponsors of terrorists against their own people through the use of political thugs and private militia. The political thugs who were used during the recently concluded elections are now jobless terrorists and Ďherdsmení or rather Ďhead-huntersí of today. Our political office holders have produced these horrible killers and criminals. Our corrupt state and her security apparatus as well as drug and gun cartels are making arms and ammunition available to these rogues. One of the cheapest things to get in Nigeria today are guns.

Nigeria, a nation so blessed by God with good land, good weather, rich human and natural resources, but has chosen to be a prodigal and beggarly nation by wasting the gifts and blessings of God because of failed political and religious class with their interconnected systems of privilege and power.

Nigeria, a nation that has lost her way and where abominations of all kinds are occurring and we all pretend that this is normal and cover our failings by praying to God who has done for Nigeria more than God has ever done for any other nation in Africa. What has God not done for Nigeria? Nigeria could be a paradise on earth if only we could really embrace God, righteousness and justice, rather than being caught in a web of deception, injustice, ethnocentric jingoism and religious bigotry and conspiracy theories which have made all of us victims to our own follies.

I will not be celebrating my birthday this year. I will spend a quiet day of prayer and fasting. But prayer is not enough. If the state cannot defend her citizens, the people have a moral duty to defend themselves against unjust aggressors. My hope and prayer is that God will give me and all of us who are leaders at different levels in Nigeria the grace to find some concrete steps and urgent acts of reversal to stop this free fall of a beautifully blessed nation into the abyss of lawlessness, further misery, genocide and war.

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