All We Need At Christmas Is Love – By Ayo Oyoze Baje
“It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid
At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time
But say a prayer: Pray for the other ones”
(-Lyrics from the song ‘Do they Know it’s Christmas?’ by Band Aid 1984 – Songwriters: Midge Ure / Bob Geldof)
If you are still lucky to be alive-hale and hearty in the current crises-riddled Nigerian nation, characterized by the killing spree across several states, by bandits, terrorists, kidnappers and armed robbers, almost on daily basis and reading this piece you have a million and one reasons to be grateful to our Creator. Call Him God or any other name you consider suitable enough to describe our all-wise, all-merciful, all-loving, all-powerful provider and protector and you are right on point.
Oh yes, it is Christmas time again, marking the birth of Jesus the Christ, the only begotten son of God and you do not even need to be called a Christian to feel the vibes. It is all around us in the free air. You can feel the hype, the hoopla, and the jamboree! The colourful Christmas decorations, hampers and Carols are here to define the moment of festivities, also marking the end of the calendar year.
Amply evident too is the sudden increase in inter-state movements, the jostle for expensive rice and ingredients from tomatoes, pepper down to onion bulbs which the home makers need to cook the mouth-watering delicacy to be shared amongst family members and friends. That is of course, to express the feelings of love and laughter! But come to think about it, what is this thing called love?
According to Wikipedia, “Love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit, the deepest interpersonal affection, to the simplest pleasure”.In fact, some dictionaries describe it as “an intense feeling of deep affection”. But my own definition of love is simply sacrifice-to suffer for others without counting the cost, as Jesus the Christ, the only begotten son of God and the subject of this celebration did, by laying down His life for mankind.
So, while those of us who have the economic means wine and dine on Christmas Day and thereafter, let us spare a thought for the needy and the helpless members of our society, especially here in Nigeria. One is talking of course, about the orphans, the homeless, the jobless, the old, the widows and widowers, the weak, the depressed, the sick and the dying. They do not know that it is Christmas time as aptly captured in the lyrics of the above-listed song.
Reaching out to this category of Nigerians has therefore, become more compelling and imperative at this trying time when the country still ranks as the World’s Poverty Capital. According to the UN’s Hunger Report, in the 2021 Global Hunger Index, Nigeria ranks 103rd out of the 116 countries with sufficient data to calculate 2021 GHI scores. With a score of 28.3, Nigeria has a level of hunger that is serious!
According to the UN’s Hunger Report, hunger is the term used to define periods when populations are experiencing severe food insecurity—meaning that they go for entire days without eating due to lack of money, lack of access to food, or other resources. The threshold for food deprivation, or undernourishment, is fewer than 1,800 calories per day.
In fact, an estimated 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM). But only two out of every 10 children affected is currently reached with treatment. Seven percent of women of childbearing age also suffer from acute malnutrition.
The report specifically stated that: “Close to 17 million Nigerian children are undernourished, meaning they are not getting the food or nutrients they need to thrive and grow well, leading to irreversible developmental harm”. According to UNICEF, Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 32 percent of children under five. But that is not all for concerned citizens to worry about.
A survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicates that the population of out- of- school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, the highest in the world! Most of these children are found in Nigeria’s northern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, where Boko Haram insecurities have disrupted academic activities.
But contrary to President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim on 2021 Democracy Day that his government has lifted 10.5 million citizens out of the poverty quagmire “ they will remain very poor for a long time to come”. That is according to the 2021 report of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) revealed.
The latest sustainable development report ranked Nigeria low at the 160th position out of 165 countries. The leadership of countries all over the world, through the UN, had committed themselves to achieve all the 17 SDG goals by the end of 2030.
Patriots should be worried that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) highlights that 40 percent of the total population, or almost 83 million people, live below the country’s poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) per year. That is according to the “2019 Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria” report. It is worse off as at this day.
Mark you, yours truly did not cook up the scary statistics but feels seriously concerned about the pangs of poverty ravaging our land all because it is preventable. How can Nigerians be so hungry in a land literally flowing with milk and honey; in a land where our political parasites smile all the way to the bank every blessed month-end with millions of naira as salaries and emoluments? Why should our legislators be ranked amongst the highest paid in the world and professors are paid peanuts with ASUU members having had go on months of strike? The answer is obvious.
Here there is no love amongst us. Not a few of our political leaders are driven by the love for the self, for their ethnic groups and religious beliefs instead of the state, as one has often emphasized. If there was love, the government in power should have put in place proactive measures to nip the killing spree courtesy of the related insurgency right in the bud.
It should have long ensured that all the perpetrators are brought to speedy justice instead of ever nursing the idea of the nauseating amnesty for the killers, as if their lives are more precious and worthy than their helpless victims.
Indeed, if there was love, the constitution would have been retooled to favour political restructuring and true fiscal federalism long ago. That would ensure that the federating units or even the states are allowed to have state police to curb insecurity as well as control much of their resources and pay an agreed percentage tax to the weakened centre.
On the personal level let us borrow some fresh leaves from what the likes of late Michael Jackson, Cristiano Ronaldo and our own Davido have done for the needy members of the world. What about Mark Zukerberg giving off 99 per cent of his wealth to charitable! Has that made him any poorer? No!
As reflected in the hit song, “Do they know it’s Christmas?” Here’s to you/Raise a glass for everyone/Spare a thought this yuletide for the deprived/If the table was turned would you survive?. Feed the World” Think about this and do the needful.