By Olugu Olugu Orji mnia
30 May 1999 was a Sunday. An event happened that day at the International Conference Centre Abuja. A Christian Thanksgiving Service held to celebrate Olusegun Obasanjo who had been sworn in 24 hours earlier as Nigeria’s President. In attendance was an intimidating array of ‘men of God’ brandishing all manner of titles and accoutrements. This was supposed to be their day and they left no one in doubt of that fact.
There were two in this illustrious company that, for me, stood out. Archbishop (as he was at the time) John Onaiyekan of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja and Pastor William Folorunsho Kumuyi: General Superintendent of the Deeper Life Bible Church. Onaiyekan was one of the few who did not shy away from using the pulpit to condemn the excesses of military rule especially during the dark and dangerous days of General Sani Abacha. The broad smile he wore that day hinted at how personally he took the unfolding events in the polity. Kumuyi on the other hand was probably the most apolitical pastor of his time. Since he burst of the stage of national reckoning in the 80s, he had been singularly focused on minding the welfare of his ever-increasing flock. This man had successfully avoided controversy and everything with even the slightest hint of the political. His presence therefore was evidently a huge but welcome surprise.
For me, seeing the two men rekindled hope that Nigeria was once more on the path to recovery. Having hope makes me feel really good and our romance dates right back to the events leading up to the Biafran War in the later 70s.
Though I was but a little child, I knew something was amiss when my kid brother was born in the last quarter of 1966 in Ikot Ekpene. When you see elders withdraw to speak in hushed tones, you know it is no longer at ease.
My suspicions were confirmed when the family had to make a dash to Aba at night. A few weeks later, we were again bundled off to Ohafia where it became abundantly clear that war was imminent. Then the talk of Aburi filled the air. I did not even know that Aburi was a place in Ghana because I saw it as a possibility of avoiding war. Even before full-scale hostilities, the family already recorded monumental losses so it was easy to imagine what the real thing would entail. No, I did not want war like millions of other Nigerians so Aburi presented huge hope.
That hope was dashed and we have 30 months of needless orgy to show for our failure to pull away from the brink.
Hope again came calling in 1993 when Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, despite his dubious past, helped galvanize Nigerians in his convoluted bid to become president. Hope ’93 held the possibility that Nigerians were ready for the arduous task of nation-building in spite of ethnic and religious differences. Abiola never became president and our hopes were dashed: mine was crushed.
Standing on the foyer of the International Conference Centre Abuja that fateful Sunday morning, I was compelled to remold hope; desperately praying that Obasanjo will not make my efforts to end catastrophically.
Catastrophe is a dignified word to describe Obasanjo’s 8-year ruthless rigmarole. Hope was now indescribably mangled. You would say I lost hope but what I actually did was to cast her away. Now rid of her, I meant to live life as normally as I could manage. It did not take long to discover that without hope, life and sanity are imperiled.
Without hope, I suddenly discovered that my life was ebbing away and my sanity was becoming severely strained. Frantically, I sought her out once more and went through another grueling session of reconstruction. Afterwards I made a radical decision to remove my focus from politics and economics. Now I invest heavily in family, music and a unique form of literary evangelism, and trust me, investing in these areas hardly bring disappointment and frustration.
The Good Book says in very contemporary English, “Unrelenting disappointment (hope deferred) leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.”* As a veteran of hope and the heartbreak of hope, I can affirm the truth of this scripture. When your hope is constantly and consistently dashed, you put your sanity and very life at grave risk.
So here is a survivor’s honest counsel: stop investing in the possibility of political and economic miracles. You only make yourself a certain target for heartbreak. If some politician has promised you fresh air, go immediately and buy a gas mask. If fresh air does come, you can sell the mask to a Syrian or Israeli even at a profit. If the fresh air does not materialize, you are going to die a very slow and painful death. Trust me; asphyxia is not the prettiest route to the hereafter.
Maybe an economic shaman is peddling the certain imminence of a national and global boom that will usher in a regime of peace and prosperity, and you are buying. If I were you, I’ll be familiarizing with tips for surviving an impending economic holocaust.
So don’t lose hope: just find something enduring to invest it in. Maybe this is the best time to find God in a very personal way: not the commercial version that resembles an ecclesiastical supermarket. You can rediscover family life and the thrills of belonging. Watch your boy become a man and your daughters transform into delectable maidens. Keenly observe as your spouse gracefully ages. Monitor a seed you planted in your garden grow to bear many more seeds.
Invest your hope in these ventures and it will never be dashed. Then you can live long and stay healthy and sane.
*(Prov. 13:12 from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson)
OLUGU OLUGU ORJI mnia