Tomorrow, we enter a new year, and going by past examples it is the time when we wish for a new beginning. All our misdeeds and imperfections are being consigned to a heap of the past. We are entering a brand new year, and it's going to be a brand new us. Never mind that we have done so several years before;  this year is going to be different. We even make resolutions regarding what ails us most. For the 15th year in a row, Lanke will resolve to give up drinking; and for the 18th year Ruffy will pledge to stop smoking. Let us look at what ail us as a people.

Perhaps the year2018 is when Africa will finally get her act together and take her place in the committee of respected continents. A continent with so much potentials, and so much to offer the rest of the world, needs to finally announce her arrival. The clinical politico-military operation that separated Robert Gabriel Mugabe from a lifetime hold on power in Zimbabwe is a pointer that we can do it too. But did it have to come to such?

But the story of remarkable individual achievementsis a sign that there is nothing wrong with us as a people. In academics, in science, in technology, in business, in sports, and in various other human endeavors, Africans continue to excel at a pace not inferior to any other group of people. Our major challenge remains our inability to see ourselves as one united group wherever our plurality comes to play. Ethnic and tribal differences combine with greed to restrain us from the heights we deserve. Let our charity begin here at home.  True, we cannot but be Hausa, Igbo, Ijaw, Kanuri, or Yoruba first, yet it is possible for us to be Nigerians when such will advance the interest of all. Why do we fail to see the good in our being one big strong nation?

Why are we stuck with narratives that offend and divide us?Why don't we tell the stories of our glorious deeds together? We tear ourselves apart with stories of marginalization, urging one tribe to boycott a financial institution with which an individual has a purely business dispute. We never tell of the spectacular individual success that dot the land that has welcomed us from generations past. A generation is being imbued with venom, one group against the other, while the instigators unite in their plundering of the commonwealth. Legislators still collect their stupendous allowances while the state government workers celebrate Christmas with reduced pay or no pay at all. Baba Kabiru, the overlord of the self-styled State of Osun has a fancy name for such - modulated salaries; except that there is nothing fancy about a family whose disposable income has been unilaterally truncated by a joy kill-ruler ship.

What is the real truth behind the salary fiasco in states? Presidency sources claim that 27 of the 36 states had fallen behind on salary payment as at the inception of the current administration in May 2015. A month before Christmas 2017, President Buhari ordered states to pay arrears of workers' salaries with monies provided by the Federal Government as bailout funds. Well, Buhari would wish he was still in military uniform and was giving orders to subordinate officers in the states with no alternative to strict adherence. In spite of his directives, many state workers celebrated a cashless Christmas. Which brings up the questions once again; is a state worthy of that name if it cannot pay its workers? Those who campaigned and won elections to offices in such insolvent states, did they study the economic situation of the states? Do they have strategies for pulling their states out of insolvency? Or are they just there for the ride? And many are  calling  for implementation of Goodluck Jonathan's 2014 conference which calls for the creation of more states. God save us from the enemies within.

Many celebrated Christmas away from their ancestral homes because there was shortage of petrol. The leader of one of the ethnic groups even said that the shortage of fuel was a deliberate action against his people as it stopped them from taking the gains of their foreign sojourn back home for the economic empowerment of their people. How come that Christmas is the time to go invest at home? Were members of that ethnic group denied fuel at the pumps while others bought in the commodity? That is the sort of hate that is being peddled even at the highest level of society. Why can't we ask a national question as to why the sixth largest exporter of oil cannot provide fuel for its people? What was the role of vested interests in the Yuletide fuel crisis? Everything is politicized to the disadvantage of us all.

Religion has become the other most lucrative business in Nigeria, outside politics. Gone are the days of itinerant bell ringing pastors, clad in white-gown, warning that the end was near for those who fail to heed the words of God. They have been replaced by the inheritors; pastors of five-minutes-walk Churches warning of the hellfire that awaits those who fail to pay their tithe. Clad insuits of various cuts, their passion is not the salvation of souls but the acquisition of airplanes. Their lives represent a scandal to the One they claim to follow. They have attracted and misguided those to whom they promise instant miracle and effortless prosperity. They grow fat on the greed and the foolish hope of those who wish to be like them if only they would sow with the little that they have. They are self-advertised moneychangers; promising miracles but delivering empty pockets to their followers. It is difficult to say who is more to blame; the perpetrators or those who willfully submit to being duped?

One would not be so concerned about the deeds and misdeeds of these merchants of hope if the improvement of our society does not depend on the deliverance of millions from theirentrapment. A people robed in the garment of falsehood, indoctrinated in a liturgy of greed, and raised on a diet of illusion have refused to see anything good in anything different. They are unable to contribute to sanitizing the polity. The world to them is constantly'us' against 'them' - the believer and the unbeliever. Let us wish in our hearts that they find the peace and joy that accompany the acceptance of the true Gospel of Love. Let us hope that they may find the true way in the Body of Christ and through the unfailing intercession of Our Lady. Let us learn to interact with them with the Love of the Good Shepherd and with a Heart full of passion for His Body and Blood. Let us show in words and deeds, that we believe that all will be one as our Lord prayed.

Let us resolve to pass a healthier atmosphere to the coming generation. Let us resolve to see ourselves as one in a world that is becoming one global village. Let us resolve to compete in a theatre of expanding capabilities and endless possibilities. Let Love reign in our hearts.

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