By Okechukwu Emeh, Jr
Human life is meaningful and fulfilled only when it is led in the service of God and humanity. So, what shall we be remembered for after breathing our last in this earthly sojourn? Is it as exemplary persons who were godly and humane and whose exit would be in a blaze of glory or the opposite, which many would be eager to welcome as good riddance to bad rubbish? As regards the prevailing pathetic Nigerian condition, can we afford to be remembered as part of those involved in the twin scourges of corruption and mismanagement that have terribly contributed to national backwardness and appalling human suffering and the resultant crime, violence and insecurity? What legacies are we to bequeath to posterity? Are they legacies of lofty deeds that touch the heart like self-abnegation and selfless service or the heart-rending ones of self-centredness and villainy that could make any sensible mind to puke in revulsion and disbelief? How would those who have come across us in life weigh our impact, considering that life without remarkable impact is not worth living? And how would the kingdom of heaven judge us, mindful that in life what matters most is not how fellow humans, who are imperfect beings and mere mortals, perceive us but how God, the all-knowing, the all-present and the all-doing being, would adjudicate on our case during the last judgment?
Indeed, the foregoing resonates a kind of many questions than answers about the essence of human existence. It is apt to note that life itself is ephemeral or temporary. But how do we live a worthy life with a view to living in the hearts of men and women of goodwill when we go the way of all fresh, as well as gaining from the bounty of divine eternity? How do we lead a virtuous life that would captivate and inspire others to make sacrifices towards building a good society? All this is where the fundamental issue of living a life that speaks arises.
And you may ask: What is a life that speaks? Conceptually, it is exuding existential qualities and features that make us exceptional from others, the maddening crowd, in terms of sterling attributes like spirituality, morality, humanity and values. Suffice it to say that a life that speaks does not need one to flaunt it but is left for others to see and emulate. For example, anyone who worships God in truth and in spirit is not required, in a Pharisaic manner, to sound boastful about being a born-again Christian or devout Muslim, as is common in Nigeria nowadays. Such a person is also not expected to pander to religiosity or being too religious. Rather, through display of spirituality, which is building deep personal relationship with the Creator, people would bear testimonies to his or her pious life. Of course, this is a morasuasion against leading a life of hypocrisy and duplicity, which has been the stock-in-trade of many of our religious adherents – a disturbing situation that tends to make mockery of our system of faith and worship today.
In any case, despite attempts by some people at imposture or living a lie, the kind of life we live would always speak for us, either favourably or unfavourably. Even if one leads a life of make-believe other people would not detect, the all-knowing God, who sees in secret, can never be deceived because, according to the Scriptures, whatever one sows so shall one reaps. On this score, it can be asserted that we are who we are and not what people, in most cases, think we are or what we want others to believe we are. Furthermore, our lifestyle is what conveys an impression about who we are, what we are up to or the level we can reach in life. That is why it is always said, as an aphorism, that good name is better than wealth. Thus, each and every one of us, despite our human frailties, should always endeavour to live up to our reputation, as a buffer against untoward nudging of hypocrisy, deceit and double standard. We should, at all times, bear in mind that the kind of life we live can have serious repercussions for us, either here on earth or the great beyond. In other words, our names can be etched in the sands of time on account of our good deeds during our lifetime, while on the other hand, they could be thrown into the rubbish dump of history because of acts of villainy or infamy, apart from the comeuppance.
Now, do we lead a life that speaks or eager to do so henceforth? The choice is yours. To say the least, life without impact or legacy is unfortunate and regrettable. Such existence is accentuated by oblivion, or when remembered by those living, it is often with horror and indignation like that of Adolf Hitler whose Nazi Germany provoked the World War II that caused terrible destruction of lives and properties. What of the brutal ultra-leftist Khmer Rouge “killing fields” regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia, between 1975 and 1979, which led to the deaths of more than two million Cambodians, mainly through forced labour, starvation and execution? Or crude and sadistic dictators like Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa of Central African Republic (CAR) and Marcias Nguema of Equatorial Guinea whose reign of terror saw thousands of their citizens perished or disappeared? Or the terror campaigns of blood-thirsty religious fanatics like Osama bin Laden of Al Qaeda, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Abubakar Shekau of Boko Haram in Nigeria and Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda whose dark forces have unleashed deaths and destruction on massive scale in the affected countries?
In history, there are personalities around the world who are seen as some of the best humanity can offer because of their positive contributions in their countries and the world at large. An outstanding example was the late Mother Theresa, an Albanian nun renowned for her humanitarian service for the destitute through a missionary charity she founded in Calcutta, India. Deservedly famous American philanthropists like John Ford, Andrew Carnegie (the propounder of “Gospel of Wealth”) and John Rockefeller, though dead, would be kindly remembered for using their fabulous wealth to take care of the poorest of the poor and other underprivileged sections of human society not necessary through handouts but by creating opportunities. The case of the late Dr Nelson Mandela (the Madiba), former president of South Africa, was legendary, having been eulogized as a global icon and giant of men on account of his historic struggle against the obnoxious apartheid system in his homeland and his national healing leadership policies in the post-white minority government, along with his peace and humanitarian initiatives across the world. Tried, tested and proven leaders of blessed memory like John F. Kennedy of the United States (US) and Will Brandt and Konrad Adeneur of post-war Germany left indelible imprints as statesmen who were irrevocably committed not only to a world where people of all colours will live in freedom, peace, justice, security and prosperity but also to international cooperation and solidarity. For Reverend (Dr) Martin Luther King Jr, who campaigned tirelessly for racial equality in the US, through non-violence, he wanted people to remember him not by building a monument and bestowing of degrees from great universities but as a civil activist who tried to clothe the naked, house the homeless and fed the hungry. What an inspirational message for those in search of positive role models in our time!
In view of the biblical dictum that righteousness exalts a nation, our leaders and the led should recourse to self-introspection in order to live a life that would speak favourably for them, as well as restore the pride, dignity and prestige of our fatherland. Therefore, those in our corridors of power are besought to govern us with sobriety, forthrightness, humility and compassion, with transparency, probity, accountability and common good as their watchword. They should take their cue from quintessential leaders in history like wise King Solomon of ancient Israel, more than 3000 years ago, who demonstrated, that a throne could be established by righteousness. On the part of members of our political class, they are called upon to cohere, irrespective of party affiliations, in order to save our embattled federation by committing themselves to democratic ideals, including good governance, dialogue, political stability, due process, the rule of law, peaceful coexistence, social justice and equal opportunities. Some of them are exhorted to renounce primitive accumulation (and the associated corrupt enrichment), political infighting, thuggery and sectional politics – which not only speak ill for their status as a platform for leadership recruitment but also can throw a spanner in the works of nation-building, national integration and national development in Nigeria. For our citizenry, leading a life that speaks is a clarion call for a re-awakened spirituality, morality and value re-orientation, in addition to attitudinal and behavioural change in the form of social engineering, as obtained in forward-looking countries like Singapore. They are also necessitated to uphold civil duties and obligations that are pivotal to building a good society everyone would be proud of and happy to belong.
Considering the benefits that could be reaped from living a life that speaks, especially in terms of reputation, credibility, legacy, spirituality, morality, ethical regeneration and national progress, all and sundry in Nigeria should now be counted among those who would embrace this existential imperative. Henceforth, each and every one of us should proclaim that if I am committed to the core principles of spirituality, morality and values, I will not live in vain. If I contribute my quota for betterment of our society, as laudably being done today by one Ahmed Isah, the “Ordinary President” of Brekete Family programme in Abuja, who has given voice to the voiceless through his famous non-governmental organisation (NGO), I will not live in vain. If I make the basic tenets of shared humanity and environmental sustainability my articles of faith, I will not live in vain. The list is endless! May the Good Lord give us the will and the ability to lead a life that speaks in order not to live in vain.
Emeh, a social researcher, sent this piece from Abuja.