By Chris Anyokwu
Some things don’t change, like change itself. Man is a product of habit and as such likes to bend to the sway of old ways. Thus, making resolutions on the last day of every year is a yearly ritual in these parts. Small wonder, Crossover Service was held across the land as both saints and sinners trooped to nearby churches to pray and supplicate for a change in their lives. Predictably, most worshippers beseeched heaven in loud decibels over indices of upward mobility such as better education, accommodation, cars, money in the bank, relocation or evacuation overseas. Others knocked on Heavensgate over life-partners, the fruit of the womb, admission to tertiary institutions of learning, and so forth. The whole business of New Year resolutions appears to be the vogue mentality of beggar-thy-neighbour; to outflank and out-general your neighbour-to be able to say to him or her: “Nyoi, see now, my Mercedes is bigger than yours. I now live in a better house located in an upscale environment, a location approximating a Victoria Garden City (VGC) or, better yet, a Banana Island”.
Thus, the desire, the compulsive desire to set about trying to improve your lot quantitatively or qualitatively is driven solely by competition, by high ambition a la Lady Macbeth. And, like Lady Macbeth, if need be, you are ready to kill, maim or destroy in order to actualise your desire. But even so, a caveat is in order at this juncture. The foregoing drift is implicitly undergirded and energised by a fallacy, namely a broad-brush characterisation of common humanity as far as resolution-making goes. A countervailing riposte very easily compels a counterargument which holds that, amid the din of the multitudinous jabberings of hollow competitiveness, of high ambition, of resentful jockeying for existential space for self-promotion, tiny islands of sane, sensible and serious-minded people still exist.
These are those animated by ideological clarity drawn either from religion (or lack thereof) or culture or intellectual self-realisation who stay in their lanes, pursuing their bent. Not for these ones, the small-minded caterwauling over Naira and Kobo, bread and butter; not for them the empty and loud swellings over material possessions. Not for them, the lousy self-gratulatory chest-thumping over academic laurels, military epaulettes, successful business deals or socio-political acreage acquired. Not for them, the giddy palpitations of primitive accumulation a la Nigeria’s prebendalist political elite and its ilk.
For this latter social category, New Year resolutions are a time-honoured, healthy tradition going back to the misty genesis of recorded time. These ones truly understand the real meaning of resolution. The word resolution is a common abstract noun that derives from the verb resolve and the adjective, resolute. And to resolve or to be resolute implies decision-making, a conclusion/closure, a determination, a change of heart and mind about a situation, something, circumstances, attitude, direction, habit, goal (or lack thereof), among others. As noted above, both saints and sinners make resolutions.
Some do not wait until December 31 of every year to make resolutions about their situation. Therefore, they make resolutions on the go, as the mood or the spirit takes them in reaction to, probably, an epiphanic nudge of sorrow, pain, sadness or even plenum or felicity. That is to say, pain or pleasure can spark the desire to make a resolution: not anymore, I’m quitting this! Further, a song heard on radio, TV, in the car, in church or anywhere else can trigger a life-changing resolution. By the same token, a sight or sound can equally lead you to the quiet sanctum of change. It could be the sight of poverty or the rumble of hunger concretely embodied by hordes of almagirai; bowl-in-hand detritus, sundry driftwood of insensate policy. It could also be mendicants, able-bodied youths, men and women lining our highways tapping on tinted car glass asking alms just to get by. It could be our longsuffering farmers working drought-hardened soil under the sweltering sun, only to return to their homes, dark and dingy as a grave because of the absence of electricity and other social amenities.
But for most, tradition is tradition. They can be kicked down the road until the last day, that is December 31. Then Crossover Night! Yes, I love the sound of that: “Crossover Night”, a resonant phrase capable of generating a poem-sequence, a novel, a play or a philosophic treatise. But seriously, how was your Crossover Night? Did you go to a church to pray? Did you fast? Did you become a new creature on that Night of Decision? Did you tell your Maker you were not going to carryover into the New Year your fond and pet weaknesses, your easily besetting sins, your old baggage of quarrelsomeness, resentment, hatred, use of foul language, ungovernable anger, lust, sexual immoralities, smoking, drinking, lying, mischief-making, gossiping, backstabbing, treachery, self-abuse, and laziness?
Seriously speaking, if you and I made resolutions regarding these things, Nigeria and our world will be the better for it. If we resolve to be better human beings, better citizens, to obey the laws of the land, to play by the rule, to love our neighbour as we do ourselves, then sanity will return to our streets, our workplace, our schools, our homes, our life.
There’s, however, the abiding scepticism about all of this high-minded cute sentiment, particularly against the backcloth of our nationwide climate of bone-deep cynicism and antipathy. The word on the street is that it is good to be bad and bad to be good in Nigeria. Put differently, the general or popular conviction is that Nigeria is good for/to bad people and bad for/to good people. This is a hard-as-nails FACT! Most tragically, this is the ruling belief among our people, both the highly-placed and the déclassé. In the workplace, in schools, in marketplaces, in boardrooms, in corridors of power and even in places of worship, it is the same Orwellian dictum that governs: under the spreading chestnut tree, you sold me and I sold you. QED! Consequent upon this, Nigerians observed the Crossover Night half-heartedly.
The ongoing Covid-19 scourge forced greater self-isolation, making folk stay marooned to their homes. Few braved the dangers of the night to attend the Crossover Service in their churches or nearby churches. As it clocked Twelve Midnight and nations of the world rang in the New Year with fireworks displays and fanfare (as shown on satellite cable television), there was sepulchral silence in Nigeria punctuated fitfully only by distant reports of bangers sounding much like the cannon shots at a burial. Like T.S. Eliot’s poem entitled “Journey of the Magi”, one wondered whether our New Year’s Eve/Crossover Night was “a birth or a death”.
But if you’d paid closer attention to the tintinnabulation of night creatures, you’d have realised that it transmitted pregnant portents of a continuance of things old: old struggles to make ends meet for the poor masses; old strategies by our rapacious rulers to further tighten the noose around our collective neck.
2023 beckons and that’s all that matters to our unconscionable keepers, minders of our demoncrazy. Sadly, the killings and kidnappings will continue. Life and property also will be lost routinely and apace. The poor will get poorer and the rich richer. The default mode of post-colonial (mis)governance will guarantee that. After all, our polity is on auto-pilot and careering precariously towards goodness-knows-where.Oye Olorun! What to do, then? Let everyone work out their salvation with fear and trembling while hoping to hear the flappings of the Owl of Minerva. Hope, yes, that’s all we’ve got, for as Alexander Pope quips: “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”. We survived the recent past and, God willing, we shall not only survive but shall flourish in 2022! Somebody give me a life-altering
Chris Anyokwu writes from University of Lagos