At the dawn of a New Year, it is fitting for us to be optimistic about the days and weeks that lie ahead of us. Of course, every New Year comes with its own hopes and fears, its promises and predicaments, and considering the magnitude of challenges facing our nation, some people may entertain more fears than hopes, and see more predicaments than promises. Others may label my brand of optimism as baseless. 2015 was a year of defining challenges for Nigeria, and so will 2016 be. But for those who believe in God or in the providence of a supernatural power guiding human lives and the destiny of nations, this optimistic outlook towards the future is deeply rooted in hope as a virtue and as an ideal which we strive to build by earnest effort. It is also anchored on what is known in the Christian tradition as ‘prophetic imagination’.
Prophets are social revolutionaries. They are people who dare to dream big and seemingly unrealisable dreams. They are the precursors of a new and better world. They are the visionaries of their time. They are change agents, harbingers of hope and heralds of freedom. They are people totally dedicated to the struggle for a better future.
According to Reverend Father George Ehusani, a renowned social commentator, “When all others are blind, prophets are the ones granted to see the handwriting on the wall, to interpret the signs of the times and to see the light beyond the tunnel. Equipped as they are with superior knowledge and perception, prophets analyse the situation on the ground in the light of the common good and in the light of God’s wisdom and commandments. Prophets refuse to be defiled by the corruption of the moment; they refuse to be engulfed by the darkness of the surrounding environment.
Imagine that you wake up in 2016 in a new Nigeria where there are no potholes on our roads. Imagine that you wake in up a country where potable drinking water is flowing from every tap. Imagine that you wake up in a Nigeria where there is uninterrupted power supply. Imagine that you wake up in a country where workers arrive at their offices on time and where all young people of school age are in school. Imagine that you wake up in a country where citizens are paid their salaries and entitlements promptly and where the working class find deep job satisfaction. Imagine that you wake up in a new Nigeria where public officeholders no longer steal from the national treasury, and where government business is conducted with openness, transparency, accountability and patriotism.
Imagine also that you wake up in a country where all transportation systems are functioning with optimal efficiency. Imagine that you wake up in a Nigeria where poverty, hunger, disease and misery are things of the past. Imagine that you wake up in a country where unemployment and illiteracy have been banished from public and private lives. Imagine that you wake up in a Nigeria where social security benefits accrue to all citizens. Imagine that you wake up in a country where businesses flourish with ease and bliss. Imagine that you wake up in a new Nigeria where you get your due without having to give a bribe. Imagine that you wake up in a country without fuel queues, where motorists can drive into any filling station, serve themselves and pay without the assistance of any petrol station attendant. Imagine that you wake up in a new Nigeria where sirens and convoys no longer disrupt public peace. Imagine that you wake up in a country where the police are at their duty posts, protecting and safeguarding the lives of the citizens.
Imagine that you wake up in a new Nigeria where soldiers are in the barracks and are only seen in public on Armed Forces Remembrance Day. Imagine that you wake up in 2016 to see hospitals well equipped to world-class standard, with the best medical personnel. Imagine that you wake up in a country where Muslims and Christians see one another as brothers and sisters, where there is no more violence or bloodshed of any sort. Imagine that you wake up in a nation where mass happiness blends with social peace, hospitality and good neighbourliness.
I can imagine that those reading this will tell me to stop daydreaming and wake up to reality. I can imagine some Nigerians reading this and laughing profusely at the ‘childish’ construct of a world of make-believe. I can imagine university professors who want to be grandiloquent saying: “This is a phantasmagoria of unimaginable proportion.” I can imagine psychologists hauling charges of hallucination, dementia, and amnesia at me. But what else is prophetic imagination other than the mental capacity to bring non-existent things into life, and to envision the birth of a new and better world, far surpassing the glories of the fading world.
In this new world, like the Isaiah prophesied concerning the coming of the Messiah, incongruent things will become congruent, historic enemies will become friends, and oppositions will melt into a grand symphony of ideas, peoples, animals and things.
“The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will rest beside the kid, the calf and the lion cub will feed together and a little child will lead them. Befriending each other, the cow and the bear will see their young ones lie down together. Like cattle the lion will eat hay. By the cobra’s den the infant will play. The child will put his hand into the viper’s hole. No one will harm or destroy over my holy mountain, for as the water fills the sea, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:6-9).
Is this new world a possibility? Yes, if we work towards it and do our part in bringing about the enthronement of the intangible values of justice, equity and rights – the three untouchable pillars of social progress. To work for the birth of the ideal world in the here and now and to begin to live in that new world amidst the chaos of the present moment is the touchstone of prophetic imagination. Our country is in dire need of a critical mass of social prophets – people who dare to dream and to believe.
According to Father George Ehusani, our people are groaning and groping under the weight of “corporate amnesia and collective myopia.” We are suffering from what he calls “an acute shortage of moral vision, intellectual rigour, critical thinking and a discerning conscience.” We must all work collectively to reverse this downward slide and re-build the foundations of a peaceful, secure and prosperous nation.
I believe in the promise of a new Nigeria. I believe that things can change for the better. I have a dream that not too long from now, the Nigeria of my dream will become the new Nigeria. So help us God!
Ojeifo is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Abuja (firstname.lastname@example.org) / 07066363913.