Posted on: 2015-05-20

An ode to self-sacrifice

I have seen sad photographs of Nigerian youth soldiers unfortunately killed fighting terrorism and other insecurities in Nigeria. I have seen in those photographed eyes flames of hope and ambition forever extinguished by the violence which they did not cause. I believe we need to acknowledge more the sacrifice of these young people who always have to sacrifice themselves and pay a high price in every situation of insecurity and chaos in our country. At the receiving end of most crisis, these youths are called upon to "restore peace", "maintain calm" or die doing so if necessary. For all the goodwill that the President elect, General Muhammadu Buhari may have he is not likely to be called up now to personally carry arms and face the aggressor's bullet in order to restore peace to Nigeria. How so many on the contrary, are the innocent youth who don army camouflage and police uniforms, yes in the line of duty, but heroically, to restore sanity to the dear motherland! Many of those by the way have lost their limbs and lives unsung and uncelebrated. To all such youth we must doff our hearts and pray for a peaceful rest in the afterlife.  


Youth capacity for transformation

But it is not only dead or maimed youths who restore hope down in history. Not only the deceased can be heroes and it is not only through combat that youth can save their nation. The Bible showed how some youths chose different ways to stand out in their ailing nation. Little Samuel, even when the very sons of prophet Eli were greatly messing up, listened to the same prophet and spoke those words that have become a prayer of self-dedication to things divine down the ages "Speak Lord your servant is listening" (Sam 3:9). He became the great bridge over which the children of Israel passed from the reign of disagreeable King Saul to that of beloved King David. The choice of David to step up to the threat of Goliath even when his brother and entire nation's army, including King Saul, was retreating, easily comes to mind. "Let no one be discouraged on account of this Philistine, for your servant will engage him in battle" (1Sam 17:32). David put his hope in a Force that others did not possess, went forward and defeated the Goliath. Jonathan, was another. He stood against Saul, his own father, to do what was right and save his friend David from death. Jeremiah was called to be a prophet to his nation at a tender age (Jer. 1: 6-10). Daniel was one of the fine, intelligent, well-informed, handsome youth brought in for service in King Nebuchadnezzar's palace at his time (Dan :4). Jesus himself and the apostle John seal the fact here.


An officer and a gentleman

I had a most pleasant experience at the Murtala Muhammed airport Lagos, on my last trip and it was not with an airport official. The psalmist rightly wrote: "Out of the mouth of children and of babes you have found praise" (Ps 8:3). Well, it was dark around the pick-up zone of the airport when I got there. I had removed my clerical collar because of the heat, and had gone down there with some concern for my safety. I left my luggage on the road close to the kerb and waited for my driver. There were 3 soldiers sitting on two damaged stools and a young fellow just lurking around. One of the soldiers walked up and asked me to move my luggage onto the sidewalk. As I made to oblige, he went and moved it for me. "That was nice from a Nigerian soldier", I thought to myself, and thanked him as he resumed his seat. The same soldier then got up again shortly afterwards and courteously offered me his seat. I firmly declined, saying that I had been sitting all through my flight. I told him that they do all the hard work and deserved more to sit down a little. After a while, my driver arrived. The same soldier again walked up, put my luggage in the car and went straight back to his stool. I fought back a tear to see such courtesy from an armed Nigerian youth at 11. 00 pm, in the dark and with no one monitoring him. I called " the knight" back and asked him if he had ever seen me before. He said no. I then thanked him and gave him a tip to buy himself and his colleagues a drink with. The entire company thanked me profusely as I left.


Ambassadors of a generation

That for me, was an officer and a gentleman, and an ambassador for all youth who refuse to give up on humanity, goodness and the fatherland. They, as much as the analysts, professors, politicians, clergymen and other big shots who are more easily recognizable, are real heroes of Nigeria, a country that so much needs true heroes. Such heroism is needed in many sectors where young people must do "battle" against delinquency, corruption and indiscipline. Getting the youth to believe in their own transformational powers is critical for moving this country from poverty to prosperity and from devastation to development. Yes, positive belief, attitude and action are much needed at this  time for the fragrance of recovery to cover our dear Nigeria. Even within their families, our youth must remain the bastion of joy, hope and fulfillment for the future. Simply put, this generation of young people must generate goodwill ambassadors of social transformation in order to be true participants in constructing a brighter future for our needy nation, Nigeria. May it be so, as God lives!