I read daily with a sense of revolt and a feeling of nausea, the endless news of how person A was kidnapped and beheaded for ritual money, person B was fried to enable some politicians win their election and C was bled to death to replace the blood of Jesus and attract congregational multiplication. Young men are cooking the heads of their girlfriends to generate money. Sons are competing on who can chop up their mothers faster to create currency salad. Parents now see their children as the commodity to exchange with the gods for wealth. The age-old profession called prostitution is now near norm when compared to the different atrocities plaguing our nation in the recent past. The quest for Dollars, Pounds, Euro, and every currency in-between is eroding into oblivion, whatever is left of our country’s already damaged moral compass. When we are not killing for money, we are beheading for terrorism and extremist views.
In all of this, I watch in utter dismay how my people are rushing about to celebrate the love they say fills the air this February 14th – Valentine’s Day. February is often tagged the month of love. In my opinion, how on earth love can be caged into one month must be in direct opposite to one of the greatest laws of human existence. I argue with myself to let the rose-coloured spectacles of those in love be and that perhaps the love from Eros can be given some expression and devotion on this one day. However, deep within me, a tiny voice is asking me, where is the love in today’s Nigeria and what is the course of this river of fear, raw evil and suspicion currently flowing through our national landscape?
Now let us for a moment decide to step back a bit from the central theme of eroticism, with which this month has come to be associated and search deep for what is left of the true meaning of love in today’s Nigeria. Sadly, what we witness daily and the news that assails our seven senses negates the greatest law of nature and the one recurrent principle of every religion including our traditional African religion which is “to love our neighbour as ourselves”. This is one of the greatest commandments ever given to us humans. Come to think about it, would we fry our own heads or spill our own blood for rituals? This valentine, I dare to ask us, where is the love in today’s Nigeria and indeed, today’s world? What exactly are we celebrating?
As a society, how did we get here? Where and how did value for materialism overtake our value for human life? Our ritualists live with us. They eat and dine with us. My father used to tell me how a good name is better than riches. Sorry Daddy, your ideals are gone with the wind. These days, our riches determine our name. In social events, names are assigned to people based on how much they dole out. The kind of car you drive and the exotic country you visit most become your last name. Shouts of `Chike Lamborghini and Osas Malaysia` rent the air at events when these persons arrive. The moment our society chose to celebrate mediocrity over excellence, the moment we forgot the love of our neighbours as ourselves is the time, we lost the very essence of our shared humanity.
Let us make love reign supreme this month by working at it from another angle. For instance, it would be very rewarding if we each spent this month loving our neighbours as ourselves without being fixated on the eroticism this month generates. I understand that we must first love ourselves and love life (though not in a narcissistic way) before we can properly comprehend how to love another. However, what I am pushing for, is for us to actively set to work as a society to cultivate our love for others more than we covert materialism and love of self. So, what genuine act of love can we spare the next person in this season? How can we reverse our news headlines? The fact is, we each know what to do and as a society, collectively, we know what we should not be doing. How do we make our flesh willing and our spirit strong? It is Valentine’s Day today in Nigeria and indeed, the world over and I dare to ask – where is the love?
Dr Loretta Oduware Ogboro-Okor is the author of the book My Father’s Daughter