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 the Nigerian situation applies, can we then afford to be remembered as one those involved in the scourge 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 of 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 would adjudicate on our case during the last judgment?
Indeed, the foregoing brings forth more 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 a display of spirituality, which is building deep personal relationship with the Creator, people would bear testimonies to his or her pious life.
Of course, there is a moral suasion 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, 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 reap. 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 or what we are up to or the level we can reach in life. That is why it is always said, as an aphorism, that a good name is better than riches. 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 in 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.
To say the least, life without a positive legacy is unfortunate and regrettable. Such existence when remembered by those living, 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 perish or disappear? 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 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 to the destitute through a missionary charity she founded in Calcutta, India.
Deservedly famous American philanthropists like John Ford, Andrew Carnegie (propounded “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 among 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 (U.S.) 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 Martin Luther King Jr, who campaigned tirelessly for racial equality in the U.S, 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 feed 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 consider 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.
The political class is also urged 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. For the citizenry, leading a life that speaks is a clarion call for a re-awakened spirituality, morality and value re-orientation – this, 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.
Henceforth, each and every one of us should proclaim commitment to the core principles of spirituality, morality and values and say ‘I will not live in vain.’
Emeh, a social researcher, writes from Abuja.