5th February, 2015
By Tayo Ogunbiyi
Many years after his death, inspiring words and writings of the late American human rights activist, Martins Luther King Jr., remain as appropriate and stirring today as they were when he lived. Love is one of the subjects that King persistently and consistently spoke and wrote about in his days. One of his memorable lines in respect of his discourse on the subject of love is: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Being one that actually practiced what he preached, King’s life epitomized true love. He actually showed love to those that hated him because of his firm belief that “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” As our dear nation, once again, marches forward in her democratic voyage and nation building process, love remains one strong cord needed to bind the country together. Unfortunately, if there is one commodity that is evidently in short supply now in the country, love is it. The way our leaders and, indeed, followers talk and act, it is quite obvious that love has become a scarce article in the land. When one hears awful stuffs like people pelting stones at the convoy of the president while on a political campaign mission or gun men attacking perceived political opponents at campaign rallies, one doesn’t really need to be a diviner before concluding that there is a dearth of love across the land.
The genesis of almost every woe that we currently experience in the country is traceable to lack of love. Insurgency, corruption, kidnapping, ethnicity, ritual killings and other such wicked tendencies that pervade our land are sufficient proofs of a society that is in dire need of love. There is so much bickering, hatred and bitterness in the land that one wonders if our 54 years of nationhood have really achieved much in terms of fostering unity, love and brotherliness among the people. Ironically, love is a necessary component of nation building. Without genuine love among the people, much progress cannot be achieved in any society. A society that dwells much on divisive affinities would continually experience troublesome climate. This, sadly, has been the story of our dear nation. Through a series of evil maneouvres and deep rooted discord, the first republic collapsed while the years that followed were characterized by a vicious civil war. Events that trailed the civil war years clearly show that we are yet to learn from history. Or how else does one explain the situation of a country where electioneering has become a tug of war?
It is, however, symbolic that the much talked about forthcoming presidential election in the country has been slated to hold on February 14. The date, no doubt, is quite significant and special. Globally, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on February 14 every year. It is used to celebrate love and many people use the occasion to give cards, letters, flowers and other presents to their loved ones as symbols of love and affection. Truly, in a nation where political tension has suddenly become the order of the day, election and love on a Valentine’s Day make a fascinating brew. In choosing the date for the presidential election, INEC was probably chiefly guided by administrative and logistic considerations rather than romantic or love concern. Whatever the considerations were, no time is actually better to hold the presidential election than the day widely used across the globe to celebrate love. Probably, all political actors and stakeholders in the political process would imbibe the spirit of valentine by allowing love to fill the air. Red is the colour that appropriately represents love as embodied in the Valentine’s Day festival. Hopefully, the red that would be on display on February 14 would not be typified by human blood. We have had enough of the spilling of innocent blood. No! Not again.
The coming presidential election, therefore, offers all stakeholders in the Nigeria project a unique opportunity to rid themselves of those burdens that have impeded our progress as a people over the years by demonstrating love in its fullness not only to one another but also to the country. Therefore, in the ensuing political contest, the main attributes of St. Valentine such as peace, love, selflessness and sacrifice for the common good must be imbibed by all Nigerians for national progress. Our leaders, especially, must use the occasion to preach and practice harmony, peace and co-existence for the good of all. It is an opportunity for everyone to truly show that politics is not ‘a do or die affair’. It is an opportunity for us to eschew bitterness, divisiveness and intolerance. As a nation, our common progress lies in peaceful existence anchored on comradeship and friendliness.
In her new book, “Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice,” American philosopher, Martha Nussbaum, affirms that all we need for the world to be a better place is love. That may seem rather too superficial and a bit sentimental, but Nussbaum is quite convinced about it. In giving the recipe for a love filled society, Nussbaum emphasises that a key role must be played by government; by political leaders and by everyone through the sponsoring of ideals that promote the desired political emotions. Political emotions, according to Nussbaum, are the emotions evoked and provoked by the state’s effort to educate its citizens into a culture of enhanced empathy. It is this culture that would eventually integrate the required love attributes needed for the society to make good progress.
It could be argued that satisfying the demand of love such as selflessness, sacrifice, humility, self-control and friendliness is a tall order in an intrinsically divisive society like ours. But then, the consequences of lack of love are far more destructive when compared to the price to pay for love. If you watch and read the news these days, you cannot but agree that there is a nauseating reek in the air. It is, thus, crucial for us to take advantage of the window offered by the forthcoming Valentine Day to ensure to ensure that a lasting marriage is consummated between politics and love. It is time to fill the air with love.
•Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja