“Time for a conference of forgiveness” – Orji Uzor Kalu

Former Governor of Abia, Orji Uzor Kalu wrote this piece today;

Time we forgave our past, understand our present and take that understanding with us to deal with the problems our past have created for the future for this country and her people if we must make meaningful progress and development like all great nations of the world.
There are so many negatives in the country right now and it is time we began to deal with them before we are consumed by them.

True, many conferences have been held in the country-from the political to the economy and meetings of reconciliation have been suggested and touted but we are still where have always been since independence. What is wrong with us? What is wrong with Nigeria? Certainly, what is wrong with us is what is wrong with this great nation we are all contributing to destroy with all our negative attitude and evil outlook towards ourselves and the country.

My take on this is that no matter the number of different conferences we have held and perhaps shall be holding anytime soon whether in the form of restructuring the polity of the country as has been opined by many, there can never be any difference in our lives if in our hearts there is still that harbor of anger and the not-let-go syndrome in us.

The Nigerian situation can best be illustrated this way between a step-son and his step-mother. As Africans, we are known not only to pursue physical vendetta but go all the way into the spiritual to outdo our so-called enemy [sic].

In the unnecessary rivalry that takes place in most polygamous homes, Dike [for the sake of this illustration] became a victim of his step-mother who did everything to see that Dike did not make headway in life. Dike, knowing this was the case, decided to go to his step-mother with a locally brewed gin and called his father who in turn called his friends to witness the peace settlement between his son and his wife.

The meeting was arranged and it was time for libation to the ancestors for the peace between step-son and step-mother to be brokered. Dike had brought out the drink and kola nut and handed both to his father.

Prayers were said to the gods and ancestors and the drink was poured out into a glass and offered to Dike. He drank and returned the glass and the same glass was used to serve his step-mother. As she raised the drink to her mouth to drink, she paused and looked in the direction of Dike and said: You and I know this peace offering is only scratching the topsoil that you have not forgiven me.

Everybody was shocked at the revelation except Dike. In his heart was anger and unforgiveness. He could not imagine himself not being angry with the woman who would not stop tormenting him. They drank the drink and ate the kola nut and prayed to the gods and ancestors, but until the step-mother died, Dike never forgave her.

Dikes story and his step-mother is a replica of the Nigerian dilemma. All the religious denominations, one time or the other have organised prayers for the survival and continuous existence of the country, but it seems the more the prayers are being said are the evidences that the prayers do not go beyond the ceilings of our thoughts and lips.

There cannot be forgiveness when the person offering such forgiveness would not let go instead still remain bitter over the past.

Forgiveness is neither an intellectual drive nor a thing for mental processing; it is spiritual, and when the human spirit is saddled with such heaviness it becomes so dense that nothing good can come out of it. There must be a complete purge of the human spirit of every negative emotion that retards growth and development. And, I am afraid, since the civil war to this present time, that negative emotion is still with us, first, as a people and secondly as a nation.
Because of this, we have refused to think beyond our noses and reach out to our hearts and begin to think positively towards everything uplifting and building.
Dr. Robert Enright from the University of WisconsinMadison was the founder of the International Forgiveness Institute and he is considered the initiator of forgiveness studies. He has developed a twenty-Step Process Model of Forgiveness. Recent work has focused on what kind of person is more likely to be forgiving. A study carried out showed that people who were generally angrier and hostile in life were less likely to forgive another person even after a long time had passed. Specifically, these people were more likely to still avoid their transgressor and want to enact revenge upon them two and a half years after the transgression.
Should we say Dr. Robert had Nigeria in mind when he established that institute? Because for the past fifty years, the bitterness that heralded our freedom is still with us, and not only is it with us, it has gone even deeper that that bitterness and anger are like wild wind blowing every sphere of the country, mostly likely with the suspicion of the unknown.
What the anger of unforgiveness creates in us is that it makes us blind to opportunities and only those who have expunged themselves of all forms of bitterness and anger could see the opportunities and take advantage of them. Many countries of the world have fought civil wars and they have come out of it better and greater, but not with Nigeria; our forgiveness has succeeded in being mere lip service which has not permeated the heart. After fifty years, the country is still at a civil war within and we continuously being subjected to numerous messes.
Apart from the blindness unforgiveness creates, it makes us irrational thinkers and prevents us from seeing from the prism of rationality; we are bottled up in our past and the same old way of doing things without the eye on universality and modernity. While other countries are moving ahead and forward, we are always in the process of stupidly crawling, and to nowhere.
And again, what this irrational thinking does to the psyche of the nation is that it makes us not question mediocrity and celebrate stupidity and foolery like what happened recently in the country where the Federal Government felt enough was enough with the messes and corruption in the judiciary and it was time it acted, and some of the alleged judges were arrested.

Because we have not forgiven ourselves and still see ourselves as northerners or easterners or westerners or southerners or a group of majority or minority, we only saw the so-called Gestapo nature of the clamp down on the judges but blind to the injustices that have been done to the justice system of the country. We refused to ask ourselves questions to all the inconclusive elections that took place in the country where tribunal judges had to be bribed to look the other way while justice was allowed to suffer.
Because we are yet to forgive ourselves, every punishment meted on a criminal for a crime committed is regarded as a perfect service to witch-hunting; criminals and criminality have become two virtues that must be celebrated.
Anger and hate are in the hearts of every Nigerian and with this, whatever prayer, whatever idea we might have as regards the reconstruction of this country would end up being prattles.
Studies have shown that people, and nations, too that forgive are much happier and live much healthier lives. Can that happiness and healthiness be said to be in the collectiveness of the Nigerian people or in the nation? Far-fetched. With the spate of moral laxity, political thievery, leadership suspicions, the country and her people are far from being happy and healthy; unless they are pretending to be.
Dr. Robert Enright has prescribed four models of forgiveness which has received empirical support and sees forgiveness as a journey through four phases. They may seem to apply to the individuals, but since societies and nations are not on their own without the individuals, they can also apply to nations, especially, Nigeria. They are:
Uncovering phase: This is where emphases on exploring the pain that the individual [or nation] has experienced.
Decision phase: Where the nature of forgiveness is discussed. Also the individual [or nation] must commit to it that they will try to forgive those involved and not some intellectual and mental pursuit without the spirit to it.
Work phase: In this case, there is a shift in the focus to the transgressor in an effort to gain insight and understanding.
Deepening phase: Here, the victim moves toward resolution, becoming aware that they are not alone, as they have been the recipient of others forgiveness, and finds meaning and purpose in the forgiveness process.
In addition, for us to lay claim to any form of forgiveness and find meaning in it, we must be ready to revisit our core value system that had in the past held us together once upon a time. That moral value that spoke to our humanity and not to our tribes or where we came from. That same value that refused to celebrate crime and criminality instead both are frowned at and the one who comes out to fight it to bring about stability in the system or community is heralded and supported until the villains are removed from the system and the community/nation is made whole and clean for a befitting living.

Until this is done and the spirit of forgiveness is adhered to as it should, many conferences would be held still and we would still have got anywhere; heaven only accept a contrite heart and not the stupidity and emptiness in whatever sacrifices because in this country many sacrifices had been made but without the will to be contrite .

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