In April 2011, there were general elections in Nigeria. People performed their civic responsibilities of voting their preferred candidates as Lawmakers (at state and federal levels), Governors and President.
The electoral body in Nigeria—INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission)—made use of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members as their polling officers during the elections. The NYSC scheme is an academic/career obligation in Nigeria. Required of every graduate, who is at most 30 years of age at graduation, from universities and polytechnics to pass through; if they desire to pursue higher education, work or seek political office in Nigeria. Therefore, nearly all the NYSC members are 30 years of age or less.
So, these young men and women were polling officers during the 2011 general elections in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the election was characterized with violence, especially in the northern part of the country where some of them were gruesomely murdered. While choosing today’s leaders of Nigeria, the supposed leaders of tomorrow were murdered. Their murderers did what they did in order to express their grievance towards the incumbent. They think that their candidate had been cheated by the incumbent president, because they felt that the time which their region had to rule the nation had been cut short by the death of one from their region whom the incumbent deputized while he was alive. They think he shouldn’t contest the election or that even while he did, he rigged the election in order to defeat the man which was from their region.
They chose to express their grievance by taking the lives of these young men and women. This begs the question: What value do these people place on human lives? Just as some would burn cars or houses and destroy property in order to express their grievance, they chose to kill in order to do so. In their mind’s eye, a man’s life is no different from a car or a chicken’s.
In that same part of Nigeria, elections or no elections, there had been constant killings owing to a menace known as “Boko Haram” meaning “Western education is sin”. They also express their grievance by taking lives, amazingly, some even take their own lives. They’re willing to kill for this cause, as well as die for it. If you believe so much in a cause, that you can even give your life for it, fine. But why take another’s life? As Martin Luther King Jr. believes that “a man who won’t die for something is not fit to live”. But better be sure that you are dying for the truth.
In another part of Nigeria, human life has a price tag. Pay a certain amount and we’ll release the kidnapped victim to you, otherwise, the victim dies. That’s the everyday business of many. And they succeed in it. And few times, they get caught. They kidnap politicians or their mothers, bank chiefs, oil moguls and their family, press men and whoever they’re sure has someone who can pay the ransom. Human life, to them, has a price tag depending on who will pay the ransom.
In many quarters, Nigerians are asking whether their political leaders in government, the press and the citizens value human life, especially the life of her citizens. In comparing the reaction of the Americans to the Boston bombings of 2013 to that of Nigerians to similar occurrences in the country, a friend’s friend on facebook, Femi Owolabi wrote:
Bomb explosions in Boston, America. Ongoing CNN show placed on hold. Senior CNN correspondents assemble at the situation room, reporting live. Security officers and medical teams running, rescuing, and securing the perimeter. Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts comes on to talk. He invites E.D Davis, the Boston police commissioner to brief the people about the situation. Mayor of Boston too comes to talk.
On the other hand, President Obama is seen receiving a telephone call from the FBI director—briefing on the boston bombings—as the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Chief of Staff watch him in sobriety.
Members of the House of Representatives, witnesses, analysts are calling in, worried and showing sincere concerns. Americans are rushing to the hospital to donate blood to the explosion victims.
Soon, as expected, President Obama comes up to make his statement. He looks furious. “…..Make no mistake, we will find out who did this……Anyone, any group behind this will feel the weight of justice.”
Bomb explosions somewhere in Nigeria. NTA is showing Information Minister- Labran Maku’s good governance tour in Delta State. AIT is showing Tinsel. MITV is showing Baba Ajasco. Silverbird is showing Whiz Kid’s ‘I love my baby.’ Channels TV has the breaking news scrolling under an ongoing political show. Nobody is reporting live, nobody is following the updates. Nevertheless, Nigerians around the explosion scene are taking pictures and updating their BBM statuses ‘Bombing Things.’ Reuben Abati- President Jonathan’s spokesman releases his statement on behalf of his principal. He says, the president has condemned the bomb attacks at so so place.
The President? He is in Equatorial Guinea kissing the arse of the bloody President Nguema Mbasogo. When he returns, he says- his face is wreathe in smiles- “Terrorism is a global phenomenon ………. In fact, I can be bombed anytime too.”
Ha! I should sue my mother for refusing to marry that America man who promised to take her to Washington to live with him. There’s no value on human lives here. No.
For America, my condolence. May the souls of those who died in the Boston bombings rest in peace. For Nigeria, I am singing ‘shey na like this we go dey dey?….[meaning: for how long shall we remain this way ]’
Different reactions by the people and leaders of both nations to disasters claiming the lives of their fellow citizens. My friend’s friend thinks America values the lives of her citizens more. I think so too. But that raises another question in my mind.
Does the life of an Afghan, or a Syrian or an Iraqi have the same value as the life of an American citizen in the eyes of the American government? I pretend not to know the answer to that question.
But while I was giving it a thought, I discovered that a friend of mine on facebook, also a professional friend, has a similar thought. Chuks Ezeilo wrote:
Why is it that plane crashes are treated as very special events that need to be remembered every year, whereas bus or car disasters are forgotten days after they happen? Are some people lesser beings than others?
He was reacting to the one year remembrance gathering of one “Dana Aeroplane crash” in Nigeria, which happened in 2012. The gathering had the president in attendance. A few days after he wrote that, I heard the devastating news of about five members of the same family who died in a bus crash on their way to the graduation of one of the girls in the family. The incident wouldn’t get much attention as the plane crash. But in all, lives were lost. I’m as puzzled as Chuks is, and so I ask: Are some people lesser beings than others?
In almost every culture or race, there are people of another race or culture who are regarded as lesser beings. And some regard others as higher or superior beings. I have little wonder about why a white man should discriminate against the black people because, even amongst black people, there are people we regard as less than human. It may be because of their educational or literacy level and mostly because of their financial status, while sometimes it is because of their crude lifestyle that they are regarded as less than humans by their fellow black people.
If after existing together as an independent nation for about 32 years, a people from one black tribe would look on the people of the other black tribe in Rwanda, and call them cockroaches; the result being about 1 million deaths of mostly the “cockroaches” as well as the “humans” in less than a year (what Americans will call black on black crime), shouldn’t we then excuse the “white” race for thinking of the black race as lesser humans? I enjoy a fair share of “colourism” for being darker than the average dark person in my tribe; several names are cooked up just because I’m a little darker than them. I’m strange to them. Shouldn’t we excuse a white man if he doesn’t give me a ride in his car because I look a little strange?
Everywhere, no matter the similarity or difference in race, tribe, nationality or colour, some people think of themselves as superior to the other because of a characteristic difference.
And this gets into the psyche of some, so much that they begin to believe that they are actually less than humans; because life has been cruel to them. They have lost every sense of self worth. And so it becomes easier for them to commit acts of a suicidal nature. Since they believe that their life is meaningless, why not?
A preacher once began his sermon with the words “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecc. 1:2). Sounds like the beginning of a suicide note. Depending on one’s perspective of life, such a note could lead one to suicide or lead one to seek God. He concludes his sermon by saying “Let us hear the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing. Whether good or evil.” (Ecc. 12:13, 14).
The preacher, King Solomon of Israel, preached that man’s life has no worth without God. It was God that gave it worth in the first instance by breathing a breath of life into it. “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). Mankind lost his first estate as a result of sin and it is God who returns to give him another chance at having this worth back. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:22).
To the true follower of Jesus Christ, every soul has the same worth. Because Jesus laid down His life on the cross for “whosoever” believes. (John 3:16). Whosoever includes even that outcast in the society. Whosoever believes. No book makes this truth clearer than does the Bible and Christians should be in the forefront of propagating this precious truth that “He has made of one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth”. (Acts 17:26). Ellen White writes:
If you are in communion with Christ, you will place His estimate upon every human being. You will feel for others the same deep love that Christ has felt for you. Then you will be able to win, not drive, to attract, not repulse, those for whom He died.[i]
Followers of Christ should have the mind that does not think of himself more highly than others. In contrast to the self-esteem psychology which places “self” above anything else, the Word of God urges everyone to “esteem others better than himself” and “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Philipians 2:4; Romans 12:3). God looks on us all as sinners in need of a saviour and so should a follower of Christ see himself and everyone else. God thought it worthwhile to redeem mankind with the precious blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, followers of Christ must be in the fore front of executing true justice and showing mercy and compassion to everyone, no matter the race or class. God instructs: Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien of the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother—all men. (see Zech. 7:9, 10). We must deal with every man as God has dealt with him or her. God thinks that the life of His Son is not too much for Him to pay as a ransom to redeem your neighbour, why then should you treat him or her as less than you?
Even though God knows that man’s heart is in a deplorable condition. Even though He knows that every intent of the thought of man’s heart is only evil continually (see Gen. 6:5). Even though God knew that man has become a sinner. Even though He knew that something is wrong with me. He didn’t think it was too much to lay down His life for me.
Jesus must have counted the cost, before laying down His life for us. He must have asked the question: How much is too much a price to pay in order to redeem these souls I love so much? Nothing was too much for Him to pay and thus He paid the greatest price of all—life itself.
If ever the human life has a price tag. If ever there was an immeasurable ransom paid to redeem human life from death, it was when Jesus gave “his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28). He didn’t think His life was too much to give in order to save the life whom the society perceives as of lesser value. Neither did He think it was too much to shed His precious blood in order to save that soul which thinks of himself or herself as of lesser value. He paid the price.
The value of a soul, who can estimate? Would you know its worth, go to Gethsemane, and there watch with Christ through those hours of anguish, when He sweat as it were great drops of blood. Look upon the Saviour uplifted on the cross. Hear that despairing cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34. Look upon the wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet. Remember that Christ risked all. For our redemption, heaven itself was imperiled. At the foot of the cross, remembering that for one sinner Christ would have laid down His life, you may estimate the value of a soul. [ii]
Even though your life may be marred by sin and evil, that is why Jesus came to die. He came not to die for the righteous, but for sinners. Perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates his love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:7, 8). And so Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ admonishes us not live our lives anyhow as if all is meaningless in the end and there is no accountability, but rather, that we “be holy…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver or gold from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”. (1 Pet. 1:16, 18, 19). With Christ, you are worth everything.
Be cautious every step that you advance; you need Jesus at every step. Your life is too precious a thing to be treated as of little worth. Calvary testifies to you of the value of your soul. Consult the Word of God in order that you may know how you should use the life that has been purchased for you at infinite cost…Be sure that you do not follow the imagination of your own heart, but move in the fear of God.[iii]
How much should be too much for me to surrender to Christ? No sacrifice is too big for Jesus. In the words of Elvina Hall, “Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe”[iv] Jesus expects nothing less than a 100% commitment from anyone who accepts to follow Him. Jesus said in one of His sermons: He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross, and follow after Me, is not worthy of me. (Matt. 10:37, 38).
Everything else, yea, everyone else that is dear to us must take second place when surrendering all to Christ. Only then can you guarantee a right relationship with them.
Christ thinks you are worth everything. And you shouldn’t think he’s worth a little less than everything, because “God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view. Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves.” [v]
Nothing was too much for Christ to give up for you. You are worth everything and so should He.
[i] Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 196
[iii] Ellen G. White, A Call To Stand Apart (2002), p. 50
[iv] A hymn title “Jesus Paid it All” by Mrs. Elvina M. Hall
[v] Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 46