New Year Message, 2023: “In happy moments praise God, in difficult moments seek God, in quite moments worship God, in painful moments trust God and in every moment thank God.”

New Year Message, 2023, by Most Rev. Ignatius A. Kaigama, Archbishop of Abuja.

With gratitude to God and confident optimism we pray that in the year 2023, our expectations as individuals and as a nation will be met. This poem I heard from a little child is apt as we ride into the New Year: “In happy moments praise God, in difficult moments seek God, in quite moments worship God, in painful moments trust God and in every moment thank God.”

While we believe that our loving God will do things for us, we need however to do our part with great zeal and determination, the type demonstrated during the FIFA World Cup recently concluded in Qatar. The members of the teams gave their all especially in the finals. After a full game and extra time, they went into penalty shootouts. At the end, one team won the cup and the other took the second position. In life, sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. The capacity to carry on with equanimity and to cope positively even when we come face to face with frustrations, failures or disappointments is needed. Failure is not necessarily a bad thing, it is a challenge to try again and to keep applying ourselves until victory is achieved.

We have experienced God’s generosity in very practical ways in 2022. We have survived an ever-worsening climate of fear and uncertainty in a time when the helplessness of government saw non-state actors unconscionably stake a claim for our lives, our property and our freedoms. We have lived with and survived a culture of kidnapping, hostage taking and mindless murder. It is still not yet over though as the drama still plays on.

The Kaduna deadly train attack in March and the agonizing months the abducted passengers spent in the hands of armed men left us all traumatized. The daring Kuje prison attack by Boko Haram and precipitated secessionist rallies left all of us begging for answers. The advisory given by some foreign embassies on the risk of travel to Nigeria and the subsequent arrest of suspected terrorists in October left us reeling in fear. The volatile situation in the South-East in a bid to enforce an unlawful lockdown has made life in that part of the country difficult.
During the same period, our nation has grappled with a dwindling economy and the worst type of inflation with far reaching consequences on our social life. Everyone, both those in government and the governed, suddenly all needed the grace of God to survive and outlive 2022. And yet we are here today just because God has brought us thus far.

Surrounded by so much bad news and associated with some of the worst scenarios, our people are in dire need of anything that can inspire some hope. Together – both people and government, we must sincerely work towards that change that brings hope. For the government and people entrusted with leadership at all levels, the New Year beckons on all to place people in the centre of both politicking and governance by ensuring safety and security, reconciling all the fragmented parts of the nation and providing an enabling environment for the economy to thrive again as a precondition for remedying the worsening problem of poverty and living crisis for most Nigerians. While we acknowledge with delight the recent heightening of the tempo of the war against non-state actors and the encouraging results that has brought, we urge the authorities to sustain these measures and do everything imaginable to secure every part of the country and ensure an auspicious climate for the coming elections.

However, no matter how much the use of arms has achieved, we must not forget that honest dialogue can also be a veritable tool for collectively building a Nigeria of our dreams that looks after all. That spirit of dialogue should govern the current political campaigns towards the 2023 elections and above all ensure fair play and respect for the opinion of the people when eventually expressed when the ballot is cast.

Having faced multidimensional challenges, we in our nation in this time of democratic transition must all keep in mind the fact that our Lord makes demands of us to fulfil our civic responsibilities. He charges us to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God” (Mark 12:17). We have a duty to come out, each one of us, with a Permanent Voters Card (PVC), queue up at our polling units, conduct ourselves peacefully and orderly, get accredited and cast our votes during the 2023 general elections. As for the choice of political parties and candidates to vote for, we should be guided by the counsel of St. Paul, which says: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). In choosing who to vote, let your head and your heart guide you, not your stomach and your pocket!

It is in working together and in patient dialogue as Pope Francis urges in Fratelli Tutti, (no. 198) that we can prevent predatory politicians from using religion, ethnicity and regions against us, pitching us against one another. We have already seen that without solidarity, we have no chance against poverty, diseases, natural disasters, unemployment, ignorance, terrorism, insurgency and other forms of insecurity. So, let us embrace sincere dialogue and work in solidarity with all people of goodwill for a better country.

Dear brothers and sisters, none of us should be ignorant of the demands and challenges of our time, amidst the deaths caused by human and natural reasons, insecurity, displacements, floods, economic hardships and the attendant harsh realities in our country. Politicians who are on the campaign trails now should do so without hatred, bitterness, incitement or misinformation. They should exercise caution that they do not make wild and unrealistic campaign promises that deep in their hearts they know are not workable.

Christians, Muslims, African Traditional Religionists and others are the ones to choose the next President of Nigeria. We should set our eyes and attention only on the leaders who are ready to tackle the culture of hostility, violence, banditry, kidnapping, religious persecution, poverty, unemployment; failure to see that sensitive and core appointments be spread fairly to those very well qualified in the different geo-political zones.

The determination to confront insecurity must be given priority in the agenda of those seeking to be elected. They must have the will to unveil those behind brutal attacks and murders such as killers of the no fewer than 38 people killed in separate attacks in Malagum 1 and Sokwong villages of Kagoro Chiefdom in Kaura Local Government Area of Kaduna State or as in Zamfara State, where recently scores of people and some Nigerian Army personnel were feared killed following an ambush by armed terrorists or the killing of a Lagos-based legal practitioner, Mrs Omobolanle Raheem, by a police trigger-happy police officer.

The resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) as well as the rebuilding of terrorized communities where homes, hospitals, churches, mosques and schools have been destroyed should also get prime attention. There must be a deliberate pursuit of integration, bringing all people together in harmony that ensures freedom for all to create an inclusive mindset by recognizing ethnic, tribal, regional and the religious diversity of our nation.

There must be a proper management of our diversity and plurality; building community, creating more trust among all people in Nigeria. There is the very urgent need to address the issue of poverty whereby according to official statistics, 133 million Nigerians out of an estimated 206 million live below the poverty line.

Our prayer during this year is that peace will flow like a river and social progress, human solidarity and development will characterize all of 2023. As the psalmist says, “The Lord of hosts is with us and He is our stronghold” (Ps. 46:7). May His spirit reign in every heart so that we can experience peace, social harmony and progress.

I wish all a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2023!

*** Captured in pictures is the pastoral visit of the Archbishop, His Grace, Most Rev. Ignatius A. Kaigama, to St. Mary’s Pastoral Area, Gyadna, Abuja. He commended their great courage and urged them to remain firmly rooted in the faith. During his homily at the New Year Mass, he remarked, “When your Church was marked for demolition, you proved that your faith and Christian identity could not be marked for demolition. Even though you had lost your church building to the federal road construction according to the city’s master plan; you continued to faithfully assemble for Mass under the sun and rain until you found a place for worship. This was no doubt, a strong demonstration of a deep understanding of what it means to be the Church”.

  • Fr. John Ilonah.

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