Beyond person of the year



Abdulrazak Iliyasu Sansani

 
I begin this piece with what may strike the readers as a puzzled title. Perhaps it is. But I write this in respect of the festive period and a matter closely associated with it. It is that time of the year where organisations, newspapers, magazines, groups, and even individuals sit to award, eulogise their heroes and heroines, or simply write about their persons of the year. A tradition that commenced in 1927 in the United States, Time magazine. 

‘The tradition of selecting a “Man of the Year” began in 1927, with Time editors contemplating the news makers of the year. The idea was also an attempt to remedy the editorial embarrassment earlier that year of not having aviator Charles Lindbergh on its cover following his historic trans-Atlantic flight. By the end of the year, it was decided that a cover story featuring Lindbergh as the Man of the Year would serve both purposes,’ Wikipedia.

This has continued since then with different labels, man of the year, woman of the year, until the current, and apt denomination: person of the year. I write today in the euphoria of the moment. But not so engrossed with it, as I had never subscribed nor joined those who partake in awarding their persons of the year, which has become prominent on social media recently by this time of the year. I relish seeing people excel in life. Although, I had never felt the urge to engage in the voguish celebration by avalanche of people, who issue this award chiefly on social media. 

But experts say to every rule there is an exception. Although, I am not joining the trendy giving of awards or rather announcement of one’s person of the year, in the strictest term. I have to acknowledge one of the most disciplined, rational, affable, and respectful Nigerians I have ever met. At this distressing hour of our history as a nation, I believe it is only right that Patriotic people who have exhibited uncommon understanding in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, sharply divided country like ours are honoured, encouraged, or at least merely mentioned as a mark of appreciation for their selfless contributions to our nation.
It is through the prism they behold our country that this country stands any chance of overcoming her appearingly insurmountable challenges.

I am in awe of whomever has proven beyond any iota of doubt to be of commendable grasp of the intricacies of our diverse society. Hence, I am writing this in recognition of a man, who has served this country meritoriously and honourably retired. 

While I applaud all these, it is in the basics, things which hold our communities today that this distinguished Nigerian has been more actively involved and has magnetised me to him. The simplest things build our society. They hold the fibre of our communities closely knit. Even though, this is lost on many, I comprehend the importance of such in nation building, starting from the communities. 

Nigeria as a whole, has been sitting on a powder keg, this makes it extremely easy for disgruntled elements or even criminals to make a capital out of it, so whoever stops those from exploiting this deserves every reverence they can get.

My person of the year, a man of impeccable character has mastered the art of living in peace with others in a diverse country like Nigeria, especially the state he comes from: I am glad to hail from the same state with him. Yes, he comes from my state. Baba Augustine, commonly called Baban Ella in our neighbourhood while we personally both refer to each other as Kawu, Baban Ella being a Jenjo man. 

I will for this reason address him as we normally call each other. Kawu lives in our Sabon Gari neighbourhood in Jalingo. In our street there are more people that don’t profess the same faith with him. The houses are mainly owned by Muslims. Kawu being a Christian at a time people of both faiths: Muslim and Christian faithful find themselves jostling to relocate to neighbourhoods predominantly occupied by those who worship God the way they do in fulfilment of the polarised realities of our country majorly resided by adherents of the two faiths.

But as I was realibly informed that he has resisted countless times the pleas to transpose by those, who have accepted the new order of doing things, in which they believe it is safer to live in places inhabited only by members of their faiths, though in some instances there is only a semblance of security even in these types of neighbourhoods. 

The nitty-gritty of the matter is not that he has flagrantly refused to move into another place. But he has continued to relate with people from all social strata with: unmatchable grace, candour, dignity, and esteem.

The way he attends to the problems of the society is refreshing, laudable, and gratifying. Wedding ceremonies, naming ceremonies, burials, community meetings, name them he is there, and participates fully with the families of those involved in any of these regardless of their faith.

Being a street majorly resided by Muslims, he often finds himself involved in more of these, which aren’t performed according to the tenets of his faith. We need people like that who have manifestedly shown to not only grasp our realities, but have lived them with a vivid demonstration of being concerned about what truly affects others in a country that desperately craves understanding and tolerance for its hugely  polarised populace. 

While I don’t necessarily fancy awards, I clearly get excited by seeing worthy awardees being awarded or even merely celebrating people who have distinguished themselves by living exemplary life irrespective of the depth of their pockets, which these days draws much awards to personalities rather than refined manners that help in nation building. 

Nigerians must celebrate worthy people like Kawu. Nigerians should not only stop at that but go further to borrow a leaf from them and apply it in the onerous task of nation building, which must begin with one being a better person before influencing the next person, the family, the next door neighbour, friends, colleagues, and the country as a whole. 

Abdulrazak writes from Turaki B, Jalingo, Taraba state.