Iya New Year

Henry Akuika


I am a mother (Iya), though most times I sound like a preacher. Soon my birthday will be the centre of attraction, the mode of greeting and for many people, an expression or expectation of good things to come. From midnight of December 31, shouts of ‘happy new year’ will rebound. My kids only remember me for about three months; afterwards I’m cast back to the recesses of their memory till the next year.

Speaking of greetings, this one aspect that my African kids are a quite expressive about it, they don’t just say good morning and walk away. The polemics range from the desire to show concern and also is an integral aspect of etiquette. Unlike their Western cousins who just mumble a good morning, here the greetings can stretch for an hour! With the New Year, I can assure you that the feathers of salutations will multiple.

Like time, I am not always at the centre of peoples thoughts. That does not mean that I disappear into oblivion. On the contrary with each ticking of the clock I remind my kids that life is too short. Very few take my advice, majority see my birthday as an occasion to eat and get drunk. Others try to make New Year resolutions. While some keep these resolutions, many other don’t. The latter, think that my birthday grants them a special immunity that the mere thought of a resolution is good enough, that they don’t need to lift a muscle to match their desires. For this category, their inclination to change or improve does not survive the dawn, evaporating as easily as they are made.

Though the road to Hell is paved with good resolutions and that New Year declarations are hardly kept does not mean that they should not be made. The fault is not in the resolutions themselves but in the will to carry them out. If my kids realise their nature as human beings, then they will try to make few but practical resolutions. Habits are not broken by the mere desire to stop; at least that’s what my teacher taught me. Since they are cultivated with time, it will also require a great deal of patience to acquire a corresponding virtue or break a particular vice. My kids are no angels, the earlier they come to terms with that, the better for them.

Ah don’t remind me, I know about those who take advantage of me. The nation of men has not really changed a bit. I mean that the New Year will create jobs for many people; the professional prophets and soothsayers. They will attempt to peep into the future, while in reality they can hardly see beyond their nose. Many versions of predictions will make the rounds that this New Year will be a disaster in all ramifications, happiness unlimited, year of breakthrough, unparalleled growth… and other clichés. The printers usually have a problem meeting up to the demands of cards, posters and stickers.

Yet they forget that my birthday is just a phase in time: a movement from before and after, a change from here to there. Man being contingent, lives in space and time. That explains why he likes to celebrate, a by product of keeping time. Thus any anniversary is an avenue for socialising. More so during my birthday, this comes after that of the Eternal Word. My only regret is that mine is usually clocked in the accumulation of gbese (debt) after many owambes (parties). For my kids get consumed in the euphoria of a New Year and spend their life savings only for them to come back to their senses in the middle of January.

New Year will be meaningful when my people make the effort to stop and think. “Time is running out”, says Adegbola of Evans, “time is short” shouts St Paul. The time of your earthly existence is not only short but limited. Each New Year, month, day, etc., is an opportunity to effect a change. Don’t wait for my birthday to start afresh, start now! For Escrivá, “God may have given us just one more year in which to serve him. Don’t think of five, or even two. Just concentrate on this one year, which is just started. Give it to God, don’t bury it! This is the resolution we ought to make.” I hope you take this lesson in New Year 101 in good faith. Don’t stand their idle crying over your past, worrying about the present or lost in the dreams about the future. Please do something creative now, or will you prefer next year to find you on the same spot?


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