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The question of 'number' is one that has subsisted right from the time of the philosophers of ancient Greece. In biblical records, its existence is more or less as old as man himself, as the number 7 became a factor that determined how much man must work and when to rest.

In ancient Greek philosophy, the Pythagoreans held the doctrine that, 'all things are numbers', which meant that the essence and structure of all that is can be determined by finding the numerical relations contained in them.

Numbers have equally been employed in symbolic religious senses. In Christianity the number 1 is confined principally to represent the uniqueness of God, and the number 3 symbolizes completeness; it is also used to refer to the divine triads of 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit' in Christianity and 'Osiris, Isis and Horus' in Egyptian cult. The Bible also gives credence to the importance of specific numbers, such as 3, 7, 10, 12, 24, 40, 50 etc. In a special manner, the number 40 stands out in this rank of numbers as it features prominently in the Holy Book.

The argument of this write up is by no means anchored on biblical exegesis of the number 40, but what this number might mean to us as individuals and as a nation. We have often heard people use the expression 'life begins at 40' another expression with a rather harsh conclusion has it that 'a fool at 40 is a fool forever'.

Is this what it means for life to begin at forty? My instinct tells me no! And my sense of reasoning concurs. Of course we do not need prophets to tell us that we are still getting so many things wrong! Nigeria is steered by a system that is corruption driven; and from such a system, what do we expect? In the course of our history certain men and women have left their footprints on the shores of time.

They achieved this through a spirit of selflessness and service. In fact, posterity remembers and will continue to remember our forebears who stood up and gave our country the standard it used to have. But today we are being led by men and women who do not care how they will be judged by history. For them, the guiding principle is how much they are able to accumulate and store up in the strong rooms and vaults of both local and foreign banks.

Our political landscape is populated by men and women who are poor students of history and so cannot be guided by its lessons. This accounts for why they plunge headlong into depravity and under such circumstances Nigerians remain poor in the midst of plenty or put in the words of Rev. Fr. Efeturi Ojakaminor 'the richest poor people or the poorest rich people in the world'. What this means is that despite the country's enormous potentials, Nigeria still has one of the largest concentrations of poor people in the world.

What do we find where there should have been justice and good governance? Mismanagement and poor human relations, incompetence, arrogance, tyranny, vindictiveness, indiscipline, carelessness, impatience and impertinence, failure to listen to the governed, refusal to be guided by the constitution, anarchy and the lack of due process, nepotism and cronyism, misuse of public resources and disregard for public opinion.

Our dear Nigeria is now perceived as a pariah nation because she 'steams' and 'runs' within a structure with a high propensity of ignition at the slightest provocation; a society that preaches freedom but in itself still in chains, a nation that has been described as the 'richest-poorest', a nation within the 21st century but not far from the 12th in character. Rev. Fr Kukah captures this very well when he describes Nigeria as a nation in the throes of apathy, disillusionment, fatalism, callousness, inhumanity, greed, distrust, aimlessness… We are witnessing a Nigeria where religious intolerance is on collision with ethnic chauvinism producing endless spiral of violence, blood and death.

In all these, we do not lack convincing evidence of God's immense love and providence for Nigeria. But the enthronement of incompetence, the celebration of mediocrity, and the glorification of bribery and corruption continue to stand between Nigerians and God's choicest blessings. The history of our failure to avail ourselves of divine generosity is one that challenges all Nigerians to collaborate with all men and women of good will in the onerous task of restoring Nigeria's glory.

I strongly believe that Nigeria can still be great and sit in the company of countries that call the shots. The difference at the moment is the quality of leadership we exhibit. While those countries that are well-off have leaders whose aims are to leave positive marks and for whom sincerity of purpose is of priceless value, for whom good name is better than wealth, they go into politics to serve; in the case of Nigeria, our leaders are motivated by the desire to enjoy the spoils of the office. No doubt, Nigeria has the capacity and the wherewithal to become what she ought to be, but this would not come by, through a miracle!

For Nigeria to get up and walk her leaders must make the resolution to make her walk, we must look reality in the face and call things by their proper names, we must resolve that the time has come for all those who love this country to sit up and jointly chart a new course for our dear country, we must resolve to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, we must equally ask ourselves how we got ourselves into our present predicaments, because we must think about our past, taking note of where we got it all wrong, so that we can avoid such lapses in order to move forward.

• Nwosu Anthony writes from Saint Augustine's Major Seminary, Katako Jos.