The fourth Thursday of November every year has been set aside as a day for national thanksgiving in the United States of America (USA). On that day, families, friends and the entire nation, attend church services or remain at locations of their choice to give thanks to God.
The day is also marked by visits, exchange of gifts and the union of relatives and friends to have special meals. It is likewise a time for students to celebrate, exiting school for a long weekend. Workers are not left out as most offices and businesses grant them quiet weekend to observe the day.
In similar dimensions, the celebration includes parades, huge meals that revolve around turkey, stuffy, pumpkin pie and vegetables. Playing and watching American football and, of course, shopping are inclusive.
On this day, there is a rush of consumerism as stores, mostly retailers, have really big sales leading up to Black Friday. There’s also the tradition of the turkey pardon, where one or two turkeys are granted reprieve. Which means they won’t get to be a meal on an American family table and can continue to live on a choice farm or historical site.
It was in recognition of the significance of such national day in the spiritual life of a nation that brought about the establishment of “Nigeria Prays” convened by a former Nigerian Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon. But the project failed because it wasn’t ‘national’ in outlook since Muslims and adherents of other religions in the country were not incorporated.
But of late, there are growing calls by some Nigerians on the present administration to declare a day to be observed as a national thanksgiving day, perhaps after the USA model. According to them, the day to be chosen should be in a month positioned towards the end of the year.
Advocates for the thanksgiving day note that such day is necessary because it will enable Nigerians to say special prayers and give God thanks for the peace and prosperity of the country. They state that the USA is the most progressive nation of the world today because it has identified a day to acknowledge God’s goodness towards it and render him thanks.
A gender advocate, Mr. Sampson Tamunobere George, believes there is need for Nigeria to set aside a day for thanksgiving both as a nation and a people. He thinks there are many reasons to come together and thank God for what he has done for us first as a people, then as a nation.
“I believe that there is need for us to have a national day for thanksgiving as a nation and as a people. We have several reasons to come together and to thank the Lord for what he has done for us.
“The reasons cut across different aspects of our lives as a nation. We can look at how God has led us to remain united as a nation. I think such day should come into a law, it will compel and encourage all Nigerians to appreciate one another and God for granting us unity,” says George.
Expressing a similar view and supporting the idea of establishing a national thanksgiving day, is a clergyman and Assistant Pastor, Faith Baptist Church, Port Harcourt, Pastor Iduoku Wume. He says thanksgiving is paramount to God and that God has always asked for it in everything we do regardless of what happens.
For him, thanksgiving is a thing God cherishes. Quoting the book of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, the clergyman says giving thanks to God should be done regularly whether as a nation or as individuals because it is God’s will. He acknowledges that a national day of thanksgiving will further unite the country and portray it as one. Hear him:
“Thanksgiving is paramount to God. God has actually asked us to always thank him in everything. It is the thing that God cherishes most that is why he tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 18 that “In everything give thanks to God for this is the will of God concerning us through Christ”.
Continuing, he says, “thanksgiving is very important and people should always love to give thanks. If we as a country give thanks, it will unite us and show us as one. It will also show that we know our creator and what he deserves. It will also enhance understanding of ourselves.”
For a legal practitioner and Muslim faithful, Mr. Idriss Standfast, there is need to have our own day of thanksgiving. He buttresses his position with a quotation from Chapter 14 verse 7 of the Qur’an:” If you are grateful I will give you more… but if you show ingratitude, truly my punishment is severe indeed”.
Stanley says: “The need to be thankful to God is further taught in two consecutive chapters (93 and 94) of the Qur’an, with the last verse of chapter 93 enjoining believers to proclaim the bounties of their Lord.
“Therefore, as a nation, we should pick a day for national thanksgiving that would feature a multi-faith gathering at Abuja and similar gathering in all states and local government areas throughout the country.
“On the whole I think the proposal can be realised if it is given a good legal framework. A legal framework will make it mandatory with a provision to sanction offending persons or corporate bodies,” he declares.
However, some stakeholders have expressed doubts about the workability of the proposed scheme given the ethnic and religious diversity of the country. They agree that there should be a pragmatic approach to accomplish it.
A Port Harcourt-based engineer, Mr. Matthew Dunoboh, is of that view. He agrees that Nigeria is in dare need of a day to be known as a national thanksgiving day. He, nonetheless, expresses pessimism about the workability of the plan. For him, to achieve it, the federal government must work hard to unite and sensitise devotees of different religions.
”I think it is a good idea but the problem with it will be to bring all religions together to agree on modalities of the programme and the day and month it can hold. And the day to be chosen should be declared a public holiday.
“Each religious sect should pray separately to God on that day. I think it is a good idea. Other countries are doing it. It should be a time to put aside our religious differences and know that we are praying for the good of our nation.
“We are a religious country and I think such activity is good for us. This will even move us closer to God in the nation and curb our societal ills. I think it will put the country in a better way. If it is well organised, the fear of domination by a religion over the other won’t arise.
“It is not a day we say Christians are praying, Muslims are praying or traditionalists are praying. No. It is a day we should say Nigeria is praying. Everybody should participate in the event. Whatever our religion is, it is a day to pray to our God,” he notes.
In the same vein, a medical doctor, Dr. Sunday Ogbu, subscribes to a national day of prayer and thanksgiving. He says it will address so many problems that are associated with religious intolerance and bigotry.
“The idea is not bad if well implemented. It will go a long way to address so many problems that are related to religious practices in the country. You know Nigeria is a very sensitive country. But the Western world like the United States of America has practised this for a very long time.
“You will agree with me that America has passed through so many problems like what we are going through before they got to where they are. If the occasion is well conceived and implemented, putting sentiments aside, it will streamline the worship of God in this part of the world,” he concludes.
By: Arnold Alalibo.