The Prisoner Of Love Carrying Unavoidable Burden
Some times I wish to run away from my shadows, but I have learnt to kill a shadow, by shinning a little light on it.
The relationship between qualitative education devoid of mediocrity for an inclusive growth and development of any community, is of great importance. This is because the quality of education to any nation, is what sound mind is to the body.
Over the years, education has been known to be the bedrock of every healthy society. In ancient Europe, the state of Greece for example, education was a standard bearer and a blender of minds, behaviour and cherished norm and values. However, how smug we have become-totting up the early mistakes and self-deception, marveling at the sheer unlikely luck that brought us together and keeps us that way. According to my mentor, the renowned play Wright, and noble Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka. He states “corruption strikes back. In this ongoing instance, that expression translates most vividly as those who are neck-deep in the sewage of corruption ensure that the splatter sewage in all possible and improbable direction”. (Wole Soyinka, January 2016).
Earnestly, I have frêt and mourn in painful loneliness, night and day, on the injustice and deprivation of my people who stand all day as endangered species in the hands of few marauder and gang-rappers of the virgin fertile land, Nigeria, haunts me. No wonder it was stated by some wise men that life is a maelstrom of contradictions which can be contemplated in the abstract but which practically, the human-being must live through. “Thus, it is in the living, in the experiencing that the individual makes a choice or is forced to make one, which might only be a part and not a whole. Obviously, there is no mincing word, my beloved mother land, Nigeria, that I am under the spell of your charm. Love is like a consuming fire that consumes other emotion and burns to eternity in tongues of flame but remains aglow like a coal fire.
According to my beloved uncle, who passed on three days ago, Capt. Tony Ijei, as he was preferred to be called, a fine soldier, academic of international repute, a seasoned administrator and a poet. Whose work on set my people free has been my inspiration, and whose memory I put up this masterpiece “The Prisoner of Love”. His enthusiasm for promoting social justice for all, was infectious, that many a times he sacrificed his comfort and position, through various victimization that came his way, throughout the struggle, aided me immeasurably in the painful process of trying to organize these swilling thoughts of my numerous ugly experiences suffered due to inhumane treatment by the power that be, into something coherent. He says in one of his collection of poems, “Love is bitter and love is sweet. Not like the sweetness of honey nor that of sugar. The bitterness of love is the agony of pain. The pain inflicted by the subject of love. Not sharp and fatal like a dagger thrust in the heart but dull and gnawing like the bite of a kitchen rat, that bites and blows to dull the pain. Yet the wound remains to tell the tale”.
On this premise I welcome you to this heartaching and inspiring master piece. Do have an insightful moments as you read.
It is my delight to dedicate this self-examining work, to these persons of like minds. Enthusiasts in the rule of law and social justice, as well as moral justice, I call them builders of our nation for sustainable development. They are Chief Gani Fawemi (late), Late Ken Sarowiwa, Late Major Kaduna Chukwuma Izeogwu, Christopher Okigbo, Professor Wole Soyinka and Late Professor Chinualimgu Achebe, and most importantly, is my late uncle, Anthony Emefie Ijei, Professor Christopher Ofuonye Udoh whose wisdom since I met him has been so fruitful and guiding light. The last but not the least is my special friend and angel in disguise, Miss Oluchi Adinno whose love and interest for me to write, has been a source of strength. She encouraged me to put up this manuscript, frankly, you are my inspiration, I thank you for your love.
THE PRISONER OF LOVE
On the night preceding the festival of the Good Shepherd Sunday as commemorated by the Holy Roman Catholic Church all over the world, that day being a Saturday. All through that day, my spirit was troubled and my heart bled as I contemplated on so many unpalatable incidence that we allowed to take place, as individuals, and collectively as a nation. As a result of greed and sheer wickedness. At that moment, my central nervous system (CNS) and my entire body was electrified with anger and despair. Subsequently, I began to feel headache, my stomach ached that I felt the sensation of nausea, then I decided to tune on the radio to a local station, suddenly, I heard the voice of the gospel merchant (the pastor) as they are popularly called in Nigeria, preaching, whose context I found difficult to comprehend, because the so-called pastor was deitifying himself, he says things which I think are difficult, if not impossible to carry out, judging from human perspectives and can be done, only by the grace of God or game of chance.
Actually, the center of his message was on the inability of some female folks to get married when they are due for marriage. He asserted that the root cause of this unfortunate occurrence by his own standard and thought, is from the evil men and some forces that derives joy in seeing some matured single ladies wallow in agony. A question came to my mind, which was, have those ladies played their parts by living a relatively decent life? I asked this, because sometimes, we are actually the cause of our problem and blame others for our woes. My reason for the conclusion was that we don’t take time to weigh the cost and benefits of our actions before we display them, rather, we blame other people when things go wrong or we trace our misfortunes and woes to be the antics of some evil spirits, or the manipulations of our old grand parents in the village and relatives who we suspect to be witches, without looking inward, and examine our conscience to see how we might have contributed to the mishaps. This is because in Nigeria, and the entire continent of Africa, we expect God to do for us what we can do for ourselves. The almighty father blessed us with wisdom to solve our problems, afterall, the white race do not have extra brains or four heads to enable them solve their problems. As I travel to and fro in my thoughts, I concluded that personal falsehood, irresponsible attitude, ignorance, ethnic and religious bigotry, as well as religious criminality have been the bane of our numerous problems for so long a time, and it’s high time we face the mirror, look into our eyes and tell ourselves the bitter truth, as the wise men of old tells us, “our friends are dear to us but dearer to us is the truth”. In Nigeria, out of every five house you pass, you will definitely see a place where people gather to worship as a church. But in the real sense, there are many churches springing here and there, but little Christianity. For example, in Antioch, the believers there were first called Christians because they modeled their lives like that of Christ-making sincerity and love their benchmark. On the contrary, due to our crave for titles and fame, the most common or popular of all titles is “Pastor”. Reason being that, once you are vocal and can read the bible, whether you understand the content or not, that is not important, provided you are able to persuade and convince some gullible individuals to believe your misinterpreted message from the said context. I also observed that the easiest means of making money, especially to get rich quick-a cancerous syndrome in our present society is to open a church with a tag, “miracle centre”. And this where these evil merchants capitalize on people’s ignorance, greed and quest for signs and wonders to exploit them, both in financial and emotional, feeding with wrong things and in stilling fear in the minds of their prey. They tell them that so and so is after their lives, or that they saw a vision that certain catastrophe is coming on them. So to prevent it, prayers and fasting are needed, the so-called prophet also demands some material items in monetary form to enable him go through prayer and fasting on his or behave, so as to avert the impending danger.
But the Lord Jesus admonished us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me”. From the moment of Christ’s conception, He showed and still shows the way. His most astounding act of humility was, he took on human nature, and throughout his life and time on earth, all that he did was nothing but what he knew his father, God, was asking him to do. Permit me to remind those of us who found ourselves burdened with pride and self-concern, that Jesus tells us to take his yoke upon ourselves and learn from him; for he is gentle and humble in heart. However, all these attributes of our Lord seemed far away from some of our clergy and all the self-acclaimed men of God, who use the loopholes of their people’s double-standard kind of faith, because of their inability to entrust their cares to the Lord God, that he may support them, just as the Psalmist said, in the Holy Scriptures. Above all, I think conservatism, is a very crucial part of our lives, as a means of developing a community built on strength and the spirit of individualism, not on handouts and strong dose of religion poured out on the days and places of worship. There is no mincing words that many of us, with the aid of critical reasoning and sound judgement, saw religion in Africa, Nigeria in particular, used not to reinforce religious beliefs at all, but as an excuse for people to come together and be made with their own social beliefs in ethnic and gender bigotry and at the same time promote material attachment at the expense of morals, embedded in standard religion. There is therefore, no gain saying that some of our religious elites, especially the tele-evangelists masquerade as Christians, the Islamic leaders also, when they are wolves and evil merchants.
Today, the Nigerian society had gone terribly bad, with stampede uprising, unnecessary tension and harsh economic reality, because, its mightiest source of strength and symbol suddenly found itself on its knees as a result of it blindness of its greed and its utter lack of caution. Coming back to the story I started earlier, the radio preacher man begun to persuade his listeners who are having problems in getting life partners not to delay any more, but grab the opportunity to locate him through the contact which he read aloud on air, then I became furious and paced around the room like a tiger who just sighted an intruder into his domain. After a while, I stood still, and remained in solitary mood for about ten minutes before I came out to engage my cousin in a discussion in respect to the issue. Frankly speaking, my spirit was vexed that my entire body was beginning to vibrate in response to the secretion of andrenalin in me that was triggered by the pastor’s preaching. In conclusion, I said to my cousin, “this present generation in our society is nothing but a wasted generation, because God endowed us with wisdom to reason and make right judgment, but due to our myopic perceptions and diverse kinds of religious criminalities perpetuated by some opportunist and manipulators in our communities, therefore, I have nothing but pity for it. At that moment, I took a U-turn to the centre of the pastor’s message with its dubious inference. Please I stand to be corrected if I am wrong. I meditated on the context of the message again and again, then I asked myself, are today’s pastors really feeding the sheep as instructed by Jesus to his apostles before he ascended to heaven? This contradiction is being exemplified by so many occurrences in Nigeria, where the pastors live in luxury, some of them even fly on private jets, while their members, the flock of Christ entrusted to their care wallow in poverty.
Throughout the rest of the evening, I was so tensed that I lost the appetite to eat, but only managed to force a bottle of coca-cola into my mouth, then lay on my bed, my head was clouded with hopelessness and ignorance that have taken over our lives as a nation, at the same time I hoped for sleep to come in order to put these emotional and psychological traumas behind me, as I expect the light of the coming day to dispel the darkness in my thought, at that point in time.
THE D DAY
On that very day, The Good Shepherd Sunday, the 17th day of April in the year of our Lord, 2016. I woke up at exactly 4:52am by my watch, and from the openings of my window blind, I could see the flashes of lightening, and the clouds were gathering. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with anxiety, thinking that it was going to rain heavily that morning. I prayed silently in my heart, begging God to suspend the shower till I return from Mass, reason being that, it was a Good Shepherd Sunday, one of the solemn festivals of the Catholic church, celebrated two Sundays after Easter. On this day, Christ reminds us through the church on the need to take care of its members. According to the gospel the Lord Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd, and the Good shepherd laid down his life for his sheep”. This is actually where the word “Pastor” took its root, if I am mistaken, correct me, I beg you, so after a while, I rushed into the bathroom to wash my body, to get ready for Mass which begins by 7:00am at the diocesan Bishop’s house where I normally attend mass any time that I am in town. I left the house quite earlier happy and full f expectation for the day, while I was on my way, before I know it, my mood changed again and the anger resurfaced again, that was when I noticed the sorry state of the road from the local government council to the Bishop’s house, I recalled also that the road linking the new cathedra with the old one had become a death trap then I asked the man carrying me this question, is President Buhari also responsible for the deteriorating state of this road? Why did I asked this question? You may want to ask me, I said to the man, I asked this question because, for some days now that I have been in this town, I have heard people lament on the present economic woes facing us, including the inability of some state governors to pay their workers, talkless of embarking on developmental projects like road construction and what have you, and they have directed the blame to the perceived incompetence of the new government at the centre.
Take for example, Delta-state workers at that time were being owed five month salary and arrears, and Aniocha-North, one of the local government councils was owing its civil servants seven month salary and arrears too, and every developmental processes were put to a halt, simply because the government lacks fund to execute them. However, my findings revealed that Delta-state receives the highest allocation after Akwa-Ibom state, when fund is disburst every month from the federation account. So how come it has not been able to meet it needs? Monumental corruption at the highest level you will agree with me. Again, contrary to its claim, two states in the same region, Cross-Rivers and Edo-state, Edo-state being the nearest neighbour to Delta-state has been able to meet these obligations. Cross-River-State government pays thesalaries of its workers on or before the 25th of every month. Edo-state has beenpaying its workers, I added, and had been on several occasions embarkingon gigantic projects, and at the same time, commissioning the completed ones. These two states are less endowed than Delta-State in terms of revenue derivation and other sources of income. So where did they source the monies that they use to put smiles on the faces of their people? Thereafter I said, it is the ripe time that we look inward and be honest to ourselves for once, then, I added, now tell me, is Buhari responsible for this dilapidated road or shouldn’t the local council authority be held responsible for lack of accountability and conscious negligence of duty? I concluded my chat by letting my friend know that the root cause of these ugly situations are, ignorance, greed, ethnic divides which produces tribal sentiment and religious manipulations and criminality.
Above all, I said, ‘I am never bewildered by the antics of these false prophets or trader-pastors, as I would like to call them, because Christ Jesus revealed it to us in the Holy Scripture, that the time is coming when false prophets and preachers will emerge to deceive the people, He says, “Many shall come, wolves in sheep clothing, to steal, kill and destroy”. Christ also told us that it is not all those that say Lord! Lord!! that shall enter His kingdom.
My arrival at the Mass Centre
I arrived the Pastoral Centre (the Bishop’s house) where I usually attend the Holy Mass every Sunday any time I visit Issele-Uku my home town, even though it is quite a distance from where I stay, and there is also a parish, about a stone throw from the house, rather, I prefer to worship at the Bishop’s house community Mass centre, due to some reasons. First, it was a gathering of persons whom I presumed are enlightened because they are made up of individuals who work in various government agencies and organized private sectors in the area. The congregation also comprises staff of the pastoral centre, which include the clergy, the religious (the Reverend Sisters) and lay persons. Again, we have in attendance, pupils and staff members of the Catholic girls high school (Juniorate) who come there for Mass every Sunday.
Secondly, unlike the Cathedra and the Parishes where Mass is celebrated in native dialet and some unnecessary ceremonies are added to the worship, thereby wasting one’s precious time. For example, where I came from, Sunday Missa don’t exceed one and half hour at most but I observed that both at St. Paul’s Cathedra and St. Anthony of Padua’s parish, Sunday Masses extend even beyond three hours because of collection upon collections, and time was wasted repeating one announcement and the other, but at the pastoral centre, the Mass is said in English language for the understanding of everyone and the rituals are said in the language of the Holy Church (Latin) most amazingly for me, the Mass is brief, precise and educational, especially when the Homily was delivered by Fr. Joseph Ebegbune. Above all, the entire worship or celebration does not take more than one hour.
THE CONFLICT OF IDEOLOGY
It’s a true fact that music has a way of healing our ailments, especially when we are heart broken, that is when you listen to a well refined melodious rhythm with good wordings, particularly, those ones whose root is from the Holy scripture. This is because they are so consoling and comforting-lifting up our faiths in the ability of God to save us from every unpalatable circumstances in life. St. Augustine in his writing puts it this way, “He who sings, prays twice”. That was the feeling I had when I heard those comforting songs from the Psalms echoing from the choir’s stand as I approached the venue for the Mass. Suddenly my fire raging angry mood, became calm and joyous. As I enter the chapel, it was half-filled, so I went to my usual back sit, sat down quietly and said some prayers, sat up and waited for a while for the celebrants to processed to the altar for the ceremony to begin. The procession started few minute later, led by the diocesan Bishop, Most Reverend Michael Elue, accompanied by three other priests who co-celebrated with him. We all stood up when the clergy approached the alter, as it is customary for us, as Catholics to do, as participants in the holy Sacrifice.
The rituals were carried out as stated by the wisdom of the Holy church. First of all, the chief celebrant, the Bishop approached the altar, kissed it, invoked the presence of the Holy Trinity by making the sign of the cross. He welcome the congregation to the ceremony and perform the penitential rites, subsequently, the readings from the scripture for the day were read by some persons who took the first and second readings respectively. Someone came as well, to chant the Psalms and acclaim the alleluia which precedes the gospel reading by a priest, (Fr. Joseph Ebegbune), after which the bishop came to the pulpit to preach (Homily). He started from the first and second readings and chipped in some things from the gospel, on a very good note. His illustrations were fantastic and I enjoyed it because he was fluent and précised, then, the tune of the music changed. This was because while he was explaining a context from the gospel, where he tried to explain the concept of the Good Shepherd, he deviated from the basic issue, of the need for leaders or any one entrusted with the responsibility to see to the well fare of the people to do so with utter-most care and faithfulness. Most especially Christian leaders who Christ admonished to tend the sheeps that he leaves for them. This was confirmed in the gospel, when Christ Jesus called Simon Peter three times to ask if he really love him, each time after each response of confirmation, He Christ will admonish Peter to either take care of his sheep or feed His flock. Just I stated at the beginning of this writing, I mentioned the insensitivity of some pastors to the plights of their members, I also said, that, instead of feeding the flocks of Christ, the counterfeit shepherds feed on their members, if possible drain the entire blood in their blood stream and bone-marrow and crack their bones at last.
However, from my critical analyses and evaluations, I think the Bishop did not put things in the right perspectives by deviating from the core issue, either because he was quality of the mal-practice or that he shy away from the heart aching truth. Rather, he begin to illustrates the message on the context of political leadership unfaithfulness. He accused the present central government of Nigeria and the APC of not fulfilling the promises that they made during their campaign before the elections. He blamed the government which was barely less than a year in office as of that time,for the economic woes, social instability and the hardship experienced by many Nigerians. He concluded by stating categorically how a friend of his, sent him a message via u-tube about the state of things in the country, he said that the lady concluded by saying that it would have been better if they had sticked to the last federal administration. He threw his support for the lady’s opinion.
From his expression, every right thinking individual should be able from this premise, deduce some iota of bias (bad belly) with religious and tribal bigotry from his expression. Some people around me were dumbfounded as I do myself, because we least expected such inciting remarks from the person of the Bishop on a Sunday sermon. I told the lady beside me, that the church in Nigeria judging by the body language of some of its leaders, who consented to the monumental corruption that took place last regime, simply because the then president identified himself as a Christian and as such, part of the monies embezzled by some public office holder were donated to the Church on things that has no direct bearing to the needs of the suffering masses. Lastly, I said, I can see emotional sentiment, hatred for Buhari’s government by the bishop, certainly many of them benefited immensely from the gangrape of our common wealth by a few privileged elites, thereby exposing us to structural inadequacies and foreseen woes inherited from the last regime by the Mohammedu Buhari led federal government. And all indicators show that materialism had taken over the church, which contradicts Christ’s gospel message and teachings that promotes love, justice, selfless service, prudence piety and honesty. Then I said at last, “the church obviously has been compromised or has become corrupt, and it is imperative for us to treat the disease, therefore, I shall see the bishop after the mass”.
After the Mass ended, I went to seek his audience, when I got to him, he was exchanging pleasantry(ies) with some member of the congregation. Firstly I stopped to say hello to Fr. Ebegbune whom I have known for the past nine years when he was still studying at the seminary, and I also discovered that he is my second cousin. When I realized that the Bishop was no longer with adults but was with some children, I hurried up to meet him, greeted him and asked him if he can grant me audience because I have some important issues to clarify from him, he permitted me to state my case, I did, I started like this, my Lord, the issue that I came to clarify has to do with the remarks you made during the homily on the subject of the change mantra of the APC led central government, I went further to say that we are all aware of the present hardship in Nigeria, but, that I think that what the people need now is encouragement, because things will improve as days go by, I added, my Lord, though I stand to be corrected, if I am wrong because it’s my personal opinion, then I said, what I could deduce from your last remark was sentiment, I said this with due respect my Lord. He answered and said, “those deductions of yours are your opinions, he then pushed me away and said that I should leave because he is not a politician, neither does he support the APC nor PDP, but that he made an illustration based on the context of the readings and theme of that very celebration.
Within me, I knew that he has some biases against the Buhari’s administration and his emergence as the President last March. This is because, many of them, big men of God, threw their weight behind the former president who is a southern and perceived to be a Christian, and because of the countless favours that they get from him whenever they need help. Where is the unconditional love preached by Jesus, I asked myself – that Christians should see their fellowmen as the image of God. Therefore, there shall be no room for racial, tribal and religious discrimination amongst us. This reminds us of the principle that I adopted many years ago, not to judge a man by his race, colour, language, social status, ethnicity and religion, but by the content of his character. After a while, I asked again, my Lord, do you prefer the last government that was reputed for high level of corruption that had crippled all sectors of our national life, as indicated by some very sad, heartaching revelations that have been made so far on the activities of the last regime, where some individuals wrecked our economy, murdered our happiness and became overnight billionaires, while the rest die of hunger and diseases? At that moment, he became furious then pushed me the second time, telling me to go, that he is not a politician. Yes, he is not a politician but the spiritual father of some politicians.
I became furious as well, I felt some heating effect from the surrounding cardiac region, of my heart up to the brain, I supposed that the adrenalin secreted so massively that I could not control my temper, I forgot that I was standing with the Bishop of the Holy Catholic Church, my chief shepherd on earth, surrounded by priests, religious and lay faithful. Earnestly, I threw caution into the wind. My entire body vibrated like a wounded lion ready to take revenge on his supposedly enemy, infact, I never knew when I raised my voice on the Bishop and told him that since he refused to listen to me, that I was going to take it up, which implies sending a petition to the conference of the Nigerian Bishops to address the matter before it get out of hand.
THE RUMOUR OF MY ARREST
Immediately I mentioned the last implicating and controversial word, (phrase) “then I will take it up” I hurriedly left the scene, meanwhile, a motor vehicle was already waiting for me, as if the whole thing was pre-meditated before hand, but in reality it was just a mere coincidence. I popped into the vehicle and we zoomed off. In a very short time, we arrived home, stopped at the gate, then had a little chat with my friend on matters not relating to the incident surprisingly, I didn’t try discussing the issue with him on our way from the church, this is because, I am a kind of person who likes voicing out my mind even though, there could be likelihood that persons might be offended, and once I ease the burden from heart, I forget it immediately. My friend returned to his house, then I opened the gate, got in, to discover that I was the only one in the entire compound, as it has been a usual occurrence on Sundays. I walked straight to the back door, open it and got in, then walked straight to my room, dropped my hymn book and abide in my word that I was holding on the shelf, dress my bed and went to the kitchen to put water on the fire for my normal morning ritual (to make my green tea) then walked back to the room to pack some dirty clothes for washing in the bathroom, and after about forty minutes the washing was completed. I took them out side in two buckets to sun, I returned to the kitchen after then to take my tea which I had made while I was washing. At first, I was taking the tea on the dinning but later took it to the room, so that I can listen to music from the radio and glance through some national dailies. Suddenly my phone rang, I picked to answer the call, it was the voice of my brother, who called to notify me of an impending danger. He said, “Jerry where are you? I hope you are save where you are because, I have just been informed that you openly confronted the Bishop this morning, for that reason, my informant told me that the Bishop has ordered the men of the state security service (SSS) to arrest you”.
I laughed out so loud that he begin to ask me if I was normal, I responded and told him that the whole act is laughable, because I have committed no crime to warrant the security agency to go after me, then said, ‘I only approached the Bishop after the Mass to seek clarifications on issues that I was not comfortable with, but he did not give me full attention, but pushed me away twice, then I have to tell him my mind, I continued, and said, I am very sorry for raising my voice on him. In conclusion, he advised to go and see the Bishop and apologize to him for my misconduct. When I hung up, my thoughts began to race from one point to another for about thirty minutes. I could recall many events that I have read about over the years of what people are capable of doing, particularly, those that the society will least suspect of any ill-practice, for instance, I read some time ago, how some catholic priests were alleged to have carried out Seria killings in Europe and America, then I said to myself, Onyeka, you are in trouble! And only God and acting promptly can save me. Then I questioned. “The men of the SSS are the agents of the central government and if the Bishop actually reported me to them, then he would be indicting himself? because he directly and indirectly tried to poison the people’s mind against the Buhari led central administration, and Catholic clergy as I though are not supposed to get involved in politics. At last I acclaimed; in Nigeria, Elephants can fly! any act is possible!! Yes. The Bishop is human, a Nigerian, full of flesh and blood with feelings. The human ego in him might push him to do worse horrible things one can ever imagined. So I have to send the matter to my wall on face book and other social network that I use, as well as a particular news paper via text message, imploring them to be aware of the developments, and that if I am unable to come out of this life, that my spirit should not die. I begged them to continue from where I stopped in championing these noble course of building a new Nigeria for sustainable development, and a land where peace and justice will embrace.
After then, I picked up my phone and dialed a priest friend of mine, a Franciscan Friar, Fr. Akaose Emeodi, whom I usually turn to, for advice when ever I am in conflict. He urged me to keep calm, that it is just a mere rumour, he added, “The Bishop is our father, who has the obligation to correct any prodigal child of his, with fatherly love when he misbehaves. He equally advised me to make time out, and go and apologize to him.
After that, I called my girlfriend who had frequently called to beg me to come to Ibadan to see her because she misses me so much. When she picked, I said, hello dearie, the possibility of my seeing you again is slim, because I got myself in a mess this morning. I stepped on toes, speaking my mind as usually, my radicalism has landed me in big trouble, I added, so pray for my safety. Note that I love you and will always do. She being a staunch Catholic started reprimanding me for challenging the Bishop, at last, she said, “Onyeka just be careful next time, I love you too and nothing will happen to you in Jesus name. Amen. I responded before hanging up the phone. Meanwhile, I was sweating profusely like Salah ram waiting to be slaughtered. I rushed into the bathroom, took my bath, dressed up and went out to see a friend nearby, where I jokingly raised the issue and we laughed over it. Then, we discussed other matters especially, relationship and love life. As soon as I left there, I went through a short cut to my family business centre where I help out with sales until the police came to whisk me away by night to the Bishop’s house.
MY ARREST AND DETENTION AT THE POLICE CELL
Life is full of uncertainty, it is so unfair for many of us who are not connected to the so called movers and shakers of the society. Every now and then, our rights as human and co-citizens of our land are continually trampled upon, because to them, we are nobody, our opinions don’t count, and our lives means nothing to them and our rights and human dignity is abused.
Little did I know that my open confrontation with the Bishop that happened before 9:00 am and the rumour of my arrest was kept till night time, the police came to pick me at the shop by 9:00pm. The drama started when two police men that I have seen many time came to me and asked me to help them carry things to their van packed out side. As I came out, I met two other police beside the van, suddenly, one of them held my trousers by the waist, and said, “you are under arrest”, I was so taken unaware, that I said, for what? I can’t remember committing any crime today, before I knew what was happening, the four men descended on me with hard punches, infact, they almost brake my femur with the head of their guns and foot wear and brought out hand-cuff to chain my hands, then pushed me into the waiting vehicle, while they were landing blows on my face inside the van. The police drove me to the Bishop’s house, nevertheless, it was in the van that I was able to ask them the offence that I committed that made them treat me like a common criminal. The man beside me said, “so have the mind to challenge and threatened the Bishop, you this rat”.
Another added, “Bishop o! not fada”, I defended the allegation instantly, and said, no, I didn’t challenged him, I only seek for clarification on a sensitive issue that I was not comfortable with, I did not threatened him or challenged him, I only told him the truth. Hearing this, the police men screamed and one of then said, “this boy, you no get manners, you fit challenge your father or your oga like that? Yes I said, I am at liberty to correct any body, and nobody is above mistakes, I added. The man said again, “De there de blow grama, you no know say, you de for hot soup”. I maintained silence for some time and then said, do you realize how inhumane you have treated me this night? I promise you, that you will remember this day in history as days go by. You assaulted me simply because of non significant issue, and abuse my fundamental human right of expression and fare hearing.
In no distant time, we arrived at the Bishop’s court, my brother and his friend were already there, standing with them were two Priests, Fr. Joseph Ebegbune and Fr. Kashimia or something, I understood, he is the Bishop’s secretary. The van came to a halt, and they bundled me out, sighting my brother and his friend, I became bold once again to face any eventuality. The Bishop’s secretary came to me immediately and said, “Jerry I hope you were not hurt”? I shouted on top of my voice, yes, they did, they hited severally on my face with blows and my laps with their boots and rifle, then the police replied, “no, we didn’t touch him, we only did when he tried to resist arrest and that is why we hand-cuffed him”. Fr. Ebegbune now asked me to reduce my voice because I was disturbing some people sleeping, in the process, the police removed the hand-cuff from my hands, and arguments upon arguments echoed in that vicinity of which many questions were asked by the Priests. Firstly was Father Ebegbune, “Jerry do you realized the gravity of what you did earlier today, and do you know that you are in serious trouble? I answered, no I don’t think so, because I only approached the Bishop to seek clarity and also use the opportunity to correct him on the remarks that he made during the homily, as regards to the change mantra. Just as I told him earlier with all sincerity and due respect, that I sensed sentiment from the context of his message and from the tone of his voice, such act is not expected from a highly revered clergy, in the person of the Bishop. Jerry can you explain the context of the Bishop’s Sermon this morning? Said father Kashimia, well, all that I could recall was that the sermon was centred on the person and the attributes of a good shepherd, but along the line, he deviated which, I think, for him to share personal sentiment, and that was what I pointed out to him in the morning.
Do you really understand what he meant by that? He asked again, “He was trying to illustrate the qualities of a good shepherd, which includes faithfulness, and that was where the issue of the change mantra came in”. He said, logic and philosophy is playing out here you will agree with me. (My inner thought).
Again, he asked, how come you are the only person that reacted contrary to the sermon? I answered and said, I think that I was not the only one, because, some grumbled, you can see the speed at which the Bishop left the pulpit after then. It just that I was the only one at that moment, who was bold enough to approach him even though the manner through which I did it was unacceptable by some standards. Fr. Ebegbune asked the second time, “Jerry do you belong to the change agenda on social network? I hesitated and said, Yes, our goal is to bring about remoulding in the mind set of many Nigerians, we hope to change their attitudes toward certain practices and begin to do things that can foster or promote good governance of transparency, accountability, and the need to make sacrifice-collectively working for the progress of Nigeria for our children to be proud of, lastly and most importantly, we are committed to give our maximum support to this present regime on his gallant efforts in fighting corruption and indiscipline. Lastly he asked, are you holding grudges with the Bishop or the person of the Bishop? My answer was no. Not in any way I added. From the tone of your statements so far, you seemed to be accusing the Bishop of being bias to one political party, since you knew the Bishop, have you ever seen him at any political gathering or with any politician? He asked, I answered, I wouldn’t say because, I come to this town not too often, because I study in another place pretty far from here.
Meanwhile, Fr. Kashimia has been going in and coming out to consult the Bishop who had remained inside since I came. He spoke, with what I called sheer arrogance, He asked Jerry, if someone came to your house and threatened your father, how will you take it? I remained silent, then he said, “this is what you have done”. Boastfully, he said, you should thank your star and your family, especially your brother here, because what we would have done when it happened, was to beat the demon out of your brain, and whisk you to a land of no return”. They all laughed my brother inclusive, except myself that was griped with fear after he mentioned it, because I know what some of these men who camouflage in white cassocks can do.
He began this way, “Jerry, henceforth, we do not want to see you any where near this compound, talkless of coming here for Mass”.
Secondly, after you threatened the Bishop, you left hear peacefully, we did not touch you, even after you embarrassed him, in front of his congregation. This is because you took us by surprise, and we don’t known if you were sent to art a script by someone, again, this could be an avenue for some mischievous individuals who have for a long time nursed the nefarious acts in the heart and are waiting for the right and favourable moment to strike”. Hence, “you have to follow the police men back to their station to write statements and undertaking that if any thing goes wrong in the community or any thing happens to the Bishop that you shall be held accountable”. Again, use the opportunity to show your remorsefulness by apologizing to the Bishop for your misbehavior”. My brother gave me a sign of persuasion, I agreed and followed the policemen to their station, but by the time we got there, their countenance changed, because I was asked to pull out some of my belongings and deposit before the duty sergent at the counter, reason being that, it was very late, and on Sunday too. “the officer to attend to your case is not on sit now, so you have to be in the cell till tomorrow morning when he resumes”. Before I knew what was happening to me, I was pushed behind bar, in a dark dungeon. Please pardon my exaggeration. That was the imagery that I could depict from that scenario. Hearing the voice of an in-coming in-mate, the suspects started yelling! One of them said, “who be that? Just come settle us, if not, you go die for here this night, Idiot, see as in be, you just de outside there de enjoy life, they fuck and fuck all the girls”. Hearing this utterance, I screamed and one of them wanted to punch me, I blocked it with my hand, then the police man now kept me in a separate cell, which was oozing with stinking odour of many days urine. I was a bit relieved, because, at least, I was saved that night from the battering and bullying from other in-mate. Although occasionally, one of them will yell out an intimidating word, like, you de mad for there, you no won settle abi? Shebi you go come out tomorrow, I go deal with you”. I passed the night sitting at the darkest concern of the cell, hallucinating because some similar event which I have came across either through the books that I have read or the movies that I have seen kept registering in my brain. How depressing! If this how all our earthly existence is about? at that time, I felt a shallow at the misfortune that kept me in police cell for speaking out.
Unfortunately for me, my statement, “I will take it up” was misinterpreted by many, including my family and close friends. Even though it was subjected to a lot of interpretations. And this had continued to haunt me, even till this moment, because they faulted my unruly actions, according to them and accused me of being rude to the Bishop, and confronting him as well. Some of them made me felt guilt, when they said, remember the biblical injunction, “touch not my anointed one, and do my prophets no harm” have I done any harm to the Bishop, I asked myself, candidly, in my heart of heart, I was convinced that I had no intention of such a thing, but was only trying in my little way to correct the abnormalities in our society. Certainly, the almighty Bishop can not be corrected, even if he does something wrong, especially in an African setting where its citizenry are enslaved by hypocritical, white-wash religious and cultural beliefs. However, some of my friends hailed my courage and comforted me when I narrated my ordeals at the police cell to them, amongst them was my mentor and teacher, professor Christopher Ofuonye Udoh, may be because his life was spent mostly in overseas. He said “JJ, frankly speaking I expected the Bishop to admire you for your courage. He would have invited you to discuss the matter in details and give you the explanations that it required”. Prof. did not hide his reservations, when he said, “the problems with our leaders in this part of the world, is their unwillingness and fear to accept the truth due to the superficial life and are ever ready to silent any one who tries to confront them with the truth.
Sheer arrogance and power intoxication, I call it, the reason why they are adamant to yield and adjust, is because they want to remain relevant and domineering (dominant) at all cost”. At the end of our conversation, he suggested that I put all these experiences into writing and document for future references.
Another person, is my special friend and my inspiration, Oluchi, even though a pharmacy student, has flare and contagious interest for writing, especially on social ills in out society, she saw my love and the undisputable zeal in me, for that reason, she has continuously encouraged me to write, “never stop writing”, she will always tell me. For example, whenever, I am away from Ibadan to Delta-state, Lagos, Benin or else where, each time we talk on phone, her first question she usually ask me, is, Onyeka, I hope you still write? Her litany has been on the imagery and flowers of literature in my writings. To cut it short, she encouraged me to put this horrible and terrifying experience into writing. Earnestly, I appreciate her so much for inspiring me, and I remained indebted to her love.
As I hoped for, the dark night eventually gave way to the bright light of the day, Monday morning. Not quite long, the officer on day came to open the gate to each cell for us to make use of the horrible urine and feaces infested, toilet, whenhe heard some in-mates calling on him to open their own cell. Surprisingly, the in-mates including the guy who had attempted to bully me at night time, all gazed at me in wonder, suddenly one ask me, “what brought you here"? I know you very well, you are Okey’s brother, and I never expected to see you bundled behind bar at that unholy hour”. So I narrated my ordeals to them. In solidarity, they expressed a vague compassion towards my condition, that same guy continued, “certainly, you human right to expression had been trampled upon because of the society we found ourselves, I must admire your courage, they can only torture your flesh but cannot torture your spirit to fight for truth and justice”. He told me how some people connived with the police to raise false accusation against him and have kept him here for the past 24 hours without any reasonable case to answer. He said, “hopefully I shall be out of here as soon as I raise the twenty thousand naira that the police demanded for bail”. He added again, I hope your brother and the rest of family are aware of this ugly development, I answered, yes, as I said earlier, my brother was the one that informed me when the rumour started flying around in the morning and he was with me at the Bishop’s house last night. He said again, your spirit must be very strong, because most of these big men irrespective of they claim to be are unpredictable, they are capable of doing villainous acts, without any trace to them. If I may ask, he said, the alleged offence was committed in the morning, how come, they decided to arrest you and brought you at night, he continued, their plans may have been to silent you forever, by taking you to lonely place to kill you and claim that they shut you because you were trying to escape arrest, and everyone will believe them without bothering to ask questions”. My advice to you, he said is to leave town to a very far place where it will be difficult to trace you, as soon as you get out from here because they will continue to hunt for you till their mission is accomplished.
Meanwhile, the officers and men of the police started coming in one after the other, and each one that came closer threw his or her stare at me, then ask what brought me to the police station, in summary I told them. Then came the arrival of the D.C.O and another senior officer, both walked straight to where I stood, and said, are you the boy that threatened the Bishop last morning? I answered, then said, Sir I didn’t threatened him, I only went to him after the Mass to seek for his clarifications on issues especially on the remarks he made when he was preaching concerning the change mantra of the Buhari led federal administration. I added, the only thing I said that appears to be implicating, though, it is subjected to lots of interpretation was that I was going to take up the matter since he refused to give me ears, and what I implied was that I was going to petition the church authority in Nigeria (The Catholic Bishops Conference). The D.C.O said immediately, “what is your business with the country’s affairs in the political sphere or the remarks that the Bishop made on the altar? That is how you youths of today create problems for yourselves and families, did you know that he is the Bishop in charge of the Catholic Church in Delta-state and you have the gut to challenge a man of God, pray that he do not curse you, because, if he does, you will amount to nothing in life, and I know that you are a promising child with great prospects”. The second officer then said, I have known you to be a very gentle boy and I have always admired the way you attend to customers each time I came to your shop to buy items, so what came over you to display such a deviant behaviour? any way, he said, “I spoke with the Bishop this morning he said, he has forgiven, you and you should never come to his premises for any thing what so ever, because you are assumed to be a threat to the community”. Just keep calm, the Bishop will be here by 3:00pm. Silently, I said, the hour of mercy. Then left to their offices, shortly after then, a female officer that I have known for years now, came to call me to write statements of all that happened yesterday, I followed her to her office, there she gave a piece of paper with letter head and a pen, then said, I hope you can write! I smiled and said yes, I wrote all that I could remember and at the same time write an apology to the Bishop, entreating his compassion – promising him that such unruly behaviour will never occur again. I also beg him to pray for me, that I may able to work on myself on how to control if possible eliminate this cancerous disease (temperament) at the end I wrote my name, date, and sign. While I was writing my brother walked in smiled and said, “now that you have witness horror of police cell, I hope henceforth that will curtail your agitative spirit, and you can see the mess that you have made me go through since yesterday”. I greeted him and apologize for my misconduct. He promised to get me out of there as soon as possible and that he was waiting to see the Bishop as soon as he returns from Asaba where he is attending a meeting at moment, as he was informed by the secretary earlier, he gave the officer some money to buy me whatever I request for breakfast, and I was returned to the stinking cell. A moment later, the officer came to me and ask, you did post this issue on facebook! Why did you do that? I have shown it to your brother, don’t you think that it may complicate the issue if the Bishop or any one close to him finds out. I was speechless for a while, then spoke, earnestly I have not handled my phone for the past 14 hours, all that I could remember was that I posted some funny message regarding the issue to my wall when I heard about the rumour of my arrest, it was just like a mockery I said. As soon as she left, my brother emerged frowning at me, then said, “so do you want to remain here? do you know that you are creating more problems by your post on face book, right now, I am pulling out, I wouldn’t sign the guarantor form again, since you are capable to fight a Catholic Bishop”. At that moment I wept bitterly within, with a feeling that I have been deserted by everybody and would have carry the cross alone. He left immediately after then, I went into my cell to cry, a lion wept, you will say, then I began to pray again, asking for the intercession of the Virgin Mary and all the Saint, particularly, St. Anthony of Padua, the wonder worker to pray to the Lord Jesus for me. In prayers, I said Lord God, who has the heart of every king on his palm, I have no one but you, please save me and put my enemies to shame. Thereafter, I came out and other suspects were staring at me in sympathy, later on, some things were brought to me to eat but I refused, then gave it to other suspects, in short, I was without food or water for two days, because there was no way that I could eat any thing in that state, otherwise I will throw up. 3.00clock came, my presumed hour of mercy, the Bishop did not show up and no body came to see me, I suffered the agony alone. When the D.C.O was about leaving his office for the day, he came to me and asked, what did you study at the University? I told him that I am core science student, that I study environmental health sciences with specialty in toxicology, he stared at me in astonishment, then said, you sounded like someone who read law in your statement, any way you shall be out of this confinement before the end of today, he now walked away. This new found friend in police cell was always their to console me, even helped to call my brother whom I could remember his mobile number by head. Painfully I was not released as promised that very day. I accepted my fate and passed another night in the cell, throughout the night I wept and prayed for my freedom, because that confinement is not place that will wish even my enemy to be, the pungent foul smell like that concentrated ammonium gas diffused from the toilet and my dungeon, my stomach ached and felt the sensation of no sea, that I almost start vomiting but I could not because there was nothing in my tommy. Infact, I almost died, I could not bear the ordour anymore, and sleep abandoned me to my fate. I hallucinated at some point, I could recall all the actions that took place in one of Prof. Wole Soyinka’s book, “and the man died”, I remembered the agony that he went through for 18 months in prison during the Nigeria’s Civil War. I could draw my strength from my hero who was dehumanized in jail for speaking the truth, and championing a just course. Courage raised spontaneously and I smiled in what I believed to be true, even though I approached it wrongly because I was unable to control the pathological temper in me. All through the night, I listened for the cockcrow, praying for day break because to me, sleep was murdered in cold blood. As soon as I heard the cockcrow for the first time, I knelt down and prayed fervently, particularly begging God to save me from this dangerous adventure that I embarked on, consciously for the love of my country trying to correct what assumed to be unjust and always entreating his mercy if I have gone wrong in any way, especially for confronting the Bishop as alleged in some quarters. After then, hot tears rolled down from my eyes, and unconsciously, I said aloud, if this is the way that truth is being overshadowed with power play and the crusader is victimized, if possible eliminated from the face of the earth in my country by the powers that be, both in political and religious arena, then, we are in trouble just beside the adage of gun powder that may explode within a twinkle of an eye, hence, if I have nothing for us as a nation but pity, then I said, I am please to suffer persecution for what I believed to be right even though contradicted, by our cultural setting in Nigeria, were you do not challenge an authority even when they stray from the right path. I also remembered other heroes that I have continually be my inspirations for their sacrifices they made, even with their lives, people like late Mandiba, Dr. Nelson Mandela, Keneth Kauda of Zambia, and Martin Luther King Junior to mention but a few.
The cock crew at last, then I knelt down and prayed, sat for a while, waiting for the officer on night shift to open my cell. He did shortly, by then other were still sleeping, later on, they woke up, sung praises to God, prayed for a long time on top of their voice, after then came out and we exchanged greetings. “One of us will be charged to court today, let us pray that everything work in his favour, we hope that all of us will be set free today, together, we acclaimed! Amen.
Later that morning the patrol police men arrived in their van with two young men hand cupped who were alleged to be car snatchers, a few minutes later, they were asked to pull their shirts and trousers with other belongings and summit to the officer at the counter, before they sent them behind bar like us. Meanwhile, the younger fellow came with tears dripping down from his eyes as continue cry aloud and pleaded that the police should give him access to his phone in order to inform his mother of his where about, from what the boys told us, they were only paying for the sin of their waywardness and what we gathered, the police arrested when they were returning from a night club, and were suspected to be snatchers of the car that was reported to them, was stolen at a gun point. I didn’t know the outcome of the whole thing because I was released later in the day.
After then, a young charming police officer whom I had seen came to the shop and I have always asked myself what such a beauty is doing in the polluted police force, approached me with a smile, greeted me and said, Jerry are you still here, they didn’t bail you yesterday again? No, I answered, don’t worry you shall be out of here soon. How did you cope with choking odour oozing around here? It wasn’t easy! I almost died at night because of it, I answered, she said, “I know, considering where you are coming from”.
“Meanwhile, you are the only one that I could trust so, I want you to carry some buckets and follow me to the well out side to draw some water so that you guys can use it wash up this place, flush away the urine and feaces in the toilet”. She opened the gate and I followed her with those containers to fetch water from the well, she and one other police man accompanied me to the well, where I drew water and filled the container, while I was doing that she engaged me in a discussion on the attitudes of leaders even in smallest offices of trust toward governance, how some of the government officials lack maintenance culture, we deliberated and concluded that everything boils down to disloyalty and utter lack of patriotism in Nigeria as a country because of greed and incompetence.
They helped me carry some of the bucket to the cell, and she brought some detergents and antiseptics, and I singlehandedly washed the cells and the toilet. My mates were happy and thanked me for coming to their rescue. After that, I stood at the entrance gate, then sighted a relative of mine who walked to one of the police men and was seen being directed to the DCO’s office, he came out not too long, followed by the Divisional Commanding Officer (DCO) who ordered a junior officer to bring me out. Then,he approached the gate, then asked, “who is Jerry here?” I raised my hand like a nursery pupil hearing his teacher’s question. He opened the gate and I followed him to the counter, there, the DCO was standing, and he said, “Jerry I was told that you were a very good boy, but I don’t know what came over you on Sunday, we do not have any case against you, therefore you are released, so pick your belongings, sign and go home and treat yourself. Also be a good boy and try to avoid any thing that will lead to trouble”. I thanked him and all the officers I had supported me with their word of encouragement, and followed my cousin immediate, who drove straight to the house. while we were on our way I remembered what one of the officers and my friend at cell told me, “you have to leave this town as soon as you are released, because other people loyal to the opposing party might seize the opportunity to hunt you, politicians here are deadly”. As soon as we got the house, popped into the bathroom brushed my teeth many times, bath as I never bath before, I made sure that I added plenty Dettol to my water before the bath, came out of bathroom dressed up and informed some family members that I was travelling immediately. My cousin dropped me at the motor-park, I board a bus and left.Throughout the journey I thanked God for answering my prayers. My family keep calling to know where I was, I did not pick any call till I got to my destination.
Over there I told friends, and they praised me for my courage while some reprimanded me that made feel as if I have committed an abominable act against the god of the land. All the same, I bear no grudges for their sentiments, because this is what had been inculcated, into their minds that some group of individuals should not be corrected, reprimanded and confronted with basic principle and laws when they lose track. My girlfriend did the same, and had since then been avoiding me. As she said “Onyeka you mean you challenged the Bishop, touch not my anointed one and do my prophet no harm, I beg you stop this your radical behaviour”. However, my mentor, Professor Udoh had a different view, he sympathized with me, and praised me for my heroism and asked me to put my experience into writing, if not for anything to document in my diary. Another person as I mentioned at the beginning is Oluchi, the pharmacy who I said has always encouraged me to write, she eulogized my bravely as she said, and persuaded me to write my experience in the cell for future reference.
There is no gainsaying that Nigerians are good people, so need good life in every sphere of its human endeavours. The action that prompted my writing of this master piece, even my intention was it an act of justice, or an ironic twisted justice, that we, as a people must cease to have our favourite past time of boxing the shadow while the substance flits by? Out crude ill-practices made me a criminal, or do I say alleged criminal, not because of the bad things that I have done, but because of my believe in truth and justice, as well as, equal rights for all, irrespective of colour, tribe and religion.
For so long, I have dreamed of liberation, the hope of freedom for my mother land, a land, where there is absence of savagery with violence. Yet in my anxiety, I still have doubts, the feelings which continues to persist in my heart, and haunts me day and night, because Nigerians, especially the elites, remains a prisoner, prisoners of greed, corruption and barbaric manipulations.
However, we can reduce this devastating disaster in our national life, if we are willing to, even if we cannot eliminate it completely. This can be done by tracing the root cause of the epidemic. Treat the disease itself and not the symptoms. And we can achieve this by having a broader knowledge of the problem, and this is where education comes into play. According to Jane F. Doyle’s understanding of education, it states, “Education must engender in the individual, the disposition of personal autonomy, responsibility and a mastery of relevant forms of life, thought and action”. She says again, “education should be free from moral indoctrination”.
Certainly, we have to move on, our attitudes to life has to change, the idea is simple, practice and develop coordination. Though it can be difficult for us to align correctly. In truth, Nigeria is blessed with rich human and natural resources, spread across the regions of the country. For example, in the north, Nigeria is endowed with luscious grass land in which more than 80 percent of its population were engaged fully, either in agriculture or agricultural related activities. Besides agriculture, there are some important solid mineral and mineral deposits as well, such as gold, tin ore, iron and brass, and many others. The southern part of Nigeria is also blessed with luxuriant rain forest and mangrove swamp and greeny fertility, with abundant flowing waters of fresh streams and bountiful aquatic life. Some important mineral deposits are found in south east and the Niger-Delta areas, these include, coal deposit in Enugu, Southeast Nigeria, fossil fuel remains (petroleum) and limestone in the Niger-Delta.
In addition to these resources, Nigeria is also blessed with cultural diversity with its artifacts enshrined in cherished norms and values. The question that nags my mind is, why are we so poor in the midst of plenty? The answer is simply misplaced priority, reason being that, we fail to do the right things at the right time, either because of our unwillingness to let go some illusory fantasies of temporary pleasure that had clouded our thinking cap, or because of greed and manipulative tendencies that have over the years eaten up our souls and sense of right judgment, because of man eats man syndrome in Nigeria’s system, all in the name of survival. Hence, they have this false beliefs that only the winner takes it all, and rest of humanity can die, “for all that I care is myself only and I don’t give a damn about any one else”.
In all sincerity, the almighty God loved us so much, that He provided us, for wellbeing with the bounty of His creation, in terms of natural resources, favourable climatic condition and human capital, but wickedness, mediocrity, ethnic bias and ignorance deprived many of these opportunities to harness their potentials, in order to contribute meaningfully to the economic and social stability for the sustainable growth and development in Nigeria, and make a living from the inputs. Again, religious and tribal sentiments had on several occasion instigated face off between or among people of different ethnic groups and religious beliefs into stampede uprising and blood shedding, because the marauders who masquerade as if they are championing a just course for the benefit of their people, do so for their interior motives and selfish benefits –shortchanging the vulnerability of the members of their communities with their criminalities. These persons pretend to be fighting for the interest of the masses, but in truth, they are devising the methods for enriching themselves. One of their antics in ‘power tussle’, is to poison the minds of their people and use the avenue to incite violence between their ethnic group or other ethnic groups. These can be exemplified by the barbaric and satanic manipulations by the ‘Ogoni elders’ against the oil companies operating in that zone, that led to the unfortunate brutal murder (execution by firing squad) of the environmentalist and verse writer, Ken Kekule Sarowiwa of blessed memory in 1995. The conspiracy which was master-minded by the elders, due to the fact that they were feeding fat from the rot in the system at the expense of the ecological system and the lives of their people, who were subjected to abject poverty and environmental deterioration. Since that incidence in 1995, many other criminal groups had risen across the country, either for resource equitable distribution, regional marginalization and unequal representation of its region at the central administration, and the springing of some religious sect in form of a terrorist group, (Boko Haram in the North East) is an example, their aim was to fight other religious groups and make Nigeria one religious entity. Do you agree with their claims? Obviously, every deep thinker knows that these groups from every parts in Nigeria, were sponsored by some aggrieved influential members of the society (the Carbal who felt that they must remain relevant and continue to shortchange the people, who act of ignorance do not know their rights and what they are entitled to as citizens. In this wise, I have always implore young minds and everyone to have fore knowledge about the state affairs in Nigeria, and the root cause of every problem. “Educate a man, then, you have given him potentials to life”.
Above all, indeed, we have passed through hard times as a nation, because, we refused to shun corruption, ethnic divides, nepotism and religious extremism. And we have to put our priorities right, because Nigeria is a great nation and we have good people, therefore, the task of attaining greatness is the responsibility of everyone, individually and collectively. First and foremost, the positive change of our dreams begins with me and you as an individual – by doing the right thing. The constitution of Nigeria is supreme over any individual or groups, this implies that, we need to play by the rules. Nigerian citizens must respect and obey the law. This is the very reason why we need a very strong institution, whereby any one who violates the law is punished appropriately without fear or favour, irrespective of the person’s status and affiliation in the society.
Lastly, love based on justice is the tool that can make us stronger as a nation, as well as a continent (Africa) so let us sweep away religious and tribal bias into the deep black sea. May God free Nigerians from all that is false and illusory, but let our hearts build good judgment, and have the ability to examine every fact accurately.
Surely, prejudice and self-conceit cause distortion and blinds us to facts and their significance to us in Africa, and Nigeria in particular, and had marred us from seeing things from the right perspectives. These have been the bane of our social, political and economic menace and retrogression since Nigeria’s pre-independent era. Hence, the time has come for us as a nation to move forward. It is therefore imperative to push these ugly practices and satanic norms behind us in order to attain a greater height, and become prosperous like Singapore in Asia, as well as other countries in Asia, Europe and North America.
Insincerity of purpose on the part of some agitators across the nation, political office holders, civil servants, some religious leaders, and the led, are the basic prognosis to our problems as a nation. So it is very important to change our mindset, and begin to apply moral justice and compliance to the rule of law in all our endeavours.
From the conclusion, I mentioned the need to trace the cause of our problems as a people. In my view, the ‘canker’ is selfish pride and quest for materialism, that is, our inordinate desire for things that we do not need, there by encouraging waste. Let us ask ourselves this question, why should we hunger for things that we do not need? For example, out of the splits of cars parked in our compounds, when we can only drive one at a time. Again, one can only sleep in one room out of many mansions that one siphoned from the public fund to acquire them through greed, denying people of their basic necessity (food) that is some cases, some persons are starved to death due to non payment of their salaries and other entitlement, because one self-centered individual had starched the money away for his personal comfort and wreck less spending, so as to intimidate the average man with their ill-gotten wealth.
However, it is very important to remind ourselves of the consequences of our actions, and so, shun greed and be contended with what we have. Again, based on the way and manner that the powers that be treated me, as I stated when I was narrating my ugly experience at Issele-uku. I also believe that many others have encountered much dehumanizing acts against the sanctity of their lives too, in the hands of some religious clerics. Such assaults could be sexual harassment and intimidation, victimization and the abuse of office, amongst others. Therefore to curb this sordid acts, I think that, there is need for selflessness and an improved moral judgment in the clerical hierarchy being shepherds of the flock of Lord Yaweh. And judging from this prevailing circumstances, I would suggests that the Church review its modus oprandi and spelt out guidelines without any racial or tribal sentiments and personal attachment, on how clerics could be ordained and elevated to higher position, as in case of a bishop.
I recommend total commitment to the vow that they took on ordination day, which include, simplicity, chastity, obedience, humility and sincere service to God and humanity should be their priority. Therefore, the pride of life and the allurement of the world, should not be found among the clerics, even the entire God’s people. The clerics are also called to uphold justice and foster peace and unity among the clerics, even the entire God’s people. The clerics are also called to uphold justice and foster peace and unity amongst all people of every race, tribe and religion-promoting religious harmony that is devoid of prejudice and religious acrimony. For example, my grandfather was a strong believer of Mkpitime, an African traditional religion, passed on to him by his ancestors, and his wife, my grandmother was a staunch Catholic. He never prevented his wife and children to attend church to worship the God of the white man, as he used to say, even when grandma subtly want to persuade him to embrace Christianity, he simply tells her, “woman do your own, I do my own, after all, two of us are calling on same God in heaven ‘Olisebuluwa’ although through different means”. So freedom of worship is the only ideal way for fostering peace and tranquility in our communities. Another example can be found in the life of V. Rev. Fr. (Prof.) Joseph Kenny of blessed memory. Fr. Kenny was an American, a priest in the order of St. Dominic (The Dominican Friar). He came to Nigeria more than four decades ago, with a PhD in Canon law, upon his arrival to Nigeria he was sent to northern Nigeria, Sokoto to be précised, for pastoral assignments, when he got there, his superior discovered that there was a disconnect between the church and the Islamic religion, also with the Muslim faithful. For this reason, Fr. Kenny was sent to Egypt to study Islam, he willingly agreed and departed for Egypt, where he obtained his masters in Islamic religion and went to Saudi Arabia for his doctorate degree in Islamic studies. He came back to Nigeria, and picked up an appointment at the University of Ibadan. He taught Islamic studies at the department of religious studies for over thirty years. He performed his duties as a catholic priest, hearing penitential confession, celebrating the Holy Mass and attending to needs of the lay faithful, as well as helping his students to understand Islam as a way of life and the need to adhere to its tenets. He published so many books and journals in Islam that prompted his elevation to the professorial chair in Islamic and Arabic studies, at the University of Ibadan. He was the convener of the inter-religious dialogue and peaceful co-existence between the Muslims and the Christians. My findings showed that most Fridays that he usually go to the mosque to observe the Jumat prayers with the Muslim faithful. That was why most of us, his admirers referred to him as Alhaji Father Professor Joseph Kenny. I hope for the day that Christians will go to the mosque to pray and the Muslims do likewise. We all serve one God who is in heaven. He is our father, so let us live in love and respect other people’s opinion and promote the dignity of mankind.
JERRY ONYEKACHUKWU OGBUE