FEATURE ARTICLE

Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaTuesday, February 13, 2018
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NOTHING IS NEW

ecently, I went to a popular market in Nigeria and bought two shirts and two pairs of trouser. They were well ironed and concealed in transparent plastic pack. The seller convinced me that they were new clothes and the latest in the market. The measurements were conspicuously written on the pack. They were exactly mine size. Consequently, I paid from my nose for the clothes. When I reached home, I opened the parcels and brought out the shirts and trousers to make sure they seized me, otherwise I would apply the back-to-sender theory. Luckily, they fitted me so well as if my measurement was taken before sewing them. In the process of tasting the clothes, I perceived a strange deadly odour emanating from the brand new clothes. I brought out my container of Holy Water and sprinkled on them, after binding and casting the powers that be. In spite of this holy action, the nasty odour remained. I was then moved to examine them critically. My mind convinced me that the neatly packaged shirts and two pairs of trouser I bought were worn by a dead man. That was why they have deadly smell. In other words, the spirit of the dead man was attached to the clothes he left behind.

Angrily, I rushed back to the trader in that market and complained that he sold old clothes worn by a dead man to me in the guise of new clothes. He swore in the name of his ancestors that the clothes were brand new. He volunteered to take me to the factory where they were weaved and sewn in Cotonou; but on the condition that I would pay the transport fare to and fro. Instantly I made a mathematical calculation between the cost of the clothes and the transport fare to and fro Cotonou. The margin was too high to bear. I declined the journey. Instead I asked the trader to refund my money. He told me emphatically as written in the receipt he gave me: "No refund of money after payment." My mind told me that if I proceed to court I would lose. Therefore I went home with the clothes and washed them with New Life soap.

During the last Yuletide, one of my friends presented me a gift and cheerfully said, "Father, I bought a new safari for you for Christmas." First of all, I appreciated his generosity. Then I started to laugh. Surprisingly he asked me, "Father, why are you laughing?" After laughing to my satisfaction, I asked him, "How do you know that this is a new clothe?" He replied, "I just bought it new from the market." I applied the principle of logic to answer him. Being bought from the market does not make the clothe new. It might have been worn by someone else, alive or dead. Above all, it was weaved from an animal's wool which was already in existence. On the side of the seller, the safari might have been an old stock in his shop. Where then is the newness?

Indeed, nothing is new in this world. Newness depends on the eyes of the beholder. I am not a pessimist. However, I believe in objectivity. When we say happy New Year, what is actually new in it? The newness only exists in the mind. What is the difference between yesterday and today? The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. The light illuminates the day while darkness descends at night. Night means the absence of light. There was a student in my secondary school days that was nicknamed Darkness. Every part of his body from head to toe was black including his eye-balls and tongue. Only his teeth were darkly white. There is also a masquerade in Igboland that is called "Ochichii" (Darkness). The masquerade is very fearful. If a pregnant woman sees it, the baby in her womb can be affected with the darkness. The natural events take their turns on daily basis. Therefore nothing is new as such.

God created the firmament of heaven and earth once and for all. He created all plants, animals and human beings one after the other. With the creation of human beings, God brought his creative activity to an end. God created them male and female. Then he entrusted everything unto them and blessed them in these words, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that move on earth" (Genesis 1:28). Therefore the task for human beings is not to make anything entirely new but to subdue and enhance what God has already created. God provided the raw materials on the air, in the sea and on the land. Man's duty is to discover those visible and invisible raw materials, and then put them into use for the glory of God and welfare of the human race.

Whatever you call new has been in potency. It is the actualization of the potency that we refer to as new. When a mother gives birth to a child, the child is called a new baby. Strictly speaking, the child is not new because it has been in the mind of God before coming into the world. Taking my humble self as an instance, I had been in God's mind before I was born on 1st April 1963. Martin Heidegger terms the activity of birth as "being thrown into the world." For him man was thrown into this physical world without being consulted. This philosophical concept entails that each individual has been existing in the Platonic World of Ideas before coming into the physical world. In my own interpretation, the World of Ideas is nothing but in the mind of God. The Holy Scripture attests to this when God spoke to Prophet Jeremiah in these words: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you" (Jeremiah 1:5).

Last week a parishioner requested me to come and bless his new house. I granted the request from the bottom of my heart. On my arrival, his friends, neighbours and well-wishers were already gathered to rejoice with him. How is the house new when all the materials used in constructing it had been in the market for over many years or months? The materials were only joined together and called a new house. The blocks used were not moulded overnight. The bags of cement used were manufactured long ago. The woods, the zinc, the tiles, the paints, et cetera were already in the market. What is actually new in the house? It is only the constructive acumen that can he said to be new. When I started praying over the house I said, "God, kindly bless this old new house built by Mr. Ikechukwu and family…." Immediately I was interrupted by Ikechukwu who shouted, "Point of correction!" I obliged him. Sadly he asserted, "Please father, this house is not old in any way at all. It is also not a renovated house. I spent a lot of money to build it. How can you call it an old new house? If it is a joke, please stop it before my BP rises." I controlled my laughter and calmed him down. Also I tendered an external apology before continuing the prayer of blessing. Whatever was the case, I have made my point. All said and done, I continued the prayer and sprinkled Holy Water in and out.

When the blessing was over, we sat down for entertainment galore. Mr. Ikechukwu asked me if it was by slip of tongue that I referred to his new house as an 'old-new' house. I smiled and cleared my throat. Then I replied, "Mr. Ikechukwu, there is nothing that is new on this earth. Your house is an assemblage of building materials which have been in the market over the months or years. Even the contractor who built is an old man. Now tell me what is new in this house? Ikechukwu, his wife, children, the guests and my dear self burst out laughing uncontrollably. In unison they exclaimed, "Father, you are funny and right. Nothing is actually new!" The eating and drinking session commenced in earnest. I ate a plate of dog meat pepper-soup and a cold bottle of Life Beer in order to prolong my life span. Please do not salivate. As I intimated you earlier, eating a lot of dog meat makes one to be dogmatic while too much consummation of cow meat makes one a coward. Try and see!

In Igbo Land we celebrate annual New Yam Festival. Is the yam actually new? After all it was an old tuber of yam that was planted which metamorphosed into a young tuber. It is this young tuber that we call new yam. When we die, our bodies will decay in the grave. During the Resurrection of the dead, those bodies will rise again. Are they new bodies as such? When Jesus Christ rose from the dead he appeared suddenly to his apostles. The apostles were frightened. In assurance Jesus said, "Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts stirring in your hearts? See by my hands and my feet that it is I myself. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have" (Luke 24:38 - 39). Without the old dead body, resurrection is not possible. The only difference is that the risen body can no more be subjected to the laws of gravity, space and time. In addition the risen body can bi-locate. Suppose you are reading this write-up behind closed door in your house at night and I, the author, suddenly appear before you, what would you think and do?

The Almighty God blessed our country Nigeria with rich natural and human resources. It behoves us to tap them and use them well for the growth of this great country. We got it right immediately after the Independence in 1960. The 1963 Nigerian Constitution spelt out true Federalism. Things fell apart when injustice, corruption, nepotism, tribalism and hatred set in. The incursion of the Military into the polity worsened the situation. The Military took over power in 1966 and suspended the constitution. The present 1999 Constitution is divisive or sectional. It lacks the ingredients of true Federalism. Hence there has been a call to go back to the 1963 Constitution. Fortunately, that year in question was the year of my nativity.

In 2014 the former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan convoked a National Conference in which eminent Nigerians gathered at Abuja and took vital decisions that would spell true Federalism and move Nigeria forward. It calls for restructuring of the country, devolution of powers to the component states, resource control, etc. The Confab decisions were about to be implemented when Goodluck lost the 2015 Presidential Election. However he handed over the Confab Document to his successor President Buhari for study and implementation, because governance is a continuum. Unfortunately the incumbent ignored it. No wonder our problems compounded. Nigerians continue to cry out for the implementation of the 2014 Confab decisions. Some call for going back to the 1963 Constitution. Both the 1963 Constitution and the 2014 Confab spelt out true Federalism. As if there is something new, the All Progressives Congress set up a Restructuring Committee. The report has nothing new but about true Federalism, devolution of power to states, creation of state police and resource control. The APC Restructuring Committee might have consulted the 1963 Constitution and the 2014 Confab in arriving at their decisions.

During the time of the white missionaries, a local Catechist was interpreting the homily of an expatriate priest from English to Igbo. Where the catechist did not understand what the white priest said, he told the congregation that the white man was still saying the same thing. Similarly, there is nothing new except to implement true Federalism by restructuring the polity accordingly, devolution of powers to states, resource control by the beneficial states, etc. Let justice be done. Nepotism must be jettisoned. Political appointments must respect federal character. Nigeria belongs to all. The Fulani herdsmen should confine their cattle in ranches. We are practicing Democracy and not 'Cattlecracy'.

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