FEATURE ARTICLE

Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaMonday, May 8, 2017
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WATCH YOUR TONGUE!

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he tongue is a reddish organ located on the floor of the mouth. It is always wet and swimming forwards, backwards and sideways by means of the saliva. If the tongue dries up, there will be great tribulation in the whole body system. The tongue is a very sensitive organ that serves multi purposes. It is the organ of taste, speech and transport of food from the mouth down the intestine. It is also a coolant when we eat hot foods. It is active always. I have observed that the tongue remains awake when we sleep. Does your own tongue sleep? If yes, then how?

On a certain day, I frowned at my houseboy for insulting me indirectly. I lashed at him and said, "Watch your tongue!" Do you know what? The foolish boy rushed to the backyard and came out with a cup of water and started washing his tongue in my presence. My face brightened and I couldn't control my laughter. I shouted at him, "Are you a moron? What are you doing?" He replied with trepidation, "Father, you told me few minutes ago to wash my tongue. That is what I am doing now." I laughed at him, saying, "I mean you watch your tongue; not wash your tongue." I wrote down the two onomatopoeic words for him to observe the differences. Then he shouted, "Oh, father! I now understand what you mean." He did the worst the second time. He quickly ran to his room and came back with a mirror. He opened his mouth and brought out his tongue as much as possible with the mirror before him. Then he uttered, "Father, I have watched my tongue thoroughly through this mirror. I did not see anything wrong with it." I shouted, "This boy, are you mad? What a stubborn illiterate! Vamoose before you infect me with incurable illiteracy." He walked away pitifully.

As an ordained teacher, I controlled my temper and sat the illiterate boy down to educate him. I explained to him vividly that 'watch your tongue' means to be careful about what you say at any given time. In other words, it means to control one's tongue. If you are under police custody, they will warn you strictly in these words, "You better remain silent. Anything you say from hence will be used against you." Pilate told the Jews, "What is written is written." Now I say to you myself, "What is said is said." It is shameful to swallow what you vomited. Only a dog swallows often its vomit. Are you a dog? If yes, bark! Bark again!

Few years ago I was pasturing the flock of God at St Theresa's Parish Nibo, in Awka South Local Government of Anambra State. On a sunny afternoon, I went to shopping near the road-side motor park at Ukwuoji in Awka Capital Territory. I parked my car near the commercial taxi vehicles looking for passengers. After shopping according to the capacity of my pocket, I happily entered my car to drive home. Unfortunately, the car was stubborn and refused to start. All my efforts to turn the engine on proved abortive. Instantly the traditional attire I was wearing got soaked with heat. I tried to push the car alone from the driver's side, to see if it can roll forward for me to jump in and use the gear system to turn the engine. It turned out to be a herculean task. I only succeeded in loudly polluting the air. I looked back to see if anyone was close to me. There was none. Then I laughed with mixed feelings.

The Igbo idiom says, "Oko koo mmadu, mmadu ibe ya akoo ya. Mana O koo anuohia o koo n'osisi." This means that human beings help themselves in times of need. But animals help themselves instinctively. Hence I walked to where the commercial drivers were loading. I requested two of the drivers to come and help me push my stubborn car. One of them agreed. But the other who was yellow in colour commented, "Anaghi m akwara mmadu moto," which means "I do not push car for anybody." I sighed and overlooked him. Another volunteered to accompany the first volunteer. They pushed my car and the engine started by force. I gave the two helpers my fatherly blessings and appreciation.

Indeed, no one knows tomorrow. It happened that I came for shopping at the same place on another day. I was not in my clerical attire. Whenever I go to market I put on ordinary dress so that I can bargain like market women. If I appear in my cassock, the marketers often cheat me while greeting me, "Father, praise be to Jesus!" He or she would assure me that he (she) is selling to me at this lower price because I am a man of God. Market survey next time would show that the former seller cut my throat. That's by the way. So, as I was walking towards my car, I saw that yellow driver battling with the engine of his taxi. It couldn't start. He asked me politely to help him push the car with another person standing by. During my own palaver the other time, it was this yellow driver that refused to push my own car. I shook my head sideways and said within me, "No condition is permanent." If you were me, would you push the car for him? As a Christian and as a priest ordained to serve others, I assisted him in pushing the car. He smiled cheerfully when his car started. He came out from the steaming car and almost worshipped the two of us for helping him. I did not even remind him of his bad attitude the other day when he did not watch his tongue.

A certain hunter caught the bush fowl and was roasting it on fire at home. The home fowl was standing by, abusing the bush fowl and laughing at it. The bush fowl dying in agony with tears looked at the home fowl and asserted, "My dear, do not laugh at me. As it is with me today, so shall it be with you tomorrow." It bowed its head down on the fire and died. The home fowl laughed loudly and went away selfishly. On another day, the hunter did not kill any animal in the bush. He angrily went home. He used his hunting gun and shot the home fowl dead and roasted it for consummation. Animals should also watch their tongues.

In the year 2010, when the late President Umoru Shehu Yar'Adua was gravely sick, the then presidential Aspirant, retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, asked him to resign or be impeached by the National Assembly. Eventually Yar'Adua died in a hospital in Saudi Arabia. By then Buhari did not watch his tongue. No condition is permanent. Whatever you and I are saying today may hunt against us tomorrow. Therefore we must be very careful of our utterances. Today, President Buhari is very sick. Let us watch if he would resign as he lashed at ailing late President Yar'Adua seven years ago. I am not mocking him. In fact I am praying hard for our ailing president Buhari to get well soonest, so that he would lead us Nigerians to the Promised Land. May he come back from his London medical trip hearty and healthy! Amen!!!

During the Nigeria - Biafra civil war, the tortoise boasted that it would kill a pregnant woman. In the course of the war, a pregnant woman was killed by unknown assailants. The government arrested the tortoise because of what he said before the outbreak of the war. He was held responsible for the death of the pregnant woman. He was tried and sentenced to death by hanging. Similarly in 2011 Presidential Election, General Buhari as a presidential aspirant swore that he would make Nigeria ungovernable if he did not win. He lost the election eventually. It was that very year that the Boko Haram insurgency came to the fore. Some members of the National Youth Service who were engaged in the conduct of the election were gruesomely murdered in the North. Buhari became a suspect as a result of what he said earlier. Again, prior to the 2015 Presidential Election he was quoted to have said: "If what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon will be soaked in blood." One may be innocent but because of not watching the tongue one can be held responsible for what he did not do.

Those who do not watch their tongue often engage themselves in backbiting. In a certain compound, two women were notorious for disturbing the peace of the occupants. One early morning the duo saluted themselves with exchange of unpleasant words. They shouted on top of their voices as they abused each other. Then they pointed closely accusing fingers at each other. What followed next was a very violent fight. They hit each other with anything they saw around them. In fact they battered their faces in such a way that you could not easily recognize them. Some of the tenants rushed out to separate them. One of the women was found guilty of constantly backbiting the other. But she denied it. She said, "My fellow tenants, I did not bite her at the back. Instead I did 'frontbiting.' If you doubt examine her back and you wish not see any bite wound. Look at her chest closely and you will see the wound I inflicted on her by biting. For the nagging woman, the opposite of backbiting is 'frontbiting.' Indeed, ignorance is a chronic disease.

Backbiting means the destruction of the good names of others in their absence. Cowards are guilty of such bad attitude. They praise someone in his presence but malign him or her from behind. Often they speak good of you in your presence, and later antagonize you in your absence. They appear friendly with you, but act as enemies behind you. In other words, they engage in character assassination. The Igbo refer to such people as "solu mmuo gbuo mmadu, ma solu mmadu jee mgbalu." The literal translation is that the backbiters kill you from behind and later come for condolence during your burial or funeral ceremony. Such people are dangerous. They can be found in families, kindred, village, government circles, market unions, clubs, religious associations, etc. Beware of backbiters! 'Frontbiters' are better than backbiters. Why? You can see the face of the person biting you from the front, but you cannot see the face of the person biting you from the back.

Backbiting is the twin sister of gossiping. Gossipers spread false information about you to others in order to discredit you. When their evil deeds manifest, they deny their secret utterances. Men and women are engaged in the act of gossip. But a recent survey has shown that women gossip more than men. Idleness enhances the act of gossip. Gossipers do not watch their tongues. They tell one thing about someone to this person and tell another person a different thing. In fact, their tongues are always on the loose. Gossipers are often dictated by their suspicious movements. You can even see the act of gossiping written on their faces. They are often referred to as "Radio without batteries." Have you seen a radio talking without insertion of batteries or being plugged to electric live current?

Those guilty of not watching their tongues must as a matter of urgency apply for admission into the School of Tongue Control. This special school can be found in each State of the Federation. The website is www.tonguecontrol.com. The course lasts for three years. As a requirement, an applicant must have credit in five subjects in WASCE including English Language and Literature. You will be offered with Master's Degree on completion. The course is indispensable because those who do not watch their tongues will neither be useful to the society nor inherit the Kingdom of God. I am ready to obtain juicy scholarship for anyone who wishes to be admitted into the school. Just call me with my number as stated above. However, kindly watch your tongue before calling me.

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