FEATURE ARTICLE

Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaTuesday, November 7, 2017
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THE POTENTIAL CORPSE

ne hot evening, I was relaxing at the balcony of my residence on a native chair called 'daberechebe', sipping from a bottle of cold successful beer and dissecting a local roasted chicken with fried groundnut and alligator pepper. To add colour to the relaxation, I was stamping my feet on the floor and was singing a native song titled 'Uwa mgbede ka mma." As I was about to swallow the gizzard already grounded by my molars and premolars, I heard strange voices behind the house. I stopped singing abruptly and then listened carefully. To be sure of what was happening, I tip-toed into the room behind and peeped through the window to capture exactly what was amiss. Two middle-aged women where nagging and pointing accusing fingers at each other. One shouted at the other, "Idiot, you dead corpse!" The other fired back, "You rotten corpse!" They started fighting and tearing each other's clothes. I remembered that I bought a bunch of banana that day for supper. I decided to sacrifice it by throwing it at the two women fighting. The bunch of banana fell down and scattered around the two fighting. They stopped fighting abruptly and scrambled over the fallen bananas. They ate them in haste without peeling off the back. I concluded that it was hunger that caused the fight. The dead and rotten corpses started looking upward for more manna to fall down from heaven.

At this moment, I couldn't control my laughter. Imagine the two hungry dead and rotten corpses scrambling for banana to quench the hunger that led them into fighting. Indeed man eats to live, that is, to maintain body equilibrium. Man is a mortal being. Death occurs when the human body expires. We are all expiring gradually. Yesterday I glanced casually at the mirror and saw that Obi is no longer a boy but an old man. Last week I went for a public function at Awka. As the guests of honour were being ushered in, the crowd became rowdy when a popular and prosperous woman was introduced. She is in her late sixties. She is popularly called Lady Young. I was ushered also to the high table. By chance, the Lady Young sat beside me. When I shook hand with her, my palm was nearly pierced by the roughness of her own palm. She was putting on a gorgeous dress for ladies. I took a full look at her from head to toe. I observed that she was already expiring. Her face was beaming with beauty, courtesy of make-ups. Her hands and legs were as dry as harmattan wood. With my spiritual eyes, I saw potential corpse written on her forehead.

An expired human body is known as a corpse. In other words, a corpse is a dead human body. When that dead body corrupts, it becomes a rotten corpse. Who is the potential corpse? The person reading this write-up is the potential corpse. Also the writer is the potential corpse. To be specific, every human being is the potential corpse. The president, vice president, senators, honourable members, governors, priests, religious men and women, lawyers, doctors, nurses, business men and women, politicians, common people, beggars, morticians, etc are all potential corpses.

Few days ago, an influential wealthy man was bragging over his wealth and vowed to deal ruthlessly with his poor neighbor over a piece of land which was in dispute between them. He brought masons to fence the piece of land with a high wall into his own compound. The poor neighbor (a man) sat crying over the broad day injustice. The influential wealthy man ignored him and went further to command his boys to tie the poor man hands and feet. They threw him into a swampy pit to die. The Heavens struck. The sky became darkly clouded instantly. Then there was a loud thunder which broke the poor man's fetters and struck down the influential wealthy man dead as he was drinking a costly red wine and watching the poor man struggling for survival in the pit. No condition is permanent.

A hunter caught a bush fowl on his hunting escapade. He came home and started roasting the bush fowl alive on fire, hung from above. The home fowl was standing by, laughing at the bush fowl. Tearfully, the bush fowl in agony looked at the home fowl and uttered, "My sister fowl, do not laugh at me. As it is with me today, so will it be with you tomorrow." Then the bush fowl bowed down its head and died. In the next three days, the hunter went out and caught nothing. Out of hunger and anger he decided to roast the home fowl for food. It fought and fought to escape but all to no avail. At last the hungry hunter tied it up alive and began to roast it as he did to the bush fowl. What do you think would happen when the bush and home fowls meet again in the land of the dead?

In some places, widows suffer humiliation and injustice from the hands of elders. Often their husbands' lands and properties are confiscated. The widows are treated inhumanly and their rights denied just because they lost their husbands. They become second class citizens while their children are treated like orphans. The worst happens if the widow in question is childless or illiterate. The men meting out the unjust treatment to those widows forget that they are potential corpses themselves. Most of such heartless men end up badly. Their widows and their children normally suffer from untold hardships in life due to the evils they did.

In Nigeria, some of those entrusted with public offices normally act as if they are above death. They squander public money at ease. Often they starch away millions and billions of tax payers' money in local and foreign banks while the citizens are dying of hunger and hardship. Contracts are over-estimated for private pockets. It is still fresh in our memory how the recently dismissed Secretary to the Government of the Federation under President Buhari squandered about N300million, just for the cutting of grasses at the camp of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) by the Boko Haram insurgents in North East. If such a huge amount was used to cut mere grasses, how much did the wretched displaced persons used for food and clothing within the period in question? Likewise a government officer entrusted with overseeing pensioners' welfare turned around to eat the bones hung around his neck, which worth millions of naira. He was also fired by President Buhari. What happens to their loots?

Some elected politicians forget the electorates who voted them into power and display acts of irresponsibility. They become millionaires and billionaires overnight while the electorates become paupers and beg from the master's table. What becomes of those riches if the politician or public servant dies suddenly? Qoheleth the son of David says, "Vanity of vanity, all is vanity" (Ecclesiates1:2). There was the story of a wealthy politician diagnosed of terminal disease at its late stage. His doctor told him that he had only two months more to live. The sick politician changed his money into dollars. He went further to sew a long 'babariga' dress with big pockets all over it. When he had only three days left, he put on the special dress and hid those billions of dollars inside the extra-ordinary pockets. He laid himself on his bed and covered himself with a thick blanket. He ordered his wife and children never to venture coming near him before or after his death. Anyone who tried it would drop dead. He believed that he would spend the money in the next world and to bribe his way into heaven. Immediately the wealthy stingy politician died, his wise wife and children beat his corpse mercilessly and collected the huge sum of money for urgent family needs. Those post mortem hot slaps would usher the stingy wealthy politician into hell for failing to take care of his family and constituency. I laugh at those politicians who neglect delivering the dividends of democracy to those who elected them, only to amass wealth by hook and crook for contesting the 2019 general elections. Who told them that they will be alive by then?

As the year draws to an end, so does my life and your life gradually come to an end. What has a beginning must have an end. Human life begins at conception and ends at death. Shakespeare says that death is a necessary end which must come when it must come. Whether we like it or not, we must die. When? No one knows. As potential corpses we must always be ready to die. Are you ready to die? Even myself writing this article, I do not think that I am ready to die as such. No wonder death continues to take us unaware.

Two weeks ago a young active member of my parish died in a ghastly motorcycle accident on his way to a popular Adoration Ministry. On that fateful evening, he visited a Block Rosary centre and prayed with them. Also he shared some gifts to the little children before his departure to the venue of the all night adoration prayer. He had made every plan to pay the dowry of his proposed wife in the month of December. Hardly did he know that he would not make it. His death has been so painful to me, to his family and to others. He was so much devoted to the things of God and to his profession as a plumber. I have been trying my best to see Mr. Death face to face in order to confront him on why he snatched this beloved one from our midst when he was most needed. If anyone has any information of the where-about of Mr. Death, please let me know. A huge sum of money awaits the informant. At the same time, I am doing a strong novena prayer so that when I meet with Mr. Death, he may not also snatch me away. I am about to undertake a dangerous mission. I have already done a perfect act of contrition and gone to confession in case I do not come back. Please pray for me!

Just yesterday I read from a newspaper how a female HND student of Auchi Polytechnics lost her life in a twinkling of an eye. She and her colleagues were celebrating their successful graduation. It was a nocturnal celebration. For security reasons, they invited a local vigilante group. As the celebrants were dancing and rejoicing at the arena, death struck. One of the security men wanted to fire some shots into the air as part of the celebration, but his pump-action gun failed to release the bullets. He put it down to ascertain why it failed. Accidentally a bullet went out without pulling the trigger. The stray bullet pierced the bosom of one of the celebrants and she died instantly. The joyful celebration turned into mourning. It is a pity. It is so painful. Why did it happen? Oh, man is a potential corpse everywhere!

Even we go into the church as potential corpses. Few months ago, exactly on Sunday 6th August 2017, some unknown gun men found their way into a Catholic Church at Ozubulu in Anambra state of Nigeria and opened fire on innocent worshippers, which left about 13 of them dead. Death has no respect for God's house. It happened again on Sunday 5th November 2017 at First Baptist church in Texas USA. The culprit simply identified as Kelly, 26 years old, was recently court-martialed and dismissed from the American Air Force for battering his wife and child. On the fateful day he parked his car and started firing at the church. Then he went inside and shot over 20 innocent worshippers dead and left many wounded. Why did Kelley transfer his aggression to the house of God? O God, come to our aid! At last Kelley was discovered dead inside his car somewhere else. He would settle his anger with those innocent worshippers he brutally murdered at the judgment seat of God.

The certainty of death is indisputable. The unanswered questions are: How? When? Where? Often we think that death is still far away from us. We struggle everyday to live. No one struggles to die. I hereby recommend two indispensable books for you and me: "Ready to Live" and "Ready to Die" Have you bought and read them already? If not, please hurry to any good religious bookshop nearest to you and obtain your copies immediately. Delay is dangerous.

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