FEATURE ARTICLE

Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaMonday, December 12, 2016
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WATCH AND PRAY

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did my secondary school career at Aguata High School, Aguata in Anambra State of Nigeria from late seventies to early eighties. In those good old days we began morning assembly at 7:30AM with a song from Ancient and Modern Hymn Book. One of the popular hymns ended with 'Watch and Pray' in each stanza. We demonstrated it with one eye closed as a sign of praying while we kept the other eye open as a sign of keeping watch. You cannot pray with concentration without closing your eyes. On the other hand, you cannot keep watch without open eyes.

Recently I was in a chapel praying. As it was getting dark, I had a strange noise and movement behind me. I was forced to open my prayerful eyes in order to look back. It was a sweating young man that entered into the chapel as darkness was descending. He knelt directly behind me. I became uncomfortable and distracted. My attention was divided. I was looking at Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament for mercy with one eye. At the same time I was glancing at my back with the other eye in order to observe the movement of the young man behind me, in case he had ulterior motive. As the hormone of fear spread through my body, I excused myself before Jesus to go out briefly. As I came in, I stood behind the suspicious young man to make sure he had no knife or gun to attack me from behind. But to be on a safer side, I changed my position in order to watch him better. I prayed, "Oh my Jesus, I love you. Please you can read the mind of this young man who came here at an odd hour. If really he comes to pray, bless him. But if he has evil intention, halt him." Before I could finish the prayer, the young man bowed and left like lightening. I did the Sign of the Cross as a sign of relief and chorused, "Watch and pray!"

As the fowl drinks water from a container, it gazes up from time to time as a sign of vigilance, because its enemy the kite comes from the sky. To be vigilant, the sheep runs and looks back frequently. The bush fowl says that why they go two by two is that what one does not see, the other sees. The female frog says that the reason why it carries its husband at the back is due to the scarcity of husband. If animals that are irrational can be at alert like this, what then should we rational beings do?

Saint Peter admonishes us in these words: "Be sober and alert because your enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking for someone to devour. Stand your ground, firm in your faith, knowing that our brothers and sisters, scattered throughout the world are confronting similar things" (1 Peter 5:8 - 9). Similarly Saint Paul recommends, "Finally grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. Put on the full armour of God so as to be able to resist the devil's tactics. For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the principalities and the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world, the spirits of evil in the heavens. That is why you must take up all God's armour, or you will not be able to put up any resistance on the evil day, or stand your ground even though you exert yourselves to the full" (Ephesians 6:10 - 14). An Igbo adage says, "Onye ndiiro gbara gburugburu na-eche ndu ya nche." This means that anyone surrounded by enemies keeps watch always. Your enemy can be evil spirits or evil men (women). They can come in camouflage. I have said it before and I reiterate it again that evil spirits are preferable to evil men. Evil spirits are naturally evil by themselves. On the contrary, evil men may appear to be good externally but devilish internally. There are many devil-incarnate persons in your business, in the civil service, in your school, in your family, in your town, in your state and in the country. They can be found in the three Arms of Government: Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary. Also they come to church and can even proceed to the sanctuary or ascend the altar. Some of our present politicians and past leaders are not trustworthy. There are betrayals in our society at all levels. Of recent the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, described the National Legislators who go home with over ten million naira each monthly as corrupt unarmed robbers. In reaction, the legislators described Obasanjo as the grandfather of corruption. Who is right or wrong? Watch and pray!

We are into the season of Advent, when we look forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a period of preparation for the celebration of Christmas and getting ready for the second glorious coming of the Messiah. We are admonished to keep watch and pray always so that we may not be taken unawares. We should engage ourselves in a special sleep within this period, which is called "sleeping-muruanya." As you sleep, you keep one eye closed and one eye open. If you close both eyes while sleeping during this Advent season, you bear the consequences. Not everybody who celebrated Christmas last year is alive today. Many have gone. That we are still alive today is by the grace of God. We may not be better than the dead. A notorious armed robber was caught by red-eyed policemen. As he was paraded at the police station, he was crying and pleading with the Police to give him a second chance. He promised to repent, if pardoned. Likewise, God is giving us a second chance every day, every week, every month and every year. Let us utilize this Advent season well as if we are preparing for the last Christmas we shall celebrate on earth.

Everything has a purpose. The black spot on the knee is meant for kneeling. Even if you are yellow or red in complexion, the colour of that spot is different. We ask for God's mercy by kneeling. We present our supplications to God by kneeling. If you are prayerful, when you die the insects in the grave will respect your knee by not tampering with it. But if you did not use your knee in prayer while on earth, the moths will begin consuming you from the knee in your grave with all alacrity. The Holy Writ tells us that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow. So, as we keep watch, we ought to pray seriously. It is God who blesses our efforts. Thus the Bible says that if God does not watch over the city, the efforts of the watchmen are in vain. Also, if God does not build a house, then the labour of the builders are in futility.

Our country Nigeria is in serious economic mess. Nigerians are really suffering. No hope is in sight. The Federal Government prophesies that there will be no famine in 2017. How are we sure that the prophecy will be fulfilled? What are the concrete steps the APC led Federal Government is taking to alleviate our suffering? President Buhari wants to borrow about 30 billion Dollars from outside as a solution. But many Nigerians are against this borrowing because it may compound the recession. When and how will the debt be repaid? What actually will the money be used for? The rate of Dollar exchange is still too high. No food yet on the table, yet we are casting and binding the spirit of hunger. The costs of essential commodities are still very exorbitant in the market. Nigerians are still hungry and angry. Rice, which was the common food staple of the common man, has gone beyond reach. Many people nowadays eat rice in dream; only to sigh when awake. As the cost of rice is being debated, China throws spanner into the work by bringing in fake rice made of plastic into our country Nigeria. Let us watch and pray that we do not consume plastics in place of rice. Such plastic rice is cancerous and terminal. Those Chinese who produce the fake rice are agents of death. Those Nigerians who intentionally import the fake plastic rice to enrich themselves are messengers of the devil. How do we know the fake rice? They are combustible and smell like burning plastic. When put in water, they float and do not sink. It does not rot when boiled and kept aside for days. Please, watch and pray!

The Nigeria General Elections are two years ahead, come 2019. Some worthy and unworthy politicians have started making plans of how to win or impose themselves on the electorate. My people maintain that a good product sells itself. Any politician that has a second term ambition must perform excellently in his first term. A certain state governor in the northern part of Nigeria in this political dispensation is referred to by the people of the state as "One Chance Governor." The people of the state have already concluded that he is going nowhere in 2019. They have strategized in concrete ways to show him the boot when his first tenure expires.

Back home, since the past few years till date, Anambra State is ringing bell in good leadership. The former Governor of the State, Mr. Peter Obi, performed very well while in office for two terms of eight years. Before he left office, he worked hard to see that he has a worthy successor, so that the good governance he set in place would not be in vain. He canvassed and found good qualities in Chief Willie Maduaburochukwu Obiano. Hence Ndi Anambra voted massively for the incumbent Governor, Chief Dr Willie M. Obiano (Akpokue Dike Global) in 2014. Indeed, Willie is willingly working. He is a performing governor. Despite the economic recession in the country, he is still working. He is massively developing the state from where Peter Obi stopped. Due to the current economic recession, many State Governors owe their workers arrears of salaries, but Governor Obiano does not owe. He pays the workers as and when due. The most important achievement of his administration is tight security. Anambra State is on the news as the most secure state in Nigeria. Kidnappers, armed robbers and blood thirsty men and women are on the run from Anambra State. We are all sleeping with two eyes closed unlike before. Our lives and properties are secure. Many Anambrarians are now returning home without fears of those men and women of the underworld. We shall celebrate Christmas peacefully and joyfully. In the area of agriculture, Governor Willie Obiano is a champion. Anambra rice is now on a high demand. Also some agricultural products from Anambra State are being exported abroad. Indeed Governor Obiano is highly worthy of going for a second term to finish the good works he has begun. No leader is perfect. Are you sure you will perform better, if given the opportunity? The devil I know is better than the devil I do not know. Watch and pray!

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