FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, April 22, 2024
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TIGHTEN YOUR BELT

he belt is a piece of leather or rubber neatly designed to hold a pair of trouser or skirt tight round one's waist. Often tailors give allowance when measuring the waist in case of further growth or fattening. Nowadays I advise my tailor not to provide any allowance in my trouser waist size because I am no longer growing or fattening. Prisoners normally receive already sown clothes from warders. Most times the trousers are oversized and belts are not provided for them. As they walk along, the trousers sag naturally down their waists. That is the origin of modern sagging fashion. Implicitly all those boys or girls involved in sagging fashion are prisoners of immorality. It is offensive to see elderly men or women involved in sagging fashion.

Once upon a time, I was rushing to celebrate Mass for the Sacred Heart League in those days as a young priest. It was getting late. I dressed hurriedly. Unfortunately I couldn't find my belt. The trouser I wore beneath my cassock was very loose on my waist. As necessity is the mother of invention, I folded the trouser waist twice and zoomed off to the church. But I was not comfortable with it. During the celebration I was walking stylishly. When it was time to read the Gospel I climbed the lectern rostrum. Immediately I stretched my two hands and said 'The Lord be with you,' the trouser went down. I shouted internally, "My God, my God, why did you forsake me!?" An inner voice told me that God did not forsake me; rather I forsook myself. No one noticed the drama because the lectern shielded me. When I finished reading and delivering the homily I dramatically bent down behind the lectern and brought the fallen trouser up and held it on my waist with the right elbow and walked back to my seat miraculously. I sat down and did some internal adjustments. My case was hopeless because I had no belt at all to tighten. It was a great lesson for me to always get my belt ready on time and to tighten it when necessary.

The first time I boarded a plane from Enugu to Lagos, one of the air hostesses gave some safety measures before take-off. As soon as everything was ready, the plane started taxing along the runway. At a point, the pilot spoke through the microphone, "Tighten your belt and prepare for take-off." I did so with other passengers. Immediately the plane took off from the ground and pointed its nozzle up, I thought it was falling. My breath failed me. I closed my eyes and did an emergency Sign of the Cross thrice with a perfect Act of Contrition. But after some minutes it started cruising on the air. Everything became normal. Instantly I came back from the land of uncertainties. I loosened my belt and sat comfortably, enjoying the flight.

When we reached Lagos airport, the pilot spoke again, "Tighten your belt and prepare for landing." At this point my breathing rhythm changed automatically. Fear gripped me. As the plane was landing with gradual commotion I started praying: "Jesus, I love you; all I have is thine!" Immediately the tyres touched the tarmac with the sound of 'kpum', I heaved a sigh of relief. With smiles I loosened the belt and stood up. Then I walked out of the plane happily with my luggage intact. Indeed the belt is for safety everywhere.

There is time to tighten the belt and also time to loosen it. When you sit at dining table, you must loosen your belt for the food and drinks to move smoothly down the digestive system. A certain careless man tightened his belt while consuming assorted dishes. Unknown to him, the conglomeration of the foods consumed hung upwards. He felt very uncomfortable. He stood up emotionally and loosened the belt with alacrity. The awaiting combinations sank with speed and blocked the large intestine. Instantly he slumped and died. Let us be careful in tightening or loosening our belts.

Our country Nigeria is like a plane taking off and landing in chaotic weather. Her pilot is not properly trained. Hence the take-off and landing are filled with uncertainties. Nigerians who are the passengers must shine their eyes and be prayerful. The Pilots, right from our Independence in 1960 till date, have caused a lot of havoc. Sudden crashes have sent millions of citizens to their untimely graves even with tightened belts. A pilot is a leader. The lives of the passengers are entrusted to him. Today, after sixty-five years of independence, the Nigerian State like a plane has not started cruising. Therefore our belts must remain tightened always until the expected pilot comes to power.

The present democratic pilot who came to power miraculously has his mantra as renewed hope. Contrarily, we are experiencing renewed hardship. Hope and Hardship begin with the same letter H. Our pilot removed fuel subsidy arbitrarily without cushioning the effects. As the cost of the motor spirit went up, everything in the market skyrocketed. Even the cost of the commonest commodity which is sachet water has risen beyond the rich of the common man. The cost of essential commodities quadrupled overnight. Thus inflation is very high. The consequence is acute hunger in the land. A hungry man is an angry man. Hunger and anger are dangerous. If hunger marries anger, their offspring will be catastrophic. Going to farm may not solve the problem nowadays because kidnappers, terrorists and bandits have occupied the farmlands for their nefarious activities. Hence our hungry people are afraid to go their farmlands. Unfortunately manna is no more falling down from heaven. Shall we tighten our belts endlessly?

As hunger mesmerizes the citizenry, power failure worsens it. Darkness is the order of the day. The National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) failed. Power Holding Company (PHC) failed. Now the case of the Electricity Distribution Companies seems to be worse. Many companies that depend on electricity have either folded up or relocated to other promising countries. Look at Ghana enjoying almost 24 hours power supply. Over here the Giant of Africa is suffering from acute power failure. Many have packed their alternative source of power which is the generator due to exorbitant cost of fuel or gas. The solar energy itself is beyond the reach of average people. Thus we tighten our belts in darkness. Workers using electricity wait endlessly as idleness and hunger dislodge their wellbeing. In the midst of poor power supply, the electricity tariff has been increased arbitrarily. It is like pouring acid on a big wound. Can the victim survive?

Formerly, teachers were told that their reward is in heaven. After enduring all sorts of hardship, the teachers summoned an emergency meeting and decided that they want their reward here on earth. Since then the teaching profession became lucrative because they are assured of their monthly salaries. If we continue to tighten our belts and wait endlessly for renewed hope, then we may not live to see the next day. The hope should be actualized here and now, so that we can survive to tell the next generation stories of our past hopeless sojourn. Medicine administered post mortem is useless. It is disastrous to tighten the belt forever. In a Christian church, the minister asked the congregants to lift up their hearts. A new convert raised up his hat very high. After some time he asked an old member, "When shall I put the hat down?" The old member laughed at him and replied, "You lift up your heart and not your hat." In the same manner hungry Nigerians with tightened belts request our President to renew our hope and not our hardship.

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