Tuesday, July 28, 2020

n a certain town, a young mother of two little children lost her lovely husband in a ghastly motor accident. She cried hopelessly for almost two weeks before the burial. For her, the world has come to an end. With tears running down her cheeks like heavy flood she lamented, "How can I survive this double tragedy? Who will take care of me and my two kids?" Thrice she attempted committing suicide but was restrained by sympathizers. On the day of the interment of her husband's remains, the worst almost happened. When she approached the graveside for the dust to dust rite, instead of throwing in sand, she threw herself into the grave and lay flat on top of the casket. From beyond she shouted tearfully, "Cover both of us with sand! It is better I go with my husband because life for me now is meaningless! Please take care of our two kids!" The presiding priest and the sympathizers were moved with tears. There was great wailing and confusion. After a while, the priest wiped his own tears and commanded, "Young men, bring her out!" At once four able bodied young men with heavy 'akpu obi' jumped systematically into the deceased's grave and forcibly carried the widow shoulder high and were received by another four men up there. Then the young men started covering the grave with sand. Another world has begun for the deceased. Later on the fateful day, the young widow was consoled adequately with words and prayers. Then she was asked why she cried so despairingly. She sighed and replied sadly, "I am crying not only because of my husband's demise, but for what my fate will be."

On a Sunday in a particular church, a charismatic priest of God was preaching the Word of God to a large congregation. He was talking and walking up and down, from the sanctuary to the central isle. As he was preaching, a middle-aged woman in the midst of the people was shedding tears. The priest noticed her and thought that his preaching touched her inner heart, such that she felt sorrow for her past bad way of living. After the church service, the priest hurried up and asked the woman to come outside. He queried her to tell him what aspect of his homily that touched her life that made her to break into tears in the midst of the congregation. She cleared her throat and replied, "My dear Reverend Father, it was not your preaching that moved me to tears; rather your long beard reminded me of my cherished stolen he-goat." She began to cry again. The priest was dumbfounded. He looked at her pitifully and asked, "Woman, are you alright? Lord, have mercy on you!" He left her and went into his house shaking his head sideways and scratching at his long beard. No wonder most priests of nowadays no longer grow long beards in order to avoid unnecessary distraction in their ministry.

The above two touching stories lead us to the crux of this write-up. Like the young widow, it is not only the coronavirus pandemic that is causing us sleepless nights, but the hardship surrounding it. Globally and nationally, we are mandated by various government authorities to observe certain protocols in order to minimize its further infection from one person to the other. Washing of hands with soap under running water, anointing the palms with sanitizers and wearing of face masks have become mandatory. By putting on face masks everyone has become half human and half masquerade. Tragedy happened somewhere one month ago. There was a certain woman who was childless for almost 15 years. In the sixteenth year God blessed her and her worried husband with a bouncing baby boy. One hot afternoon, the joyful mother set out for market, which involved trekking for nearly two hours under the harsh heat of the sun. For fear of contracting coronavirus pandemic, she wore a face mask. Also the safety of her only child, who was only three months old, was of great concern to her. Hence she put on a tight face mask on her little son. Then she tied him tight at her back with wrapper. As the scorch of the sun intensified, the child began to cry as the mother walked faster to the market. After some minutes, the child's cry was no longer heard. The mother thought he has slept off. On reaching the market place, she stopped under a tree shadow and brought down her little son to breastfeed him before doing her shopping. Unfortunately, the child's body was cold and motionless. She checked his heartbeat and felt none. The mother started shouting and crying for help. The scene became crowded. It was finally discovered that the little boy died at his mother's back as a result of double suffocation due to the face mask worn over the child's face as he was tied tightly at the mother's back. What a double tragedy! In trying to preserve the life of the kid from coronavirus pandemic, the couple in question was thrown into a second state of childlessness.

In an effort to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic we encounter more problems. The closure of worship centers for a long time has made some adherents of various religions resort to Cultism and Satanism. By closing the door to God's house, the door to Satan's house remains wide open. When eventually the worship centers are re-opened, many worshippers will be missing. Some Men of God themselves have turned into the Men of Satan. The Evil One is celebrating in his kingdom for the mass exit of God's followers occasioned by the closure of churches and mosques for fear of COVID-19. In normal parlance, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Unfortunately today, the fear of Coronavirus is the order of the day. An invisible virus from hell has emptied churches and mosques for fear of infection and death. The closure of seminaries, where future priests are formed, for fear of COVID-19 did more harm than good. Some of the seminarians during the long stay at home indulged in anti cleric activities. Even some of them have bidden farewell to the seminary and got married instead. A resident in Lagos, Engr Daniel Azubike Okeke, laments: "They have automatically made many of us fathers, pastors in our houses/homes. It's actually our duty to make this home or family churches good. Even the spirit behind COVID-19 and associated interim laws will end up regretting how it succeeded in multiplying the church."

Similarly the long closure of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions has done some irreparable harm. The brains of our brilliant pupils and students have rotten. Some of the pupils and students are now cultists. Some are now notorious robbers and scammers. When one door closes, the other opens. From on-line studies some of our pupils and students have graduated into on-line criminals. It is not doubtful that many have been initiated into secret cults. Some promising female students have said goodbye to school and have been married off. The raping of women and under-aged girls are now very common. No wonder the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, asserts that rape is now a pandemic evil. It is spreading like wildfire. Indeed an idle mind is the devil's workshop. I call on the Federal and State Governments to make speedy plans and re-open primary, secondary and tertiary institutions before greater harm is done to the future hopes of this country. Evil virus, which is more harmful than coronavirus, is fast mesmerizing our pupils and students globally and nationwide.

The fight against COVID-19 outbreak has cost some people their jobs. Many workers have been retrenched due to sudden crash of the economy. A lot of companies have laid off most of their workers due to inability to pay them. Few days ago, a retrenched worker with a jobless wife and six and half children committed suicide by hanging during the night on a mango tree in front of his 2-room apartment. He left his bedroom in the pretence of going out to urinate. The suicide note he left behind reads: "I am tired of life. The unfortunate consequences of COVID-19 lockdown have cost me by job. How can I take care of my pregnant jobless wife and six children? Please my wife and children, pardon me. I have no option than to do this. Take care of yourselves. I will be waiting for you in heaven to rejoin me. Goodbye till then!" What do you think: Will he go to heaven or to hell? Some businesses have closed down because of coronavirus preventive measures.

An Igbo proverb says, "Anu gbaa ajo oso, a gbaa ya ajo egbe." This means that when something proves stubborn, one changes tactics. Just last night I was sleeping and having some sweet dreams. Suddenly I was woken up by serial knocks at my door. I equipped myself and opened the door systematically and saw no one. I went back to bed and continued the sweet dreams from where I stopped before I was interrupted. After a while the knocking started again non-stop. I jumped up and courageously opened the door without seeing anybody. I knelt down there and then and began to bind and cast. I sprinkled Holy Water in and out and shouted, "If you are a ghost or a virus knocking at this door, I command you to depart in the Name of Jesus Christ!" The result was instant. I lay down and then slept peacefully till daybreak. In the same way, as we observe the COVID-19 protocols, we must kneel down ardently and call on God's intervention. Prayer is the most powerful weapon against COVID-19 pandemic.