FEATURE ARTICLE

Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaThursday, August 31, 2017
amobipchuks@yahoo.com


2017: THE JOURNEY SO FAR

hen I saw the Christian women returning in gross, I asked one of them, "Why the mass return of young and old mothers this time?" She shook her head and replied, "They are coming back for the 2017 August meeting." I exclaimed, "So, it is already the month of August!" I counted January, February, March, April, May, June, July, and August. Eight good months have gone already. In the next four months we shall be biding the year 2017 goodbye. How are the days, weeks and months running so fast! A child born in January this year is about to walk. We are already harvesting some of the crops planted earlier this year. The acute hunger in Nigeria has been quenched somehow by abundance of roasted or boiled corns, eaten with pears, palm kernels or coconut. At every corner in the country you see corns on the fire. Even some unemployed graduates, male and female, are in the corn roasting industry. There is a difference between a corn roasted by a graduate and that of an ordinary village girl or boy. If you want to buy roasted corn, you will be asked, "Do you want literate or illiterate corn?" The difference is very clear.

Because of the acute hunger in the land, many people went into farming this year. Food staples will surely be in abundance in the market soonest. In spite of the mass farming this year, some lazy ones steal peoples' crops from the farm especially maize. When I went home recently, my mother told me how unknown thieves invaded her farm at an odd hour and stole a lot of corns. As I was taking garri-walk at Neni, I came across a maize farm which was chained round. I saw an inscription on a wooden board at the centre of the maize farm, which reads: "Please these corns are not for sale. Do not buy." From this I deduced that thieves sell maize farms to marketers nowadays and disappear. The buyer may be lucky if not caught by the owner. Beware of fraudsters!

As people were planting different seeds, a certain drunkard bought twelve bottles of beer and planted them in his own farm. His prayer is that God may bless him with abundance of beer during this year's harvest time. Little did the drunkard know that a wine tapper was watching as he was foolishly sowing the beer, bottle by bottle, in a sandy soil! At the dark hour of that same day, the wine tapper went into the beer farm and harvested the twelve bottles of beer and covered the soil very well. He went home and made merry with his friends. Till today the drunkard's hope of abundant beer harvest is very high. A fool at forty is a fool forever.

For a long time now the Nigerian economy has been on recess and has refused to come back to normalcy. In normal parlance, pupils or students during school session go on recess after hours of lessons and come back when the prefect rings the bell. The Nigerian Finance Minister has been ringing the bell for our economy to return from recess but all to no avail. Consequently Nigerians are suffering. Even though we are suffering, Nigerians are the happiest people in the whole world. My German priest friend confirmed this assertion when he visited me not long ago. These are his words: "Nigerians are suffering but happy." Can we then say that Nigerians who are in hell are happy there? The Devil will tell us. When will the CHANGE promised us forth come? Or do we fall from frying pan into raging fire?

Recently, the most wanted billionaire kidnapper and the patron of kidnappers called Evans was caught in police net. For a long time now, armed robbery metamorphosed into kidnapping for ransom, which runs into millions or billions. It is a lucrative business crime nowadays. Evans got his ransoms in millions and billions of Dollars. He was merciless. Kidnapping which started in the Niger Delta area is now a national crime in the East, West, South and North of Nigeria. The high rate of unemployment in the country is not helping matters. Also corruption by most of our politicians and leaders is a bad omen. The former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo describes the National Lawmakers as "a bunch of unarmed robbers". In response the Lawmakers did not accept nor deny the allegation. Instead they asserted that Obasanjo should be ignored. The National Bureau of Statistics few days ago stated that the Nigeria Police is the most corrupt institution, followed by the Judges and Magistrates.

Since the onset of this year, our democratically elected President, Muhammadu Buhari has been very sick. He has gone for medical vacation in London twice. For the second time he was in London for an undisclosed ailment for one hundred and three days. Some say he has obtained the British passport and would soon naturalize there. Although he handed over power constitutionally to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, as Acting President, many things were hanging during his absence. The Acting President was acting while the Cabals were ruling. This triggered pro and anti protests in the country, especially in the seat of power (Abuja). The anti-Buhari protesters asked Buhari to resume or resign (R/R). They were attacked with tear-gas canisters by the police. Due to the annoyance from the attack against unarmed and legitimate protesters, the protest went abroad. Outside the Abuja House in London where President Buhari was recuperating, some Nigerians held a vigil protest, shouting on Buhari to go home. Indeed he was forced to come home the following day.

The country is boiling politically. Hate speeches are emanating from here and there. The Acting President Professor Osinbajo classified Hate Speech as an act of Terrorism. Quit notices are issued sporadically by some ethnic groups asking those from other parts of the country to vacate before October 1st October 2017 or else some consequences will follow. Some ethnic groups are also threatening to secede from the country. Hence the urgent call for the restructuring of this country to avoid unavoidable catastrophe. This restructuring must be taken seriously if we mean to remain one Nigeria. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has thrown her weight behind this Call for restructuring. In her recent Communique titled "ENOUGH OF THIS DRUM BEAT OF WAR!" the CBCN states: "The call to restructure Nigeria for more efficient economic and political governance is in order. This will make it easier for geo-political units to determine their economic and political interests or priorities according to their peculiar situations, of course, under a truly Federal system of government. Nigeria as a country belongs to all of us. It is not a property of some powerful individuals or any ethnic group. It is very sad that after having come this far in our democratic experience, one group or another group threatens to forcefully leave a nation that we are all struggling to build together. Building a nation takes time, collective hard work, dedication and patience" (Dailysun, Thursday, August 17, 2017, page 32). It should be the primary concern of the Presidency and the National Assembly to listen to the voice of reason and organize this restructuring process as soon as possible. A stitch in time saves nine.

Now that the Lion King is back from medical vacation, the onus lies on him to act immediately before the volcanic mountain erupts. All is not well in the country. On Monday 21st August 2017, President Buhari made a 5-munite broadcast to all Nigerians. He expressed his gratitude to God over his miraculous recovery. Also he thanked Nigerians who prayed for his quick recovery as well as those who are annoyed with him. He asserted that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. Hence he warned those saying or doing things against the unity of the Nation. For him Nigerians are free to live or do business in any part of the country without hindrance. I expect necessary actions to follow these assertions. Alluding to the call for restructuring, Buhari said that such discussion is the responsibility of the National Assembly and the National Council of States to carry out. Having said so, the President should take this restructuring serious and urgent before the worse happens. If the unity of the country is not negotiable, then it can be re-negotiated for better. Nigerians look forward to the re-composition of the Security Chiefs, Security Council, and the Presidential Cabinet to reflect Federal Character. Even the Ministers are due for change or for reshuffle to make things work out better for the good of all Nigerians. Putting square pegs in round holes does the Nation no good. The president should search for technocrats that can move the Nation forward. Political jobbers are nuisance. He should run an inclusive government and not exclusive government. Excluding or marginalizing any section of the country calls for agitation. You cannot beat a baby and tell him not to cry. Justice, equity and fair play are the factors that can help to keep Nigeria one. The bloody excesses of the Fulani herdsmen must be checked by the president. The Boko Haram terrorists must be fought to finish so that peace can reign in the North-East. The war against corruption should be fought with the spirit of fairness and equity. There should be no sacred cow in respective of party affiliation. Corruption is corruption no matter who is involved.

As we enter the ember months: September, October, November and December, let us shine our eyes. These months are not dangerous in themselves as regards road mishaps. The fault is either human or mechanical. We must drive with care. I cherish the following traffic instructions: "Drive with care. Someone needs you at home. Drive to stay alive. Life has no duplicate. Speeds kills! It is better to be late than the late. Slow down; many have gone! If you drink, do not drive; if you drive, do not drink." The rush to get rich overnight propels careless drivers into driving dangerously on the highways. Drivers must get enough sleep before setting out on a journey. Sleeping behind the steering is as dangerous as going to hell on foot. Quack drivers are murderers. They are just like quack doctors. Please learn before you drive! Most of the Nigerians roads, especially the Federal roads, are death traps. The Federal Government should take urgent steps to remedy those dangerous roads before we enter the busy ember months.

So far this year, thousands of Nigerians have died through road mishaps, careless death, natural and man-made deaths. Some committed suicide due to the economic hardship in the country. The lagoons in Lagos have witnessed a lot of deaths by suicide. Recently a man with a wife and ten children committed suicide in Kano by jumping into a deep well. Whom did he leave his wife and the ten children to take care of? If I were God I would catapult him back to earth (Kano) to face his responsibility. We must not despair, no matter the adverse condition. No one has the right to willfully take away his own life or the life of others. Life belongs to God alone.

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