FEATURE ARTICLE

Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaWednesday, September 21, 2016
amobipchuks@yahoo.com


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FOOD IS READY

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am very hungry. Is your food ready? Just last week a certain hungry man was passing through a popular street in Nsukka. He is a school dropout but could read and write to a certain extent. He is married with three wretched children. He is jobless due to the economic bite in the land. He and his family feed by chance. As the economic situation in the country worsens, they hardly eat once a day. Hence they resorted to looking for any place where things happen and rice and stew are very plenty, such as wedding, birthdays and funerals. They usually arrive at the climax of such occasions, when food and drinks are ready. They carry the medium Ghana-must-go bag in case of surplus. They plant themselves near the source of food supply. Every day they stick to the radio, listen to town criers and church announcements to hear where it happens. When lucrative occasions are abundant, they divide themselves accordingly in order to cover all.

On one sunny Tuesday afternoon the hungry man, his wife and children were searching for where to cure the corruption of the stomach. Accidentally they came across a luxurious restaurant with a sign-post stationed conspicuously in front of it with the inscription FOOD IS READY. The five family members made the Sign of the Cross and rejoiced that God has answered their prayer quickly, having asked, "Give us this day our daily bread." The head of the family shouted, "The Lord is good!" The wife and children responded in unison, "All the time!" Instantly they rushed into the restaurant to fight corruption of the stomach alias hunger. The waiter enquired from each one of them what to offer them. The chairman of the family spoke on their behalf. He asked the waiter to offer each one of them a bouncing plate of semovita, undiluted egusi soup and a full plate of rice and stew as supplement. In order to transport the menu to their destination, he ordered for two bottles of cold beer for himself and two bottles of malt each for his wife and three children. As if the referee blew a whistle, the five family members descended on the menu. Before the waiter could go into the kitchen and come out, the family has finished the foods and drinks and disappeared like ghosts. The waiter alerted the manager of the restaurant. The two of them and one other worker jumped out quickly to apprehend the five family members. Luckily they were still in sight walking innocently home, singing and dancing. The manager accosted them and asked them to pay for the food and drinks they consummated. The man said, "Pay for what? We were going our own way when we saw the invitation FOOD IS READY. Sorry that we did not thank you after eating before we left. That may be our offence." The manager wanted to use force on them but they resisted. He then went and called the police, who arrested the five family members and accused them of stealing by crook and hook. The father of the hungry family maintained that they did not steal. Instead they were told to come in and eat by the FOOD IS READY sign. Later, the police charged the matter to court.

In the court, the Magistrate questioned the man and his dependents the where about of their lawyer. The man answered, "My stomach is my lawyer. He would defend me, my wife and children." The Magistrate went further to say, "Mr. Man and family, I put it to you that you deceitfully stole food and drinks in the restaurant last week: guilty or not guilty? Unanimously they answered, "We are not guilty. Rather we were invited to come in and eat the food which was ready." Having considered the case in its merit, the Magistrate acquitted and discharged the five family members. He ordered the Federal Government to pay the man and his family the sum of fifty thousand naira for not doing enough to fight the acute hunger in the country. The restaurant manager was also ordered to pay the family the sum of five thousand naira for public assault. In order to avoid future embarrassment, the Magistrate ordered that the restaurant Manager should write in the sign-post: FOOD IS READY BUT NOT FREE. The family smiled to the market with the sum of fifty-five thousand naira. As the news spread in the town, the food sellers in Obollo-Afor Nsukka quickly removed their sign-posts of FOOD IS READY. A few complied with the court order immediately. They used white or black chalk to write FOOD IS READY BUT NOT FREE. Some others simply wrote: BUY FOOD.

Listen to the story of another hungry man who was walking like a dead man along Ahmadu Bello Way in Jos, Plateau State. Due to the hardship in Nigeria, he has not eaten for three calendar days. As he staggered along, he came across a food hotel. At once he shouted for help and fainted in front of the food spot. Passers-by rushed to rescue him. He became unconscious. Some people brought water and were pouring it over his body in order to resuscitate him. One of them was forcing him to drink by pouring the water into his mouth. Out of rage the fainted man opened his eyes and started rebuking his rescuers saying, "Did I tell you that I was thirsty? If I were thirsty I would have fainted in front of pure water depot or in front of the Water Board? Are you people not sensible enough to know why I fainted in front of this food hotel?" Everyone burst out laughing. The man shouted on top of his voice, "Please, this is not a laughing matter. I am dying of the corruption of the stomach. Give me something to eat and all shall be well again." A philanthropist among the sympathizers took him into the hotel and asked him to make a request of anything he wanted. He nearly worshipped the philanthropic citizen. Then he requested for two fried chicken, two plates of garri with vegetable soup and three bottles of ACB (Any Cold Beer). After the consumption he prayed, "God, thank you so much. If fainting can result to this kind of menu, then let me faint every day. But do not allow me to die when I faint. I make this prayer through Christ Our Lord. Amen!"

It is no more a strange story that many Nigerians today are dying of hunger. The economic crunch is worsening each day. Where food is available, there is no money to buy it. The prices of essential foodstuffs are soaring higher daily. The few persons who manage to purchase a bag of rice use it as pillow to sleep at night, in order to avoid the enemies of darkness carting it away as they sleep. Recently an angry and hungry man caught a rat eating the costly quarter bag of rice he purchased for his family. Out of rage, he tied the rat on a tree to face a firing squad. He brought out his loaded local made gun and shot the rat mercilessly to death.

This year's Muslim Sallah celebration was low-keyed. Many couldn't slaughter the normal rams due to hardship. Hence the sellers were crying here and there for lack of patronage. Even the rams were protesting that customers did not come to buy them, when they have volunteered themselves to be used as sacrifice to appease the God of Abraham. At Eke Awka market one of the ram sellers was lamenting that many Muslims did not come to purchase their rams as usual like in the past years' Sallah celebrations. As he was still talking, all the rams in the market started bleating together in annoyance. A reporter interviewed one of the bleating rams and it regretted not meeting Abraham who was waiting to receive them in his bosom. Consequently, one of the rams in protest committed suicide by jumping unto a sharp object which slit its throat, causing it to bleed to death. The owner spat on the ground and shouted, "Abomination!" He hired some touts to go and burry the ram which committed suicide in a forest at Agu-Awka. The touts happily went on the errand. On the way, they cornered the dead ram. They made an emergency fire and roasted it. They shared the suicide meat among themselves and buried it in their hungry stomach. They rejoiced and prayed that such may happen again.

As a way out of the present hunger in the land, President Buhari should urgently organise an economic summit by inviting experts who can devise means of coming out of the present jungle before Nigerians turn into cannibalism. His Change mantra has changed the diet of Nigerians from better to worse. Recently, a certain middle age man drank garri thrice a day. The next morning he went into a toilet to answer the call of nature as his stomach was making a strange noise. He sat on the toilet for one hour and could only produce formless air at intervals.

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