xperience, they say, is the best teacher. Practice, they also say, makes perfect. I learnt how to swim in Nekede, Owerri in Imo State as I was testing my vocation to the priesthood in the Claretian Missionary Fathers Community in the town. I swam few days before I left to try my vocation elsewhere. By then I could swim and dive but not perfect. With the much I learnt I can participate in the Olympic swimming competition and come back at least with a plastic medal. That was in 1983. After that I did not swim again for many years. In ten years time (1993) I was ordained a priest in the Order of Melchizedek. I desired to be posted to the river-line area to further my practical course in swimming. Unfortunately I was posted to the area where the people wash hand with spittle.
In 2001 I left the shores of Nigeria for further studies in Germany. I was not sent to overseas to study swimming, but rather Theology. In Germany I met a priest from Cameroun whom I befriended, because birds of the same feather fly together. One day he asked me if I can swim. My answer was theoretically positive. Opportunity came another day and we went to do the practical in a nearby swimming pool. On arrival we removed our garments and stood only with our long pants. My friend jumped up and dived into the pool. I did the same. Unfortunately, I discovered that my body was so heavy like a giant stone. I saw myself sinking. I thought I was dreaming. It was only when I started drinking water without being thirsty that it dawned on me that it was happening in real life. I shouted for help in German because my friend speaks French while I speak English. We only interacted in German without minding the grammatical error as beginners. So, I screamed and shouted, "Bitte, rette mich! Weil ich zugrunde gehe" which means, "Save me! I am getting lost." My friend swam acrobatically from the place where he was to grab me like a missing baby. He brought me out and laid me like a baby at the swimming-pool's relaxing shelter and started giving me first aid. Before the second aid could come, I have already regained myself after drinking one bottle of German malt and a cup of fresh milk. My friend started laughing at me. I cautioned him that it was not a laughing matter. I told him that I learnt how to swim while I was in Nigeria. I wondered why the spirit of swimming left me without any premonition. Had it been that I was drowned in that swimming pool in Germany, I would have by now been declared by the Church as the Patron Saint of Swimmers. Thank God that I came back home alive to tell the stories.
When we got back to the Pallottine University Community where we were living and studying, as we were at supper, my Cameroonian friend amusedly told the house members how I was nearly drowned at the swimming pool earlier that day. The Rector of the house stood up and thanked God that I was alive. He blamed me for jumping into the water when I did not know how to swim. I raised my hand and refuted him. I assured him that I learnt how to swim in Nigeria but I have forgotten the rudiments. The German priest laughed at me and remarked, "Uebung macht perfekt" which is rendered in English Language as "Practice makes perfect." My Igbo people put it this way: "Egwu a muru amu ka ogwu a gworo agwo."I was entirely silenced by this assertion. I stood down and started enjoying the delicious German food set before me. At intervals I was chorusing, "Uebung macht perfekt! Practice makes perfect! Egwu a muru amu ka ogwu agworo agwo!"
Man learns from history. Since the unfortunate occurrence at the swimming pool in Germany, I have become more careful in life. The Igbo people say that a tree's branch does not pierce one's eyes twice. Constant practice is needed in whatever one wants to achieve. The other day I saw a middle age woman in boxer boxing a bag of stone. I went closer and asked her what she was doing. She frowned at me at first. But after recognizing my personality, she told me frankly that she was practicing boxing in order to confront her wayward husband whenever he comes back from the hotel where he went to patronize prostitutes. She would show him pepper by boxing out the wayward spirit out of him. She did the practice for over two weeks. Eventually her husband came back not knowing that her wife already knew where he spent some days, thereby neglecting his own family. Immediately he opened the door, the wife blocked his entrance into the house. He warned her that he would slap devil out of her. He then pushed her with every force. The woman retreated and came forward with boxing. She gave her husband an upper-cut such that he fell half a kilometer away. He rushed to where he fell and gave him another computerized punch on the jaw. All the teeth in her husband's mouth fell off. With blood and tears all over his face, he wondered if his wife was a boxer before he married her. One of the spectators of the family fight exclaimed, "Practice makes perfect!"
Very early in the morning many young men and women do serious body exercise by running some miles to keep fit. Some do so to prepare themselves for future ambition of being a successful national or international athlete. In Anambra State Capital territory along the Zik's Avenue in Awka, come and see many people of all ages running up and down at cock crow. By this daily practice, they become perfect in any race. Health-wise they become fit. Many illnesses will thereby be banished. It happened that one day a very fat man wanted to slim down. He joined others in the early morning race. After running for a short distance, he collapsed. His fellow runners rushed to resuscitate him. They gave him first aid and took him in a wheel barrow to a nearby hospital. He was rushed into the emergency room. After giving him some intravenous injections, he became conscious and he asked, "Where am I? I was running along the Zik's Avenue to keep fit and slim down. What brought me here?" He was so furious. The doctor warned him to take it easy and gradually next time. He was not used to such a physical exercise. What of you? Practice makes perfect.
The abysmal performance of the Nigerian footballers and competitors in other sporting activities is due to lack of adequate practice. The fire-brigade approach is our endemic problem. The Germans perform excellently in sports because they practice constantly, thereby becoming almost perfect.
Since the Nigerian Independence in 1960, Nigerians have been drinking from the cup of suffering due to bad leadership and mismanagement of our economy. The rich continues to get richer and the poor poorer. I recall for the third time the conclusion of my German priest friend who visited me here in Nigeria few years ago. He asserted, "Nigerians are suffering but happy." Nigerians have been practicing suffering, which is part and parcel of us. Hence, if any Nigerian goes to hell, he or she will easily adapt to the everlasting suffering there. Presently we are weighed down by economic recession. In other words, our economy went on recess and has refused to come back. Consequently, millions of Nigerians are hungry, jobless and angry. Many who were working have been retrenched. Millions of our graduates are roaming about the streets seeking for non-existent jobs. Hence we are experiencing increase in kidnapping, armed robbery, militancy and other dubious activities. Many of the Nigerian Federal roads especially in the South East are death traps. Nepotism is also the hallmark of the present Federal Government. To crown it all, the Fulani Herdsmen have taken more than they can chew. Even they are operating in Abuja Federal Capital Territory. The President has refused to say anything over their bloody menace. This gives them encouragement to do more havoc here and there. Even, they have struck in the Sanctuary of God by killing, maiming and kidnapping seminarians, priests and other men of God. In the midst of all these evils, it will be a double tragedy for any Nigerian to go to hell. God forbid!
Practice also makes perfect in the spiritual realm. If you wish to see the Beatific Vision in the World to come, you have to practice holiness while still here on earth. The perfection is fulfilled in Heaven. Saint Paul writing to the Philippians asserts, "I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep going on to try to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself. Of course, brothers, I really do not think that I have already won it; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. So I run straight towards the goal in order to win the prize, which is God's call through Christ Jesus to the life above" (Phil. 3:12 - 14). On the other hand, if you wish to go to hell, you have to practice and perfect in evil. One reaps what he sows.