ust last week I made an emergency travel to Jos in Plateau State, my birth place. Due to the current economic recession in the country, I travelled by road with God's Time is the Best Motors. I spent only two days in Jos. After accomplishing my mission, I set out for home on the third day. As I was waiting at Mikel Obi Park to board the same commercial vehicle, I met an old friend of mine from my town. He called me by my name and title. But his face was no more so familiar because a lot of osmosis has taken place on his facial appearance. We embraced so friendly. He asked me if I have forgotten his identity and he told me to guess. I did so but wrongly. At last he revealed to me his name. Immediately I embraced him again passionately. It was over twenty-five years that we saw last. I recalled our childhood experiences in those old days when we went to the forest to hunt bush rats and to pluck cashew fruits. Our provision at school in those old days was water mixed with palm kernels.
As we were conversing, a friend of his at Jos joined us. They introduced the topic of death. Hearing this topic, I moved aside because even though I want to go to heaven, I did not want to die that day. I was seriously praying for peaceful and prosperous journey back home. They pointed at some personalities who have just died within a space of time. According to them, death rate nowadays is too high. Among them were two popular medical doctors working at different hospitals at Jos. If a medical doctor dies, what happens to his patients? One of the doctors was said to have collapsed and died inside the church. I believe the doctor will go to heaven for having died in the church on active service to God and humanity. What is the fate of a drunkard who died inside a beer parlour? The two Jos-based friends sighed and sighed. Out of sympathy I was forced to draw closer to them. My town's old friend himself was travelling to my home town Aguluezechukwu to attend the burial of a young promising lady who died suddenly in Lagos. I commiserated with him over the sudden demise of her sister. I commented that people are dying in dozens here and there. The two men collaborated with me. My old friend shook his head and asserted, "Something is wrong." I asked, "What is wrong?" Before the question could be answered, the bus management announced that all the passengers who booked first bus should board the vehicle immediately.
As I was about to ascend into the bus, my old friend who was behind me tapped me on the shoulder from behind and said, "Father, your nice attire is stained with oil at the back. I reacted emotionally immediately by turning my senator-attire to see the stain myself. I screamed and sighed. It was more than a stain. In fact it looked as if I came out from a pot of red oil. I shouted, "Something is wrong!" I was ashamed of myself as I ran into the bus park's office with my bag. Thank God I had a spare nylon shirt. I pulled off the oiled senator- attire and put on the rumpled shirt I wore earlier. It is better to be rumpled than to be oiled. But I managed the oiled trouser by covering the spot with the long rumpled shirt. I went to the wooden seat where I was sitting and observed that it was spilled with red oil. I shouted, "Oh, my God!" Indeed the harm has been done. I did not look behind before sitting. I learnt a lesson from that day, which is: "Look before you sit." Then I rushed into the bus to occupy my reserved seat. The passengers sympathized with me. I told them that something was wrong.
Within some minutes, our vehicle set out for Awka. To avoid something being wrong on our way, I led the bus occupants in prayer and covered the bus and ourselves with the Blood of Jesus. Before we could travel for 30 minutes, a lady sitting behind the driver spat through the window when the vehicle was on a high speed. Her spittle which was very thick and measuring about two liters splashed back at the entire left hand side window screens. Everybody including myself descended on the lady culprit. We nearly tore her to pieces for her unruly behavior. She was filled with shame. I said to the hearing of the passengers, "Something is wrong!" I told myself that the lady may either be pregnant or that she ate a lot of snails the previous night. She slept off with accusing conscience till she disembarked at Awka.
Even though the road from Jos to Awka was not smooth, we moved on safely. Along Lafia - Markurdi road, our driver overtook an ambulance conveying the corpse of a young man home for burial. On the poster pasted behind the ambulance with the picture of the departed young man was written: "Unbearable Exit". I was moved with tears as I prayed and blessed the casket saying, "My brother, Rest in peace." The dead young man travelled to Lafia some years ago to look for greener pasture. Unfortunately, death met him in the prime of his life. He was newly married with one and half children. The half is still in the womb. What is the fate of the pregnant wife and one year old child? No wonder the death of the young man was described as unbearable. Lafia means in Hausa language "Life" or "Good health". I asked myself, "Why was the young man's life not saved in Lafia?" Therefore something is wrong.
Why are there so many deaths these days? The population of Nigeria is over 150 million. It is drastically growing daily. Can you guess how many babies are born every day in Nigeria? The number is on a high scale. As more children are born, space must be created for them where they would live. Hence more people are dying. Humanly speaking, it would have been better that the elderly people die so that the younger ones can occupy their places. But what do we see nowadays? Young people die more the elders. I heard that the Nigerian youths are preparing to send a 36-man delegation to God to plead that He should allow the youths to live longer and that death should be according to how we came into the world. Elderly people should go first according to age.
A story was told of how death visited a family of five: father, mother and their three children. The father was already 75 years while the mother was 65 years. The children were between the ages of 20 and 30. The family members had a vital meeting with Death on whom to take away. The father refused to go with Death. The mother also refused. The children said it was impossible for them to die before their parents. All efforts to reach a consensus proved abortive. Out of annoyance Death decided to go. He assured the family members that he would come back suddenly and blind-folded to take anyone the lot falls upon. After a short time, Death returned blind-folded. As he was coming in, the only son of the family collided with him (Death) at the door and Death took him away. From thence, Death knows no age limit. He takes away anyone he wishes. So my dear people, let us get ready. The Lord Jesus tells us, "You too must stand ready, because the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (Lk. 12:40). In the Book of Wisdom we read: "The upright, though he dies before his time, will find rest. Length of days is not what makes age honourable, nor number of years the true measure of life; understanding, this is grey hairs, untarnished life, this is ripe old age" (Wisdom 4:7 - 9).
The high rate of death these days can also be attributed to bad life-style. Many modern terminal diseases are developing. What we eat, drink and smoke can quicken death. We have abandoned natural food to depend entirely on artificial foods. We import many fatal bacteria into our body system through unclean environments. Often we consume our edibles by not properly washing our hands. By so doing we accumulate dangerous bacteria in our body. Fake drugs are abundant in the markets. Instead of saving life they kill instantly. Sin is also the cause of death. Often the evil that parents do are visited on their children. My opinion is that one should suffer for what he or she does. But it is not mathematical. The consequence of sin is transferrable to younger generation. When King David sinned, it was his baby in question that bore the consequence by being struck to death. I plead with parents not to bring causes on their children.
Frustration can also lead to death. Insecurity of lives due to terrorism, kidnapping, cultism and armed robbery is a cause of worry. Many Nigerians are frustrated due to lack of employment. The present economic recession in the country does not help matters. Most State Governors are no more able to pay their workers. Hence the angry and hungry civil servants in those states are dying in scores. Millions of our citizens are hungry. Hungry can kill. The hunger that kills a rich man buries the poor man alive: True or false? Nigerians must go back to Agriculture. The Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano has taken a lead in this aspect. The Anambra rice is the talk of the day. Anambra State has started exporting her agricultural products. Willie is indeed working. His security network is equal to none. He is still paying his workers as and when due. Let us vote him in for a second tenure.
As many families are mourning the death of their beloved ones, the mortuary, ambulance and casket businesses are booming. A certain carpenter specializes in the making of wooden coffins. Before going to work, he prays for many sales to come his way each day. There was a widower that came to purchase a well designed coffin for his deceased wife's burial. The man pleaded with the carpenter to reduce the cost. The carpenter declined his plea for reduction. However he promised the man that he would reduce the cost when he comes again to buy for another burial. The widower slumped due to the unmerciful words of the carpenter.
Many business men today buy sophisticated ambulances for commercial conveying of corpses for burial. The cost depends on what you want. If you hope of giving your departed one a befitting burial that will lead the dead to heaven, you will be asked to book the highest attractive ambulance. They also sell pleasurable caskets. There are caskets that have air-conditioned apparatus, video-television and telephone inside them. The air-conditioned apparatus will prevent the corpse from decay. The dead uses the video-television to watch his or her burial and what happens in the world. The dead uses the telephone to communicate with those left behind. If you buy such for your departed one, he or she will transit peacefully to heaven. The sellers try to convince you that if you use any rugged vehicle to transport your deceased beloved one for burial, then he/she will not see the Kingdom of God.
The Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Reverend Dr. Paulinus C. Ezeokafor, has time without number called on Christians and non Christians to reduce the high cost of burial and funeral expenses. Costly burial/funeral is not a guarantee for heaven. What the dead requires most is prayer for eternal repose. Costly befitting burial or funeral impoverishes the living. It is better to accord people a befitting life than a befitting costly burial. When a person dies, what worries the deceased family is no more the pain of the temporal loss but the cost of burial and funeral. Something is wrong. The Anambra State House of Assembly is about to pass a Bill on low burial/funeral expenses. Other States should do likewise.