Be vigilant!

By Pat Amobi Chukwuma

Someday, somewhere and sometime there was a recruitment exercise for young men and young women who applied to be members of the town’s vigilante group. Those recruited would secure the lives and property of the people. The strenuous theoretical and practical exercise was scheduled to begin at midnight on the stipulated day. The candidates were expected to report latest at 9.00p.m.

On the appointed night, a grace of 30 minutes was given in order to limit excuses of lateness. At 9.30p.m the doors leading into the recruitment hall were tightly closed. Some of the candidates who came late knocking were dismissed with immediate effect. That was one of the elimination processes. All those who reported on time were already seated in the hall and were hopeful.

Before the actual recruitment commenced at midnight, more than half of the candidates accidentally dosed off as they waited. Even some of them were snoring hopelessly. The number of those who reported on time was 80. Those who slept off before the commencement of the recruitment were 45 in number. The required number to be recruited was 25. Mathematically, 80 minus 45 give us a balance of 35. By further elimination process, the 45 sleepers were instantly disqualified. A few of them wept openly bitterly. One of them cried and caused the devil for inducing him with the sudden sleep. Another blamed her wicked sister-in-law for sending her the sudden sleep. At last only 35 candidates actually participated in the recruitment exercise which lasted till daybreak. Later, the names of the 25 successful candidates were published and recruited as members of the town’s vigilante group.

On assumption of duty, one of the recruits, who was on night duty, reported at his post on his pyjamas and was carrying an ostentatious pillow. As soon as he sat on his long wooden chair, he felt drowsy. Then he lay down on the chair with his head comfortably placed on the pillow. He held his loaded pump action gun on his abdomen with his finger on the trigger in case of any eventuality. No one can cheat nature. Hence he was carried away by deep sleep and was snoring like a local pig. He began to dream about his bravado.

Suddenly on that night, the men of the underworld struck and caught him unawares. They bundled him into a big sack and tied him to a nearby thorn tree. They took away his loaded pump action gun. The pains of suffocation and the thorns woke him up. But he was helpless and was screaming in the sack till daybreak. Meanwhile the evil men forcefully broke into the company office he was guarding and stole all valuables in cash and kind, which worth millions of money. With their mission accomplished, they disappeared like ghosts.

The sleeping and screaming vigilante man was in agony until the factory workers came in the morning. They pitifully untied him and rushed him to a nearby hospital for medical attention because he was bleeding and his breath was failing him. While on admission, he was placed under an armed security man to avoid escape. When he was discharged, his manager invited policemen who arrested him for neglect, sleeping on duty and for the big loss incurred. Later he was charged to court and was found guilty. He was then sentenced to ten years imprisonment with hard labour. Also he must pay for the stolen goods and cash. If he fails to meet up, then his household and land would be sold.

To be vigilant means to be awake. A person suffering from sleeping sickness cannot be vigilant. Such a person should never attempt going for vigil prayers or services. Some people who attend vigil crusades often sleep off, snore and pollute the air till daybreak. In the morning, they carry the scars of dried spittle on both sides of the mouth like long cigarette sticks.

During his agony at Gethsemane, Jesus Christ took Peter, James and John along with him. He passionately appealed to them, “My soul is filled with sorrow even to death. Remain here and stay awake with me” (Mtt. 26:38). He went further and knelt down in prayer asking his Father to take away the impending cup of suffering from him, if it was his will. After praying he went back to the three apostles and found them in deep slumber. Sadly he woke them up and said to them, “Could you not stay awake with me for even an hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you may not slip into temptation. The spirit is indeed eager, but human nature is weak” (Mtt. 26:40 – 41).

As Christians and non Christians, we must always be vigilant prayerfully and physically always. If we must sleep at all, it must be done with one eye open. This type of sleep is known in English/Igbo terminology as ‘sleeping-muruanya’. For survival in this world, we must practice it daily. My Igbo people say, “Onye ndi iro gbara gburugburu na-eche ndu ya nche.” This means that anyone surrounded by enemies must keep watch over his life. The sheep while running turns back from to time to time because of vigilance. The fowl while drinking water looks up always because its enemies come from above.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) issued a Communique at the end of their Second Plenary Meeting at the Divine Mercy Pastoral Centre, Agbamaya,Obada-oko, Abeokuta in Ogun State, from 11 – 20 September 2019 with the title MOVING BEYOND PRECARIOUS LIVING IN NIGERIA. They underlined the fact that continued insecurity and lack of respect for human life are the two biggest problems in our country Nigeria presently. According to them, “There are, unfortunately, still many instances of killings as a result of banditry, kidnapping, assassination, armed robbery, reckless use of force by security agencies and lynching. Lately, too, there is an upsurge in the cases of suicide, even among our youths. Furthermore, the clashes between herdsmen and communities, and the activities of Boko Haram insurgents have continued, in which many innocent people lose their lives. These make living in Nigeria very precarious.” Precariousness calls for vigilance. Going further the CBCN urges, “We call on all citizens to be law abiding and vigilant, be one another’s keeper, live by sound moral principles and, above all obey the commandments of God.”

Indeed we Nigerians are really caged. The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English states that a precarious situation or state is likely to become very dangerous. In addition, it explains that someone or something precarious is likely to fall. Thus, if caution is not taken, Nigeria is heading for a total collapse. What then must we Nigerians do? First of all, we must keep ourselves and our households in order by being alert in everything happening around us. We ought to love one another, live a good life and repent from our sins. We must watch the movement of people in our midst and those around us. Also we must be ready for self defense in case of any sudden attack. Above all, we must fall down on our knees and ask God for his divine intervention in this precarious situation of our Nation. With God everything is possible.

However, God cannot do everything for us. He helps those who help themselves. The present Federal Government of President Buhari must ensure good governance at all levels. The securing of lives and property are the major task of government. Nepotism and lopsided appointments must be thrown overboard. Nigeria belongs to all ethnic groups and religions.

The rate of unemployment in this country is too high. Hence an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. Many minds are idle and the devil has capitalized on it to render havoc here and there. The Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen terrorists, kidnappers and bandits must be neutralized using various strategies. The principle of Separation of Powers must be strictly adhered to. Also Checks and Balances among the Three Arms of Government should be upheld. The members of the National Assembly should rise up to the precarious situation bedeviling us. The Judiciary should awake from slumber and avoid being compromised. She is the last hope of the common man. Presently, justice in Nigeria seems to be on sale to the highest bidder and the most powerful. The Supreme Court must be supreme in practice. Justice should be upheld no matter who is involved. The precarious situation in Nigeria now cannot be solved without restructuring the country with immediate effect. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine. O God, come to our aid!