By Rev Fr Pat Amobi Chukwunma
At the climax of my primary school studies, I was determined to join my father in his business at Jos as soon as my First School Leaving Certificate Examination was over. I took Common Entrance Examination just to fulfill all righteous.
In other words, I was physically present in the examination hall while my spirit was hovering over Jos Main Market. Going to secondary school was not in my agenda. To become a successful business tycoon was my aim. For me then, going to secondary school was a waste of time and resources. Thus I did not take my Common Entrance Examination serious.
Eventually the result of the Common Entrance was released. I was reluctant to see it. At last my name was not among the successful candidates. For this, I thanked God for answering my prayer. While other unsuccessful candidates were wailing over their failure, I was jubilating. In fact, I celebrated my failure as if I won a lottery. Few days later, I traveled to Jos to begin a new life. When one door closes; another opens.
I was courageous enough to break the ‘good news’ of my failure to my father as he was taking a bottle of Gulder beer. Immediately he shouted, “What! The devil is a liar. You must go home and repeat the Common Entrance examination. Personally I was determined to further my studies after my Standard Six, but there was no one to sponsor me.
Therefore you must do it.” Hearing these words, my heart failed. I told my father that I was not interested in going to secondary school because God called me to do business. My pleading fell on deaf ears. My father insisted that I must go to secondary school. He promised me that after my secondary career, I can come over to Jos for the business. At this I was filled with mixed feeling of joy and sadness.
When school reopened, I registered for the Common Entrance and I studied very hard to please my father. At this second time, I got an excellent result of aggregate 34 over 36. The coast was then clear. I was admitted into Aguata High School, Aguata. At completion I got eight credits and a pass. My mind was no longer in becoming a business tycoon, but in becoming a Catholic Priest.
Hence I proceeded to the major Seminary after one year of apostolic experience. By the grace of God, I succeeded and was ordained a priest on 5 September 1993 in the Order of Melchizedek. My father was happy in seeing me working in God’s vineyard.
He died happily after my 11th Priestly Ordination Anniversary. Please when you go to Heaven, kindly search for my father and give him a standing ovation. He made me a useful man in life; otherwise I would have been wallowing in illiteracy. When I flash my mind back, I regret my celebration of failure in those dark days.
It is said that a fool at 40 is a fool forever. By divine ordinance I was born a fool on the first day of April. By dint of hard-work, I became a wise fool. Grace works on nature. God helps those who help themselves. The days are gone when manner falls down directly from heaven. Greatness is achieved by diligence and not by mere award.
In the Book “Things Fall Apart” written by Chinua Achebe, the father of Okonkwo called Unoka was a nincompoop and a loafer. When other men were clearing thick bushes and cultivating in sweat, he stayed at home playing his wooden flute and cultivated on infertile land.
Hence he hard poor harvest. One day, he took two tubers of yam and a fowl to consult the gods over his poor harvest. After laying his complaints at the shrine, the chief priest without mincing words shouted, “Unoka! Go home and work like a man!” He left the shrine in shame. He was left in a state of what the Germans express as “Shaeme mich!” Shame to me!
Today, our country Nigeria celebrates her 63rd Independence Anniversary. Grammatically celebration denotes joy. Do we celebrate failure? It is nothing to write home about. A person who is 63 years old should have achieved everything necessary in life. He or she is about to retire from active service. It will be time to reap the fruits of his or her labour.
If he or she is married, he is now a grandfather or grandmother. A sane 63 year old man cannot be called ‘Bomboy’. Rather he is to be called ‘Bomman’. At 60 I am now being classified as an old man (okongwu). Few days ago I traveled in a public transport.
When the conductor was collecting transport fare, he pointed at me and shouted, “Okongwu, weta ego gi!” This is translated: “Old man, bring your money!” When I reached home on that day, I stood before the mirror and saw that I am really ageing. Indeed Obi is no longer a boy. He is now an old man.
By geographical weight, Nigeria is called the Giant of Africa. Do you know that a great man is not determined by his huge size? It is achievements that make a man or a woman great. Remember the biblical encounter between Goliath and David. The former was as huge as mountain while the latter was like an ant before him. The Philistine disdained David and took him for granted.
With the strength from above, David conquered the giant by slugging a stone into his forehead and cutting off his head. There are huge men who are just good for nothing. An extra-ordinary huge man went to a hospital to donate blood for the sick. In the process it was discovered that he himself was lacking blood. Consequently, he was placed under admission for blood infusion. Appearance is deceptive.
Our country Nigeria is a giant for nothing. She has nothing to show after 63 years of Independence. Look at China celebrating her 74th Independence anniversary this year. China has achieved so much that she is now one of the world powers. At 63 Nigeria is still under developed, despite the fact that God blessed her with abundant natural and human resources. The citizens are dying in the midst of plenty.
We are called Obiageli (Favour) but we are dying of hunger. We have crude oil in abundance but have no single functional refinery. Shamefully we export crude oil and import the refined product at a high cost. We have good weather which is not harnessed to better the life of the citizens. We have arable agricultural lands, but we are being fed from foreign lands. We have engineers and a lacking in engineering developments. They have mere certificates without industrial practice.
We have hospitals without necessary equipment. Our leaders and politicians travel abroad for medical attention. The poor die at home. Our medical doctors are seeking greener pastures abroad because they are underutilized at home. Our youths are leaving the country by all means, even at the detriment of their lives, because home is not conducive. Bad leadership has crippled this country. At 63 we are still toddlers.
We are celebrating bad leadership, corruption, insecurity, kidnapping for ransom, herdsmen menace, agitations, election rigging, judicial injustice, hunger, anger, poverty, nepotism, tribalism, persecutions, marginalization, etc. Political power is now left for the highest bidders. Some of our leaders operate with fake results and certificates. Inhuman policies are the order of the day.
Our elections have been turned into selections. Conclusively, we are celebrating failure at 63. If there is reincarnation, I will not be a Nigerian again. Our system has failed woefully. All eyes are now on the Almighty God to rescue us from bondage and from the hands of Pharaoh and Herod in power. Let us not despair. God is not asleep.