By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
At the Garden of Eden, God commanded Adam and Eve to eat all the fruits of the trees there except one. That very tree is known as the forbidden tree. God warned them strictly, “You may eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you will not eat, for on the day you eat of it, you will die” (Gen. 2:16 -17). In a nutshell we can call the fruit of that tree ‘Eat and Die.’ In other words, if you eat it, you will surely die. But if you do not, you will surely live.
Unfortunately, the devil in the form of a serpent saw Eve admiring the forbidden tree. He found an occasion to seduce her by asking, “Did God really say: You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). The woman replied that they were free to eat the fruit of the trees in the garden except the one in the middle. They were forbidden neither to eat nor touch it. If they do so, then they would be under the penalty of death. Touch and die. Eat and die. Cunningly, the serpent told the woman, “You will not die, because God knows that the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-6). Anxiousness drove the woman to touch and to eat it. She also gave her husband Adam who touched and ate it. Their eyes were really opened to evil. They discovered that they were naked. Sin and shame set in. They began to hide themselves. Consequently, they were driven out of the Garden. The penalty for disobedience is death. That’s why human beings are dying till today because of Eat and die (sin).
Few years ago, I visited a friend in a certain town. He was studying in one of the Higher Institutions in the country. He rented a room in the town. I had an urgent message for him. Therefore I decided to visit him in person to deliver the message. Before going, he directed me to ask for the family house of his landlord popularly known as ‘Chop and Die’. This is another Eat (Chop) and Die. Since I was not yet prepared to die on that day, I vowed never to eat anything offered to me there, either by my friend or by any occupant of Chop and Die’s house. Even though I was extremely hungry, I turned down everything offered to me. I lied that I had just eaten satisfactorily before coming. But my stomach was rebuking me saying, “You are lying!” Thank God I was the only one hearing the voice of my stomach. Then I was offered water to drink at least. Instantly I began to deliberate if drink is included in Chop and Die. Chop means Eat. Drink is different from Chop. I didn’t hear of Drink and Die. Thus, I made the Sign of the Cross and accepted the bottled cold water and drank with all pleasure. As I was going home, I was chorusing, “Chop and Die! Drink and Live!”
The above assertions are just preambles. I have just cleared the bush to allow me to enter into the portion of land I want to work on. During my secondary school days, an illiterate student in the junior class was asked by the teacher to clear the bush on the subject matter he was asked to speak about. He opened his locker and brought out his cutlass. Surprisingly, he hurriedly walked out of the class and started clearing a small bush beside the class. The teacher came out with a cane and asked him, “What do you think you are doing?” The illiterate student who was already sweating replied, “Teacher, are you daydreaming? Didn’t you ask me to clear the bush? Should I stop?” The teacher commanded him to commence on a frog-jump into the class. He did so. In the presence of the students in the class, the teacher gave him 12 lashes of cane to clear the bush in his brain. From that day on, the students nicknamed him ‘Clear the bush’.
Some of my admirers have always laughed at me when I speak or write. One of them asked me, “Father, when can you be serious at all?” I answered, “I am serious.” Some time ago, we were having a monthly spiritual recollection somewhere. One of us (a priest) rendered a touching spiritual talk. As the coordinator, I stood up to dissect the vital areas of his rendition with cheerful approach to make the soul and body happy. Instantly, some hardened faces began to laugh in the church. At this, my Local Ordinary with a frowned face asserted, “You are watering everything down. Please be serious!” Before he could say any other thing, I respectively answered, “My Lord, I am very serious.” To buttress my assertion, I told a story of my class teacher in my primary 4. He was nicknamed Ezeamunato by the pupils because his face was always in a smiling mood even when he was serious or angry. In fact, he was born smiling. After this narration all the priests, including those who had not laughed for months, went into a laughter session. Body and soul were highly recollected. Everyone went home happily. My Lord was also made happier.
Now, let me be more serious with my subject matter. Do or Die has to do with compulsion and deceit. It is either you do it or you die. It involves doing something out of coercion. In other words, your action is done under duress. Do or die is the same as acting under gunpoint. There is no freedom. On the other hand, it entails obtaining something by all means. Even if blood is shed, it doesn’t matter so far the aim is achieved. If heaven will fall, let it fall, so far one gets what he or she wants. In the past, some world dictators have planted bombs in a plane just to target one or two persons in the flight in order to remain in power. The death of all passengers and crew did not matter to them. Osama bin Laden and his al qaeda terrorists hijacked two American bound passenger planes in 2001 and crashed them at the World Trade Centre twin towers. Thousands of lives were lost therein. Their evil aim of humiliating America was achieved bloodily.
A certain final year student decided that his examination must be a do or die affair. He did his best to burn the midnight candle. He prayed ardently for divine assistance. Also he prepared for various examination malpractices. He vowed to pass the examination by all means, whether good or bad. If God helps him, the areas he studied would come out in the examination. If not, he would resort to malpractice. Indeed, he wrote some of the papers out of his brain. Others he copied through various means. When the result came out, he was successful. His success was a do or die.
Some policemen on the highways extort money from motorists by do or die. They will ask you, “Wetin you carry?” If you do not carry anything unlawful, they would ask for your papers. If your papers are all available and correct, they will delay you unnecessarily still holding your papers. For fear of the guns they carry, you dare not make any provoking statement. If you are in haste, they tell you that you are delaying yourself. You are asked to do the necessary. If money exchanges hand, then you are free to go. If not, you remain under custody by the roadside. If you move, they shoot. Few years ago, a bus driver was shot dead by a trigger happy policeman in Onitsha because the driver refused to oil his hand with a hundred naira only. What a do or die!
Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. In true democracy, the people freely choose their leaders at all levels through the ballot papers. The process is known as voting. Every citizen of any democratic country who has attained the constitutional age has the right of franchise. This right empowers you to vote freely for the candidate of your choice by secret, open-secret or open ballot systems. The right of franchise also allows you to stand for an election (to be voted for). The candidate who scores the highest number of votes cast is declared the winner in each case.
Unfortunately, elections in Nigeria have turned into a do or die affair; whereby the candidates strive to win by all means. Hence buying of votes, snatching of ballot boxes, disruption of electoral process, intimidation of electoral officers and opposition, violence, falsification of election result, etc. are now the order of the day in our country. The 2019 general elections witnessed a lot of do or die. Many innocent Nigerians lost their dear lives because of the inordinate ambition of some politicians to win election by all means. Some results were declared under duress and under gunpoint. Some of the electoral officers were highly induced before, during and after the electoral process.
Election, which is a civilian affair, was highly militarized in 2019. Armed soldiers and armed thugs were influenced by some politicians and powers that be to scare voters and intimidate the electoral officers at some polling booths and collation centers nationwide. It was reported that some armed soldiers broke into a collation centre in Portharcourt in Rivers State, drove everybody away and carted away ballot boxes and some other sensitive electoral materials. Even some results were pre-written and announced as authentic results in some parts of the country. A popular party leader boosted that the opposition presidential candidate might be winning at the polling centers but their party would win by announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Once the result is announced, the loser will be asked to go to court to challenge the victory. Sometimes the judicial officers are induced to turn justice upside down.
Another factor that makes election in Nigeria do or die is power intoxication. Some evil politicians want to cling to power by all means. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Some who are addressed as ‘Your Excellency’ are a disgrace to their families and to society at large. Some who are addressed as ‘Honourable’ are dishonourable in character. Some who are addressed as ‘Senator’ are the breakers of the Laws of the country. Also they breach the Constitution. The do or die politicians rig themselves into the Presidency, Governorship, National or State Assembly. Their ambition is to enrich themselves at the detriment of the masses who voted them into power to represent them. Their private pockets and their cronies are their constituencies. Because of the millions of money our political leaders earn or embezzle, they can do anything dirty to remain in power. No condition is permanent. The mighty shall one day fall from grace to grass.