By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
There is a beautiful day. There is also an ugly day. The beautifulness or ugliness depends on what the day has in stock for you or for me. It happened that on a bright and beautiful day, I was driving at high velocity towards my destination. I was singing joyfully and driving at the same time. Suddenly, I came across some cross-roads. Confusion overtook my memory. I forgot my destination totally and which direction I was to take. Consequently, I marched on the break and cleared by the roadside. There was a provision store just by my left hand side. I got down from the car and walked to the place. I bought a can of cold malt and a tin of milk. Then I entered gently into my car where I mixed the malt and milk in a plastic cup. I drank the mixture ‘mami’ with delight. My memory started coming back gradually. I began to recollect where I was heading to and which direction of the cross-roads to take. In a twinkle of an eye, I arrived at my destination. I was a bit late. I convinced myself that it is better to be late than to take the wrong direction from the cross-roads and land nowhere.
A newly married agricultural and beautiful lady was given a luxurious jeep on her wedding day by her wealthy American based husband. She schooled in Lagos and was somehow conversant with the city. After their wedding at home in Eastern Nigeria, they travelled to Lagos and spent their honey moon days in her husband’s bungalow in the heart of Lagos. Two months after, the enterprising husband flew back to America. The wife was to join him later when her visa comes out. On the visa appointment day, the agricultural wife proudly entered her one-in-town jeep and was heading to the American Embassy in Lagos. When she came to some cross-roads, pride couldn’t allow her to ask for the right direction since she has been living in Lagos. Thus she presumably took the left hand side instead of the right. Lately she saw herself driving close to Ibadan. She shouted, “Oh, shit! What a mess is this?” She reversed and sped back to the cross-roads. There was a long traffic hold-up on her way back. Anger ‘ceased’ her entire face. It was already too late when she reached the cross-roads. Then she stopped and enquired about the right direction to her destination. When she finally arrived at the American Embassy it was already evening time. The Embassy had closed for the day. She shed goat tears, because she fooled herself. The security man on duty out of pity asked her to come back the following day. When she reported back on the next day, she was asked to come back for the visa interview in six months’ time. Out of sorrow she unconsciously urinated on her trouser before departing shamefully.
The cross-roads are four dimensional roads which intercept each other but leading to different destinations. If you are driving or trekking and comes across them, then you ought to stop first to watch the traffic before negotiating. Secondly, if you are a novice, then you should enquire from the passersby the right direction towards your destination. Failure to do so, either you are involved in an accident that would have been prevented or you miss your destination entirely. Recently, I was carried away on my way to bury the dead, when I drove across some cross-roads without stopping to watch the traffic. Thank God the cross-roads were not busy by that time. Later, I wondered if the spirit of the dead man I was hurrying to bury possessed me. Happily the dead man was a good man; otherwise I would have joined him on that fateful day. My humble advice to all is that whenever you come across cross-roads, whether driving or walking, for goodness sake, stop! Watch your front, back, right and left before negotiating. My Igbo people say, “Onye ajuju anaghi efu uzo.” That means: An enquirer does not miss the road.
The cross-roads are not only physical. They are also mental and spiritual. God endowed us with thinking faculty. Our lecturer in ‘Introduction to Philosophy ‘ class in those good old days at Bigard Memorial Seminary, Philosophy Campus (now St Joseph’s Major Seminary) Ikot Ekpene in Cross River State, Father Gonzales, would always tell us, “Think! Think! Think! I say think!!!” Therefore, we should pause and think out the right thing to do or to say in order to avoid falling into danger or error. In other words we must engage our minds in mental cross-roads from time to time.
The great philosopher Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. Hence, we must examine our consciences daily, monthly and annually. Self examination helps to discover our past mistakes and to correct them. By so doing we can avoid future hazards. Spiritually, stopping at the cross-road to think, helps us to discover our sins and then repent of them. My people say that a stick does not poke someone in the eyes twice. That is why Prophet Jeremiah advises us in these words: “Stop at the cross-roads and look, ask for the ancient paths: which was the good way. Follow it and you will find rest for yourselves” (Jer. 6:16). An Igbo adage says, “Onye amaghi ebe mmiri bidoro mawa ya anaghi ama ebe o noro kwusi ima ya.” That means, if you do not know the beginning of your misfortune, then you cannot discern its end. A problem known, is half solved.
If you have deviated from the physical or spiritual right track, then it is time to make a U-turn. Failure to do so signifies danger. If we have indulged ourselves in leading bad lives, then we need sober reflection to know how and where it started. Like the biblical prodigal son, we must arise and go back to the right path. We must endeavour to avoid sin and the occasions of sin. Our Lord Jesus Christ instructs us in these words: “If your hand or your foot should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away: it is better for you to enter into life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye should be your downfall, tear it out and throw it away: it is better for you to enter into life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into the hell of fire” (Mtt. 18:8-9). Also we must make restitution where necessary.
Our country Nigeria is now at the cross-roads. It is either we cross over to safety or we cross over to doom. Our present leaders at the national and state levels must stop at the cross-roads and discern which road led us to progress after the Independence of 1st October 1960 and go back to it. Many philanthropic Nigerians have suggested times without number that in order to survive the cross-roads, we must go back to the 1963 Constitution. That Constitution spelled good for the country. It took into consideration the ethnicities and religions that make up the country. In those days, the Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Regions of Nigeria were functional. Today, the powers of the federating units have been usurped by the central government. Consequently, things fell apart and the centre cannot hold any longer.
In 2014, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan called for a National Conference. The representatives of the ethnicities, religions and groups of the country sat and came out with some resolutions that would move Nigeria forward. It is known as the 2014 National Confab which was put down in black and white as a working document. It was handed over by the outgoing President Jonathan to incumbent President Buhari in 2015. Unfortunately, it remains unimplemented till date. In fact, a dog that is destined to get lost ignores the hunter’s whistle. The calls for going back to the 1963 Constitution, implementing the 2014 Confab and Restructuring of this country have been serially ignored by the powers that be because of selfish reasons. This spells danger for Nigeria.
Our hard earned democracy is crumbling due to bad governance. Injustice seems to be the general norm in this country now. The former Vice President and the presidential candidate of PDP in 2019 Election, Atiku Abubakar, said that the Judiciary is part of our national problem. This is because of the unfair verdict of the Supreme Court in the appeal he filed. The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammed, in his ruling of Wednesday 30th October, 2019 states, “We have examined all the briefs of argument and the exhibits for over two weeks and we have all agreed that there is no merit in this appeal. The appeal is hereby dismissed. Reasons to be given on a date to be announced.” Nigerians want to know who are the WE and why did the WE sat in secret for over two weeks.
Fellow Nigerians, let us not despair. Our earnest prayer for Nigeria in distress (at the cross-roads) will not be in vain. The Israelites suffered in Egypt at the hands of Pharaoh and his successors for about 430 years. At the destined time God intervened and commanded, “Let my people go!” Then it took the Israelites 40 years to reach the Promised Land. So far, it has already taken Nigeria 59 odd years on her way to the Promised Land, which is still far away. We sing partly in our National Anthem: “The labours of our leaders past shall never be in vain.” In God we trust. Man proposes but God disposes. By God’s mighty power we shall overcome the cross-roads at the appointed time.