By Fr Pat Amobi Chukwuma
I was born a bouncing baby boy on April fool day at Jos in the year Nigeria became a Republic. If you do not know the year in question, then send me a reasonable mtn recharge card with which I shall disclose it to you. I was under the age of reason when pogrom broke out in Jos and in the entire northern region of Nigeria.
Since human life is of primary value, my lovely mother carried my junior sister at her back with the aid of a wrapper. At the same time, she held me tight with two hands on her chest. My caring father carried my senior sister over his shoulders. They ran as fast as possible to the train station in Jos, whose destination was Enugu.
The locomotive train traveled for three days. When we arrived at Enugu, my parents chartered a taxi which took us to our hometown. After few months at home, the Nigeria – Biafra Civil War started. Thank God we escaped before shelling and bullets began to fly on the air.
Two years after the civil war, we returned to Jos. By then I was over the age of reason. I continued my primary education at Our Lady of Fatima Boys School in Jos. Two years later, the lot fell on me to go home to live with my grandmother.
I was filled with joy because I thought I was going home to enjoy corns and pears, which were scarce at Jos. Immediately I reached home in the company of my father, I developed cold feet as tears filled my eyes for missing my mum and my siblings.
The home environment also was unfriendly, so quiet and bushy unlike in Jos. The noise of insects from all over the places served as my welcome song. Instantly I desired to go back to Jos; but it was too late. My dad left early the following morning to Jos. I was at sea. After mourning over my miserable condition, I began a new independent and solitary life as a village boy.
The following day, my grandmother woke me up very early in the morning to go to a distant and hilly stream to fetch water with her grown-up maid. It was a daily routine before going to school. On our way to the stream I usually felt sleepy and dizzy.
I sighed and sighed until I became accustomed to it. The next time it was going to a very far distant farm by 4a.m to bring home harvested yams. I regretted accepting to come home from Jos to assist my grandmother. Initially I thought I was coming home to enjoy natural goodies. Hardly did I know it was to languish in labour and stressful house chores.
Few months after, I became broke. From time to time I retired into my room and lay down while glancing at the ceiling and counting the number of days left to travel to Jos for long vacation. During such periods I rebuffed calls from my grandmother that were work oriented.
But whenever I smelled the aroma of food, I answered even without being called. Then my grandmother sang me this food for thought song: “Bia rie, bia rie, ogodo gbawuru gbawuru! Bia ruo, bia ruo ogodo kpichii kpichii!” This means walking fast when food is available and walking slowly when it is time to work. Those days are bye gone. If there is reincarnation I would correct my mistakes.
At this junction, I want to hit the nail at the head. It happened that one of my relations was blessed with bouncing identical female twins. She called me on phone and asked me to rejoice with her for putting to bed lovely twin babies. I thanked God with her for the double blessing and for her safe delivery.
We exchanged pleasantries. Later she requested for fitting names for the identical twins. Instantly the eating and working song that my grandmother sang to me vibrated in my medulla oblongata. I picked the names from there.
Hence I suggested that the identical twins should be called Obiagalu (Work) and Obiageli (Enjoyment). The young mother accepted the second name and rejected the first. She clarified that Obiageli is a common name, but Obiagalu is unheard of. I took time to explain to her the philosophy and theology of the two names. Afterwards she became convinced and accepted the two names for her identical female twins.
Indeed there is dignity in labour. Work is good and rewarding. In other words there is glory in working. Saint Paul highlights this point when he admonishes the Thessalonians in these words: “We command you, beloved, to stay away from believers who are living in idleness contrary to the traditions we passed on to you.
You know how you ought to follow our example: we worked while we were with you. Day and night we laboured and toiled so as not to be a burden to any of you. We had the right to act otherwise, but we wanted to give you an example. Besides, while we were with you, we said clearly: If anyone is not willing to work, neither should that one eat.
However we heard that some among you live in idleness – busybodies, doing no work. In the name of Christ Jesus our Lord we command these people to work and earn their own living” (2 Thess. 3:6 – 12). Saint Paul has said it all: Work and Eat. In other words, no work no eating. Labour comes before enjoyment.
I remembered what my immediate junior sister wrote on the front door lintel of our kitchen in those days when she joined me at home. She wrote boldly: “NO SWEAT, NO SWEET. In addition a common English saying goes this way: “There is no food for a lazy man (woman inclusive).” The Igbo put it this way: “Aka abughi aja aja, onu agaghi abu mmanu mmanu.” This means that a soiled hand gives rise to an oiled mouth. It is from soil that oil is obtained. The Psalmist puts it succinctly: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs and shouts of joy” (Psalm 126:5).
It is now farming season. Everybody should go out to clear the land and till it. Then seeds are planted. Obiagalu must work with all her strength. Obiageli should unfailingly assist her. During the time of enjoyment Obiageli should not forget Obiagalu. The identical twins ought to complement each other. If you come across anyone who says her name is Oby, ask her for the full name. If she says Obiageli, then ask her the where about of her twin sister Obiagalu. Oby is an ambiguous name. God bless Obiagalu and Obiageli.
In our country Nigeria, it is often said, “Monkey dey work. Baboon dey chop.” It is not an overstatement that some civil servants are rarely seen in their offices or field of work, yet they collect their salaries at the end of the month. Even ghosts earn salaries in this country. They are called ghost-workers.
The beneficiaries submit fake names as workers and they themselves pocket the salaries of the ghost workers. Sometime ago, there was a validation exercise of civil servants. The director asked the ghosts workers to stand on the left while the physical workers should stand on the right with their respective identification cards. The beneficiaries of ghost workers made arrangement with a group of masquerades to represent the ghost workers.
When the name of a ghost worker is called, one of the masquerades would rush into the director’s office. The director asked the first masquerade, “Who are you?” The masquerade replied, “I am a ghost-worker. I have come from the land of the dead to collect my monthly salary. Pay it quickly to me before I strike you dead!” On that fateful day, two tortoises came to market.
The director mustered courage and unmasked the face of the masquerade. Lo and behold it was a face he knew. He shouted, “Are you a ghost or a human being?!” The unmasked ghost trembled and replied, “Sir, I am sorry. It is what greed and hunger caused.” The director invited some policemen who arrested the ghost worker and threw him behind bars. Seeing this, the rest of the masquerades disappeared. That was how ghost-workers ended in that ministry.
Our mission here on earth is more of Obiagalu. Whatever we sow here is what we shall reap over there (Galatians 6:7). God created us to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him here on earth and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven. We are called to different vocations in this life. Therefore we ought to be dedicated and upright wherever we find ourselves. If we lead good lives and do our works well, then we shall enjoy with Obiageli in the Kingdom of God. But if we lead bad lives and are careless in our works, then eternal punishment awaits us in hell fire.