Watch your back

By Fr Pat Amobi Chukwuma

Some days ago, a young half illiterate young man came into my office in tears. I offered him a seat and asked him to wipe away his tears. Then I enquired from him what was amiss. He began to count the litany of misfortune in his life. According to him, many seen and unseen enemies were after him.

As a result he has gone to various native doctors and prayer houses to seek for deliverance, but all to no avail. At this point, his speech was interrupted by a flood of uncontrollably tears running down his cheeks. I was highly touched. Out of sympathy I rose to my feet and consoled him like a baby whose mother was in coma. Also I offered him some pieces of advice. First of all, I told him to watch his back.

To my utmost surprise he started to act an emotional drama. He quickly stood up and turned his face backwards. He shouted, “Father, where are they? Back to sender!” After seeing no one behind, he began to scratch his back in order to be sure that none of the visible and invisible enemies was lurking there.

At this junction, the laughter I have been suppressing burst like punctured tube. The young man glanced at me with consternation and uttered, “Father, this is not a laughing matter. I am here to seek for deliverance and not for amusement. I need an ‘akpucative’ deliverance prayer here and now.

Before embarking on the requested ‘akpucative’ deliverance prayer, I cleared the troubled young man’s ignorance. I explained to him the meaning of ‘watch your back,’ I asked him to beware of the people around him who may be causing him harm. He sighed and asserted, “Okay, I now understand. Father they are many. Even my mother and my siblings are among my worst enemies.

My two uncles and their wives are devil incarnates. In fact I only trust myself in my family and my village. Do you know that my biological father died a shameful death as a dangerous wizard? My mother is a witch. My brothers and sisters are wolves ….” I interrupted him by saying, “It is enough. Calm down.

You are in the right place now. Your deliverance is assured.” I recommended him to pray ardently and fast for nine days. He should also reconcile with his mother, siblings, uncles and their wives. After doing all these he should come back to me for the ‘akpucative’ prayer of deliverance.

Surprisingly my client stood up sharply. He sighed and shouted, “Father, these your recommendations are bundles of impossibility! Let me go elsewhere and find solution!” He banged my door so violently that one of the hinges fell off. I pitied him because he left worse than he came. I saw anger and hunger on his face.

The next day I was at table during breakfast, eating like a king. My houseboy came in with deceptive smiles. He knows the right time to capture my attention. He requested for his school fees and money to purchase some essential personal needs.

I met his demands and asked him to study hard and watch his back always. He was intoxicated with joy and he left with appreciation. After taking my kingly breakfast I went down for digestive walk within the church compound. Lo and behold my houseboy was washing his back with soap and water severally. I shouted at him and asked him what he was doing.

He replied, “Father, have you forgotten? You told me few minutes ago to wash my back always. That is exactly what I am doing before I leave for school.” I shook my head in disbelief and exclaimed, “Foolish boy! That is not what I mean.

I said ‘watch your back’ and not ‘wash your back.’ What are you learning at school? I mean you should always be careful of those around you who may do you harm. Before I count ten, you might have left for school! Ewu-goat!!!” Before I could count 3, he disappeared like lightening.

Wonders shall never end. The mother monkey asserted that she can never swear for the baby she was carrying on her back whether it plucked the sweet fruit as they were passing through the forest. But she can only swear for the baby in her womb.

In other words, you dare not swear for anyone already born, no matter how little he or she is. Often irrational animals are wiser than we rational human beings. In these days the rats living within and around us no longer trust us with any food items artificially kept to trap or poison them. They have learnt their lessons. There are many rats operating in my house.

After we have cooked, eaten and went to bed, they come into the kitchen and refectory environment to feed on the leftover and other edibles within their reach. To my utmost dismay, since I kept poisoned food items for the unwanted visitors in my house to eat and die, they disappeared into oblivion.  But whenever the poisoned food is taken away, they come around. Is it possible that the rats have animal or human informants? No problem. ‘Agaracha’ must come back.

Friendship is a matter of trial and error. Rarely can you find trustworthy friends. Few days ago, my pastoral car was under admission in a mechanic workshop. I sat there from morning to afternoon waiting for its recovery from mechanical illness.

As I sat there hopefully, there was commotion nearby. People were rushing to the scene. I joined the spectators. What did I see? It was not a drama but a violent fight between a boyfriend and his girlfriend. The friendship turned sour on that fateful day. The cause of the fight was just a provocative nomenclature.

The girlfriend saved her boyfriend’s phone number with “My Desire” because she felt the going was good. On the contrary the girlfriend accidentally discovered that her boyfriend saved her own phone number with “Ekeuke” (useless dog).  It was a betrayal of trust.

The girl was bent on biting her boyfriend to death like the dangerous useless dog he called her. The duo fighters refused to be separated. It was a violent duel between Trust and Mistrust. Thank God some policemen came and whisked them away.  I am still laughing over the two nomenclatures: MY DESIRE AND EKEUKE.

The Psalmist portrays such friendly betrayal in these words: “If this had been done by an enemy, I could bear his taunts. If a rival had risen against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, my own companion, my intimate friend! How close was the friendship between us” (Psalm 55:13-14). Betrayal of trust can be heartbreaking.

Jesus Christ was highly disappointed that one of his Apostles called Judas Iscariot with whom he ate at the same table, with the same plate and drank from one cup betrayed him. Julius Caesar received the last bloody blow from his tested and trusted friend called Brutus.

He despairingly lamented before giving up the ghost, “Et tu Brute?” (And you also, Brutus?). In the Novel Things Fall Apart, the boy Ikemefuna was lured into his eternal journey in the pretext of being taken home, after living with Okonkwo and his household for many years. Before the fateful journey, Ezeudu, the oldest man in Umuofia, admonished Okonkwo not to lay a hand in the boy’s death since he called him father.

Unfortunately, the advice fell on deaf ears. On their way through the thick forest, one of the men ‘escorting’ Ikemefuna home struck Ikemefuna with his knife as the pot of wine the boy was carrying broke into pieces. The bleeding Ikemefuna rushed to Okonkwo for deliverance while shouting, “Father, they have killed me!” The self acclaimed brave Okonkwo finished him up with his sharp knife. It was a terrible betrayal of trust. Okonkwo suffered the nemesis which eventually led him to commit suicide, which was abominable in the land.

In our society today, some of us act like Judas Iscariot, Brutus and Okonkwo. No one knows whom to trust in our families, kindred, communities, villages, towns, places of work, in the mosques and churches. In our country Nigeria, politicians betray politicians.

It is popularly said that there is no permanent enemy or permanent friend in politics. Hence politicians continue to cross-carpet from one political party to the other due to avarice. Their pockets are their concern rather than the benefit of the electorates. During political campaigns they promise the people heaven on earth. But once they win elections, they become incommunicado.

Their phone numbers become unreachable or non- existent. The incumbent President Buhari swore during his swearing-in in 2015 in these unforgettable words: “I am for everybody and for nobody.” Unfortunately the reverse is the case. Nepotism became the order of his regime. There are betrayals in the Armed forces, Police and among civilian populace. It is even found in religious circles.

It is regrettable that Mistrust has betrayed Trust. Ekeuke has betrayed My Desire. Injustice has overrun justice. Nepotism has betrayed Nationalism. Cattle have overrun humanity. The life of cows is now more valuable than human life in Nigeria. Ethnicity and marginalization have crippled national interest. It is backward ever and forward never. Things have fallen apart in this country and the centre can no longer hold. To your tents, oh Nigerians!