By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
Few days ago, I was taking my normal evening therapeutic walk along a village path. At a bushy bend, I saw a middle-aged huge man coming opposite me. His seize was abnormal. I made the Sign of the Cross as a precautionary measure. Coming closer, I couldn't discern whether the man was facing or backing me. His pot-belly was as big as a plastic tank. His backyard was as huge as a dome. He was naturally endowed front and back. I gave him a long distance as I was passing him by. By the grace of God, I controlled the laughter in me that was about to burst. Immediately I passed him by, I turned to have a deeper glance of him. He was moving like a bulldozer. I shook my head and said, “In fact, this man has double ration. Perhaps he was created early on Monday morning when God still had ample time.” I looked at myself and saw that there was no comparison. I have half ration. Probably I was created on Saturday evening when God was hurriedly closing the work of creation. I consoled myself saying, “Half ration is better than none.” Weigh yourself to see if you have one ration, half ration, double ration or none at all.
Very recently, I attended a birthday party. During the item 7, we queued up to serve ourselves. A very tall fat man was standing in front of me. I was holding one plate while he was holding two. When it was his turn to collect food, he filled the two plates to brim with rice, beans, fried plantain, salad, fish and meat. I tapped at his back and asked him, “Big Bro, why are you collecting double ration?” He cast fearful red eyes at me and muttered, “Do you not see my double size? I am bound to take double ration. Mind yourself before I descend on you!” I kept mute. Quickly I collected one ration of roasted plantain and its condiments and stylishly sneaked away before he could actualize his threat.
During supper at a certain higher ecclesiastical institution, a notorious glutton collected double ration of food and meat from his table’s pot, when other students were yet to take theirs. The table members started murmuring and looking at him with consternation. The table head courageously confronted him for taking double ration which would make some to starve. Instead of cutting the food, he seriously said, “I have viewed the quantity of food in the pot. It will still go round and come back to me.” The table members unanimously shouted, “Shame! Shame!! Shame!!!” Shamefully the glutton descended on his double ration and left the refectory hurriedly like a fowl that polluted the air.
A mentally deranged man attended the burial ceremony of two brothers who died in a ghastly car accident. The bereaved family decided to bury the two corpses on the same day. During the interment, tears flowed like flood from the family members, relations and sympathizers. As soon as the burial was over, sorrow was reduced. Then dances, condolence visits and entertainment galore followed. Those selected to serve the people wore tags written “Ask Me.” It happened that the mentally deranged man was served one bottle of beer. He protested seriously saying, “Two corpses were buried here today. How can you give me only a bottle of beer? I must have double ration; one bottle of beer for each corpse.” The Ask Me servers scolded him for making such unjust and greedy demand. But he insisted and was shouting at everybody. For peace to reign, one of the “Ask Me” guys reluctantly gave him a second bottle of beer. He collected it and started laughing madly. Mathematically, two corpses equal to double ration; all things being equal.
In those old days, I was in primary 3 while my immediate junior brother was in primary 1 at Fatima Boys' Primary School, Jos in Plateau State. Everyday my junior brother complained to me about a huge boy in his class who beat him on daily basis. One day, I made up my mind as a senior boy to deal with the huge boy. I thought that seniority has advantage over size. Hence I asked my brother to lead me to his class and show me the huge boy so that I might show him pepper. As we came into the class, my brother pointed at the huge boy. Immediately I saw that the boy has double ration, my breath failed me. I told my brother to allow me to go and urinate first. I disappeared like lightening. That was the end of the intended fight. My junior brother waited and waited. Later he came to my class to look for me. When he saw me he asked, “Why didn't you come again to beat that huge boy? Have you not finished urinating?” I told him not to lead me into temptation. How can a person with half ration confront a boy endowed with double ration? Is that not suicidal? It is with style that an old woman runs away from a cow.
Can someone be tall and short at the same time? In a certain church weeklong activities, the bishop was expected to preside at the closing Mass. The choir began Episcopal entrance hymn titled “Lee nnukwu Ukochukwu!” (Behold the high priest!) Normally the bishop comes last in such ceremony. So, as the concelebrants filed by, the choir expectantly raised the tone of the Episcopal hymn to honour the bishop. But behold, a short priest came at the rear as the chief celebrant instead of the bishop. Due to unforeseen circumstances the bishop asked the priest in question to represent him. The choir stopped singing sharply as if there was a power failure. They emotionally started singing, “Lee mkpumkpu ukochukwu!”(Behold the short priest!). Angrily, the short priest confronted the choir aggressively, “What a nonsensical nonsense is this? What a disgrace! Am I not a high priest? Being a high priest is not a question of height but of office. Therefore begin the “Lee nnukwu ukochukwu” again before I place a curse on all of you!” There was murmuring everywhere. Theologically speaking, the priest was naturally short but hierarchically tall (high) in the order of Melchizedek. In essence he has a double ration.
The current news in Nigeria is that the Federal Government has decreed that henceforth, medical doctors must not collect double ration from public hospitals and from their private hospitals. They should choose to devote their services either to the public hospital or to their private hospital. Taking double ration makes the doctors to neglect the public hospitals while they promote their private ones. When patients come to the public hospital, the doctors do not give them adequate attention. But when they go to private hospitals of those doctors, the attention given is superb. I am a living witness. Some time ago, I took my seriously sick junior brother to a certain Teaching Hospital for medical attention. After obtaining the hospital card, no doctor could easily be reached. Meanwhile my brother was writhing in pains. Even the nurses didn't care. Angrily, I abandoned the card and everything that has to do with the Teaching Hospital and rushed my sick brother to the nearest private hospital. Immediately we came in, the doctor who works in the aforesaid Teaching Hospital came out to attend to us even without obtaining hospital card. He checked the blood pressure and temperature of my brother by himself. After diagnosis he admitted him instantly. He was always coming to check his condition at intervals. When he was discharged, we nearly sold a piece of land to settle the hospital bill.
In normal parlance pension is the sum of money paid into the coffer of someone who has retired from active civil service for his or her sustenance. It is due for the living. Strangely some ghost workers collect double ration for the living and the dead. A ghost is the spirit of the departed who has gone to the world beyond. The ghost workers collected their wages while they were in the flesh. After death they continue to collect their wages invisibly. That is double ration. During verification exercise, the ghost workers come in spirit to queue up. Two years ago, I travelled to Ihiala Local Government office to represent my senior sister who retired voluntarily from civil service. She now lives abroad with her husband and children. She receives pension monthly. Since she is not physically present in Nigeria, she normally asks me to represent her at the verification exercise from time to time. She sends me her valuable documents for the exercise. In one of the verification exercises, we stood on line to be verified one after the other. As a priest I saw with my spiritual eyes some of the ghosts who came for the exercise. One stood in front of me while the other was behind me. The one behind me was trying to manoeuvre his way. I warned him severally to keep quiet before I expose him. When he persisted, I exorcised him and sprinkled him with Holy Water. He raised a shrill cry and disappeared. The one in front begged me not to deal with him in the same way. He confessed that the hunger in hell forced him to back on earth to collect his pension for his daily bread. Thus he enjoys double ration from the land of the living and from the land of the dead.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) are demanding for the increase of the minimum wage from N18,000 to a higher sum. A Tripartite Committee was set up by the Federal Government to reach an agreement. The Organized Labour demands N30,000 minimum wage. The Federal Government on her part stipulates N24,000 while the State Governors are for N22,500. The Labour Congress decided that workers would embark on a nation-wide strike on 6th November, 2018, if the Federal Government failed to meet their demand. The Federal Government on her own part has gone to court to stop the NLC from going on the intended strike. For the Federal Government, no work no pay. The workers on their own part say, “No pay, no work. No pay, no vote.” The Labour Union suspended the scheduled Nation-wide strike when the Tripartite Committee later reached an interim agreement of N30,000.
It is unfortunate that our leaders and politicians pocket both minimum and maximum wages themselves. By so doing, they collect double ration while the civil servants take home one ration. Who is cheating who? The emoluments our political leaders take home are scandalous. Hence 'monkey dey work while baboon dey chop'. For the sake of equity, the salaries and allowances of the political leaders in the Executive and Legislative Arms of Government should be slashed in order to meet the demand of workers for new minimum wage. It is because of the huge emoluments the politicians collect that election in Nigeria has become a do-or-die affair.