With Rev. Canon Chinemerem Uche
I went to a student’s hostel in one of the higher institutions of learning; the courtyard was so dirty, very, very dirty! I watched the students as they moved about, cooked, played indoor games and washed their dresses around the courtyard. I just could not imagine how the students felt so at ease living and carrying out activities in such an environment. It is true that our people say that the dog owned by everybody easily dies of hunger, but what was of utmost concern to me was whether there was not at least one student who came from a descent home to take the initiative in keeping the small courtyard clean. I looked at the backyard of their hostel and I saw rubles! The students disposed dirt right at their very door step. I was wondering if their learning did not impact on their habits and attitude. The hostel has a very good area that could have served as a rubbish dump. I was then wondering why they dumped their refuse at their door step. I was also wondering how they could effectively study in such stinky environment.
In 2010, a young man came to the parsonage to ask for transport fare to go home having been discharged from the prison. To sum up his life in prison, hear what he said, “A prisoner is like a student of the higher institution in Nigeria. The only difference between a prisoner and a student is that the student has a greater measure of freedom.” It is now becoming clearer to me that most of our students live and behave like prisoners. I still wonder how sane people will destroy the environment that is supposed to keep them alive and healthy. I still wonder how one can refuse to care for his own. During our marriage counseling the late Venerable Albert Ukonu asked me a question, “Chinemerem, if you see a man slapping himself and knocking himself on the head, what will you call him?” My response immediately was, “That man will be regarded as a mad man.” He went ahead to say, “You can see that your wife to be is taken out of your rib just as Eve was taken out of Adam, anybody who beats his wife is a mad man. “Chinomso,” He said to my wife, “Any day you starve your husband or beat him, then what will people call you?” She giggled and responded, “Mad woman.” Till today I never fail to let those coming for marriage counseling know of this principle I learned from this very humble Man of God. Some of our students therefore can be likened to prisoners, mad men and mad women, because they do not care about what will bring them life and they are also destroying themselves and the environment like a mad man. This is so because like the man who beats his wife and the man who slaps and knocks himself, they all are suffering from severe mental illness.
I was privileged to preach in a chapel of one of the higher institutions of learning in Imo State, as I continued with the message, the students kept replying me from the pews. They kept ranting, “Tell them!” “I hear you sir!” and “Ride on Pastor.” I felt that their response to the message was getting too much and I immediately issued a warning that I needed no more ovations from them. I know anybody reading this piece about the attitude of students may also nod in affirmation that this is true of the students and some might be tempted to say as they read this piece for three consecutive Sundays, “Ride on Sir!” “Tell them.” David also assumed this same position when Prophet Nathan came to warn him of the consequences of his adultery and subsequent murder of Uriah:
So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.” David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “YOU ARE THAT MAN! The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own. 2 (Sam 12:1-10).
From the foregoing, could it also be said that some of our politician, public office holders and those who hold sensitive and lucrative positions both in private and public sectors are mad? Can we also say that they are like the prisoners and the students? Can we say that those who are supposed to take care of us are the very ones destroying us? Can we be bold to conclude that some of, if not majority of our leaders are suffering from severe mental disorder? Why do we have so many beautiful houses in some high and low brow areas of our locality and yet they have no access to pipe borne water, good roads and electricity? I once traveled to a suburb of Abuja; my guest showed me a very deep gully and said, “You see this gully? Whooping sums of money was allocated in the budget to stop the erosion so that we can have better access to our homes. Two years have passed and yet it has been already reported that the access road has been built and the gully no more.” Why will somebody receive money to build hospitals for our collective health, embezzle the money? Does he have hope in seeking help in India? What about his less privileged relations and relative who cannot afford to go to India for medical treatment? What about the man who channels money meant for certain infrastructure like building of classrooms and laboratory and so on, to building hotels, night clubs and “ngwori centres?” Are they not like the prisoners? Are they not like the students? Are they not like the mad man who beats and knocks himself? You may have laughed over this satire of “Oga, his gate-man and his driver,” the gate men and the drivers may not be the ones we know! To some of our “mad men” out there, embezzling destroying our common wealth and stealing like hopeless lepers, and “chopping alone,” I say, be ready, welcome, here comes the revolution! Those leading this revolution unfortunately, are the kidnappers, the Boko Harams, the armed robbers, the prostitutes, the touts and street urchins and the mass of uneducated youths who unfortunately are the so called graduates of our institutions of higher learning. Welcome!