Thinking about hell

Casmir Igbokwe

 

Njide is a Christian who does not joke with church dogmas. She did her traditional marriage earlier in the year. But she has vowed not to live with her husband until after their church wedding in November. Living with her man without this important rite, she believes, will be an easy ticket to hell.

 

I almost experienced a similar thing with my wife some eight years ago. Traditionally, we were married. But because we had not done our church wedding then, my dad advised that we should not sleep together. “There is no need pinching a parcel that will eventually be opened,” he admonished. I nodded as I took my wife to Port Harcourt. As a bachelor then, I had just one bed. And so, I was in a dilemma whether to sleep on the floor so as not to miss heaven or sleep together with my wife and go to hell. 

 

Be that as it may, heaven is supposed to be a place of eternal bliss; hell, a place of eternal damnation. Generally, believers assume that all those who commit fornication, adultery, murder, armed robbery, etc are confirmed candidates for hell. The fact that no living being has gone there to see how it looks like is another matter entirely.

 

Now, I am beginning to think that the location of that hell is nowhere else but in Africa. And Nigeria being the most populous country in Africa, we need not look elsewhere for an example of how hell looks like.

 

Or how does one explain the fact that in spite of our human and material resources, we still cannot move forward as a nation. For some days now, I have been moving round filling stations in some parts of Lagos searching for kerosene. A fuel attendant in one of the filling stations at Egbeda looked at me with surprise and asked, “You are asking of the chairman (kerosene) like that? Don’t you know that you can’t find it anyhow now?” I understand that even where you find it at all, one gallon goes for between N600 and N700. Diesel seems to be more available now than kerosene. But the price is so exorbitant that companies and individuals who use it to power their machines feel the pinch everyday.

 

We may be enjoying the availability and affordability of fuel now, but the Federal Government is bent on increasing the price next year. The Minister of State for Energy, Mr Odien Ajumogobia, has told us that the government cannot sustain the subsidy on petrol anymore. He reportedly put the subsidy for this year at N700bn.

 

Ajumogobia has marshalled fine arguments to support the planned hike. But he has failed to tell us other things Nigerians enjoy from their government and from the natural resources that abound in their land. Even most Western countries we emulate have different welfare schemes for their citizens. In the United Kingdom, for instance, unemployed citizens are entitled to some benefits. Till date, people still confront me and express surprise over the story I shared last year on how my son got first class medical attention in Cardiff free of charge. This was in spite of the fact that I was a foreign student then.

 

Do we still wonder why our people prefer to die while crossing over to Europe to remaining in Nigeria? The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe, was quoted recently to have said that no less than 59, 000 Nigerians were currently in Northern African countries waiting for an opportunity to migrate to some Western countries. According to him, 8, 000 of these migrants were in Morocco, 16, 000 in Algeria, 20, 000 in Libya and 15, 000 in Mauritania. Over 10, 000 migrants, Maduekwe reportedly noted, died between 1999 and 2002 in their desperate attempt to cross over to Europe. The most recent example was the drowning of illegal migrants off the coast of the Canary Island in Spain. The incident affected some 100 Nigerians, including pregnant women and kids.

 

Some of those who do not have the opportunity to migrate to “heaven” engage in different kinds of crimes to sustain themselves. About 64 million youths are unemployed. Without the prospect of finding job anywhere, they create one for themselves. Last week, Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, ordered the destruction of an illegal refining site in Rivers State. Some youths established the illegal site to refine diesel and petrol with 100 per cent local technology. Since our refineries cannot produce to optimum capacity, these youths, perhaps, decided to fill the gap.

 

Some government functionaries are wont to label Nigerian journalists as purveyors of negative news. But can anybody tell me the good things about Nigeria that we should celebrate now? I have been thinking of such good news. So far, I can’t remember any. Perhaps, you, dear readers, will be of help in this regard.

 

Perhaps too, there is some good news in the call, last week, by the Nigerian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mrs. Nimota Akanbi, that Nigerian businessmen should invest in the Dutch economy in order to improve the balance of trade between the two countries. According to her, Nigeria will grow economically if it adopts a diversified international investment policy.

 

Good. If Nigerians could invest in the UK, USA, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands or even China, our international profile may rise; people will then know that Nigeria is not all about advance fee fraud and other crimes.

 

However, before we begin our movement to the Netherlands, we need to answer some questions about hell. Is there any hell anywhere that is worse than not having electricity for days or even months in some cases? Can any hell be worse than one becoming a refugee in one’s own land as experienced by Bakassi indigenes last Thursday? Could there be a hell that is worse than living in perpetual fear of armed robbers, assassins and kidnappers? And is it not hellish travelling on roads filled with potholes and craters? Don’t you think that this hell we often talk about is in Africa with Nigeria as the corporate headquarters? And do you now blame our youths who celebrate and go for thanksgiving service anytime they have an opportunity to check out of the hell called life in this country?

 

As the cliché goes, charity begins at home. I don’t see how we can begin to invest in other countries when we have not invested enough in our country. No matter the sermons, no matter the amount of campaigns against illegal migration and illegal refineries, Nigeria will only begin to move forward when we find answers to our economic problems. The major key to this answer lies in fixing our power problems. That will greatly enhance the work of barbers, welders, and manufacturing concerns. It will make our products competitive globally, fuel price hike or no hike notwithstanding. Ultimately, it will liberate us from hell and make us the light of the world.          

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