10.30am: I arrived very late to school that Wednesday merely because I had to pay a visit to the mortuary on the urging of my proprietress. I had my ear full as I was coming to school that day, because all through the time I waited at the mortuary, people told stories of spirits, visitations from the dead, etc. Due to the fact that they were all elderly people, I kept quiet and smiled all through while the spoke, but in my mind, I queried many of their experiences. So, as I trekked down to school that morning, I meditated on the things I heard those people tell at the mortuary waiting place, and I turned them over in my mind. How much of these experiences with the dead are really true, and not mere subjective experiences? In fact, last two days, I had derailed an afternoon Science class (which I rarely do, unless when I know I’m ahead in scheme, and feel I need to say somethings extra-curricular to my students) in order to challenge some of the traditional beliefs of men in the reality of the spirits of dead men, reincarnation and many other traditional beliefs which I strongly objected to. I had a good time meditating that morning as I trekked down to school.
12.05pm: I was already almost through with my class that period, as I cut a little bit into my students’ recess period (an act I do not recommend) in order to tidy my teaching for that day. As I was rounding up, I began to hear noises rising from other classes as the students began to gather themselves together. At first I thought that everybody suddenly discovered it was break time and wanted to go and play. All of a sudden I started hearing, “everybody, go home!” I wondered what was happening and had to stop my class. I was about going downstairs to go and query the head-teacher when the movement to go home turned into a panic and the students began to cry and shriek in fear. I had to rush downstairs in my usual manner, and ordered the gates to be closed while I ascertained what was happening. Of course I tried to calm the issue down but I never succeeded. Just seeing the panicking parents, and my confused fellow-teachers told me that something was up somewhere.
I went somewhere and sat down to really get the news, then by the time every student had left, the stories began to emerge. Some people were going about with military uniform and forcing students to be immunized. In my usual ‘thomas’ manner, I did not believe the news. If you told me that Nigerian Army invaded an IPOB meeting/ house somewhere, I can believe you. But to tell me that the military men were going from school to school and ‘immunizing’ students, and any student they immunized fell down there and died! I could not believe that. My fellow teachers felt it was possible. There is nothing the Hausas cannot do. There is nothing Buhari cannot do. bla bla bla. I could not believe that nonsense. But since I had no back-up for my beliefs, I angrily left the school on my way home.
In the bus as I was going home, the news was rife in the air. My sister called from Onitsha, confirming that the same news spread to Awka, Imo, etc. I was disturbed. Where was all these rumors coming from? Who started it all? Who bewitched a whole population of Nigerians into believing that such a thing ever took place? Or maybe it actually took place? I could not get my thoughts straight. In the bus that afternoon, one elderly man kept calling people and telling them that such and such was happening. He even said that in a nearby school in my neighborhood (WTC) that about 30 (thirty) students were already dead! And he spoke with such authority like he was there when it happened, and watched the children die. He said it was a northern agenda, the plan of Buhari and his military personnel.
Of course, my heart burned with some measure of anger. An anger that have not fully left me. Who did this to us? How could the government allow people to enter our schools and ‘immunize’ our children to death? Of course by the time I got home, I discovered that nothing happened. Nobody came anywhere. No body died in WTC. Everybody ran just like everybody else. The Enugus thought it happened in Nnewi. The Nnewis thought it happened in Enugu. Every other south-easterner thought it happened in Enugu. Some in Enugu said it happened in Bayelsa, and many where already dead. When I got home, I learnt that even in Lagos, Abuja, people ran. So, the question is, who was now pursuing who? Who actually saw these men? Who actually saw the students die?
As I thought that evening, I felt a check in my spirit. It dawned on me that an avalanche of fear had been released in Nigeria, especially among the south-easterners. It seems that there is a general agreement that not only are we being marginalized, but that we are a haunted people. That the government wants us dead. The Hausas wasn’t us dead. Buhari wants us dead. The Nigerian Army wants us dead. Bla bla bla. The kingdom of darkness has released a massive horde of hell, and they are marching through the sociual media, radio stations and through the beer parlors, spreading fear, hatred and distrust. While it will definitely take a long time before Nigeria can break, the result will be that we will find it difficult to live with each other. The result will be an increase in hate-speeches, actions and reactions. The result is that the brotherliness with which we lived with our neighbors from other ethnic groups, buy their goods, etc, will be a thing of the past. There is a spirit of fear, pervading the nation. Fear of the Hausa agenda, fear of what one ethnic group or the other will do to us.
This is the very spirit that spurs on men to a suicide mission (like a brother of mine who left Enugu to Umuahia for no other reason but to have a face-off with Nigeria military in the name of IPOB), that makes us to hate those who we are supposed to love, that makes us to believe the worse of others and misunderstand every action or step they take towards us.
So, I have resolved to fight. Both in prayers, and with a writer’s inkhorn. I plan to challenge, as the days go on, certain mind-sets that pervades the mind of the average south-easterner (especially), which were highly pressed on by Radio Biafra, the IPOB, and many other beer-parlour gossips all over the Nation. The battles of life are first won or lost in our minds. It matters what we believe. It matters what we accept as true. The battle is first in the mind. If your mind is captured, you will be in bondage forever (even if you have your own nation). That spirit of a victim, that spirit of a defeated man, that spirit of a helpless man, that pervades the Igbo nation today must be dealt with for good! Yes! For Good!
IN HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE
J. M. OBODOZIE