Just last week I was behind the steering of my four wheels, accelerating on a high velocity along the Abakaliki – Ogoja carpet-tarred road heading to my destination. Suddenly, a commercial vehicle overtook me at a bump. On its rear was inscribed: “Drive to Arrive.” Immediately, the three words flashed on my medulla oblongata. What did I do? I cleared and packed beside the road for a while and started an impromptu reflection. I asked myself, “What is the meaning of this 'Drive to Arrive? Is it addressed personally to me? Why did the commercial vehicle overtake me exactly at the bump to show me the inscription?” Before I met the bump I was on a very high speed. Then I remembered this traffic warning: “Slow down. Speed kills.” It is only an idiot that stays behind at the commencement of a pre-announced war. Also I remembered that life has no duplicate. Although man must die, careless death is blamable. An Igbo adage says, “Ebe onye oso ruru ka onye ije ga-elu.” That means 'slow and steady.'
After the road-side reflection, I made the Sign of the Cross and said a short charismatic prayer that pierced the heavens. Then I jumped into my car and continued the journey. Having thought twice, I began to drive in order to arrive. It is said that God will work with you and not for you. In other words, God helps those who help themselves. What do I mean? Since God cannot physically drive the vehicle for me after reading 'Drive to Arrive,' I reduced my speed drastically and observed other traffic rules in order to arrive safely at my destination. Some have driven but did not arrive. What of you? Do you drive to arrive or drive to perish? The choice is yours and mine. We do our own part and leave the rest for God.
Few kilometers to Ogoja, I met a horrible fatal accident on the highway. It was a commuter 18-seater bus heading to Ogoja as well. People were there shouting and crying helplessly. I stopped abruptly before the gory scene to render spiritual assistance to the victims of the fatal accident. I hung my stole over my shoulders, took a container of Holy Water and Holy Anointing Oil and then rushed to the scene. I saw fire gushing out from the smashed commercial vehicle. My breath failed me and I couldn't control my tears. The driver, the conductor and the 18 passengers were roasted beyond recognition. It was an awful sight to behold. However I took courage and sprinkled Holy Water on the burning human bodies and prayed for their eternal repose. The inferno consumed their bodies but not their souls. Tearfully, I asked one of the eyewitnesses what transpired. He told me that the driver was on an unimaginable high speed in order to make more return journeys and acquire more money. As a result he lost control of the steering and rammed over road bumps, somersaulted and caught fire, because he was carrying a container of fuel. Few meters before the bump was a road sign which read: “slow down, bumps ahead.” A dog that is bound to get lost ignores the hunter's whistle. What a regrettable fatal accident! Indeed the driver did not drive to arrive. The same fate can befall you and me, if caution is not taken in our everyday activities. It does not apply only to the highway. Before embarking on any action, we must weigh the implications or outcome.
Are you a smoker? Always at the end of advertising a particular cigarette product, a warning follows: “Those who smoke are liable to die young.” Despite this warning, many people smoke anyhow and anytime. Some are known as chain smokers. Even in hot weather they smoke aimlessly. Hot weather plus smoking equals to heart attack. I tasted the leftover of a cigarette as a young boy of 10 years. I lost consciousness immediately the smoke entered my respiratory system. My parents rescued me by pouring twenty buckets of cold water over my head and forcibly gave me six tins of liquid milk to drink. Since then till today, I take flight whenever I see a stick or leftover of cigarette. My heart is still burning from that little experience. As if ordinary cigarette is not enough, a lot of young people nowadays smoke dangerous hemps. Some of the smokers have run mad. Some are suffering from terminal heart diseases. Some have died prematurely.
Are you a drunkard? Drinking is good, but excessive drinking of alcohol is bad. Some drunkards quote the Gospel of Saint John Chapter 2:1-11 where Jesus Christ turned water into wine to justify their action. They ask, if alcohol is bad, why did Jesus turn water into wine? Also Saint Paul admonished Timothy not to drink only water but to take a little alcohol for his failing health (1 Tim. 5:23). In other words, alcohol is healthy. It is only an ignorant student that fails a revised examination. A certain passenger stood like a statue reading the inscription on a commercial vehicle. The vehicle loaded fully and departed. He then stood helpless as it was the last bus. The Igbo say, “Mmadu adighi ano na mmiri ncha abaa ya anya.” That literally means that you cannot be bathing in a whole river and soap will mesmerize your eyes. In other words, it does not pay to be careless. Is a drunkard better than a mad man, since both suffer from loss of sense? A woman who marries a drunkard (man) is a half widow. True or false? A traffic rule says, “If you drink, do not drive. If you drive, do not drink.” Drunk drivers are mad persons behind the steering. Most often they do not arrive. Even if they arrive, it is by chance. Before you board any vehicle please ask the driver if he or she is drunk. A stitch in time saves nine.
A week ago I was setting out for outside ministry with two young altar boys. As I was about to start the engine of the parish car, one of the boys asked me, “Please father, are you drunk?” I looked at the small boy furiously and rebuked him, “Shut up! Are you crazy? How can a priest be drunk?” The boy courageously reminded me that I once told them in the church to ask any driver conveying them in a vehicle that question before setting out on a journey. On hearing this, I couldn't control my laughter. I pated the boy at his back and said, “Well done! You are an intelligent boy. However, you must chew before you talk.” The boy chipped in, “Yes father, but a priest can be drunk by mistake.” Should this boy not be given a scholarship to study to university level? My colleagues in the Priesthood, please let us drive to arrive! In addition, it is advisable to put on our clerical attire to avoid mistaken identity. Some of us have been kidnapped wrongly because of wearing civilian costly attire and flashy car. It is better to avoid giving the devil an opportunity.
Are you a student? You ought to study hard to arrive. It is still fresh in my memory of our future ambitions when we were in primary two. Our class teacher verbally asked us one after the other this pertinent question: “What will you be when you grow up?” Some say they would be medical doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, engineers, etc. One of us said that he would be a fighter when he grows up. That boy normally fought in the school every day. The teacher admonished him not to be a fighter but a wrestler. Another stupid boy said, “When I grow up, I will be a thief.” Indeed it was not a laughing matter. The teacher gave him 36 lashes of the cane instantly and sent him on one month suspension. He left on his own at the expiration of the one month suspension. Later he became a notorious armed robber. He was killed in one of his robbery operations at the age of 20. Did he not achieve his ambition? Another boy said that he would be a pilot when he grows up and he would use the plane to fly into heaven. On reaching my turn in the class, I smiled and said, “When I grow up I will be a successful businessman.” The teacher added, “Please try to be a literate successful businessman.” I wanted to take after my father's career because he was a successful and literate businessman with Standard Six Certificate. Along the line, God arrested me and I ended up being a humorous Catholic Priest, as some people say.
In order to arrive safely, every pupil or student must burn the midnight lamp. Those who take their studies serious normally arrive. The lazy ones crash on the way. My father, in those old days, always told us his children that half education is dangerous. He admonished us to study hard so as to become somebody in life. An illiterate person becomes nobody in life. A certain wine tapper from Ajalli had his nickname as “Onye amaghi akwukwo.” When you call him by that name, he would reply, “Oru ike egbuo ya!” The name and its reply means: “If you are illiterate, you will die of hard labour.” There is really sense in the name. School dropouts are nuisance to their family and to the society at large. All pupils and students must allow school to pass through them; not just to pass through school. During our final year studies at Aguata High School, Aguata in Anambra State, one of my classmates was rarely found in class. He was busy attending social activities outside the school from time to time. During our WAEC he was physically present in the Examination hall but academically absent. When the result was released and pasted at the principal's office, we all rushed from home to see our results. The student in question also came. While most of us were rejoicing over our good results, he was shrouded in sadness because he failed woefully in the nine subjects. He got 9 x 9 = 81. Was it not a high mark? He shouted, “God, did I shoot you with catapult that you made me fail all the subjects?” What would be your reply if you were God? Let all pupils and students study seriously in order to arrive.
Are you are farmer? You should farm well to arrive. The Holy Book says, “Those who are sowing in tears will sing when they reap. They go out full of tears and come back full of joy” (Psalm 126: 5 - 6). Saint Paul vehemently tells the Thessalonians, “If you do not work, do not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). The Igbo puts it as “Aka aja aja na-eweta onu mmanu mmanu.” Since the economic recession in Nigeria set in, most people were forced by hunger to go into farming. It is commonly said, “No food for a lazy man.” In the novel “Things Fall Apart”, Okonkwo's father, Unoka, was known as a loafer. While others trekked to distant land to farm, he stood at home blowing flute. Lazily he planted some seed yams in sandy soil at home. During harvest time he did not arrive at all. Hence he took a cock to a shrine to inquire from the gods about the cause of his poor harvest. The chief priest heard his complaint of poor harvest. After consulting the gods, the chief priest came out with the cock and gave it back to Unoka saying, “Unoka, go home and work like a man!” The gods were angry with him because of his laziness. A lazy farmer can never arrive. It pays to be hard-working.
On the spiritual realm, we have dual citizenship: citizens of this earth and citizens of heaven. In other words, we are in the world but not of the world. The Catechism of Christian doctrine categorically enunciates that God created us to know Him, to serve Him on earth and to be happy with Him in Heaven. Therefore, we must live well to arrive. God endowed us with freewill. We choose between good and evil; heaven and hell. Even if we have sinned, we can still repent in order to arrive. It is either we repent now or never! There is no repentance in the grave. Since no one is perfect, we continue to struggle daily to arrive. The last three things are: Death, Judgment, Heaven or Hell. Where will you and I spend our eternity: in heaven or in hell? That is the ultimate question. Struggle continues till we arrive. We shall rest in peace when we arrive, other we shall rest in pieces. Lord, have mercy!