The desk phone rings softly, gently snapping me out of my reverie. As my mind lumbered like an overloaded wagon back into the present, I realize I have been staring blankly at the computer for the past fifteen minutes. I yawn tiredly and look at my watch. It’s 3.55pm. Maybe my 4 0’clock appointment has arrived. It’s really been a long and arduous day and I can’t wait for it to be over. Thank God it’s Friday.
The phone is still ringing. I slowly reach for it pressing the speaker button.
“Chuba this is Anne. Your 4 0’clock is in the waiting room”.
“Ok. Thanks Anne”
I look at the files open on my computer one more time. I am supposed to do a financial review for a John Chappelle (Of course I won’t use his real name). That’s part of my job description. I review people’s accounts and give them various investment options. I rub my tired eyes as I leave my office and turn left towards the waiting room, hoping that the man smells nice. You see, just this morning I had done a review for a man who smelt like he’s not had a bath in many light years! It seemed like a combination of cigarette, sweat, and aggravated halitosis. All through the duration of the meeting, my mind was screaming, “For the love of God, please take a shower! Use some water!” It took the combined efforts of Glade and Febreeze to overpower the smell of putridity that hung like a dense cloud over the room. I swore never again to take fresh air for granted.
As I turn left towards the waiting room, I come face to face with a man in his mid-fifties casually dressed in a spotless white t-shirt and plain blue jeans. I enter the room, beaming a smile with all the self will I can muster and extend my hand.
“Hello Mr Chappelle. Good to see you.”
He stands to greet me, returning my smile and taking my hand in a firm handshake.
“Hello”, he replied cheerily, squinting at my name badge. “How do you pronounce the name? Is it Cuba?” “No, it’s Chuba. With the ‘ch’ ”, I corrected.
“I see. Are you Nigerian?”
“How far bros?” he quipped in what was apparently an attempt at pidgin English, but heavily laced with the British accent.
“Waoh, where did you learn that from?” I ask genuinely surprised.
“It might surprise you to know that I probably know as much about Nigeria as yourself. “
“Oh yeah. I’ve lived there for the past four years, working as a drilling and planning engineer. So which part of Nigeria are you from?” he asked as we make our way to my office.
“Anambra. I don’t suppose you’ll know it” I reply. Most British folks I’ve seen who know about Nigeria know only three places in it; Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.
“Of course I do. It’s close to Enugu. One of my cousins married a girl from Enugu. Both of them live in Texas now”.
“That’s interesting. Hope you enjoyed your experience in Nigeria.”
“Well the money was good, and it was basically tax-free”, he chuckled.
We got down to business. I plough through his accounts, reviewing and suggesting. Dude sure does have a lot of money.
“What are your plans? I mean, do you intend to go back to Nigeria?” He asks me. I am not unacquainted with being asked such questions by British people, but I was caught slightly off-guard because it just came out of the blues. Anyway, I have a ready-made answer.
So I say to him, “I intend to go back pretty soon”.
“And how long have you been in the UK?”
“Almost three years now”.
“Lemme tell you something son. I asked you the question about going back to Nigeria for a reason. You see, I’m very acquainted with the issues facing your country and I’m sure that you do as well. One of the things that amaze me is that a country that rich can have so many people living in abject penury. I don’t know if you already know this, but in terms of wealth your country is far richer than the UK. Infact, to be honest with you, there is absolutely no basis for comparison. Working for four years in the oil industry in Nigeria opened my eyes to that raw fact.”
I raise my eyebrows slightly. This fact coming from a Brit is quite a rarity. This dude has got my full attention.
“The major problem you folks have is your leaders. Your leaders are an absolute disgrace; leaders that plunder loot and kill with impunity and you all sit back and do nothing.”
“And what can we do?” I ask, unwilling to accept that indictment on helpless masses who are the ones being ravaged like there’s no tomorrow. “Take them to court? Riot? Do you think it’s not been done before?”
“You all have not done enough”, he asserts firmly. “If you’ve had it up to here”, he raises his hand to his eyes, “you will do whatever it takes to bring a change. Trust me on that. The day Egypt had it up to their eyeballs, they did something about their leadership. The same with Libya. But in your country, all you do is talk and complain without taking any real action. You folks are very religious in your country. You’ll rather pray about an issue than actually do something about it. You’ll rather pray and hope for a better tomorrow than do something that’ll ensure the reality of that hope. You pray for your leaders, you pray for your country, you pray to get rich, you pray practically about everything; and my question to you is ‘what are you actually doing apart from praying?’ Are you a Christian?”
“Yeah,” I responded, a little defensive.
“I thought as much. Most folks from the east are. Well I can’t say I’m a Christian, but I do believe in God and I read the bible every once in a while- more out of curiosity than anything else. And I’ll tell you this: pray all you like, there’s nothing more that God will do. You have to take responsibility for your country. I think that’s how God designed it so that He won’t encourage laziness in man. I’m not sure most of your Christian religious leaders understand that. Infact I’m not sure they understand a whole lot of things. If they did, they wouldn’t be flying around in private jets while there are people around them living in penury.”
“C’mon Sir! Don’t you think you’re being a bit harsh? What if the private jets were gifts or what if they can honestly afford it? Would you be this concerned if Simon Cowell or someone like that gets their own private jet?” I respond, vigorously defending God’s servants as a true soldier of the cross.
He chuckles a bit at the vigour I exuded and leans forward again, “Son, why would you compare someone like Simon Cowell to a Christian religious leader? Their lives are dictated by two entirely different standards and so shouldn’t be compared. You ask what if they could afford it or if it was a gift? Granted that could be so and I have absolutely no qualms with that. But remember your Bible says that in the early church there was none among them that lacked anything. So knowing that, how could I in all good conscience– assuming I’m a pastor, accept such a gift or acquire such a luxury, when there are people in my congregation or community who cannot afford to feed, to send their kids to good schools, or afford even the basic necessities of life? Is it too much of a sacrifice to make?”
“You know, for someone who claims not to be a Christian, your knowledge of the Bible is very impressive”, I say with a thin smile.
Ha laughs gutturally. “I like to gather knowledge from any source I can. When I heard that the Bible is the number one best-selling book in the world I decided to find out for myself what is inside it. The point of everything I’ve tried to say is this ‘your future is what you make of it.’ Until Nigeria and indeed Africa as a whole comes to that realization that the destiny of their country is in their hands, the much desired change will remain a mirage at best.”
I sink back into my chair after he’s gone. I am no longer in a hurry to get home. I sigh. I really don’t like discussing the issues and challenges facing my country because it leaves me drained- emotionally and mentally but then I can’t deny the fact that this foreigner- who has taken his time to analyze some of the issues faced by my own country- has given me some serious food for thought. Change. Reformation. It’s almost like climbing Everest barehanded…
I gather my stuff and leave, dragging my weary body and soul out of the building.
Chuba is a banker and a management consultant by profession. He’s also a fledgling author (mainly poems and short stories) and a motivational speaker. His passion is to impact the nations of Africa with the glory of God.