In his popular song in the 70’s, titled ‘Atomic Bomb’, William Onyeabor asked, “America, do you ever think this world is yours?”. He answered the question in what was considered a revolutionary way at the time, when he said, “If you’re thinking so, you better change your mind”. The song was popular because America was (is) considered a bully. This is why somebody said that of all the countries in the world, it is only America that has never experienced civilisation. According to him, America started from barbarism and ended in decadence. In other words, bullying is the hallmark of uncivilised people or society. Be that as it may, it is now clear that coronavirus answers the question of Onyeabor better. Suddenly, America is as helpless as Gabon!
The federal and state governments in Nigeria are doing a good job in managing the coronavirus pandemic. The only missing component is strong confidence building to help the citizens conquer fear because as somebody said, cowards die many times before their death. This is why some people never recovered from the information about the positive result of their HIV test. Nigerians should be told constantly that life is a journey and they must enjoy the ride, corona or no corona.
To conquer fear, we need the book of J.P Vaswani titled, Kill Fear Before Fear Kills You. Absolute precautions, yes. But not perpetual fear of hopelessness. Listen to Vaswani: “needless fear is like the advance interest you pay on troubles that may never come your way”. Worry? Don’t worry. Vaswani again: “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it only empties today of its strength. It has been proven in most cases that over 99 percent of the things people worry about never actually happen! What a waste of mental and emotional energy!”. Unfortunately, there is no end to tomorrow: “when tomorrow arrives and becomes today, and passes off peacefully, we still fret about the morrows to come”.
Planning? Absolutely necessary! But live in the present. Don’t be like the daughter of a man we read about in one of the excellent primary school textbooks during our time. People met the man, his wife and daughter crying. As the head of the family, he was asked why the three of them were crying, and his reply stunned the people. “I just came back from farm and met them crying and decided to join them”, he said. The wife also said that she met her daughter crying and she joined her because there was no way she could divorce herself from the problems of her daughter. It took some time to calm the daughter, to trace the genesis of the crying session. “I was just imagining that one day I will get married and give birth to a beautiful daughter. But what will happen if the daughter died? It is the fear of this tragedy that made me cry” She said. Unaware of her stupidity, she burst out crying again.
Now, the killer punch of FEAR from Vaswani: “Love and compassion leave no room for fear”. Let me tell you how love and compassion helped Chief Sunday Awoniyi to conquer fear. As the person in-charge of the official movement of the Premier of Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, he was told by the Premier to arrange for the only helicopter of the region to take him to Sokoto the following day. As he was almost through with the arrangements, he received an urgent message that a District Officer (D.O.) in present day Benue State was in critical condition. Without consulting anybody, he diverted the helicopter to bring the D.O. to Kaduna for treatment. When the Premier came out in his full aristocratic regalia, Awoniyi told him what happened, and that he had made arrangements for him to travel by road. Sardauna was visibly disappointed and angry. But he went by road and did not complain because leaders at that time recognised and accepted their limitations. They were comfortable with the fact that they were not in-charge of oxygen. The D.O. died the following day despite the intensive care. When Sardauna came back, he immediately sent for Awoniyi and thanked him for saving him (Premier) from embarrassment. Of course, if he had insisted in using the helicopter, he would have been accused of causing the death of the D.O.. Awoniyi conquered the fear of the consequences of his action with “love and compassion”.
Are you one of those who have been conquered by the pathological fear of what will happen to your children after your death? Let me tell you how the store keeper of my school conquered that fear, HANDS DOWN. As a student, someone stole my exercise book and I went to him to help me with one. The procedure was to approach my form master with such a request but the fear of punishment took me to the store keeper. He asked me whether I was aware that it was not the proper channel. I answered in the affirmative and told him my fear of the proper channel. “I will give you because I will also want somebody to help my children”, he said. And gave me the book.
Over twenty years later, I was walking in Dutsin-ma, my home town, when a commercial vehicle parked few meters in front of me. A man came out of the car and said to me: “you look like somebody I knew at Manchok (host community of our school in Southern Kaduna)”.
“Are you not Mohammed, the son of our store keeper” I replied. After reflecting on our experiences in the school, he told me that he was in Katsina to visit his relation who was a policeman, but was told that he had been transferred to Funtua. Unfortunately, he had exhausted his money, and when he went to the motor park they could only assist him to Dutsin-ma , as there was no vehicle going to Funtua at that time. “I don’t want to go to the motor park and be embarrassed that I had no money to pay, as such I should be assisted. Immediately I saw you, I said to myself that I would rather seek your assistance to pay the fare to Funtua than to be embarrassed again”, he said.
Not only that I remembered what his father said to me but I also saw the father holding the exercise book before giving it to me saying: “I will give you because I will also want somebody to help my children”. Luckily for him, I had enough money, therefore, I took him to the motor park, paid his fare and gave him substantial amount of money. My only regret is that I did not tell him why I intervened decisively. He may have learnt some lessons from the compassion of his father.
Finally, be fearless but not reckless. Don’t be as reckless as an Islamic scholar in my hometown who was invited by his rich neighbour for a prayer session against an eclipse of the moon. The people sent to the scholar by the rich man knocked on his door, and when he came out they delivered the message: “Alhaji ya ce a gaya maka rana ta kama wata , saboda haka za a yi karatun qura’ani a kofar gidansa yanzu” meaning because of eclipse there will be recitation of the Quran in front of his house now. The scholar hissed and said, “ta cinye shi mana ina ruwana” meaning wetin concern me?, and closed his door. When I heard the story and met him, he asked me why should somebody threaten him with an eclipse of the moon. “Me na ajiye”? (What did I keep? ) . I couldn’t answer his question. Perhaps I should have said “your prayer mat!
Isyaku Dikko (firstname.lastname@example.org