What Good Must I Do?

No Comments » December 29th, 2009 posted by // Categories: General Articles

What Good Must I Do?

Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.



‘The hospital has become my second home’. ‘No day passes by without my going to the hospital either to pay a bill or check on my sick wife’. ‘No week passes by without me having to spend an average of five hours in the hospital’. I have had to move some of my personal belongings to the hospital a couple of times. The nurses know me too well now, and I share my lunch, sometimes, with the cleaners; that is not to mention other staff.

It all began as a mild headache. Shortly, after my wife gave birth, she began complaining of headaches and pains all over her body. We all thought it’s because she just gave birth, thus we said to ourselves, ‘she would get over it’. Now, what began as a mild headache has become a catastrophe, a kind the doctors claimed, they had never seen. Two days, three days, a week, two weeks, three, four and five weeks later, she still feels pains all over her body, except now worse than before. The hospital is ill-equipped to handle the situation. The doctors are incompetent and the nurses are tired of her constant groaning. Now it has become frustrating for me, as I watch, ‘helplessly’, as this sickness sniff life away from my wife. I no longer give my job the attention it requires. My boss is not happy with me and has threatened to relieve me of my duty, if I don’t concentrate. The world is hostile to me. The doctors cannot help her, my children can’t go to school because I have not paid their tuition fees, and my friends have abandoned me; ‘They don’t have money’, they all claimed. ‘My whole world is falling apart’.

These were the words of a certain dear friend whom I have come to admire greatly for his laudable courage, faith and devotion. The words echo the many frustrations millions of Nigerians experience on a daily basis albeit in different forms; the mechanic who decries his hapless situation, the ice-blocker seller who condemns the epileptic power supply, the thousands of Bank workers who were recently disengaged, the academics and intellectuals who complain about brain drain in the country, the millions of Secondary Schools and Primary School teachers who express displeasure at the country’s educational system, the poverty stricken unemployed youths, struggling parents, the public servants who has not been paid in the last six months, the taxi driver who complains of extortion from the police etc. A week after this friend shared his experience with me, he lost his job. Now with a sick wife, children not in school and no source of income the hardship could only be better off, imagined.

But how do you instruct the Nigerian who is confronted by this overwhelming situation? How do you console a Nigerian experiencing this form of difficulty? How do you talk to a Nigerian who knows and dines with poverty and misery, pain and suffering, frustrations and regrets, abandonment and hopelessness, insecurity and dejection? How do you tell a young man or woman that regardless of all he or she may be going through, he or she is nonetheless, called to remain committed to the ideals of religion and true nationalism; he is called not to loose hope but to have faith? That in spite of all these, he must remain a faithful Christian or Muslim, a good citizen? But how do we, in fact, expect such person to remain faithful? If you were the one, would you still consider the ideals of Religion and nationalism worthwhile? Would you not ask yourself, ‘How do I live in Nigeria, watch the way our leaders embezzle public funds and not want to join them?’

Such was the nature of the question which the ‘rich young man’ asked Jesus in Matthew 19:16, ‘Good Master, what ‘good’ must I do?’ The concern here is not whether the man was ‘rich’ and as such had no real experience of suffering, whereas many Nigerians like my friend do. No! The concern rather is the nature of the question the ‘rich young man’ asked Jesus, ‘What ‘good’ must I do?’

Nigerians know and breath sufferings, so what good must they do? Nigerians know and breath pain, what good must they do? Nigerians know and breath the consequences of corruption, what good must they do? Nigerians know and breath the consequences of bad leadership, what good must they do? Nigerians know and breath chaos, what good must they do? Nigerians know and breath insecurity, frustrations, dejections, hardships, pains, what good must they do? My friends have abandoned me, the system has failed me, I can’t pay my children’s tuition fees, I can’t pay my house rent, what good must I do? My husband sleeps with another woman outside, he no longer respects me, he has abandoned the children and I, what good must I do? My lecturers fail me for no reason, I can’t get money to buy text books, life is really frustrating, what good must I do? Our leaders are corrupt, they steal our money everyday, they have refused to repair our roads, what good must I do? I have just been relieved of my job, but I invested all I have in that job and now there is no where to go, what good must I do? The world is frustrating, Nigeria is frustrating, my street is frustrating, my relatives are frustrating, my wife is frustrating, I am sick of these bad leaders, what good must I do?

To ask the question about the good to be done, is to ask the question about how to remain committed to the ideals of nationalism, and the ideals of Religion in the face of this stifling situation. It is to ask question about how remain good citizen of this country, a faithful Christian or Muslim in the face of the innumerable sufferings and pains; how to remain a good citizen regardless of the surrounding hostilities-economic, social, political and cultural.

But Jesus answers this question in ‘one word’, ‘love’ (Matt 22: 35-40; 5:43-44). The Qur’an answers this question too with same word, ‘love’ (Surah 60:1) . Similarly, our nationalists answer this question with the same word, ‘love’. I know suffering, I breath pain, what good must I do? ‘You must love’. I breath dejection, I know abandonment, what good must I do? ‘You must love’. I experience different forms of hostility daily and I know the consequences of corruption, what good must I do? ‘You must love’. I feel the effects of bad leadership, I experience torments, what good must I do? ‘You must love’. My whole world is falling apart, my friends have left me, what good must I do? ‘You must love’. Yes, you must love even when your gesture is not reciprocated (Surah 3:119).

Love is the answer which Qur’an gives, as well as Jesus gives us. Very easy to mention, you would say, but difficult to practice especially when confronted with an overwhelming hostility. It is very easy to talk the talk of love, but to walk the talk of love could prove really difficult. I know how easy it is for me to tell you from the comfort of my space, that you must love those who hate you and to do good to those who do not appreciate your worth, most especially when I don’t really know what ‘real’ suffering means. But for the many Nigerians who know, breath, dine and are confronted by pain and different forms of hostility, this can be ‘a very difficult teaching’. The suffering person may be tempted to ask, ‘why can’t I steal in order to send my children back to school?’ ‘Why can’t I embezzle in order to send my wife overseas for treatment like many do?’ ‘Why should I not become corrupt like many of our leaders?’ ‘Why should I continue to keep my friends who abandoned me when I needed them to be there for me?’ ‘Why?’ ‘Why?’ ‘Why?’ This is why, it’s because ‘two wrongs can’t make a right’ and that is the wisdom behind Jesus’ response and Qur’an’s response, ‘love’. If we celebrate Nnamdi Azikwe today, it is because he loved his country and as a result gave Nigeria his best regardless the various hostilities he experienced. If we celebrate Ahmadu Bello and Obafemi Awolowo today, it is because they loved their country and they gave Nigeria their best. Love is the origin and source of all good things; it is a most excellent defence, the road that leads to true peace. Whoever walks in love can neither stray nor be afraid. Love guides, love protects, love leads to the end.

To love is Christian, it is Muslim; it is religious and it gives life meaning. For the rich young man, the question of the good to be done was not so much about rules of live to be followed, but about the ‘full meaning of life’. ‘When we can no longer endure the pains and sufferings we experience’; when life becomes incomprehensible; when friends abandon us; when society becomes increasingly hostile to us; when foes and enemies assail us; there can only be ‘one response’, ‘one option’ and that is ‘love’. Love defines the essence of Religious ideals. When everything appears meaningless, love comes to bring meaning. Jesus Christ himself, knew suffering, he went through it, he breathed pain, was abandoned by his close friends yet he loved to the cross, so that from this ‘seemingly meaningless love’ of the Son of God on the cross, ‘that he would die for ungrateful friends’, we find the meaning of ‘his love’, ‘our salvation’.


Cornelius Olukunle Ewuoso

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