The dawn of a year is the most opportune moment to take stock, make resolutions, and give thanks for life. This first week of Year 2020, my mind has been travelling back in time. Of course, my life has been a potpourri. I remember the laughs, the smiles, the frowns, the cries and, above all, the unfounded belief (faith) in the future.
Life is wired in a deeply stupefying way. Most people focus on their few failings and failures rather than on their many strengths and successes. They squander time and energy and happiness on a handful of goals not met rather than on their numerous achievements. Eternal insatiability is human nature, right?
Wrong, count me out. Having since come to the frustrating realisation that I don’t have full control over life, I’ve learned to be grateful even for nothing. That explains why I’m never perturbed. I always am consoled that I’m alive.
Far too many individuals are too selfish or ungrateful or both, to appreciate how profusely grateful we should be -25 hours daily and eight days weekly- for being alive. Whenever my little demon starts throwing tantrums at the Good, Old One who sits high up there for a particular prayer not yet answered, I bark it back to its little corner with the reminder that millions of far younger and better people have died. But, I am here. If He wished otherwise, the world would continue and nothing -absolutely nothing- would change.
This mindset of gratitude willy-nilly is an invisible talisman which not only heals but also inoculates against depression and such other anti-life reactions. I’ve lost three brothers and three sisters by my mother, not to mention halves; close relatives, bosom friends; still I remain thankful. I’ve been passed over, shortchanged and generally mistreated but that accentuates my faith and smile -not dampen them. It’s the only way to go if you don’t want to be dead alive!
This brings me to the thanks I must give. Looking back at my 48 -going to 49- years, tears well up on the ground floor of my eyelids as I recall scenes upon scenes of near-death experiences. I know many others who faced nothing near but who died. Yet, I am here in spite of and despite me.
Help me thank this God of mercy, love, and favour. Yes, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But no, I’m never singed nor burned. Our God is not enough, He is too much!
This is my thanksgiving testimony. My memory of divine rescue from the very precipice goes back to when I was five or six or seven max. Growing up in a Cameroonian fishing port meant we had no electricity. One night, three of us who shared a bed slept off leaving a burning candle to start eating the mattress.
Four decades after, I still remember sleep-shifting as the candle burned on. By morning, it was a miracle none of us was hurt in any way. When I turned 12 and emerged one of the top two leaders of Government School, Bekumu, a peninsula in the Southwestern part of Cameroon, a silly peer pressure argument and the need to prove that my lanky frame didn’t mean I was weak forced me to go a-swimming with much older boys. I nearly drowned in the Atlantic Ocean!
A year later (1984) when I arrived Ekondo Titi (still in that part of Cameroon) for college, an even sillier disputation almost got me killed; this time it was about who could swim more (students who grew up by the waterside or upland). Not knowing a part of the stream was a waterfall, I almost drowned but for Raymond who had a misshapen hand and leg. To this day, I wonder how he did it. Only God!
In the wee 90s, during one of those overloaded boat nocturnal trips from Cameroon to Oron, Nigeria, the Atlantic Ocean was at war with itself. Caught in the crossfire of violent tidal waves, like grass in an elephant fight, our boat suffered to breaking point. I am an optimist, always have been, but that fateful midnight, I defected pessimistically. Father Lord, the hundreds of us on that boat, including my elder brother, Eddie Mike, glorify your name.
Now, those thinking my near death experiences are all maritime have got another think coming. I have also had a number of nightmarish land encounters, four of which should suffice. After the June 3, 2012, crash of Dana, my preferred airline at the time, aviophobia (the only condition that holds me by the balls) tightened its grip. I took to travelling by land.
First, I had a nasty accident on the deplorable Abia State part of Ikot Ekpene-Umuahia highway, when our car hit by a bus from behind rammed into an electric pole. Second, months later, some herders(?) waylaid the driver and me at 9.13 a.m. on the fringes of Obollo-Afor, Enugu State, and right there on the road robbed me silly. What if they had fired a shot or two as they threatened? Third, something I have recounted in this column, God helped the driver and me to evade jungle justice after a female corps member we had given a lift at the Akwa Ibom-Abia border started screaming “kidnappers, kidnappers” on the outskirts of Abuja!
Furthermore, God also saved my family and me from life-threatening domestic incidents in Akwa Ibom State of the old testament. I remember the robbery attack that lasted 45 minutes and ended just as it wanted to turn deadly. I remember as well the kidnap that almost consumed Mrs. Bush. Eureka, apart from all of these ending in praise, they all taught me profound lifelong lessons such as never arguing with anyone, never falling for any bait, and never worrying or being afraid, since God is in charge every time, everywhere.
God bless Nigeria!