Letter To "Father No Shaking" On The September 2010 Festival Of Oath-taking In Umuagwu-Aro, Osuh-Owerre, Isi-ala Mbano Local Government Area (LGA), Imo State.

Dear Rev. Father,

Greetings!

I have to address by the above name since it is the name you are commonly known with and called in Mbano among the Catholic faithful and their friends in the villages you have gone and will go to conduct "oath taking" festival.

However, I come to you today with a heart full of joy and tears, full of happiness and sorrow, because the people of Umuagwu-Aro, Osuh-Owerre, Isi-ala Mbano Local Government Area (LGA), Imo State acquainted me with the news that they have consulted you to come and conduct "oath taking" among the village men and women by September, 2010.

Much as you maybe warming up for the festival, my major reason of coming to you with a heart full of joy and tears, full of happiness and sorrow are dicey. Firstly, my heart of joy is that very soon, the people will be nudging in fear, not to cause any spiritual and bodily injuries to any clansman or clanswoman when this "oath" is taken. Secondly, my heart of tears is that while the people will be nudging in fears, they may not be pushing hard to understanding the rudiment of being one's brother's keeper again, but one's brother's fearers. Thirdly, my heart of happiness is that this "oath taking" may cause sentimental segregation in the land instead of bringing the unity it sorts to achieve, because many of the people were not informed academically to distorting disunity and embrace unity.

Sir, I can envisage that Umuagwu, is metamorphosing from a lovely village to a lorn viallage and lonely villagers since the emergence of "suspicious" beliefs that a brother or sister or father or mother or cousin or niece and nephew is "holding" the progress of each other. This suspicious behaviour among the people can be categorically related to the emergence of the pluckers of unripe wisdom of the universe masquerading themselves as "born agains". These fanatics see "the enemy within" to being in the land, inlure of amplifying to the people that "the enemy within" is in the hearts or minds of men and not "in the land".

In the recent past, say two years ago, this same "un-informed" fanatics propagated and carried out their dastardly act that the most revered shrines were the impediment of the people (if there was any) and bulldozed the hard-earned edifices without a general consultation. Yet, after the two years down the drain of "imposition" was carried out by the "majority", the proponents of the "devil being in the shrines" instead of in "the hearts" are yet, not sleeping with two eyes closed. And they may not forever sleep with two eyes closed if they refuse to nip their perceived problem in the bud, but instead, they preferred cutting the tree by the trunk. After they may have succeeded in destroying the village sacred "sanctuaries", they burnt the masquerade and committed other sundries. Here, I ask, was it not the Catholic Church that has been in the fore asking people to embrace their culture? Was it not the Catholic Church that has been educating people that the Church should embrace other people's culture and not relegate them to the background? How many shrines do the Catholic Church has that are scattered all over the world? Is it the African people that named mmanwumasquerade? These and many more questions I have continued to ask.

According to a Muslim sage, Conscience is an open wound which only truth can heal. Are the people telling each other the truth? I think the people that demolished the traditional system are the same people who are afraid of being harmed by the "tradition" because they had one or two skeletons in their cupboard and were afraid that the land had never, and will never condone evil of any size.

Sir, I might be the lonely voice here, but will never be the lonely voice in the world. Good as the "oath taking" festival may be, I think the people need to be enlightened that pure heart brings pure land but impure heart brings impure land. The later has been the bane of the people. They should be enlightened that there is no such deliverance as a people turning from their evil ways, then, their land will be healed and their sins will be forgiven.

And, I don't think that, a people turning from their evil ways are the imposition of one religion on a people ÔÇô Christianity ÔÇô yet evil abounds. I don't think that a people turning from their evil ways are by a mere pronouncement of the Lord Jesus Christ in words and not in deeds. I don't think that one who pronounces Jesus Christ from dusk to dawn, yet his character has nothing be write home about, will enjoy a blissful eternity than one who observes the comic laws and loves humanity to a fault, yet recognizes the presence of Christ but does not pronounce Him as the epicentre of his faith.

Dear Rev. Father, sometimes I cry, asking, what has happened to "love"? What has happened to humanity with the proliferation of churches everywhere? What will we be if people turn their greed for material things to greed for justice; their love for Land Deliverance for Mind Deliverance; their love for "oath taking" festival for love showing? Is it not a mindsore that churches are gaining ground today whereas morality is losing ground? Why? The belief that somebody is bewitching somebody has swept "love" under the carpet among the people ÔÇô brothers and sisters hardly dine in the same pot again, which was the African envied tradition showcasing bond. These proponents that anything African is evil can't even define the alien names they have chosen to the detriment of our native names, the former having just Dictionary definitions and don't have significance. Is it not high time the people decolonized their minds?

If some people are suffering in Umuagwu, then, Rev. Father, you need to conduct a suffrage to know how many of the fathers and mothers are well educated and how many of their children they gave even the basic education, which is primary school. If parents are not formally educated and are not educating and training their children in any trade and had no future for them, how can such a generation not suffer? Is it not wise the people leave the secondary side of this "suffer" and trace the primary root? Imagine that the "majority" of the people are embracing this "oath taking" festival because it is coming from a clergy, but the question is, were the forebears not taking this "unity" oath festival before the emergence of the crop of "believers" who don't know how the tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ looks?

My question again is, do the people still remember a statement that: We take full responsibility for our own actions, and therefore our own results, we're empowered to seize our own destiny and change it for the better. Do we still remember that, True happiness depends on what is in our hearts? No matter what we may gain materially from manipulating others, if we're hating or disrespecting them, then at the moment, we're suffering? Do we still remember that, The implication of the doctrine of karma is that we can't blame anyone for our suffering. The important point is that our suffering comes from inside us, not outside?

Dear Rev. Father, because the people have left the matters "inside us" and are chasing shadows was why certain persons feel that Mr. A is after Mrs. B, and vis-à-vis. Well, I am not juxtaposing that such thing doesn't happen. But the people forgot that why many revolutions that men had carried out thinking they would better the society with them didn't work out to give a point, was that they left to carryout revolutions in their own lives. According to a saying, However, unless we have a way to achieve a revolution in our own lives, we cannot hope to achieve lasting peace and constructive society. Unless we can overcome our own anger, for instance, how can we hope to stop war?

Some of the people have been shielded from reality by a sect of fanatics, thereby making the historical records of the people scanty, or go on extinction in totality. Sometimes, I wonder why one Joseph reportedly prayed in Israel with the names of his forebears ÔÇô Isaac and Abraham ÔÇô and a host of people joined suit, but when I pray with the names of my forebears ÔÇô Nze Ihebuzoaju, NzeOnwumere and Nze Ibeleche ÔÇô people say that I am worshiping Idol. But, Dear Rev. Father, can someone tell me how and when my forebears became Idol? Somebody told me that I can pray with my forebears names if they were "born again". And I wonder who saw how righteous Joseph's forebears were. Your guess is as good as mine.

Our people were once protected. I ruminate in recent times, what has happened to morality, but the words of one Mazi Nnanna Agomoh consoles me. He said about how houses were built in Ala-Igbo in "those days" before Roman Christianity painted with Christ cosmetics overthrew the African theo-centric culture as follows: A young man, who wanted to build a house, invites his age grades to lead him to cut the building sticks in the forest.

1. They would go to the forest, cut the sticks and tie them in portable bundles.

2. The women would be requested to arrange a date to carry the bundles of building sticks home, probably a week after the sticks were assumed to have lost just a bit of weight.

3. That done, the age grade would arrange a date to fix the sticks on the plot of land.

That done, one can see the skeleton of the house - the bedrooms, parlour, veranda, the doors and window spaces.

4. Then we, the youths of the community, will be invited to fix a date we would do the raffia matting. We would produce bundles of raffia mats to cover the roofing.

5. The house owner's age grade would again fix a date to roof the skeletal house with the raffia mats.

6. After the roofing, the age grade would on another fixed date (tough and final part of the construction), fill the skeletal house with earth mud. On this date, the men would be digging up the earth and mixing it with water to a standard thickness. The women would be fetching water for this mixture and the youth would be carrying the prepared earth mud from the mixers to those waxing the skeletal house with the prepared earth mud.

It was all hands on deck and the house was built.

7. After a week or two, the house was dry and the owner would carry on with the interior decoration on his own.

That was how a house was built for any member of the community in the primordial theo-centric culture.

Men were their brother's keeper, not kidnappers!

Dear Rev. Father, the question still lingers, why have we lost this communality? Catholicism and Pentecostalism exalt in flamboyancy and derides the Puritan type of Christianity, otherwise called, Puritanism. To be frank with you, "oath taking" may be good, but the people can only be secured and redeemed, when they have earnestly come to embrace the true nature of life and death. Without such an understanding, says somebody, ultimately our lives seem empty and futile and we are prone to fear. Illusions, instinctive desires and negative impulses shouldn't motivate the fanatics to take action which may cause our unborn generation to suffer. Is uniting a people with love not better than uniting them in fear in fear? Are these fanatics not eluding our ignorant villagers into "deluded impulses" which may take action against our people resulting in everlasting suffering inlure of redemption? Can the oath remove anger, greed and ignorance which are inherent in human beings?

Dear Rev. Father, I wish you could use your exalted office and years of mammoth knowledge to address the issues raised here. It is fortunate that the Nigerian Constitution permits freedom of worship, but unfortunate that Christianity does not. However, let the people speak, but in consonance with the spirit of fairplay and justice. I permit you to read this out to any people, if you so desire. No-shaking!

Thank You.

Odimegwu Onwumere, Poet/Author and Media Consultant, is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA)