SPECIAL

Much of the sadness – and anger –we feel when hit bymisfortune might stemfrom a funny sense of how unique we think we are. This is largely unconscious. We agree that bad things suck,thatbad things happen, that bad things happen to people. But that bad things could happen to us? No.

I was in Primary 4 when I was flogged at morning assembly, before the entire school, for an offence which involved throwing stones. The day before, after the headmistress Mrs. Ogbonna gave the verdict in her office – that my punishment was going to be public – I begged. Oh, I was sorry. I was never going to do it again. I was only playing, it was not intentional.

She didn’t even look at my face,never mind that she is a family friend. My classmate Adeika advised me to skip school the next day, and I smiled bitterly. What excuse would I give my parents? That I had cancer?

Mrs. Ogbonna came by the house later that evening to inform Dad and Mum of my offence and impending punishment.My Dad caned me.My Aunt Chioma comforted me, told me to brace up for the caning at school.It would be over before I knew it.

But that was not the point!A promise of four, five strokes of cane was not the reason I didn’t sleep that night, was not the reason my hands felt cold all the way to school. The point was: I was Kelechi Njoku. I did not keep “bad company”. My academic records were – Ohmygod, what’s the word –sublime!I was used to teachers expressing complimentary disappointment when I did not know the answer to a question. In fact, as if the stars knew, I’d long concluded that I was going to complete primary school clean, without one incident where I would be dragged before the entire school and caned like…like, well, just any other pupil – the rough kids, for instance. It just wasn’t right.Me. How was I going to hold my head high after this?

After my caning that morning, I never laughed at another person who was so punished. I’d gained a newer understanding of the event.

***

Every morning my AuntyFelly asserts in her prayersthat she shall live and not die, that she shall hear nothing to make her sorrow that day, that no member of her family will be a victim of mistaken identity that day (though I was arrested by the police on one such day oh)…

Religion, especially Christianity, seems to have fuelled this sense that we live in a different reality from people who have problems. While a Facebook updateis going: “I am God’s white star apple and He has said concerning me that nothing…” another prayer session is somewhere rejecting portions.A certain priest once asked, “If it is not your portion, whose is it?”

What makes each of usso terribly special in this life where we sleep and wake like everyone else – like those who are dead and are dying, falling sick and sinking into manic depression, marrying wrongly and getting robbed and raped and abused, undergoing chemotherapy, having low sperm counts and blocked fallopian tubes and kids with Down’s Syndrome, going to jail in shame, fingering sack letters in their pockets, searching for jobs high and low, losing their sights in accidents?Should we, really, go around thinking none of these million problems could be ours – to own and to nurse? Your father dies in one of Boko Haram’s bombings. Your mother has been talking to herself a lot lately and, eventually, is diagnosed with schizophrenia; she will run into the streets, naked, if treatment does not commence immediately. In May, you were fifteen and head girl of your school. Now, in October, you are fifteen and head girl of your school and three weeks pregnant. End of semester, dear undergraduate, you bag three carryovers.

“Why me?” you ask.“If someone had told me that one day I would…Why me?”

But why not you?Really. Should it have been someone else? How are you different from others that have or have had these same issues? Isn’t that some kind of reverse insensitivity?

“No… It’s just thatI never thought it could happen to me.”

Same question we are asking. “WHY?” Ok, it’s breast cancer. Do you not have breasts like other people? Your daughter was born with Down’s. But the condition does not exactly select who to go to. It’s a random thing, common as oranges. About 1 in 800 births worldwide. Oh, it’s HIV – the worst! Of the 150 million Nigerians walking the streets, 1 in 20 is positive. Why not you?

HOW did you get to not thinking it could ever happen to you?

We have every right to be sad and rage when shit happens. To ask“Why me?”It’s being human. But have we paused to ponder where that question and the emotions that go with it might be coming from? Is there an alternative utterance and feeling? I think it won’t hurt to walk through life prepared, clutching the realisation that, indeed, for every misfortune that’s happened to our neighbours, it could have been us. It could,still, be us.■

Written by Kelechi Njoku?????????????????????????????

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29 Comments

  1. chika

     /  October 28, 2013

    Well thought out….

    Reply
  2. stotle

     /  October 28, 2013

    Exactly

    Reply
  3. Sallie

     /  October 28, 2013

    True. It could be me. But do I stop hoping it won’t be me?

    Reply
  4. Edeeth

     /  October 28, 2013

    *totally ignoring Cheesy, binding and casting every spirit of everything evil……*
    I bind! I cast! I laminate! I spiral bind! I throw into the bottomless pit!

    Reply
  5. darlington

     /  October 28, 2013

    different dimension.. hmm
    Now i’m gonna think..

    Reply
  6. Maryann

     /  October 28, 2013

    Death can come at anytime for anybody. We don’t and can’t tell God when to try our faith or come for our soul. Still, I’ll say “why me?”

    Reply
  7. Naz

     /  October 28, 2013

    Beautiful. It’s simply difficult to understand how we can profess our love for mankind, for one another, and yet wish to take no part in mankind’s suffering. You hear statements like: ‘I don’t know about you, but as for me…’ I think it sounds like: ‘I don’t care about you…’! And yes, I noticed how unwilling this writer was to dwell on the crime of his ‘stone-throwing’. It was merely ‘an offence which involved throwing stones’. But that’s another story.

    Reply
  8. I’ve learn to give thanks WHATEVER I’m going through – gold goes through fire to be pure.

    Thank you for this.

    Reply
  9. Chuks Tristan

     /  October 28, 2013

    Its a natural human instict….probably pre-dating the advent of organized religion. As such it is not always rational and will always be with us. Nice piece. *now rushing inbox to get details of the stone-throwing incident*

    Reply
  10. MztaPaul

     /  October 28, 2013

    Me likes this…..

    Woe to Christians of nowadays, fair weather fellows.
    Changing the lyrics of songs: “No matter what they say, when SUCCESS comes my way, I will praise your name….”
    Maybe I’ve forgotten suddenly, but wasn’t it TROUBLES they used to sing?

    Reply
    • LOL! Is tнaт wнaт they sing these days?

      Reply
    • Edeeth

       /  October 28, 2013

      Nna’m, one sunday I discovered I was the only one saying ‘When trouble comes my way’…. I kukuma change am. But we all know say bible said ‘though you pass through fire…’ That means there is a point where we must pass through the fire..

      Reply
    • mana

       /  October 29, 2013

      Bro(or sis) I tink ur comment is hasty generalizatn, ‘Christians of nowadays’ to me it sounds like ‘all Christians of present time’ of which I’m one. Dnt get me wrong but I knw d word “Christian” is far difrnt frm a ‘church goer’ n shud be given credence as due (no hard feelings)

      Reply
  11. deolu

     /  October 28, 2013

    Hmmm very true. God didn’t promise a travail-free life. Jesus went through it(on the way to calvary) and guess what? He endured it and came out victorious having defeated death and mundane doctrines. I guess that’s why the bible reads, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil…”. We all hit a “snag” somehow at some point.

    Reply
  12. I know that question.
    I know that rage. . .

    Reply
  13. cho cho

     /  October 28, 2013

    What an awakening!!!

    Reply
  14. This is so insightful. Well written too.

    Reply
  15. I. Like. This. 🙂 A lot.

    Reply
  16. cc

     /  October 28, 2013

    Wally is the author same Kelechi that was in our class?

    Reply
  17. Emmanuel Dairo

     /  October 29, 2013

    Searchlight on the outlook.

    Reply
  18. Adeline Kasper

     /  October 29, 2013

    LOL.. Tis WeLL..

    Reply
  19. kachi

     /  October 29, 2013

    Thank you Kele njoku for this thoughtful alternate perspective of viewing life. But…

    Reply
  20. I dont know why any Christian would think or believe that following Jesus would be a carefree, troubled life. If He died on the cross and was rejected then how on earth can anyone think there will be no bumps ahead? It doesnt make sense. God has promised to be with you WHEN trials come, not ‘if’.

    Your piece is well written, Kelechi, I do agree. I have no issues there. But… I’m inclined to disagree with the broad and sweeping ‘Christians nowadays’ statement.

    But hey, you gotta do what you gotta do, right? Yeah…uh-huh.

    Reply
  21. Nice perspective….i have learnt to take whatever i go through in.stride….asking “why me” is giving way to self pity and not willing to look for answers

    Reply
  22. yemie

     /  November 17, 2013

    I love and can realistically relate with this piece. Human beings are naturally selfish and that may have been the reason why the bible says’ love thy neighbour as thyself’. Our flesh thrives on pleasures and whatever will cause the flesh pain, it naturally resists. And the ‘Why me’ syndrome stems really from when one sees others around one’s environment, seemingly balling and appearing to having things going well in their favours, it then becomes easy to wallow in self pity and wonder why fate couldn’t be so kind to one. Truth is, everyone’s plagued with one problem or the other; it just varies in degrees from one person to the other. Great thinking Kelechi, keep it coming.

    Reply

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