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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
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LIVING IN GOD’S HAND, I FEAR NO DEATH -- ARCHBISHOP JOB

Archbishop Job: And they were looking at themselves. Then my uncle said come Felix, the one in Abeokuta, he said, we are not saying that you should not become a priest, we are only saying you should get good education as far as the university before you go and become a priest. I said, "I am not following any of you, sir." That was how I went to the Minor Seminary. I came back to the Mission House and I joined my parish priest, Rev. Fr  John  Aggey (JKA).

He asked me, "What did you say?"

I answered, "I told them I was not following any one of them; am going to the seminary."

 When it was time for the seminary to resume and I went for my letter of recommendation, he said, "Who is going to give you a letter of recommendation?"

 My uncles had gone back to their works.  He said he was not going to give me a letter because of my character. "You are too strong-willed," my parish priest said.  Then he recalled two examples: he had a cat that ran  into the forest and became a wild cat that used to come, steal and kill his chicken. I caught the cat and killed it.  He said, "If that cat had put all its claws into your throat, you would have died, you are too strong-willed; you did all by yourself." I recalled too that I put water in a drum and I got the cat, tied it and drowned it.

The second one: "It is because of you I brought children from Lagos, welfare boys, to Esure to train them, and you took them to Oluweri River and you beat the hell out of them."

Honestly, they were vivid occasions. He was not going to give me the letter of recommendation.  I could have run to Zaria, or go to Abeokuta or followed my uncle to Egba, I couldn't go; and this one said he would not give me letter to Oke Are. I started weeping and going round the town to tell people to go and beg him for me so if anything happened in the seminary I would first tell him before I acted. These are occasions that reformed and formed me.

Then I went to the Minor seminary, I went in with my friend and colleague, now Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie. We entered the same day, the 24th of January 1954 and once there I didn't have any problem. We were self-formed, we did everything on our own. My own watchword was "face your front." I didn't look sideways and I didn't look at what other students were doing. I was busy to the extent that when I was in charge of food, I was bursar; instead of two years, they made me in charge for four years. While I was there, I didn't know that a boy was expelled until Friday when I went for the money for food.  When I counted the money, I said the money was not complete and I was told it was complete; "one student is gone." I didn't know what happened around me. Things went well, but in 1955, my second year after Easter in April, the Rector of the seminary wanted to try whether I really had a vocation. It was really what happened the day I arrived and I gave him my letter of recommendation. He read it and exclaimed, "All these about you! We shall see."

I didn't take note of it until 1955. I had a sore from the football field, there were stones on the field and "if you miss the ball, you don't miss the leg." So, I had a sore I had been treating at Adeoyo Hospital. After morning Mass, before the period for morning duty, I would rush to Adeoyo hospital to treat my wound. Since they stitched it, it smelt. Meanwhile, other students too had wounds. One had a boil under his armpit. I will not forget him because he was the one who put me into trouble. I told him, "If you are told to come to the hospital every day, tell the Rector then we can all be going together." I didn't know that the Rector had noticed we were missing; we were going out and coming back. Probably he had forgotten that we told him. So one blessed day, after Mass, he hid behind the grotto of Our Lady on the road. As we were coming from the chapel in silence, with the school rule you don't talk, you don't raise your eyes, you move like goats, like sheep to the slaughter, he came out of the grotto and said, "Stop, where are you going to?"

I wasn't fast-mouthed but one of us said, "We are going to the hospital."

The other one said, "Brother Deo Gratias said if we had told you, we could be going."  Another one opened his mouth and said it was Brother Deo Gratias.

 He asked who Brother Deo Gratias was. He said, "It is holy Job," and he pointed at me.

He said, "All of you go back."

 So we went back.

In the evening, because my sore was in need of treatment, I went to him and said, "Please, Father, may I be allowed to go to the hospital tomorrow."

He said, "Okay, you may go," and he closed back his door. He opened it again. I had just taken some steps, and then he said, "Hello, Mr Job, I think it will be good if you go back to Form 2 tomorrow, but I was in Form 3.

I said, "Father, is it because I go to the hospital, I meet up in class."

He hummed something to himself. Since I was sure of myself, I didn't fail. In December, if you failed two subjects you would be demoted, why should I go back? So I came back to class.

When it was his turn to take us in Latin, he came into the class prayed and sat. He saw me seated at the front and said, "If you are not leaving the class for me, I will leave the class for you." He packed his books and left the class and everybody was afraid.

I got up and said that for peace to rule, I would go back. Then one classmate of mine said, "If you who help me in class are demoted, I will not wait to be sent away." We begged and begged; Pius refused and left the seminary that day.

I went back to the class. Students in the upper classes taught the lower classes during the afternoon break. I used to take the class next to me (class 2) some subjects. So those ones said, "No you are not coming to us."

I said, "Gentlemen,  no, it  is  me;  not you. You are not going to meet the Rector for anything." One of them now is a Cardinal today, Cardinal  Tukson  in  Cameroon;  another  one is late Bishop Abba.

 

At 80, what critical things have you left in search of your holiness?

For my own holiness; it's a different thing, totally. Jesus left 99 sheep in search of one as you said, but He owns everything and I can't compare myself to Him. That is the first part of the answer. If you want me to understand your question, in the sense of the individual who knows himself, grooms himself, sacrifices in order to have his own ways, yes, that is what we have.  Like I said, I can't compare myself to Jesus in any way. He is God, He left heaven, his position, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, just to come and help us sinners. But I don't have anything; whatever I have belongs to Him, to God, in search of my holiness. Yes, he called me just as He called all of us to "be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect." He called us just as he told that young man who asked, "Good master, what should I do to gain everlasting life?" He told that young man, don't fornicate, don't commit adultery, don't kill. And the young man said all these I have been doing from  my youth and the scripture told us that he looked straight into the eyes of the young man and he loved him and said, sell all that you have, give to the poor and follow me. Yes, if we were to look into that, what did I tell the Lord? What must I do to gain everlasting life? I could have left and become any other thing with the training the priesthood entails. The training entails a lot. I mentioned that of being demoted. I didn't tell anybody, only one student in the whole school called me after about three months and said, "Is it true?"  He is the present  retired Archbishop of Benin City, Patrick Ebosele Ekpu. He called me one night and he said, "Have you told your dad?

I said, "Why should I tell him, is he the one having the vocation?"

 He asked, "Have you told your parish priest?"

I said, "When we get home I will tell him (late Archbishop J.K. Aggey)."

I accepted it because if this is what the Lord wants me to give up then, why not give up the pride, and I did so. We have had so many things to give up. As somebody was asking me, is it that no woman saw you handsome and you did not marry anybody and I said, "Sorry, God called me and I left and I am sincere in my heart and since my first Holy Communion and my catechist taught me how to receive the Lord Jesus in my heart, I have kept my heart pure." And so there are so many things, where could you go, what you could do, what you could make of yourself. I left men and I thank God for giving me the courage not like the young man who had no courage to sell all he had and give to the poor and follow Christ.

Looking back today, what do you think you could have done differently?

As things come one would have said I could have done it differently, there are many things. But I do not blame myself for what I have not done, in this sense not that I have no remorse at all. In the sense that I put in my best throughout my life; I worked as hard as possible. I am not a perfect man but I did as much as I could. And before I took any step I asked the Lord to support me. It is not in the sense of those who say “the Lord sent me, the Lord said I should go and say this.” I took counsel of people, Catholics and non-Catholics before I did anything I did. I could have done more, that is in the realm of probability; you see in our primary school we used to sing: Scholars of Esure school, do your best and leave the rest, tra la tra la la, do your best and leave the rest. That was our motto, excellence in everything and if you do that the Lord will do the rest for you. If I say I wish I could have done this, and I didn't do, what am I going to talk about that, I saw something good and I refused to do it, and I don't remember the good but I might not have done them the best way they could be done but I did them the best way I could do them. One young priest was talking at one of my celebrations, he said we never heard sorry in his mouth. Yes, I will say sorry when there is need to say it. If I offend and I discover that I have offended you, I will say sorry, but if I have to push you on to do things the best way possible, I have no sorry for that because it is my duty to push you on to do the best. I tell them, if I push, know that I push myself harder, that is my own principle, do it as best as you can. That is the way I will put it. Every day, I try to be perfect as our heavenly Father commands.

What do you think will drive you most outside reading the Bible and praying?

After reading the bible, say my prayers, offering the sacrifice of the Mass which is the greatest thing, I do, after that I come back to level - our level.

What is that level?

I take whatever am given to eat, I enjoy whatever is available. I am not choosy, I love gardening.

Do you still do that?

If you go to my balcony you will see different crops not to talk of the farm. I love to give my assistance to everybody, that is why when I was retiring, I started a foundation. This morning, I got a message from Cotonu, Republic of Benin, somebody told the Archbishop there that I would help a student in their university whose sponsor is dead. I don't mind parting with the last kobo in my hand because whatever you have is given by God; so give when others need what you have. I will part away with what I have as long as it does not harm me.

This is a trickish one, man has no choice in the way he passes on; if you had that choice what would you have picked?

In my life I have always told the Lord, your will be done: where, when and how you want it. Some people used to say I want to die like this, or like that, honestly speaking, it's not in my agenda

If forced to make a choice?

The only thing I will say is when I die bury me the third day. The people say "awon eyan a fe wa", let people come and say Masses for me. There is what we call one's  mind, after one month, say Mass for me; after one year, say Mass, but all the days of the year, request the Lord to forgive my sins. As a bishop when I was restructuring the Cathedral, 1982, I put six vaults there so I have made my own vault since 1982.

So, you have never been afraid of death?

Why should I be afraid of death, if you live in the hands of the Lord, if he is the one you are following, if you are putting in your own best, serving him with all you have?

With what is going on in the country, has God taken vacation?

No, it is because of Him that we are still in existence.

Then how do we get out of the woods ... prayer?

No, not only prayer, change your mind, change yourself. Nigeria needs a change. The change needed in Nigeria, first of all, is moral change in the sense that Nigerians need to know God and go back to God.  It is not to know God and talk about God, but go back to God. If you look at what is happening in the streets, we camouflage who we are. See the way our politicians behave, see the way our governments behave, see the way our legislators behave, are we not really deceiving ourselves? We don't come out truthfully. See the ordinary market woman; she dresses in a way that doesn't show who she really is. Our children, we even perm the hair of the little girl and give the boy shoes that will ruin his knees in latter days. We are too much chameleonic, we just be whom we are. Who are we? You dress and you will know if somebody is empty from the way the person dresses. All our women, girls want to dress in styles that will not reflect our nature as Africans, not to talk of our nature as Nigerians. So let us go back to reality. Two, we did not create ourselves, we were created by God and God who created us knew us before our birth. He laid routes for us to travel through, many of us are not asking for that. When students now organise other ruffians like themselves to go and attack their parents, should we not be  afraid  to say something is happening in Nigeria and call God to intervene and forgive us? We need repentance in Nigeria; that is  the  change. And finally we need to treat one another as God's children. Once we turn back to do that Nigeria will be the best for us.

You said God has taken a vocation. If God had taken a vocation, see what is happening with us, we would have perished. God still has some among us who are doing His will, it is for their sake. He is keeping silence, waiting, calling on us to repent and come. He is knocking at our doors; His mercy, His grace are available.

 


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