Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin and leading Irish satirist whose works of classics include The Modest Proposal (1729), Guilliver’s Travels (1726) and A Tale of a Tub (1704), once said that he never wonder to see men wicked, but he often wonder to see them not ashamed (of their wicked works that is). St. Ambrose (c339-97), father of the Latin Church, called to the bishopric of Milan (373), also said that there is nothing evil save that which perverts the mind and shackles the conscience. The import of Swift and Ambrose’s positions may not be grasped full-length until you carry out a study in Nigeria political leadership or you go visiting Warri. The latter is our focus presently.
Warri is a shameless society with perverted minds and shackled consciences on the loose. The capacity for crime is nonesuch. That is a city where crime busters newly posted there, promote criminality within minutes of arrival else you are made to be either sent away to some other work stations by networks allegedly connected to very high places or go for a burton. Crime towers highly in the low and high, male and female, and young and old. Firstly, a little story:
During one of the many curfews imposed on the city on the heels of equally many crises that were already adjusting the place to the Hobbesian state of nature, this writer who was in one of his regular visits saw what was simply baffling to the mind, knowing he was seeing a human being in action. Curfew! Three A. M.! Suddenly: Ole, Ole, Ole! And you are up! And peeping through your window you saw this boy, who has already either punched his way from inside the store of his prey to the roof top or got there through a narrow opening in the gable between the eaves tangential to another lower roof, sailing to and fro atop the roof-well, descending and rising intermittently in the process. All of that was an attempt at reaching a corner of descent with the least waiting spectator and potential captors to disembark from before taking the intended race of his life.
By the time he was through with his vain attempt at escape, he had punched scores of undesired skylights and dormer windows on the roof, leaving a roof crying for urgent replacement. And before he finally came crashing down he had given himself punishment enough; enough to ‘discharge and acquit him’, but the 3 A.M. crowd eagerly waiting below saw it differently. The first glimpse I caught of our friend after his descent to jungle justice was deformity occasioned by rare barbarism, which again Warri is not wanting in.
Scenes such as this are normal occurrences, sadly though. Perhaps more than every city that I know, Warri is home to societal leading vices: prostitution (immorality), riotous culture, ritual killings, racketeering such as oil bunkering, drug trafficking; sea piracy, drug addiction and so on and so forth. Yes, these things are everywhere in our country. But we are talking in terms of degree, endemic sweep and the ravages of such. A short treatment of two may suffice.
In Warri, prostitution (immorality) fiercely advertises itself everywhere – from her streets, home/offices to here and there including the worldly churches. At the instance of Satan girls and women are simply on ‘rampage’. While those decent days of putting on lingerie before normal clothing appear to be gone, dressing without underwear may be a common place as their tight silky wears advertise their contours. At other times some can just no longer conceal what we grew up to know are called private parts, and so must be half, even two-thirds exposed. They see in these already messed up parts motif given them for body decoration. Like graffiti not meant for confinement but pasted out for every reader’s consumption, so these people want the essence of their womanhood to be seen everywhere their feet are seen. And it is normal! What remains, perhaps, is for them to walk without bodices and under-bodices, or even stack naked.
Today, Warri has towered far above Lagos in riotous lifestyle and I-will-finish-you-today scrimmages. Whatever Wilmer bus-stop, Ajegunle, was infamous for in the 60s and early 70s is the culture all over Warri today. Crowd-pulling, peace-disturbing fighting can replicate themselves within each square mile every one hour. And it is knifes, daggers, bottles, sticks, chairs, iron rods and stuffs like that. It is a go for the kill. Warri appears to know no other form of combat. You do not expect to find boxers, wrestlers or judokas there which may be another way of saying you may not expect sporting medals in such sports from those youths. With many of them with guns stocked away, the story can be anything anytime. And whenever they are so sponsored by Satan, they, in much surliness and with indecent Warri patois to employ, quickly get into frenzies, gyrations and spirals in search of tools of war which are put into effect in commodious places that can allow their free use and enlarged audience. At the end of the brute outing what you see is not shame but a hoity-toity sway, uninformed air of pride and posture of a grandee as if that, again, is the normal thing to do.
In Warri, very heinous crimes are normal. You can go on and on and create a classic from the faux pas that Warri has come to take over leadership in. But we must move elsewhere to reach some essence quickly.
The Warri story of depravity, like depravity anywhere in the country, may be a sorry palpability. True, government may have its share of blame in the Warri (and national) case. However, how much causation it has in half baked and worldly gospel ministers, watered down gospel and oblique teaching of Bible precepts, and compromised scriptural standard we may not know. I agree no less with Brother Ronnie W. Floyd, one of the leading clergies in America today, that “salt and light, is the role of the Church”. The Warri situation is to the extent the Warri so-called church allows it and, or influences it. Those congregations must start some internal surgical work for, as it is today, there is hardly any noticeable difference between them and the world around them.
Assumed ministers of God must no longer inveigle their congregation to get along with their fleshly dictate. Craze for titles, evident avarice, gimcrack sermons, soap-box-like gimmicks, gigs (sadly reminiscence of the Deep Purples, Grand Funks, Led Zeppelins, and Jimmy Hendrix) and sundry gymnastics almost always have source in the flesh and may not send messages that can reach the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit of the hearer; they can only tickle pink their flesh and give fleeting emotional arousal; and the whole thing goes to square one. The world has nothing to gain in all this hurtling down to self-destruction – all this “all kinds of music” with strangest rhythms and dance, dance, dance and more dance (with their recent local tunes and heathen dance steps apparently sourced from sundry shrines and accursed places).
The state of the so-called churches in the Warri axis is becoming a tailspin and it has impacted too negatively on the environment in the sense that the latter is seeing too many commonalities shared together with them. That leaves the world almost only with either of two decisions: stay away or go to identify with pals; the only difference being “I am attending or a member of so-and-so church (?)”. And once they can learn some of those common jargons and start bringing in some financial contribution the office of a deacon is getting set to be “doled” out. And so today, there may even be many questionable bishoprics.
Rather than the world outside and the world in those congregations seeing and receiving the light and illumination, it is the usual darkness; rather than seeing and receiving the salt and seasoning, it is gall and plenty of it. Today, the world, as it were, surge into those fellowship houses and surge out. Routine! It is all right as long as the tithes and offerings come in. You wonder why this age has more scoffers than any other! You wonder why liberal and religious falsehood is more on the spread than any other time! It is a fearful thing to profess godliness and deny its power. If the so-called church cannot provide a compass, if those mounting the so-called church pulpits and those under them will not be pathfinders to co-workers in secular places, family members and neighbors as the Holy Writ expressly requires, the Warri situation will remain the monster that it is.
The Gospel: the gospel of Jesus Christ that the Apostles and Prophets of old, the Apostolic Fathers (Clement 1 of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna etc), The Reformers and Puritans and others like them preached saves the man to the uttermost, makes him free and free indeed, and uses him to light and salt his world, even now as living epistles seen, read and attracted to men. Today there is hardly any noticeable discrepancy and variance of lifestyle and life-mission that hurt Hell and rejoices Heaven.
Now, see what I mean: with about the present ratio of one fellowship center to eight houses (in Warri), the whole town would have long been a lit city set on mountaintop if the Pauls, Barnabas’, Timothys, Appolos and Titus’ held the bishoprics there yesterday and today. Two different gospels then: Real food for thought! Anyway, the gospel transforms the world. Warri needs the transforming gospel, wants to see living epistles: EXAMPLES OF THE BELIEVER, and it will begin to alter for good.