January 22, 2015 by Kambili M.A. Chimalu
Anyone that knows anything about Nigeria understands that we are a deeply religious people. It doesn’t matter what religion one practices, (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Amadioha-ism, Shango-ism, etc.), as long as there is a belief in the divine and a power far greater than our measly human capabilities.
So, in all our love of everything divine, we are quick to pray for/over and bless one another. I help the old lady in the market carry her purchases, she says “God bless you.” I help the overwhelmed mother calm her crying baby, she responds with “God bless you.” I leave a generous tip for the cab driver, he responds with a hearty “God bless you.”
You see, we are always blessing each other for every act of kindness and consideration, BUT what about those moments when the sentiment of “God bless you” means anything but “God bless you.”
Two kids are arguing over whose mother makes the best Nsala soup and pounded yam. Kid-B offends Kid-A so much that Kid-A just spreads his fingers and says “waka” (the Nigerian equivalent of the middle finger) to kid-B. A surprised kid-B responds with “God bless you.” In this moment, Kid-B means this more as “God punish you there for saying waka to me.”
As a result of the way we use this sentence “God bless you” in almost all situations, I have come to realize that some people don’t recognize when my “God bless you” can aptly be replaced by: your father. Thunder fire you there. Kitikpa/otolo gbagbuo gi. May Amadioha strike you there, etc. I believe that it is my solemn duty to enlighten people on when I mean “God punish you” more than I mean “God bless you.”
- When you cut me off in traffic: I am on my own, peacefully driving home after a busy day and a kai-kai-drinking, Igbo-smoking driver decides to cut me off without any sort of warning. No flashing trafficator sign. The devil on one shoulder tells me to follow and ram him with my car, but the angel on the other shoulder convinces me to respond with “God bless you.” My brother, my “God bless you” is anything but.
- When you drive against traffic: Again, I am peacefully driving home after a busy day and an eye-shining, money-chasing, forever-in-a-hurry danfo driver decides to threaten my life by driving against traffic like a bat out of hell. My brothers and sisters, my “God bless you” is anything but.
- When you break a promise to me: You promised to come accompany me to that very important appointment I cannot afford to miss. I remind you the day before. I get ready and then proceed to wait for you. You are a no show and when you do show up three weeks later, you say, “I forgot.” Darling, my “God bless you” is anything but.
- When you anger me: You make me very angry and to make matters worse, you keep adding insult to injury by asking why I am even forming anger for this small thing. My instinct is to punch you in the throat, but I remember the pastor’s teaching and respond with “God bless you” instead. My dear, my “God bless you” is anything but.
- When you refuse to say sorry: Okay, you have angered me, but sorry no gree comot for your mouth. I want to jack you by the collar and demand the apology you owe me, but again, I remember the concepts of be slow to anger and turn the other cheek. I decide to instead say “God bless you.” Nwannem, my “God bless you” is anything but.
- When you are a politician: I know that you rigged the election to get into office. In fact, despite all your 7point agendas and Vision-2020s, we don’t even see any improvement. Then, you come back and ask me to pray for you and vote for you again. I am tempted to tie you up and throw you in shark infested waters (they will recognize a kindred spirit, yes?), but I restrain myself with just a “God bless you.” Oga, my “God bless you” is anything but.
Like the good and well-bred Nigerian I am, I am always wishing God’s blessing on people wherever I go. No matter the act, good or bad, I have been taught to respond with one thing and then allow God to handle the rest. However, my cheerful “God bless you” is worlds away from a “God bless you” forced through gritted teeth.