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‘Your former Excellency Sir!’ – Part 1

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Verily, (there) is in their stories a lesson for men and women (of) understanding… (Quran 12:111)
Suddenly the city is in a bedlam. It has since become a hotbed of violence and brigandage. The reason is simple- it is the season of politics. It is the season of conflicts. Men and women in power are struggling to remain in power where everything is offered for free. Or so it appears. Free food. Free accommodation. Free electricity. Free clothing. Like ants in sugar boxes, nobody born of the loin and the womb yearns to abdicate power except those who are imbued with the real knowledge of what power means- a wheel, a rubber, a mirage and a dream.

But whatever that means, whatever the knowledge you possess of power, of the chemistry of authority, the fact remains that power, political power, is usually taken not given. Thus the struggle; the struggle to mean, the struggle to remain relevant. The struggle of the current “His
Excellency” who desires to remain another ‘His Excellency”.

Yes. I was given an assignment the other day by one of our teachers around the GRA in the city. In the cause of doing that, I chanced upon the former dwelling of a former “His Excellency’ in whose memory the crescent was named. As usual, it was a gated encampment. From outside, the signs were unmistakable; signs and symbols of yesterday. The structure pays homage to the architects of yesterday. The pathways inside the big mansion had already become epitaphs of and for men and women who thought that until they stepped into that mansion, their lives would have no meaning. A security man quickly came to tell us what we knew already. He said: ‘this mansion belongs to former Governor ABC. Nobody lives in it anymore!”

Thus, once again, he got to the gated house of the current multimillionaire in the city. The current multimillionaire who would ultimately become a former multimillionaire. Yes. Wealth and riches are, like death, apparels. They are means not ends. In other words, money is useless in itself. Without ends money is foolish.

Yet this other story. He was denied entry. Each time he got to the gate, the security guards would tell him he was not welcome; that his name was not on the list of guests and visitors that “Babangida” had given appointment for the day. But why did he now become an unwanted guest in the hitherto familiar mansion? How did the former “Excellency” become a pauper, a reptile, an unwanted guest to be refused access and entry into the inner luxuries of the rich with whom he used to exchange pleasantries and banters?

Brethren, the former “His Excellency” had been out of power since close to a decade when the incident happened. Nobody now recognized him as a former governor of that state anymore. His circumstance reminded me of Ibn Batuta’s experience. When the latter got to Cairo during the medieval period, all the luxurious encampments of Pharaoh had been laid to ruin.

Now on that particularly day, “Your (former) Excellency” caught a pitiable sight. Physically, his body had become jaded; his speech had become slurred, his gait had been lost to the vicissitude of time and life. As is common with men of yesterday who still live today, as is common with men who thought tomorrow would never come, the former “His Excellency” had descended into life on the margins of existence. His house had become deserted immediately his opponent was declared winner of the election. The only constant guests in his reality thereafter were those popular ailments of the rich; the ailment of those who live in the city, in the centre of existence. Having found riches and power by accident, he plunged headlong into a life of revelry and comfort.

His body became a machine. He drank the forbidden; he copulated with the prohibited. He threw away caution and circumspection. He forgot that whatever we do in life is like an investment. We shall be given “dividends” of our acts of omission and commission sooner or later. Thus not long after he stepped out of power or rather long after power slipped out of his hands, his body began to pay for his interdictions. He then began to use the ill-gotten wealth to procure his health at a time wealth had become useless as ransom for health.

Thus years after leaving power, years after he ceased to be fed for free, years after he was clothed and chauffeur-driven for free, he lost all the ill-gotten wealth he acquired while in office. He could no longer buy the necessary drugs to keep his body and soul together. He wished that he was never referred to as “Your Excellency”. He wished he had remained unpopular, a face in the crowd and a dot in the diagram of this extremely bucolic landscape. He found himself in dire situations; dire situations, the wise would say, require extremely engaging interventions.

It was during the course of searching for that all important intervention that he remembered his old friend: the rich man in the city; the rich who never craved to be in power; the rich who never spent a moment in government house as the custodian of people’s mandate and commonwealth. Each time he visited that friend of his, the latter would quickly offer the necessary hands of fellowship. But one mistake we often make each time we go to our fellow human beings in search of solutions to our problems is that we usually think that they are small gods. We always fail to keep in view that nobody born of the womb can act like the Almighty. The more requests we put forward to the rich the quicker he tires of giving out of his riches. Thus having rendered countless assistance to the former “His Excellency”, the rich guy soon suffered what we sometimes refer to as ‘donation fatigue’. He, therefore, gave instructions that each time the former came a-visiting, he should not be allowed into his courtyard…!
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