Lesson only life can teach
Verily, (there) is in their stories a lesson for men (of) understanding… (Quran 12:111)
Brethren once again got to the gated house of the multimillionaire in the city. Once again 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 an 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 “Excellency” had been out of power for 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 particular 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 “Excellency” had descended into life on the margins of existence.
His house had become deserted immediately after his opponent was declared the 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 a 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 the 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 “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…
In line with the Sunnah of the Almighty, both the rich man and the former “Excellency” are now dead. The former died and left behind his estate; the latter died unsung; he died un-mourned by the oppressed masses, by those whose wealth he unjustly appropriated while he was in power. For them we ask for divine redemption; for their souls, we seek divine extrication.
I recall the above story today as the premise for yet another story of a former “His Excellency” which was sent to me by a brother through social media. This former “His Excellency” was a scientist. He was a former this and that. He had occupied almost all political posts and portfolios in his state. What remained was for him to become the Chief Executive officer (the CEO) of his home state. Eventually, he realized his ambition. He became “Your Excellency”. But hardly did he become the State Governor than he began to question the Almighty; hardly did he become “His Excellency” than he began to posture like Qarun in front of Prophet Musa (a.s) (Quran 28: 76-83). He challenged the Almighty to a fight.
(08122465111 for texts only)
Oladosu A. Afis
Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies
Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies,
The University of Ibadan,