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Lessons of life from Ola Yusuf


Alhaji Ola Yusuf

…In their stories are points of reflection for those imbued with understanding (Quran 12:112)

Our paths never crossed before; though his has traversed the world in-between the two seas. I did not know him personally though I have been privileged to know some of those who are close to him. He is a friend to the high and the mighty. He is a confidant to the emperor, the only idol that bestrides the political landscape of Nigeria. The octogenarian who is of interest to us in our sermon today is a close friend to the first letter-writer-in-chief, in “United States” of Nigeria. He is equally a bosom friend to the legal icon and luminary, the former chief justice of Nigeria, the veteran of the world court in Hague, Prince Bola Ajibola. He is an idol in the world of many other ornaments of that city on the rock most of whom have become the exemplars in their various callings in life. Perhaps the first lesson one could take away from this union of the successful within which this octogenarian finds himself is this- if you want to be successful be in the company of the successful. The converse is eminently true- if you want to be an underling, an occupier of the space under the bridge, join the company of those whose spirits look down, not up.

Brethren, destiny took me to the event; to the birthday ceremony. Before that day, I have always held an extremely unpopular opinion of birthdays. Unpopular because I see birthdays as death days. I see birthdays as days which remind me of the reduction in the number of days left for me to live on earth. I ponder my birthdays as solemn days in which I should undertake some self-probations and some self-inquisitions. If I have been destined to live up to ninety years on earth, of what value would my merriment be on my fortieth birthday since I have fifty years left on earth? To what use have I put those passages: the passage of time, of age, of life? Such has and still is my posture in regard to birthdays before I arrived the venue of the event a couple of weeks ago.

In my usual style, I entered the hall of the event incognito, unobtrusively. I always prefer to remain like a dot in the diagram, a face in the crowd. Not long thereafter the birthday celebrant was ushered into the venue in company of hundreds of well-wishers. There was no way I could still identify him in the multitude. Soon the event got under way. Soon the celebrant was asked to rise up and dance to music. The hall rose in adoration when the celebrant began to dance as if he was still in his twenties. It was at that moment, the first incentive for today’s sermon was birthed- to dance at eighty and energetically too is to be in full control of one’s psychomotor, to feel strong at heart. Then I remembered many others of the same age bracket who have become completely senile. I remember many others of that age bracket and even less who have become burdens on life simply because their body has no use for life anymore. These are subjects who still enjoy divine providence. Until the “account” is fully exhausted no soul would be given its ‘boarding pass” to heaven.

But the question became urgent-what is the secret behind Alhaj M.O Ola Yusuf’s health? How can I also become an octogenarian and still have the vigour to “kick” and ‘suck’ life the way he does?

Eventually, I was asked to come over to the centre of the hall. Eventually we met face to face. Eventually, the young met the old; the octogenarian came face to face with the subject at the middle-road of life. There I saw a face with no wrinkles. I beheld a physique which suffered no bent or diminution. Then I remembered those days. Days when people his age usually get into new wedlock. Days when our forefathers usually find new use for ‘the engine’ of life. I therefore contemplated Alhaji’s mien more closely. I wanted to chance upon figure ‘eighty’ but could not find it. What I found was a personality which appeared to have succeeded in getting all the equations right. In line with the Quran, he appeared to have refrained from upsetting the scale of life in line with the injunction in Surah al-Rahman.(Quran55: 8)

In a subsequent conversation I had with him on phone, Alhaj was kind enough to reveal the ‘secrets’ behind his successful life. He began by recognizing the favours he received from the Almighty. “I have been especially favoured by God”, he emphasized. Now at that particular moment, it felt as if he was actually engaging in some ministrations. Yes. Who amongst us has not been specially favoured by the Almighty? “Which of the favours of the Almighty can we deny?” (Quran50: 13)He reminded me.

Not done with teasing lessons of life from his fountain of wisdom, I asked him about the secret of his healthy living. His response was highly instructive. He bid alcoholic consumption bye over four decades ago in obeisance to the will of the Almighty. His food regimen is equally one to emulate. He is in the habit of taking oats or pap in the morning, something ‘solid’ in the afternoon and only fruits in the evening. His pleasure lies in making people happy; in extending hands of succor to those in dire situations. If indeed you desire to know just how many people would miss you the day you expire, watch out for those who turn up on your birthdays.
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