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Prodigal sons

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The other day a television-footage of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators cheerfully dancing in the red chamber, celebrating the return of their former party members, vividly impinged on my mind the image of that ancient Jewish father who had lavishly celebrated the return of his prodigal son, to the angst of his very loyal elder son. The biblical story and moral of the spendthrift lad who squandered all his inherited wealth, and later remorsefully returned to his father’s estate is well known by both Christians and non-Christians alike. But as I watched our dancing senators merrily singing, “Everything is turning around; turning around; turning around for our good,” the unfurling political drama in our dear country, Nigeria, instantly gave me a deeper insight into that ancient anecdote; told by the Great Rabbi to his disciples. The story is encapsulated in Chapter 15 of the Book of Luke of the Christian Holy Writ. Verses 11 to 32 are reproduced below to enable us to place the story in proper perspective.

“And he said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.” And he (the father) divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs.

“And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘how many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” And he arose and came to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion. And ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate.

“Now his elder son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he (the servant) said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’

“But the elder son was angry and refused to enter the house. His father came out and entreated him; but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’

“And his father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and alive; he was lost, and is found.”

Of course, the moral of the foregoing obviously admonishes us to always wholeheartedly welcome back all estranged but remorseful brethren. But I see that the story has a deeper import; this often overlooked lesson is buried in only six words of the last but one verse of the chapter, namely, “…all that is mine is yours.” In his apparent narrow-mindedness, the elder son prized a single fattened calf over his own enviable inheritance – his father’s vast wealthy estate. Myopia could indeed be a very debilitating shortcoming in humans. Little wonder his father exclaimed in disbelief, “your brother was dead, and alive; he was lost, and is found.” The heartbroken father may well had consequently wondered about his wisdom in entrusting the family’s entire wealth to his elder son’s now very suspect judgment.

The very suspect judgment of a modern day elder recently gave birth to an avalanche of prodigal sons. Much like the ancient day elder son, this elder inherited a vast wealthy estate, measuring over 900,000 square kilometers of minerals-rich and arable land, with about 800 kilometers of coastal boundary and many inland waterways to boot. His pool of large-hearted benefactors comprised of over 180 million highly-talented peoples of diverse cultures. In words of a syllable, the modern elder’s inheritance is a world-class economic empire waiting to happen. Had he the requisite equipment, the project would have been a little more than a walk in the park in execution; and he would have thereby entered the annals of history. But, again not unlike his ancient predecessor, this elder took his gaze off the big picture and egregiously focuses on the trivial: converting that potential global economic powerhouse to a mere agglomeration of cattle colonies, in a Space Age!!!

By thus squandering his vast inheritance, doesn’t this latter day elder qualify to be enlisted among the avalanche of prodigal sons, remorseful or not? Just thinking aloud as enjoined by the vicissitudes of our collective fortunes; may that envisioned world-class economic empire materialize in the present generation of those 180 million highly-talented peoples…

Nkemdiche is an engineering consultant, wrote from Abuja.


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