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Between your birthday and your death day

Our paths never crossed before; though he has traversed the world in-between the two seas. I did not know him personally though I have been…

Our paths never crossed before; though he 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 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 me today is a close friend of the first letter-writer-in-chief in the “United States” of Nigeria. He is equally a bosom friend to the former legal icon and luminary, the former chief justice of Nigeria, the veteran of the World Court in the Hague, the late 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 to me to the event; to the birthday ceremony. Before that day, I had always held an extremely unpopular opinion of birthdays. Unpopular because I see birthdays as death days. I see birthdays as days that 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 engage in self-probations and inquisitions. If I have been destined to live up to 90 years on earth, of what value would my merriment be on my 40th birthday since I have 50 years left on earth? To what use have I put those passages: the passage of time, of age, of life? Such has been and still is my posture regarding birthdays before I arrived at the venue of the event.

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 the company of hundreds of well-wishers. There was no way I could still identify him in the multitude.

Soon the event got underway. Soon the celebrant was asked to rise up and dance to the music being played in his honour. The hall rose in adoration when the celebrant began to dance as if he was still in his twenties. It was at that moment that the first motivation for this essay 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 remembered many others of that age bracket and even fewer who have become burdens on life simply because their bodies have no use for life anymore. I was seized by the fact that there are some people out there who would continue to enjoy divine providence until their “account” on earth is fully exhausted. I remembered that no soul would be given its ‘boarding pass” to heaven unless and until its account on terrestrial earth is completely empty.

But the following questions became urgent: “What was the secret behind this old man’s healthy life?” I asked myself: “How can I also become an octogenarian and still have the vigour to “kick” and ‘suck’ life the way this man 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 in the prime of his youth. Then I beheld a face with no wrinkles. I beheld a physique that suffered no bent or diminution. Then I remembered those days; days when people of his age would tie new nuptial knots; days when our forefathers usually found 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 that 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.(Quran 55: 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?”  (Quran 50: 13).

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 bade alcoholic consumption bye over four decades before we met in obeisance to the will of the Almighty. His food regimen was equally one to emulate. He was 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 succour to those in dire situations. If indeed you desire to know just how many people would miss you on your death day, watch out for those who turn up at your birthday.


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