My initial plan in this Forum today was to nudge the conscience of Muslims members of parliament and to challenge them to dispel the rumor that this year’s budget, like the ones before it, is suffering delays simply because the federal ministries and agencies (MDAs) are being asked to ‘oil’ the process in order for them to get their budget estimates appropriated. I pooh-pooh the news or rather the rumor for many reasons. One, since majority of members of our parliament are members of the ruling party, and since they were all largely elected on the promise that they would join the President in fighting corruption and sleaze in government, I therefore consider the rumor that they are demanding for the unlawful not only ruinous and atrocious, but also capable of giving fillip to the other rumor, namely that it is only President Muhammad and Vice-President Osinbajo who are fighting the war against corruption. Other government officials, the rumor-mongers would aver, are neck-deep in the old business of scum and bribery.
Second, one is tempted to disbelieve this ‘heinous’ rumor given the comfort and convenience that our parliamentarians enjoy each moment they step into what they refer to as the ‘hallowed’ chambers. These are privileged Nigerians who take millions of naira home at the end of every month. These are privileged compatriots of mine who are said to be receiving sundry allowances including ‘sleeping’ allowance, newspaper allowance, furniture allowance and other perquisites some of which Senators and Republicans in the United States congress would consider highly ‘innovative’. All these were competing for my attention today until someone shared the story below with me. It made my day.
A poorly dressed and completely dejected Muslim lady once walked into a grocery store. She approached the owner of the store in a most humble manner and asked if he would let her charge a few groceries. She told the grocery owner that her husband was very ill and that they had seven children all of whom were in dire need of food and assistance. The grocer scoffed at her and requested that she left his store.
But her dire situation would not allow her to just walk away without putting in more efforts. She then said: “Please, sir! I will bring you the money as soon as I can.” But the grocer told her he could not give her credit, since she did not have a charge account at his store. Standing beside the counter was a customer who overheard the conversation between the two. The customer walked forward and told the grocer that he would stand as surety for whatever the woman needed for her family. The grocer then said in a very reluctant voice: “Do you have a grocery list?” The Muslim lady replied: “Yes sir”. The grocer then said: “OK put your grocery list on the scales and whatever your grocery list weighs, I will give you that amount in groceries.” The woman hesitated a moment with a bowed head and then reached into her purse and took out a piece of paper and scribbled something on it. She then laid the piece of paper on the scale carefully with her head still bowed.
The grocer and the customer were completely surprised when the scales went down and stayed down. The grocer, staring at the scales, turned slowly to the customer and said begrudgingly, “I can’t believe this.” The customer smiled and the grocer started putting the groceries on the other side of the scales. The scale did not come up and he therefore continued to put more and more groceries in it until the scale would hold no more. Eventually, the grocer stood up and grabbed the piece of paper from the scales and looked at it. Lo and behold, the list contained no list at all. Rather it contained a prayer, which read: “O! Almighty, you know my needs and I am leaving this in your hands.” The grocer gave her the groceries that he had gathered and stood in stunned silence. The Muslim lady thanked him and left the store. Thereafter, the customer handed a fifty dollar bill to the grocer and said: “It was worth every penny of it.”
Brethren, only the Almighty knows how much a prayer weighs. But the constant challenge is our lack of patience and perseverance. We treat our prayers the same way we treat our drug or food. We believe our prayers and supplications should be granted immediately we offer them. Keep this in mind. Prayers and supplications have two wings: the one who offer it (the supplicant) and the One who accepts it (the Almighty). Remember His schedule is unknown and unknowable. Be patient with Him.
Brethren, never under-estimate the power of prayer. A scholar says: “Prayer is not a spare wheel that you pull out when you are in trouble. Rather, it is indeed the steering wheel that keeps you on the right path throughout your life.”