In the Name of the Almighty, the Beneficent, the Merciful
“A generous person is close to God, close to Paradise, close to people, and far from Hell. However, a miserly person is far from God, far from Paradise, far from people, but close to Hell. God loves more an ignorant man, who is generous than a worshipper who is miserly.” -Prophet Muhammad.
Brethren, it was on Monday. I had gone to the city centre in pursuit of life and living; I left the ‘sanity’ in the academy for the city centre to deliver the message of the Almighty. Each time I ventured into the city, I am always prepared for the known and the unknown; I usually guide my loins in expectation of good, the bad and the ugly. But I had not gone far enough when I found myself in a traffic hold-up. I looked at my wrist-watch. Time was some minutes after 4 p.m.
There was no escape route. Then I remember that the city is in the festival mood; the Id al-Fitr was a couple of hours away. The roads had become occupied. I mean occupied.
Traffic was simply heavy. It felt as if the whole city was migrating either away from itself or into itself. It felt the whole city had congregated at that particular moment and on that particular road whose cry for reconstruction would probably be heard when the village headmaster gets a third-term in office! Wait a minute. Granting second-term in office to their Excellencies is like giving a man the opportunity to eat the ‘forbidden fruit’ twice.
Excepting for one or two former governors, whenever they find themselves in office for the ‘second time’, these “Excellencies” become authoritative; they become authoritarian. They punish the masses with under-performance and for making the mistake of casting their ballots for them for the second time!
After close to thirty minutes, luck smiled on me. The road suddenly became open to traffic. But it was only for a moment. Soon there was a grid-lock again. But where I now found myself was close to a spot where I could make a detour and escape from what was proving to be a ‘hell’ on the road. Quickly, I sought an escape. The small road that I took led me to that section of the city where the rich constantly cry. It is the suburban; the city within the city. There the rich constantly cry.
There the rich live in barbed-wired encampments; in walled dwellings which remind you of the wall Donald Trump dreams of building between the US and Mexico. In that part of the city, the rich live in mansions whose entrances are reminiscent of gated quarters of the prison yards. There the rich live as if in an asylum; they live completely quartered away from having close contact with the ordinary masses. Soon, I found myself on the road that led directly to the house of the former popular Muslim philanthropist, the former ‘king’ behind the ‘kings’, the former power behind the powerful- late Alhaj Abdul Azeez Arisekola Alao (d. 2013).
Brethren, when Alhaji Arisekola Alao was alive, there were two types of security walls around his then sprawling mansion in the city: the physical and the human. The physical comprised iron and steel. It was made up of concrete and sheet. It consisted of guns and bullets. The human, on the other hand, could be divided into two: the security detail and the ‘insecure’ detail- the pauperized legion of hangers-on featuring professional and unprofessional beggars, loafers, lazy denizens and occupiers of the periphery of life. When he was alive, the visitor would get to know of the presence of Alhaji Arisekola in the mansion not so much by the presence of the security details, but by the convergence of the poor and the needy at the gate to the mansion.
Thus when I passed by the mansion a couple of days ago, it was like a passage through history. Neither the security details nor the insecure ‘details’ were there anymore. The gates were firmly under lock. But I noticed the presence of new occupiers at the entrance to the mansion. From a distance, I noticed gradual take-over of the mansion by its real owner-Time. Weeds had begun to grow on the terraces which used to shine and shone like the lights in the Haram in Makkah.
Then I asked myself: where are the friends of the former strong-man of Yorubaland? Where are those who, unless they came to him, life had neither pleasure nor treasure? Where are those who thought that without him, life was simply impossible? Alhaji’s mansion has now become a haunting space: a space lacking in mistress and master; a mansion with doors that none now open nor closes but the wind. The only dinner that seems to be taking place in the mansion now, from the point of contemplation outside the walls, would probably be that of ants and termites.
Brethren, I thought the best mansion we could and should build after-all, is that which time would not and cannot destroy. It is the mansion of piety and righteousness. Somebody asked: “What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” I ask: of what use is the dwelling that would not guarantee eternal life and eternity? If indeed Alhaji Arisekola had fans and friends while on earth, it should grieve them to discover that his estate is fast becoming a ‘mansion’ for termites and rodents.
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