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This fleeting life

By Muyiwa Adetiba

Can anybody control the time of their entrance or exit in this tortuous journey called life? If the answer to my rhetorical question is negative then why do we behave as if we are in control of the tides and times of life? I certainly had no control over the two life threatening experiences I have had.

The first was on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway on my way to Ibadan. I was listening to Isaac Hayes when I felt a pull on the car. Fearing I was about to lose control, I tapped on the brakes. It was an error. The car somersaulted three times and ended in the bush with its four tyres in the air. I was all of 27, single with my whole life seemingly ahead of me.

The second time was 20 years later. I was on my way home to watch the Dream Team in an international match when I was stopped by armed robbers and bullets were pumped into the car. Very few survive gun shots in many of the films I had watched and I didn’t think I was going to be one of the lucky ones especially when I was dumped bleeding in a dark alley.

But I survived. Help came virtually from nowhere in both instances. I had moments during these episodes when I thought I was not going to make it. My last thoughts at this time were not on wealth, position or any material acquisition—there was nothing to write home about anyway. They were more private, more intimate and more spiritual. And because my being alive was not up to me, I had long come to the conclusion that someone up there decided that my time had not yet come.

How many people die because help in the form of finance, a doctor or even a bystander, did not come on time? How many people survive because of a curious neighbour or, as in my case, a passing okada driver and a medical practitioner who left his hospital to rush me to LUTH? Like our Uncle Sam always says, ‘something usually happens when your time is not up’.

Early this week, the time of Michael Osebor Osime, my wife’s immediate younger brother was up. He was alone when he allegedly had an asthma attack. He did not survive it. He would have been 60 next year and in all probability, would have made plans that many people in that age group make. Plans that seem so futile now, so meaningless.

Mike was a brilliant man who did not limit himself. He was a Quantity Surveyor and an Architect, but made serious forays into painting, poetry and fashion designing. He was also well read enough to make intelligent contributions to almost any conversation no matter how esoteric or rarefied.

In another clime, his talents would have been more celebrated because he had a fresh, probing mind. But alas! the rules that govern prosperity in Nigeria were not rules he lived by. He was an iconoclast who lived by his own rule books and ideals. He became more introspective in his latter years and withdrew within himself which probably explained why he was alone when death came calling. But he was a very generous man who could give out his last shirt to someone he felt needed it more.

He also loved to inspire young people and all his nephews and nieces would have fond memories of him. He tried to have a personal relationship with each of them. His paintings are in many homes around the world. They would, I hope, serve as a reminder of who he was and what he could have been if his potentials had been realised. One particular one in my home has a soothing, calming effect on me. May Mike, Osebor Osime find his new home soothing and calming. May he find peace in the bosom of Jesus.

The poem, ‘Invictus’ by William Henley is easily one of my all-time favourite poems. The words have inspired and kept me going on many occasions especially when I am ‘in the horrors of the shade’ and ‘buffeted by chance.’ But I have always been uncomfortable with the last two lines which say, ‘I am the master of my fate.’ ‘I am the captain of my soul.’

Are we really the masters of our fate? Did Obama become the first black American President because of his intellect, erudition or the circumstances of his birth? Was it because or in spite of his obvious talents? Or was it all pre-ordained by divine hands like Moses? Donald trump in normal circumstances, should have been sunk by the sheer weight of his weaknesses and indiscretions. Many candidates have been buried for less. But they all seemed to glide off him like water on a duck.

Is he there by divine hands for a purpose that are yet to be unravelled? Coming nearer home, how much control did Abiola have on the circumstances of his wealth and death? Was he the master of his fate? And how do we explain the rise and rise of Jonathan until he became the President of Nigeria ahead of the juggernauts in the south-south and indeed, the entire country? We know from experience that the brightest in class does not always become the most successful in life because the race is not always for the swiftest.

So if we do realise that we do not have the final say in what we become in life, why do we kill and maim to attain positions that some others have gotten on a platter of gold, and which we will, in any case, leave behind? And if we realise that our seeing the next day is not in our control, why do we embark on mindless acquisitions?

Many of these acquisitions are surplus to requirements in our life time and even more so when we are gone—we need only to go to the country side to see buildings that have become decrepit for lack of use. They will in all probability sow pain and discord rather than love and unity in the lives of those we leave behind. Why can we not invest in ‘gold that does not rust’ which is a life of service to humanity? Life is fleeting. It is fragile and we have little control over its outcome.

Let us work while it is yet day light on things we will be remembered favourably for. Many behave at the height of power as if they are indestructible. Nobody is. Sooner than later, the curtain will drop like it did for my brother-in-law and it will be goodnight. What will then live after us will be our deeds.


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