Out, out brief candle.
Life’s but a walking shadow
A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And he’s heard no more.
It’s but a tale told by an idiot
Full of sound and fury
Signifying NOTHING…William Shakespeare.
Today, I am back to the ardours task of writing about death and life, and the meaninglessness of a worldly pursuit. I am back to the distasteful issue of life ephemerality. I am writing about a subject so familiar yet so ignored. I am writing this just a week after we had committed the remains of two dear brothers, Barr. Wasiu Mustapha and Alhaji Yusuf Abubakar, to mother earth.
Wasiu, principal partner at Wasiu O. Mustapha & Co., Law Firm and Consultancy, was a colleague at the University of Ilorin, 1983/87 session with whom I shared so many things. During exams, Wasiu would bring kola from his mum, who is still for alive, for us, burnt candles for nights. He was cheerful and never got annoyed. We were so close since we met at the University before death drew us apart.
Alhaji Yusuf who was pioneer General Manager of Federal Radio Corporation (FRCN), Idofian, Kwara state, had also sat on the same seat the Almighty has given me the privilege to occupy today; he was Chief Press Secretary to a former military administrator in this state.
Alhaji was a seasoned journalist, who practiced both in the print and electronic sections and excelled. As his corpse was brought out of the house for prayers, I could not but just remind myself about the futility that this life really is. William Shakespeare has rightly defined what life is; a candle, a character on a stage who has but a short time to display his skill and deliver his message, as part of an overall message that makes up a dramatic performance. And then at the end of the play, the actor is gone, out of sight, never to be seen again by the same audience in that dimension. What lingers on, however, is the message he has delivered while on stage, and how he delivered it.
But, do men really see themselves as actors on the stage of life? Do we understand that each day we live here on earth we are communicating a message; perhaps our understanding of what it is to serve God; perhaps our understanding of how to serve humanity; perhaps our understanding of how to relate with others in a multi-religious-ethnic setting?
It is unfortunate that we only come to examine our performance after we had finished the lines; when it is no longer possible to make amends. That , I dare say, is the foolishness of those who do not know that a day of reckoning will still come and that after death, what would be left behind can no longer be corrected unlike when we are still alive. That is why Joyce Carol Oates lamented that, “For what is passes so swiftly and irrevocably into what was, no human claim can be of the least significance”.
Your life will be meaningless if after your death nobody can point to any good you did. I was amazed at the huge crowd that gathered immediately news filtered in that Alhaji Abubakar had taken his last breath. It was a crowd that created traffic snarl around the Zango area where he had his house. Yet he was not a ‘big man’, as many would usually describe those who are affluent. As a matter of fact, he was an ordinary reporter. But he touched lives while he was alive. He used his positions and opportunities that life gave him to sow seeds of kindness and help, here and there, to the young and the old, to those who are from his native Ilorin, and for those who are from elsewhere.
I was amazed at the number of calls I received after posting Barr. Wasiu Olarewaju Mustapha’s portray on my Facebook wall. As we arrived the cementary, going through graves after graves where men and women, rich and poor, dignitaries and ordinaries lay, the ephemerality of life became more frightening. Yet, man forgets death so soon. We hold on to grievances as if life is eternal. We refuse to forgive those who offend us as if we do not seek forgiveness from Him, the most high. We create enmity and destroy family bonds as if we would not be accountable.
Fame and position are transient. Those offices we hold today were once held by others who had either passed on, or forgotten even while they live. What we do today are references for today and future generations. Yet, man forget the day of reckoning when power and positions will become naught, but used for or against us, depending on how we applied them.
In deed, where are the men and women of timbers and calibers of yesterday. The Ahmadu Bellos, the Balewa’s, the Aminu Kanos, the Awolowos, the Azikwes, the Sarakis are all gone. Where are the Sheikh Adams, the Sheikh Kamaldeens who we regarded as virtuous men of yesterday? They are all gone but alive with their marks on the sand of time.
John Keats, the poet, counselled men to “Stop and consider! life is but a day; A fragile dew-drop on its perilous way. From a tree’s summit; a poor Indian’s sleep. While his boat hastens to the monstrous steep. Of Montmorenci.”
And, says man and jinn are created but to worship him. It means that every day of our lives, every resources and authorities should be devoted to His course.
My questions are: what are you making of your life? What are you doing with your life? What seed are you sowing with your life? What message are you passing to others through your life? Barr. Wasiu and Alhaji Abubakar have completed their lines. They have ended their parts. They have paid their debts. …but the drama of life continues. with you as the current actor. Please, come on stage with clear understanding that we have but a short time to live.
May the souls of the departed rest in peace. Good-bye Barr. Wasiu Olarewaju Mustapha! Good bye Alhaji Yusuf Abubakar!!
Oba can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org