Set forth to them the similitude of the life of this world: It is like the rain, which we send down from the skies: the earth’s vegetation absorbs it, but soon it becomes dry stubble, which the winds do scatter: it is (only) the Almighty who prevails over all things (Quran 18: 40)
It does not bother me at all that you woke up today and you are bothered by matters bothering your brethren, male and female. It does not bother me at all that you are there seated or standing running after the necessities of life. It bothers me a trifle that you are buffeted by the vicissitudes of life, by the vagaries and uncertainties of living and by the pursuit of that which would not last.
Yes. It is the will of the Almighty in creation that all subjects born of the womb shall toil and labour in order to enjoy and suffer. The worshipper of the Merciful shall observe vigil at night in order to qualify for His favours. The armed robber shall forsake the pleasure of his bed at night in order to visit pain on the neighbourhood and thereby qualify for punishment and eternal damnation. Yes. Those who shall enter paradise have to work and sweat; those who shall enter hell would have to earn it through toil and labour! I am not bothered by all of these simply because this is the reality.
I am concerned with one other thing, however. I am concerned with the possibility that you are involved in the frenetic pursuit of this world on the assumption that you could indeed have it all. No! You cannot have it all. Nobody has ever had it all. Nobody will ever have it all. Evidence in support of these claims and assertions are there in your wakeful moments, in your everyday life. There she is seated. The pepper grinder in the neighbourhood. Every time her husband copulates with her, pregnancy sets in. Today, she is nursing two beautiful girls. Only a year before, she gave birth to a boy. Her husband is the Chief Messenger in that office. Yes. The Chief Messenger. To every profession its chief. There is the Chief Whip in the Parliament. There are chiefs in the palace. I wonder whether there are chiefs among thieves and kidnappers. Yes. There are Chief Lecturers. But there are no Chief Professors.
Now the Chief Messenger of interest to me today is he whose spermatozoic prowess is reminiscent of the “Danfo” driver in the other part of the town. The latter is loved and abhorred by women in the bus station by equal measure. They know that whenever he ‘touches’ the opposite sex, often times illicitly, the latter would bear the ‘burden’ for the next nine months. This Chief Danfo driver owns no vehicle. He owns no properties. He has no investment in any blue-chip companies. He has no bank accounts. He knows that he is poor. He desires to be rich. But at least for now, he is contented in the knowledge that he does not have it all. He is contented that at least he has his virility and masculinity. He is happy in the knowledge that he is an active partaker in the unceasing task of populating the world!
Across the town, in an area known as GRA, there lives the multi-millionaire. He has almost everything money can buy- a posh house and state-of-the-art automobiles. His wife is that woman who is subject of the second gaze whenever she steps out of her home: beautiful, elegant and intelligent. However, despite these provisions and blessings, the woman is not happy. She cries every night because she has not been blessed with the fruit of the womb. Whenever she contemplates the plum and pleasure that surrounds her, she remembers what material comfort cannot provide. She shed hot tears for being barren. She has it; but she cannot have it all.
Meanwhile, one of the children of the poor ‘Danfo’ driver is registered in one of the public schools in the neighbourhood. As fate would have it, he is a classmate to one of the children of the ‘big men’ in town. While the child of the poor driver comes to school barefooted and in completely worn out school uniform, his classmate is brought to school every morning in a chauffeur-driven car. The boy’s food basket is usually the most sought after during the break time. The irony, however, is this- each time the school closes for the session, the son of the poor driver always takes the first position while his classmate, the child of the rich man, takes the last position. The rich man has it; but he cannot, by His design, have it all.
Have you ever found yourself in situations where people demand favours from you, favours you cannot grant unto yourself? What about the Vice-Chancellor of that university whose children have continually failed the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) organized by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB)? He presides over life-long opportunities; opportunities none of his children could, by law, enjoy. He has this; he does not have that because he cannot have it all!
Afis Ayinde Oladosu is a professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies Dean, Faculty of Arts,
University of Ibadan, Nigeria