By Simon Abah, a teacher, speaker, campaigner and consultant, wrote from Abuja.
A youngster plans to conquer the world, plans to marry a fair-skinned lady. He confuses the pigment of a woman’s skin for beauty. Dark isn’t beautiful. I wonder! He goes to the laboratory for physical wars, the place where artistic tests are carried out and he tells everyone who cares to listen upon exiting about the status of the result which arose from the cultured test. He has to live in a house built with gold in a village which he visits only once in a year and when he does visit, agents of state must escort him. The youngster reorders his moral cosmos to justify everything.
The older generations from past sixty years know differently, some after the event. If they had known earlier and probably, they might not have wasted too much energy in their youth chasing frivolousness.
Life is transient. And the discernments got from life’s lessons can be hurting especially very late in life if there are many regrets.
I was in the gathering of people that are past sixty years today.
These were no small men. Former captains of industries, ambassadors, top security staffers, soldiers, lawyers, surprisingly no woman was in attendance.
They were humble, retired but not tired. People their age wear their trousers while sitting down and undress in the same manner. You better ask your doctor why, don’t ask me.
It struck me as I write this on my laptop, standing in my kitchen watching the sky from the window and showers of rain from heaven, and the recurrent thunderstorm that I have always dreaded from my youth that all these men couldn’t have been of the same rank and class at some point in their lives.
Some might have occupied mighty offices with oak panel wood imported from Italy and tiles from Spain. Others may have had retinue of assistants at their disposal and access to them might have been difficult. Some may have had things to do with countless secretaries, forgetting about wives and families. The positions occupied by some might have got into their heads and they might have created that man-made borders, class and looked at others as minions in words and deeds thereby ring-fencing them out of their lives. Some may have had children who couldn’t aspire higher than them and couldn’t achieve feat they accomplished.
Some may have run to hotel suites with three women at once, even when a touch from one good woman is enough trouble. Some have given up the ghost simply out of ecstasy. Some due to the maltreatment of workers under them may have had cooks; gardeners, stewards; security men, and drivers pray the popular prayer when oppressed by superiors, “God dei.”
Others in the correct position may have failed to use their office to help many unemployed people win jobs. They may have told them that they ought to have had Second Class Upper degrees and First Class degrees before they could help. Degrees they got when life was easy and when there was scholarship for people willing to study, grants that people won through the front door and not the backdoor like now, grants that took care of their food, leaving them with enough time to read, nothing like the moment when students go to examination halls thinking of what to eat after and not the examination and the competition for jobs in their day wasn’t as bad as now, how many graduates were in Nigeria back then, now with nepotism-kingmakers as human resource managers and recruiters everywhere, how can the unemployed be given a level playing field to win jobs.
But here they were today, giggling but not talking much, walking in measured strides. Everyone was equal before the other. Intelligent minds do not underrate anybody. The rich are lonely and friends become equal partners with powerful friends later in life. Look at it this way, at past sixty years, your cycle of friends gets smaller, your needs are small, you don’t eat much, you drink plenty water, you seek out friends to chat with or else life would be a colossal bore. You catnap often. No more philandering. You pity men who can’t stay away from women. You treat such men as social lepers. You forget the days you prided yourself for being a real man and addressed yourself as a stallion. You know the plants responsible for major diseases. To wear stylish dresses doesn’t make sense anymore. Vanity
You are probably a grandfather/grandmother. Live in your own house. You move away from noisy environments to living in commuter belt, nothing excites you as much as it does in your youth. You have seen it all. So what power does the other retired person have over you, nothing much, the same fellow with power over life and death in glory days?
At their age they care nothing for food and you may, end up, in their house drinking a glass of wine on an empty stomach in place of eba, egusi soup and chicken for that may be what they are sipping. And believe me they may not be sensitive to your needs because they judge young people by their standard without ill feelings. You may long for a hot plate of eba but get none, even in the company of mighty persons, you may be left with no option other than to drink wine, same way the British do; they serve you tea in a small cup, forgetting that Nigerians drink tea in a bowl to fill the stomach.
A former director of a state security agency tried reversing his vehicle from a tight angle out of the building, and it took forever. The treats which he enjoyed in office and which aren’t sustainable in Nigeria are over and he is probably learning how to drive. The perquisites are all gone now and he is an ordinary fellow.
Age indeed is a leveler. Scary! The race to conquer, oppress, plunder, divide and dominate very early in life weren’t worth it in the end.