Only to die a pauper! But that is the climax. Let us begin, as our teacher used to say, from the beginning. Our meeting was a happenstance.
It was at an event on the University campus. He was invited to chair the occasion. He arrived on schedule. Expect nothing less from people imbued with grace; those who understand the full import of being Muslim; those who know that appointments with men are like appointment with the Almighty. Such people would not come to public functions behind schedule. They would not come late to social events. They dare not come late for Salat. As far as they are concerned, human life on earth, be it the sacred or the profane, are meant to be lived in full obeisance to His will.
Eventually, he entered the hallowed precinct of the central mosque incognito. I looked at him and beheld a combination of wisdom and experience. I looked at him and began to wonder how he had overcome the many trials and tribulations of life all of which had made a believer out of him. Human beings are usually presented with one of the two options: a short life on terrestrial earth or a longer one on mother earth. Now, if you come in contact with somebody who has spent close to seventy years in this world and as a Muslim, then you have a rare opportunity to learn what your teachers could not have taught you in your school. Knowledge is taught in schools; it is the Almighty who bestows wisdom. No matter your erudition, what life has taught the elderly is worth the pearls in the depth of the ocean.
Thus, something told me that I needed to be close to him. I was fascinated by the way he carried himself. He was flat-bellied, healthy looking and athletic. What else do you expect of a man who follows the strict Islamic regimen: no alcoholism, no debauchery, no adultery, no gambling. He caught a personality which was built on simplicity. His mien gave a sense of a man who appreciated what divine grace meant. His eyes were sharp. His speech was unburdened.
Brethren, as soon as he took his seat, I took mine next to him and offer the usual salutation in Islam. He asked me to introduce myself. How might the pebble introduce itself to the desert? “Sir”, I began with some trepidations, “I am an entity fashioned from nothingness; I am an expirable subject fated to extinction”. By the time he introduced himself, I knew I had made the right decision.
Eventually we began to while away the time in expectation of the official commencement of the event. What better way could we have spent our time other than to ponder the imponderables in our circumstance as a nation. Alhaji had much to say. They always do; the elders usually have much to say. He was there before independence. He was there during the civil wars. He was opportuned to listen to General Yakubu Gowon who once said that the problem of Nigeria was not how to make money but how to spend it. He therefore went on to share one of the stories of that odious past with us. It was a story that is worth being shared with you, at least in storeys. It was a story of how some Nigerians collaborated to destroy the national patrimony in order that they might build their own economic empire. It is the story of how some Nigerians emerged as billionaires today though the very root of those billions is the plunder and pillage of our national wealth.
Brethren, he was appointed secretary, over forty years ago, to one of the Federal Ministries in charge of economic affairs of this country. He was appointed after he passed a qualifying exam and sat for series of interviews. Those days are long gone. Days when Nigerian used to be employed not because they knew this Senator nor that Governor; those days appear gone- when graduates profited from their academic excellence; those days appear long gone- when integrity not perfidy nest at the core of our national value. Alhaj sat for the exam, was invited for an interview and was eventually offered an employment. He knew nobody ‘upstairs’ except the Almighty.
Now consequent upon his employment, he was given a number of schedules including the supervision of procurement of certain materials for the whole nation. Brethren, if Alhaji F had wanted to fraudulently become a multi-billionaire, he would have achieved that through the privileged position he occupied. But that would have meant an infraction of the divine rule. Alhaj knew with certainty that wealth illegally acquired by men shall not profit them here on earth nor in the hereafter. Thus he chose to live within his means. He swore to remain incorruptible. He opted to prevent corruptible actions even from among his superiors.