Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced. Even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. — John Keats, letter to George and Georgiana Keats.
The first ten minutes of your morning impact the day’s tone and your attitude.
Consider this scenario: You wake up to your alarm, already frustrated. You stayed up way too late the night before and are paying for it. As you roll out of bed, your mind begins calculating all you need to do. Feeling overwhelmed by everything on your list, you shuffle into the kitchen only to find an empty bag of coffee.
Those first ten minutes sound like the prelude to a frustrating, harried, and stressful day.
So, add another zero, it becomes a hundred, and in Nigerian governance parlance and lexicon, there is something we call, the first 100 days of an administration. For Mr. Tinubu’s administration and a whole lot of the governors across the states of Nigeria’s republic, especially those newbies, it has been one full of proverbs, at the heart of which is “frustration”, a people so blessed living off of palliatives is one hell of a proverb.
We are told that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but why at the end of the tunnel, a tunnel many do not know where it ends. Well, I get to tell you a little about proverbs from a scriptural perspective and will end with another story, just follow me patiently.
Two prostitutes approached the king’s bench. The first had given birth to a baby boy, and three days later, in the same house, the second gave birth to a baby boy. During the night, the second woman rolled over and accidentally smothered her newborn. What did she do? She switched infants. The next morning the first prostitute awoke to a dead child and the other woman claiming her live child.
“She’s lying!” the second prostitute shouted. “Her baby is dead! This baby belongs to me!”
A court hearing circa 900 BC predates DNA testing, and the king had a long docket. He asked to have a sword brought to him, and an aide produced a blade. Gesturing, the king said: “Cut the child in two and give each mother half.” “No!” the first mother cried out, “give the baby to her!”
“Fine!” the second one yelled, “no one gets him!”
“The first woman is the mother,” the king said. “Give her the baby.”
The monarch whose reputation for wisdom was sealed that day was Solomon, son of David, Israel’s first king, and David’s wife Bathsheba. Toward the beginning of his forty-year reign, Solomon collected wise sayings and pored over them. At some point, he winnowed the riches into a book in the Bible’s Old Testament under the simple name Proverbs. From nearly a thousand years before Christ, Proverbs is one of the earliest examples of wisdom literature, a priceless guide still widely considered the gold standard of counsel.
Of the Bible’s sixty-six books, to my thinking, Proverbs is the most provocative. Two dozen centuries before Sigmund Freud and psychological profiling, thirty-one short chapters penetrate human nature with insights into sex, anger management, slander, wealth, welfare, business ethics, intoxication, pride, and fissures in character as relevant as tomorrow’s top trending topic.
Proverb is a Hebrew word meaning “to rule or to govern.” Much of it has to do with self-mastery, and the only thing better than reading it is reading it routinely. If you were to take in a chapter a day, in one year you’d have twelve readings of a book that I consider boredom-proof. After nearly four hundred trips through the entire book, I still rely on it for new insights, reminders of timeless truths, and life-guiding principles.
Billy Graham said he read five psalms a day “for getting along with God,” and a chapter of Proverbs a day “for getting along with my fellow man.” In my growing-up years, I saw my father do the same thing. He also read every year through the Old and New Testaments, still another reminder that a mind and character cannot be left to chance.
To sample Proverbs, flip around. Just don’t be deceived by the simplicity. A proverb is an acorn with a tree inside — a puzzle piece to character — and character, in the words of Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Barbara Tuchman, is destiny.
Where will we place Tinubu and the current leaders in destiny, in the light of what we know now of the Buhari years, are we safe, or in for a repeat episode? With all the illogical removal of subsidies the drama of trillions of debts and more debts, and the embarrassing potbelly governance structure. The enjoyment allowance of the National Assembly and all the corruption and sleaze, the collapsing grind, and unsure security status, are reflective of the proverb that a Friday determines the look of Saturday.
I will end my reflection on the following note.
Hazrath Luqman Alayhi Salaam, who was given the title of Hakeem (the Wise), used to work in an orchard.
Once his master came to the orchard and asked for a cucumber. When the cucumber was brought, peeled, and sliced, the master gave the first piece to Hazrath Luqman Alayhi Salaam to eat.
He placed it in his mouth and began eating it with great relish. When the master observed the degree of relish with which Hazrath Luqman Alayhi Salaam ate the cucumber, he assumed that it must be very tasty.
Hence, he also put a piece into his mouth. To his horror, he found the cucumber to be extremely bitter. He immediately spat it out and asked in astonishment: “O Luqman, how can you eat such a bitter cucumber with such relish?”
Hazrath Luqman Alayhi Salaam replied: “The cucumber is indeed bitter. However, I thought that if the hand that has already given me countless sweet things gives me one bitter thing, how ungrateful it would be of me to complain about it!”
It is bitter and sweet, that we supply several neighboring nations electricity and they owe us several billions in debt, and then having spent some $7.5bn and counting, we have witnessed 140 national grid collapses in ten years putting the country in total darkness each time.
It is one hell of a proverb trying to understand that we may soon be importing even crude oil. It takes one hell of an understanding to grasp how we are told to let go of subsidy because of a corrupt few, so that an honest many suffer, or how a nation that is blessed in crude is busy comparing her pump price of fuel with non-producing state, or how Singapore and other nations are richer than us, simply by supplying us refined products from the crude we sell to them.
The current administration has been at best bittersweet, how it will end is not looking bright, but as cautious optimists, we keep believing and for the sake of tomorrow that endless hope is not a hopeless end—May Nigeria Win!