An old Jewish prophet’s wife died. He desired to give her a befitting burial. The unfortunate thing however was that they were strangers in the land where she died. So he approached the indigenes to sell him a piece of land where he could not only bury his wife but also use as a permanent family tomb. When he specified the section of town he desired, he was taken to the owner. By virtue of the prophet’s reputation for integrity, the landowner offered it to him for free. But the prophet insisted that a price be attached to it. Even though the price eventually suggested was exaggerated, he promptly paid and secured the deeds to the land. This is the story of Abraham and the cave of Machpelah.


One of the principles of successful living is that nothing lives unless something gives. Success is neither accidental nor without a price tag. If a man stumbles into success, he would usually stumble out of it!


As an undergraduate, I used to be an actor (among many other things I did). I clearly recall the ordeal of rehearsals with ‘Kongi’ himself – Prof. Wole Soyinka in the then University of Ife. For a drama piece of less than two hour duration, we put in weeks of rehearsals, oftimes running late into the night. ‘Kongi’ saw to it that you got it right, language, nuances and all, even if it meant spending long and sometimes tormenting hours on repeated rehearsals of one particular scene. And the discipline of call-time was something else! If Kongi called a rehearsal for a particular time, one minute after that meant you were late! No excuses! Penalties were prompt and clinical. No hard feelings and nothing personal. We shaped up. Till today, everyone I know who survived that time and embraced the attendant discipline is an embodiment of excellence and professionalism in whatever they do.


If a man revels in the ‘free this, free that’ syndrome, he loses three things. First is his right to options. Second is his right to ask questions and third is his personal dignity. As it has turned out in Nigeria, free education, free health and all the other free things touted by many governments over the years have led to the progressive collapse of social infrastructure as well as the standard of education. These vital and fundamental aspects of life have become political issues rather than the execution of a service contract between government and the people. What we have is a situation where people see the very people they elected to serve them now turning the tables and becoming tin-gods who think that the electorate should forever bow at their feet. And why not? If they give education free, and we so want it, who are we to complain when there are no qualified and competent teachers? Who would query the governor or the Commissioner when there are no books – except of course as figures in the annual budget? Or when your ward, an SS3 student cannot construct a correct sentence in English? Or when, because of free health services, there are no drugs in the hospital, not to talk of beddings or even something as basic as cotton wool? No wonder our public officers neither educate their children in the free public schools nor get their wards treated in the public hospitals. They would rather take them to fee-paying places. And the more expensive the better. And of course, preferably abroad! When was the last time you saw your Local Government Chairman or his wife and children in the public hospital in your area?


All over the world, successful people know that there is no prize won without a price paid. These days, I am amazed when I attend the average church prayer meetings where people throng to go and pray for breakthroughs and victory over some – more often than not – imaginary enemy when they themselves are so patently unwilling to alter their lifestyle or take the initiative on the critical issues of their lives. People so conveniently forget that the thought patterns and lifestyle that got them to where they are right now cannot sustain them beyond where they are! I agree with you to a large extent that life is not fair but you must also agree that it still responds to principles.

                                                                                       …to be continued


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