The Brevity of Life and Opportunities

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When we fully understand the brevity of life, its fleeting joys and unavoidable pains; when we accept the facts that all men and women are approaching an inevitable doom: the consciousness of it should make us more kindly and considerate of each other. This feeling should make men and women use their best efforts to help their fellow travellers on the road, to make the path brighter and easier as we journey on. It should bring a closer kinship, a better understanding, and a deeper sympathy for the wayfarers who must live a common life and die a common death. – Clarence Darrow

As human beings, whether rich or poor, we are all showered with enormous natural gifts, talents and opportunities. Some of us are rich, academically or socially intelligent; others have different talents such as the ability to lead, mobilize, advise, educate, cure others etc. The opportunities, talents, gifts are endless. Certainly, despite our obvious difference, there are certain elements and facts that we share, which equally bind us together. We have a very limited period on earth. We all must, one day die – irrespective of our riches, power, intelligence, knowledge, etc. When we die, we leave our gifts, opportunities behind. Do these obvious elements that hold us together explain the idea behind the Ubuntu philosophy – the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity? That brings us to an important question is: How do you make use of these abundant talents and opportunities we possess, in view of the limited time we have on this earth?

Naturally, the purpose of possessing these natural gifts and opportunities is to use them to make meaningful and positive changes in the lives of others. If you cannot use your gifts, opportunities and position in life to contribute positively to the society, you are not only a waste to the society. You are, in fact, useless, a huge burden and an impediment to the progress of the society and humanity in general. One irrefutable fact is that we have a limited period of time on earth. That makes our time and life indeed, precious. It equally calls for a responsible and efficient use of our limited time on earth.

Every day we often read in the newspapers about the near-insurmountable problems in Africa and the world in general – from endemic poverty to corruption, joblessness, illiteracy, crime, health challenges, security problems, you name them. However, the question remains: What are the real causes of these suffocating problems and challenges facing Africa and the rest of the world? Are they natural or man-made? Are they incurable? Definitely, you can only solve a problem successfully, if you can identify the cause of it. It is indeed an illusion to believe that Africa is not a rich continent; just as it is a misconception to think the problems facing the continent is insolvable. The continent is richly blessed with both human and natural resources. More than that, it is empowered with enormous potential, capable workforce to transcend these potentials to a success. Alas, Africans have not harnessed those potentials, gifts and opportunities to bring a meaningful change in their lives. When a leader is elected into office to solve the problems facing the society, they prefer to use the little, limited and precious time they have to acquire wealth and, in fact, intimidate the poor and send their lives to the abyss of hopelessness.

The likes of Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic Of Zaire, Angolan José Eduardo dos Santos are some of those African leaders, who woefully failed to use their gifts, talents and position of authority to bring meaningful changes in the lives of their citizens. In fact, they used their positions to cause more hardship to their people. Presidents Paul Biya of Cameroon and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Equatorial Guinea) are not exempted. King Mswati III, King of Swaziland is no newcomer to the African Time Wasters’ club. With the world’s lowest life expectancy of around 33 years, 40 percent unemployment and nearly 70 percent of the country’s citizens struggling to live on less than $1 a day, King Mswati III has, instead, managed to lavish its Kingdom’s wealth on his personal luxury cars, wives, palaces and five-stars leisure trips abroad. In Zimbabwe, the country’s high literacy rate was not necessarily transcended into employment opportunities for its people. Former President Robert Mugabe virtually wasted 32 years in power, accumulating wealth and turning his country’s wealth to a family business at the expense of social and political warfare of Zimbabweans. Omar Al-Bashir, President of Sudan has only succeeded in disbanding the country’s parliament, shutting down all privately-owned media outlets and institutionalizing a repressive regime, after he seized power from a democratically elected government through a coup. Instead of transforming the lives of his fellow Sudanese, Al-Bashir rather orchestrated the murder, disappearance and displacement of several million innocent citizens, most of them killed as a result of civil wars directly or indirectly caused by Al-Bashir. Burundi is on a brink of socio-political breakdown, following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s stubborn call for a referendum on Thursday that would give the President the mandate to remain in power until 2034. It does not help that the country has a history of ethnic genocide. President Pierre Nkurunziza, a priest turned both guerrilla leader and a self-claimed Born Again Christian, has no qualms to repress, disenfranchise and systematically annihilate his fellow Burundians for his own personal interests.

Definitely, had these and other African leaders used all their positions, talents and power all these wasteful years of squandering their countries’ wealth and opportunities, for their people instead of stealing and consolidating their power, the lives of their citizens would have changed drastically. Mobutu Sese Seko died and left his billions of dollars behind. So did former President Sani Abacha of Nigeria. Human beings have a very limited period of time to live on earth. Is it not the duty of every one of us to judiciously make good use of the limited period we have on earth? That calls for accountability – accountability of time, resources and duties. How do you use your limited life, power, opportunity, influence, position, etc to change the lives of others – meaningfully and positively?

When next we talk about the problems facing Africa, we must not forget to look back at how each and every one of us utilised their position, opportunity, gift, power, etc. It is only by so doing, that we begin to realise how wasteful our time has been and how we, in one way or another, contributed to that wastefulness. In as much as we criticise our leaders and their wastage of the power and opportunity given to them, we must equally acknowledge our shortcomings. We had the opportunity to choose committed and visionary leaders, but we rather elected criminals and time wasters just because we succumbed to a few bags of rice and other petty gifts. While we complain about the misrule of our leaders, we wasted time and failed to take any concrete step to correct the erroneous errors. Before we know it, our time on earth is over. Death announces its presence. Mission on earth, unaccomplished. For those who greedily acquire wealth and effectively make the lives of others a hell, rather than using it to bring meaningful changes in the lives of others, life is brevity.

Perhaps, it is time to reflect back and ask yourself how you have used your time, opportunity, natural gift, position and power to change your life and those of others. It is definitely not too late to start today to use your time, position and opportunity wisely, efficiently, creatively and productively. You must not only use your time wisely and efficiently; you must love your time. If you don’t use your time productively you will later regret what you did not do with your precious, but limited time. If your time on the earth is used judiciously, you will not fear death.

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give. There is, absolutely, no better way to achieve happiness and make your life and that of others more meaningful than to use your time wisely, efficiently and productively. Time is indeed limited!