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Do I believe in stars? No, except the ones that appears on dark nights, billions of light years away, twinkling in eternal distances waiting to burn out and give rise to hundreds more.
The mere concept of “human” stars annoy me especially the Hollywood, Nollywood and Bollywood bunch, who for the life of me have made the concept lost its bearing. I have always viewed the concept when appropriated to humans as an inapt quality to quantify humans with, because they are always selfish, self-centered, egocentric, egoistic, self-seeking, and self-regarding. Don’t be surprised as all these words are actually one, because being “selfish” is the only word that best suits “human stars.”
I’m neither a sadist nor a pessimist, who can’t see nobility in anyone, but I believe all humans are the same; always gunning for some self-centered agenda. Be it Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Pope John Paul II, his delayed successor Pope Francis, Bishop Tutu, Wangari Maathai, all have diverse objectives in their pursuit of being labeled stars.
Some for fame, money (that Nobel Prize payout is very tempting), fear of retribution, reparation etc., so it really doesn’t make my neck hairs stand or having goose pimples on my skin because of the oddly long list of their “good deeds.” For me there’s always an underlying reason.
This was my view before June 10, 2009, before I was privileged to meet John Mela Panguru in the course of my work in Katsina.
We became friends, later neighbours, then best friends, as we continued living life as usual. However, after about four months of our meet, on a Saturday in September same year, I met him loading a variety of provision in the booth of his 1996 Honda civic model, and inquired if he was considering opening up a “kiosk complex,” of which we both laughed.
After it seemed we have exhausted all jokes, he invited me to join him to his “complex.” It was a Saturday. Manchester United verses Manchester City was supposed to kick off by 4pm, a crunch match, and I wasn’t missing it even if the sky were to fall, being an ardent fan of the former. He said he knows and he promised we will be back before then. I didn’t want to argue so I got into the car and we zoomed off, supposedly to his kiosk complex.
Welcome to Katsina Motherless Baby Home, greeted my conscience as we veered off the road, sighting a brown rusty gate, rickety by age and weather. “Interesting,” I thought, “here is another person in need of penance and another gullible hand who would take a “bribe” to cleanse someone else’s guilt.”
Humans in their usual fashion of sacrificing, didn’t God say to obey is better than sacrifice? Although, I kept mute for the entire period we offered John’s sacrifice to the very cute (I must say), sickly and wide eyed kids and their keepers. However, my throat was burning with several questions as to the reasons he was parting with his supplies.
“I just do it.” Was his reply, “and not for any reason.”
“I know people do give alms once in a while, to cleanse their conscience from having received from God without giving back, while others give because they need something from God.” I countered. “So, which category do you belong?”
“I belong to a third.” He replied rather jokingly. “Those who give because they want to, no strings attached.”
It didn’t make sense to me or I didn’t just want to think about this sanctimonious, holier than thou person, for I know there’s always an underlying reason. Nobody in his right frame of mind wakes up one morning and decides to “throw” his hard earned cash away without angling for something in return. I can’t be bought with “I just do it.”
Like a wild cat I consciously waited for the loading of supplies in his car in October, but nothing. November, nothing. December 20th, 2009, he knocked on my door, with the expectant invite; “Come escort me to my kiosk complex, abeg.” Aha, I got him now; he’s showing off – fame driven, I thought.
But on the way, when I pushed further for the reason he was doing this. He hesitated then replied that his mum who is now late, taught him by example how to give, not because of having excess, or because of hoping to receive from God or for anything else, but to have a culture of giving because someone needs any help they can get.
It still didn’t make sense, until Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the present Emir of Kano, came in 2010 with his reforms of the banking sector, which saw the pawns in the banking sector taking the worst hit. Six of our friends went to work in the morning and came back home without it.
Reason, they couldn’t login to their work systems and that was it. Employment terminated, families crashed, personalities crushed, ambitions dashed. I was still trying to grapple with the issue two weeks after, but John was already feeding two families; and six months later, he was housing, feeding and providing TP (transportation) for three of our very hefty single friends, with large appetites and bellies, who had lost their jobs.
He catered for them, without a care in the world, until they found jobs in March of 2011. The “burden” which was visible after every meal, I’d witnessed, was nowhere across his eyes. Within that period he’d redefined the concept of giving because someone needs it, etching it deep down my mind.
He remains my brother and friend, and unlike the stars burning billions of light years away, he is burning right beside me, blazing so bright that he didn’t need to burn out to give rise to many more. He’s my role model, as “stars” are expected to be. Do I now believe in all stars? I still don’t, but I believe humans have the ability to be one.
Born Onyidoh, Henry Ikemefuna (in recognition of Achebe’s character in his globally acknowledged novel; Things Fall Apart) is a Biologist by training and banker by chance. Writing, reading, playing scrabble, driving and learning new words are some of the best things of interests he does at his leisure hours. Writing a bestseller is an icing atop his dreams.