I am writing to say “Thank you”. Thank you, to all the amazing people that called, sent text messages, wrote on my Facebook wall, emailed, posted on WhatsApp group chats, messengers and all there is in that unending realm termed Social Media. You all made my day.

I am not one given to birthday festivities, as such I had discussed with my wife that this was going to be a quiet one. Somehow, people noticed. The most surprising of all was getting a call from one of my uncles. A hermit of some sort, he has the unenviable reputation of not calling anyone, yet he did call me to wish me well. The disappointing part was that neither Scott Morrison nor Muhammadu Buhari thought it fit to call. I guess they were too engrossed in managing the Covid19 pandemic. I have pardoned them already, my fathers in heaven more than compensate for their errors in the dialogue they had with me. Separately.

I am most grateful to Saf, my companion on this journey called life. While I was contented with having a quiet day, she was fretting over the limitations that Covid19 brought to her plans of giving me a decent birthday. I still got my birthday presents and the choice of Akara (Beans Cake) was just wonderful. All said, a cake is a cake.

A couple of life issues had made this year’s birthday a time for sober reflection for me. It all started last year. On the 8th of April 2019 my cousin was killed. This promising young man was gunned down by some very wicked and God-forsaken individuals while he was in his office minding his own business. Since then, birthdays have never been, and will never be, the same again for me. He was that close to me and I will always remember this calamity as long as I live.

There was another angle to my reflection. Last year I turned 50. The plans to mark that golden milestone was put to gear a few months earlier. We made advance payments for hall rental, catering and a whole list of activities to make the day a great one. What if, those plans had been made for this year and Covid19 struck the way it has, making public gathering a no-no? That would have been a worrisome loss of funds. While I happened to escape this, thinking of the many folks whose life plans have been severally impacted through no faults of their own was very troubling and I was full of empathy.

As the day drew to an end, I watched the Leisure Seeker on Netflix and it did soften me up a bit. It showed deep love, empathy and commitment that mutually exists between married partners. I was left questioning what the whole game plan of our existence here on Earth was. We are born, we give birth and then we die, only for the circle to repeat again and again, generation after generation. It’s like a broken record playing on grandfather’s turntable!

Saf has always been a preacher of the gospel of happiness.  In her words, the only thing we should aim at accomplishing each day is our happiness.  She is somehow equally yoked in spirit with the founding fathers of the American state when they declared the inalienable rights of the human being as Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. I guess we owe it to ourselves to be happy at all times, whatever the circumstance that surrounds us.

The summary of my reflection is this. No matter how much we try, we are not in total control of our lives. Or are we? When Jesus said in Luke 13:4 that those around him, then, were no better than the 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed, we have a clue. It shows we are clay in the hand of the creator who chooses to do as he would with us. A series of happenstance could have changed what our present circumstance is. Some would argue that if Ojukwu had won the Biafran war, we would not be who we are today. I agree. As a former oil worker, it meant, most likely, that I would not have gotten employment in that industry. The last time I checked, nearly all the producing oil wells fall within Biafra, with few in Edo and none in Oyo definitely. How would I, a Nigerian, have gotten a job in Biafra? I could have ended up being a meat seller or a conductor or a Vice Chancellor. Who knows? We were taught this much by the movie classic, Love Wedding Repeat. The central message of which is that any one of a million variables could have changed our life forever. So, with all the happenstance around us, what manner of man should we be?

The morning after, I remember the words of my late boss, Dennis O’Connor.  Birthdays are not only for celebration, they are also opportunities to number our days and schedule medical check-ups.  I will be doing just that and I encourage you to do yours.

After all, with or without you, life goes on.