Colours Of Our Ambitions: Metaphors Used In Illustrating Human Ambition

06 June 2012

By Abdul-Warees Solanke

Ambition was one theme that resonated in my reflection, recently, on the tragic death of the two deputy inspectors-general of police less than three months apart in Lagos and Jos respectively, that of the Apagunpote of Egbaland, Chief Oluwole Olumide, a successful architect who was very visible in the immediate past government of Ogun State under OGD and the one of my nephew who I regard as my first son,  Sherif Ayobanji Ariyo Abdulazeez at the age of 33. Titled Anatomy of Death, I argued that ambition is a mirage when death is not minded, among many other metaphors that I used in illustrating human ambition. Although it was an expression of agony and lamentations on the futility of life, in a sense however, there is nothing wrong in being ambitious. After all, ambition is the driver of existence, THE PURPOSE, THE VISION, but that purpose or vision must be meaningful and positively impactful. This I consider a nice colour of ambition. So, ambition is not bad in itself. Not at all. After all, a life devoid of ambition is one without purpose. 

 A man or woman without ambition aims for nothing, ventures for nothing and so gains nothing. He lives to be exploited by other players in the field of life and consumed by other forces that shape the world. He lives to die without a reason to live. He lives by the spurs of the day, by the whims and caprices of the moment and by intuition, emotion or brainwaves, not by a particular plan, order or focus, not rationally, not objectively. He cannot tell what should be inscribed on his tombstone should he breathe his last now, because he has no purpose, mission or ambition in the first instance, nor can he proclaim a song of victory, should he achieve anything because he has no expectation of it. It came by chance. He cannot number the milestones of his journey of life should he live long because he has no compass of life. A life without ambition is one of waste and disorder.  Ambition is what paints our purposes and pursuits. The hue of our hopes and aspiration is the ambition we silently nurture and we practically pursue. It is the tonic of existence, the adrenalin of life, firing our rocket of attainment, fulfilment or actualization.  

Our ambition may be hinged on sustaining a legacy, especially if we are children of the Abiolas, the Arisekolas, Dangotes, Adenugas, Otedolas, Tinubus, Jimi Ibrahims, Arisekolas, Dantatas, the Submit  Blowguns  and Da Rocha's of Nigeria. It may be just to make a difference, carve a niche for ourselves in our professions or trade, in the academia, in sports and entertainment, or in the public service. It is the height we want to attain, in being the best possible in what we do or where we are, winning laurels and honours, filling our chests with all sorts of medals and trophies, stacking our lapels with symbols of knighthoods and eminence, standing tall before a mammoth crowd of admirers, before bright, hot cameras of the TV and the paparazzi of the press, enjoying the ovation and the encomiums splashed on us as we wait to be decorated with the Nobel prizes, the Olympic gold and the Grammy Awards.  

Our ambition of course may also be in just envying another's achievements or wanting to be like him for what he is as a success. For a lot of us, our ambition may just be to make a living or get by in life with all the comforts and appurtenances that office or power confers. Just live happily, for, Life is Good. However, the tenor or colour of our ambition should be defined by the peace and progress it brings to the world, the happiness it gives others and the fulfilment it gives us in the joy we extend to others. This is because ambition is noble when it is for the edification of humanity, when it is to the glorification of the power above and when it is for the refinement or perfection our character.  Our journey in life starts not from the cradle, not even from the womb of our mothers. It is an inherited journey from the mud from which our father Adam was moulded by the ultimate potter. Some thinkers found a convenient way to describe our maker as the grand architect of the universe, with the acronym, GAOTU.  This architect has also been described as the author and finisher of our life in the Book of Life. He is Allah; for this is what the Criterion directs humanity to call Him, or Ar-Rahman, the merciful, among so many other beautiful names that qualifies the majesty of the Almighty, his omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. Since we owe our existence to this Living Being in whose being is our being and what becomes of us in the morrow, to whom we shall render account, and who shall ultimately declare our success or failure and award medals or invoke punishment on the merit of our performance, then our pursuit or goal, our ambition should find expression in what gladdens the almighty. Is this usually the case? Do we recognize this unseen director of affairs to shape our ambition in the direction he intends? 

At certain time in my A Level days at Adeke, for this is what we call Baptist High School, Iwo, Osun State, I came across some seven cardinal sins in one of our literature set books which I specially note: These vices are Pride, Anger, Envy, Avarice, Lust, Sloth and Gluttony, all pointing to the drivers and the restraints in the force field of our life. They mostly define our ambition or reason for living, the purpose or essence of our being.  These vices were well illustrated in Ayi Kweh Ama's  award winning The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born written in the immediate post independence Ghana. The theme of that book is also reflected in many of the writings of  the first generation Nigerian writers like Chinua Achebe, Ola Rotimi, Kole Omotosho, Femi Osofisan and Wole Soyinka as expressed in a novel like A Man of the People or No Longer at Ease and as dramatized in the Soyinka's Jero Plays or Ola Rotimi's Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again.

Many of us want to be what we want to be without understanding or knowing that being we want to be like. We envy others and want to surpass them in achievements without appreciating their peculiar pains and limitations, costs and compromises, sacrifices they offered and sins they committed in their climb up the ladder; we fight for fame and falter on faith and fidelity; in our quest for office and power, we kill our conscience in killing and kidnapping even our consorts, co-travellers and confidants. We openly declare before large congregations that God is our refuge and his banner over us is love, yet we stoop very low in certain covens in darkness of the night, genuflecting before dead objects and mere mortals who lack our own gifts and grace to seek succour and protection because of our ambition.  

We seek the face of our heavenly father for fortune and forgiveness, yet we follow fools and fortune-tellers with famished faces and frail fingers as our pathfinders to direct us on our ambitions.   Because we want to make it so fast and so cheap in our aims and ambitions, we cheapen our god given authority and trade away our integrity for a morsel of eba, a sheet of kilichi, a plate of edikang ikong, isi-ewu or a  slice of bread with a fifty naira note insert. We seek perfection in our character and demand decorum from others; yet we engage in the denigration of our human essence. We seek salvation and serenity of our soul from the machinations of the Great Enemy; yet we mortgage our peace of mind by our pride and conceit, and the pains we inflict on others to protect our vested interests or prove our power, place and position. These are the colours of ambition but these are also the limits to attaining the ultimate of ambition which is…..Happiness. Are we Happy?


Abdul-Warees is the Head of Training, Voice of Nigeria, Ikoyi, Lagos, (  , ) 08090585723


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