19 Sha'ban, 1440 AH

Wednesday 24 April 2019

In the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful

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Posted on: 30 June 2013


Literally, elders in our Zango communities are a metaphor for vast experience, sagacity and wits and most of them are hero-worshipped. The mere fact that they are metonymic with grey hair and fine wrinkles around their eyes and forehead speak volumes of their age. But do these metonymic attributes really make one an elder? I respectfully beg to differ.

Quite clearly, the current economic situation in most Zangos and other African homes has made most elders compromise their hitherto unalloyed respect they command in our communities. With the greatest respect, I cannot agree with the assertion that every grey-haired person is an elderly. Instead, grey eminence will be most appropriate. I prefer eminence grise or grey eminence because they are people who without any official position have power or influence over our sarkis and Imams in our communities. They may not necessarily be rich, learned or are from the royal homes, or opinion leaders but have distinguished themselves so creditably that they are behind virtually all the decision-making and honest brokering in our Zangos. They may not have the tones of knowledge from Allah’s Qur’an or Hadith but their pieces of advice and suggestions are synonymous with Qur’anic interpretation. Their names are also synonymous with wits.

Their ability to give a fair hearing to the aggrieved parties and be honest and just in their judgment is considered as something weighty. All their principles are basically egalitarian. That’s, they neither show superiority complex nor inferiority complex about their status. They do not mince words in apportion blames. Do you think these higher-than-average qualities they possess are attributable to loose talks, verbal diarrhea and compromised reputation? Hell No!

Their uncompromising beliefs and principles for the sake of bringing peace in our Zangos give them the accolade grey eminence.

Like many others, I also believe that the age of a chivalry is limitless. For me, if a young lad possesses these qualities like the proverbial Okonkwo in ‘Things Fall Apart’ he or she should be allowed to wine and dine with the king. It does not matter his/her family background, social class, religious sect, or hometown. Also, to tap his/her experience for a limitless number of years, this ‘discovered person’ should be shielded against an obvious gag and gang ups. The idea of calling him ‘too known’, inquisitive or rubbing shoulders with the elders all the time is neither here nor there. These disparaging comments can easily demoralize him and may even put him off. In this day and age, these people are rare in our Zangos. The nefarious activities and practices of few shenanigans in our various Zangos should not gag these men of moral rectitude from telling us the truth. We must be very careful not to do anything that may endanger them. For, when they are endangered, our Zangos will be plunged into chaos and lawlessness. The police alone cannot bring law and order in our communities. Some issues are trivial that we don’t need the police. We need honest brokers to ease tension.

 However, elderly people regardless of their past life can also make meaningful contributions. Their previous lifestyle, whether good or bad can be turned into learning experiences. With most of us having one or two skeletons in our cupboard, the indelibly engraved embarrassing secrets should not deter them from advising us or speaking their minds. Our modern day Zango people will be highly appreciated if the elderly make no demands nor have any expectations from few bad nuts who will want to have their easy and shady deals to settle scores with families or friends. Those who do not have the courage to stand up and be counted may just be called old people. Do you want to be one?

Saani A.Saleh