This house cost one billion naira to build.
The greatest day of my life was the day I finally built my own house. The house was an architectural masterpiece. It had everything I wanted exactly where I wanted it. And it cost a fortune to build: one billion naira to be precise.
Everybody adored my house. A whole edition of “Ovation” was devoted to celebrating it. Tourists came just to take its photograph. Nollywood film directors featured it in their movies. Everybody, from Presidents to Senators to business tycoons, readily came for my seasonal parties.
But one day, I was surprised to find that the roof in the den was leaking. When I told my Father about it, he laughed at me. “Femi,” he said, “what do you really know about building a house? You have little or no experience in these matters.” “How can you say that?” I retorted, “I have built a house that is by all accounts the best there is in Lagos.” “So how come the roof is leaking?” he asked mischievously.
He had a simple solution. “I will send you my Structural Engineer. He will identify the fault and suggest ways to rectify it.”
A few days later, the man in question came to inspect my house. When I showed him the problem in the den, he smiled knowingly and immediately identified where the leak was coming from. I could not help but seek the approval of such an expert. “Apart from some minor details,” I said dismissively, “I am sure you will admit that this is a magnificent house.”
The Engineer seemed a little amused by my statement. “I take it,” he replied, “that you haven’t yet noticed the faults in the kitchen?”
The kitchen? What kitchen? What fault could there be in the kitchen? Everything there was well appointed and custom-made. I don’t mind saying so myself. The kitchen was quite simply a work of art.
Not one to argue, the Engineer took me to the kitchen. One-by-one, he showed me all kinds of structural defects I had not even noticed before. I was crestfallen but decided to put a bold face on it. “Thank God you are here. We can fix it, right?” I was looking for some kind of reassurance, some words of comfort from this gentle man. But I was more than taken aback by his response. “And then what do you propose to do about the study?” he asked.
“The study,” I shouted, livid. “What study?” Suddenly, I took another look at this mild-mannered man. He did not seem so mild-mannered anymore. It was becoming clear to me that he was up to no good. Why did I ever allow this so-called Structural Engineer to come into my house? It was time to show him the door.
Yes, I knew there were some things wrong with the den. I noticed them myself and had brought them to his attention. I am even prepared to admit there were some things wrong with the kitchen. I never argued with him when he showed them to me. But there was no way he, or anyone else for that matter, was going to convince me that anything was wrong with the study. I personally designed that room. I supervised its construction to the very last detail. If anything were wrong with the study I would have been the first to know.
But in his characteristically no-nonsense manner, the Engineer walked me into the study. Again, he systematically showed me all the things wrong with the room. I could not believe it. There were more things wrong in my favourite study than there had been in both the den and the kitchen combined.
I was devastated. It seemed like my whole world suddenly came crashing down. In desperation, I turned to this mild-mannered Engineer. “What can we do?” I pleaded. “We can fix it, can’t we? Please tell me the truth.”
The Engineer looked at me with great intensity. “Do you really want to know?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, resigned to my fate but now afraid to look him in the eye. “What we need to do,” said the Engineer, “is knock the entire house down and put up a completely new building.”
I could not believe my ears. “Knock the house down?” I protested. “This house cost one billion naira to build.” My nemesis was completely unimpressed. “Unless the Lord builds the house,” he said very calmly, “they labour in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1)