Lest We Forget

a commentary on socio-political developments and institutional policies

Of Icy Hands: Requiem for Death

In Nigeria, twenty-four hours is a long time. Yes, in Nigeria’s sociopolitical environment, it does not rain, it pours. While one is pondering on an event, ten others have happened. While we were yet discussing Saraki’s CCT appearance -to be or not to be, bombs were dropping on Maiduguri.  And when bombs blast there are always human casualties. Before you can say “What?”, Chief Olu Falae has become the latest unwilling guest to the thriving new “hotel and tourism” business of hostage taking.

To top it, the centenarian matriarch of Awolowo dynasty was reaped in what has become death’s harvesting of prominent citizens in Nigeria. When was it that Oonirisha, Olubuse went on the solitary interminable journey of no-return that Mama also had to depart? Has the soil that Antonio Deinde Fenandez treaded dried that another icon had to go? What of Ogiame Atuwatse II, the Olu of Warri, and good others, too? It is a harvest of deaths.

I remember the painful death of  Chief Oluwole Awolowo when it happened then, especially within the short time of another prominent citizen, Professor Chinua Achebe. I had mused at the two great events in my blog thus:

“Perhaps Professor Chinua Achebe was not yet through with Chief Obafemi Awolowo. May be he still intended to challenge the great sage in a celestial discourse on the House of Lugard.

“With the population in heaven, there is no doubt that the job of locating Papa might be herculean. Who could easily locate the sage in a thick multitude except one of his own? And since Mama is still busy sorting out some terrestial issues here, she had beckoned on the young Oluwole. “Wole, do you mind showing Chinua, Papa’s mansion in Heavenside, and tell Papa that as soon as I am through with the assignment he gave me I will join you all”. “No problem mom”, the young Wole had agreed, excited at the prospect of seeing Papa again. Having agreed to guide Chinua to the greatest Nigerian of all times Wole joined the train to the Never, Never Land.

Now, with Mama’s eventual passage Death has made the great household empty, everybody is wailing, R.I.P Mama! Return If Possible?  Ah, definitely not to this Nigeria. After almost a hundred years terrestrial soujorn, rest is  long overdue. And we wish her sweet, peaceful rest.

May be we should not bother ourselves about death so much. Well, it’s not that Mama Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo’s death is not painful. It is just that of all the numerous deities and elements on earth none is as implacable as death. It is so malevolent and heartless that it must be a male. No female spirit can be so ferocious, morbid or gruesome. He has no shrine nor worshippers, neither does he enjoy the dignity of an effigy nor a statue. You see, while every deity has a predictable programme, a worship template and an operating system that permits human input, no matter how little, Death is a different case. He has no priests nor totems. He is very unforgiving, just cross his path, and bingo! You are a goner!

Death is the most widely travelled and the most infamous. He knows everybody by name and address. No one escapes his memory. He hardly makes mistake. Some people will swear that he goes about with a cudgel or a sickle. Thorougly disorganised, death can ignore a 90 year old woman and go for a 70 year “young” man instead. He can ignore a man of 113 years yet go for a toddler of three years old. At times he spares the sick and goes for the healthy. Some are writhing in pains and agony praying for death to visit them. For reasons beyond human comprehension, death will pretend to be too busy to see them. He is not methodical, logical or systematic in his activities. He can be in Venezuela looking for one Chavez, and in the next moment he is in the United States looking for Achebe, and before you could say ‘áh’ he is elsewhere looking for an Awolowo. You cannot bribe him, you cannot curry favour from him. He is thoroughly incorruptible. He is neither persuaded by praises nor angry at your criticism. What he will do, he will do.

Death is the busiest element on earth. He is busier than all the midwives of the world combined. He is a workaholic numero uno. He works with a ruthless precision. Little wonder he is so impatient. No occasion is too grand for him to attend or a land too holy for him to traverse. He gallivants across the globe a millon times daily. At times he preys upon his victim quietly and stealthily, On some occasions he announces his coming thunderously. He harvests in units as well as in scores. In some wicked morbid mockery, he allows his victims to run for cover before overtaking them, giving them a temporary false sense of security. The more you run away from him the closer you are getting to him. No weapon is too crude or too sophisticated for this guy to deploy. How can we waste our precious time paying attention to such a silly fellow, who is so untrustworthy, so unpredictable and so unreliable? Those who worship a deity will swear by that deity that it will protect them. Have you seen a worshipper of Death escaping death? No way. Death is an insatiable, malcontent fellow. He has no friend, he has no foe. He takes a great delight in the wailing and crying of the people because of the loss of their beloved one.

In all the history of mankind only two people have managed to escape this sadistic hangman. Enoch, whom the Bible claimed walked (away) with God, and Elijah who was taken away in a blaze of glory, riding in a chariot. Only these two have so far been able to mock Death, and cheat him in the mortal combat game. They rode farther and higher, beyond his icy hands and cruel grins. Even then, I am pretty sure that he has not forgotten their cases. He is so unforgiving that he must still be looking for them. While Enoch and Elijah stilishly evaded him, only one man has been able to confront him headlong. The Man, Jesus Christ. With contempt and disdain, Jesus told him categorically that He could lay down His life and take it back. Wow! It was a serious psychological warfare as the Man walked boldly to His death, defying the terror and agony of death. To ensure that the Man was irrevocably dead, Death made certain that after His death He was pierced with a spear and locked up in a tomb sealed with a stone-cover that only a combined efforts of supermen could roll away. Yet, He rose, admittedly.

Rejoice not Death for you are just a revolving door between this life and another life. One day Death will run out of business. No one does his kind of business and succeeds. What of all the condemnations he takes from mankind? No one speaks well of Death, neither the poor nor the rich. He is too proud and melancholic. He is so unsympathetic. He is never moved by pleas nor by tears. Onwubiko is never a pleasant appeasement. Maku is not a message of assurance. The sworn enemy of mankind shall one day be sacked from his job, when mankind shall have the last laugh over their most dreaded adversary. That day Death, too, shall die.

May be we should just concern ourselves more with ourselves and not bother about death. Well, except that his business concerns us, too. In any case, since he also will die, some day, let us not waste our precious time on this silly fellow but to laugh at the death of Death, in advance.

Lest we forget, the terrorism of kidnapping is gradually spreading like a dreaded virus. This ingenious forceful redistribution of wealth should put socio-economic engineers to shame. The aroma of kidnapping is irresistible. Unlike armed robbery that is bloody and messy, kidnapping, to the practitioners, is a well assured compulsory voluntary donation. Very clean. We call it ransom. By yourself you will take the money to them praying that your family member would be returned to you, intact. Even when a payment is made, it is publicly denied.

Bottomline: Except the middle class is urgently restored, the abject hopelessness of the lower class would always motivate them into a headlong conflict with the rich. Kidnapping is a symptom of national socioeconomic dysfunction. Is this the type of nation we longed for? God forbid.


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