POSTHUMOUS APPRAISALS: The Nigeria context
“De mortuis nihil nisi bene” – (say nothing but good about the dead) — ancient Latin adage
Of late, there had been an upward trajectory in the spate of social media backlash over lies being told of the dead in funeral eulogies and farewell tributes, especially among elites (VIPs and Celebrities). One of the smileys read “live a just life so that we don’t have to lie in your funeral oration.”
Because the world had inordinately became obsessed with that medieval Latin adage cited in the opening quote of this piece; every dead man is by default, deemed a candidate for canonization to the sainthood.
Nobody ever paints the true picture of his dead loved ones; save few unbiased critics who use the pen of honesty and always dip their nibs in the ink of truth, each time they want to write.
In this era of information explosion, nothing is hidden under the sun. And so, we have been able to see graveside eulogies on personalities, who spent greater percentage of their lifetime engaging in selfish enterprises and glaringly scandalous endeavours, deeply offensive to public sensibility.
Two years ago, two incidents illustrated this clearer. President Buhari lost his Chief of Staff of many phases, Mallam Abba Kyari to Covid-19 and Ogun state lost Senator Buruji Kashamu to the same fate months after.
Their deaths elicited two different reactions from Nigerian youths who pontificate the cyberspace. The former was blatantly condemned for his iron fist in office, while the later, with less popularity among the commoners at national level, was condemned by his State’s irrepressible political leader and ex Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, for being so powerful in maneuvering his way out of the web of criminal charges brought against him while alive.
The same Nigerian youths that threw jabs omni-directionally, or should I say ‘rejoiced’ at the news of Abba Kyari’s death, were quick to condemn Obasanjo for his rash statement against Senator Kashamu, in a condolence message, he sent to the Governor of Ogun State which was made public to press men.
Users of social media handles called out OBJ for dispensing himself of the decorous garb that ought to adorn his status as an elder statesman, in calling out Senator Kashamu ‘even at death.’
But much as we try not to seat on the throne of judgement, we should be aware that we owe justice and posterity a duty to condemn what is bad or evil and extol that which is lofty and noble.
In the case of Mallam Abba Kyari, there were massive condemnation of his indiscrete hijack of state powers and usurping of undue fiat of an incompetent regime, to the detriment of the nation’s democracy. The widespread ‘jubilation’ that greeted the news of his death was so overwhelming that even when his “friend of over 40 years” and current Minister of foreign affairs, Hon Geoffrey Onyeama, tried to craft a decorated image of him, in his own version of Kyari’s funeral tributes, it was readily drowned by the sea of contradicting public opinion.
In may of the same year, Enugu North senatorial district (Nsukka zone) lost Sen. Fide Okoro, and the people unanimously jubilated. You can refer to https://nigeriannewsleader.com/index.php/interviews-opinion/senator-fide-okoro-the-man-his-nsukka-people-refused-to-mourn for details of my analysis of the strange situational irony that trailed his death and burial/funerals, on my article titled: “Fido Okoro: The man his people refused to mourn.”
The characteristically emotional ship of Nigeria’s mobile court of public opinion is so active and prepared to sail at any given time a political leader passes on. To this uncensored courtroom, the remains of the departed leader would be brought for novelty session. And the presiding judge — the wounded Nigerian masses would hit the gavel on the coffin to stamp their feelings of either sympathy, apathy, antipathy or true justice.
It was a similar situation when the news of the death of Kashamu filtered in.
Chief Obasanjo was alone in his uncouth condolence message to Ogun State governor, which he leaked to press men. The fact is that people knew of the long standing rife between him and Late Kashamu.
Even in his infamous open letter to former President Jonathan in 2013, he highlighted it eloquently: that part of the reason he fell out of favour with Jonathan was his perceived alliance with Sen. Kashamu to the extent of making him a regional leader of PDP for the South West zone.
To Obasanjo, Kashamu is a criminal of global standing, a drug baron with cloned impostor to evade security checks. This grand rivalry with his state’s man blinded him from giving a concession that Nigerians (including Jonathan, while in office) should not sheepishly inherit enemies of our supposed political leaders. No wise man is expected to inherit enemies of those who felt they hold stake in the country’s national polity.
Perhaps, (if Obasanjo’s claim was correct) Kashamu could have escaped justice in Nigeria using the same wavering legal justice system which Obasanjo refused to reform in his time as President. Even Obasanjo himself, took undue advantage of the same ‘maneuverable’ legal justice system to worm his way into being seconds away from his fantasized third term bid.
This brings us to the lessons we ought to draw from the spring of this passing life.
No matter the untenable situation of this life, we, individually have vocational responsibility to lead an honest lifestyle and engage in selfless endeavours in our everyday dealings, so as to help those whose duty it will be, to mourn us, in fashioning out a flowery funeral tributes and graveside orations, when we are gone.
This is not to dispute the fact that habitual liars and uncourtly naysayers would always crop up from the blues to paint our burial brochures black.
But, the truth is that, it still behoves on those we impacted their lives to paint the other part of the picture; while the public, acting as the arbiter of temporal order — the vox Dei, gives the final verdict; at least in this side of the veil.
We all have three sides to our lives: the private life, the public life and the secret life. The first is what we know about ourselves, the second is what people know about us, and the last is what we think that only us knows about ourselves.
But God knows the entire three.
Autobiography, is what we write about ourselves, biography is what others write about us, but funeral oration is the painting of the two pictures in one volume by the people we left behind at death.
Suffice it to say that in autobiography we score ourselves, in biography others score us, but in funeral oration both scores melts into the onus of a final seal, to be delivered in the gabbatha (Jn.19:13) of history.
Inasmuch as we know that what matters most is God’s disposition in our cases, we should not misconstrue the reality, that divine disposition is often made perceptible to the people through the pheromones which our characters exude as we relate to both our physical and social environments, which affects the people, either positively or negatively.
Though, the people (save for men like Sam Omatseye whose awkward essay on Peter Obi, we discussed here last week) may withhold their reservations to avoid slamming a harsh judgement on someone who is still alive, and who posses the luxury of time to make amends, but once death strikes, the gavel is wielded expressly by those we left behind.
And so when we die, we lie helplessly in the hands of those who will bury us, and their feelings about our lives and times, will be palpable on their thoughts, countenances and pages of funeral brochures.
No doubt, many lie in funeral orations, but in the heart of their hearts they know the truth. And in the final analysis, the day of reckoning awaits all, irrespective of the perception of men.
May daylight spare us!
© Jude Eze
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