Understanding Death!

by SOC Okenwa

Death could be described as the absence of life. Or better still the permanent end of existence by any mortal that has blood running in his/her body. According to the late literary icon William Shakespeare: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Equally he declared in his eventful era: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

The great WS simply left us centuries ago with a poser: “death, where is thy sting?” For the late French philosopher Victor Hugo: “Man’s great actions are performed in minor struggles. There are obstinate and unknown braves who defend themselves inch by inch in the shadows against the fatal invasion of want and turpitude. There are noble and mysterious triumphs which no eye sees and no renown rewards. Life’s misfortunes, isolation, abandonment and poverty are battlefields which have their heros”. Of course in the larger world there are heros and villains; some heros died unsung and others post-humously celebrated by succeeding generations. Villains die and the world remembers them for their grievous sins against humanity.

When Pope John Paul died the world stood still and mourned the great Catholic Pontiff whose Papacy saw ecumenical bridge-building and dialogue between great faiths. His burial in the Vatican had every great man or woman, leader or follower attending to pay last respect to a popular Pope who survived double assassination attempts. If, in sharp contrast, Lamidi Adedibu or Olusegun Obasanjo or Ibrahim Babangida drop dead today in Nigeria I believe there will be merry-making in Ibadan, Minna and Ota! I do not wish Babangida, Obasanjo or Adedibu dead but many people out there do!

When heros like MKO Abiola, Kudirat Abiola, Fela Kuti, Tai Solarin, Bola Ige, Alfred Rewane, Dele Giwa, Nnamdi Azikiwe died people genuinely grieved for them. But when perverts and villains like Abacha died a whole generation expressed happiness for surviving a scorching tyranny that was set to defeat progressivism.

Understanding death therefore has two angles to it: physical and spiritual. We have to view it from these angles because those who believe in purgatory or life hereafter hinge their fate on resurrection. The road to Golgotha however is a long and tortuos one. No one wants to travel that infamous road where our Lord and Saviour met His untimely death. Almost everybody wants to go to heaven but no one wishes to die yet without experiencing death heaven remains a mirage. The Bible is full of stories of how beautiful heaven is and how its streets are tarred with gold! How golden mansions adorn its sinless landscape. How gracious abundance and celestial justice abound therein. And how hell is eternal damnation, perpetual gnashing of teeth.

From the physical aspect we die only but once whenever our breath ceases and the heart stops beating. The dead returns to dust through which it was made in the first instance. It is appointed unto man to die, the Bible admonishes us. Spiritually the dead may gain celestial life elsewhere beyond our planet or even here because we live with some ghosts: they go to the market, take a walk on the street and visit nightclubs! Sometimes we hear they draw salaries from ministries, institutions and parastatals! We have heard bizarre stories of some people certified dead at home only for them to continue living elsewhere in another city or country. The cosmic world is very deep indeed and the more you try to understand it the more you get astounded.

Just last Friday I was rudely shocked to read a horrible report of the assassination of one of the greatest reggae artists in the world Lucky Phillip Dube. The legendary Dube, whom I had watched perform on more than one occasion, according to the report drove his son to a brother’s house in a suburb of Johannesburg around 8pm the previous night. As he dropped off his kid and was about to drive off two unidentified men wielding guns pounced on him on steering and pulled the trigger. He fled but not long enough as he reportedly hit a car and rammed his vehicle after losing control into a tree. He died there!

Lucky Dube was a talented musician, gifted in his chosen field where he had excelled with laurels to show for it! That he was cut down by assassins’ bullets brought to the fore the issue of escalating ubiquitous violence which South Africa post-Apartheid is notorious the world over. Hardly a day passes in South African cities without people being killed; majority of perpetrators of these heinous crimes are unfortunately blacks and the victims in their majority blacks as well! In a country whose history is twisted HIV/AIDS is not the only killer disease, crime is another. Yet the World Cup soccer event is billed to be staged there in three years time!

Barely few weeks back Tuface Idibia, the Nigerian popular musician was nearly killed with his friends as they drove from MMA Lagos to his house in Festac Town. Fresh from London where he received an award for his work the hired killers or armed robbers struck at Cele Bus Stop off Apapa-Oshodi Expressway in Lagos pumping bullets into the occupants of the car in which Tuface and friends were riding in. But for their quick escape through their legs maybe the worst would have happened; yes they mustered enough strenght to run for dear lives even with blood and bullets lodged in their bodies! This was the second time Idibia had a brush with death but God saved him!

The Golden Eaglets’ Chief Coach Yemi Tella died over the weekend in LUTH Lagos after battling with cancer. I read with indignation early last week how the wife was shedding tears and appealing to President Yar’Adua to intervene in her husband’s case. The Federal Government did intervene but belatedly. Other Nigerians and corporate bodies equally responded to the SOS message but Tella still answered the call of death. I was wondering as I read his obituary over the weekend if help had come earlier than when it came and he was flown abroad what would have happened. May be he would have still been alive.

Last week equally a member of the House of Reps, Dr. Aminu Ibrahim Safana from Katsina State, a pro-Etteh legislator, suddenly slumped and died in the House of Assembly Complex in Abuja. He died defending Patricia Etteh, the Speaker of the House whose incompetent tenure has so far seen about four lawmakers kicking the bucket. If Allah asks Dr Safana what he was doing before death snatched him away I wonder what his response would be: defending a dirty Speaker without grace, honour and integrity? Sucking one of the breasts of Madam Speaker with Dino Melaye fiddling the nipples of the other?

Patricia Olubunmi Etteh must be told in clear terms that the Federal House of Representatives is not a beauty parlour where she had excelled. The PDP, a part

y without scruples and scrupulous men and women must rein in Etteh before she and her supporters cause more damage to the integrity of the House. With Etteh defiantly presiding over affairs in the House democracy suffers more mortal moral blows. Etteh’s Speakership position must ‘die’ therefore for democracy to prevail.

While death may be seen as normal in the evolution of man the abnormality lies in its permanence, perpetuity and indiscrimination. As many are born daily many die daily in a cycle only God could explain better. The pain in death is that it separates loved ones, heros and families and friends. It shocks emotionally and inflicts sadistic memories. But we have no choice but to live with this reality; by doing good to all people and telling the truth, even in death, one may have left the stage better and contributed his quota to the betterment of his society.

The ultimate truth worth emphasizing here, in the final analysis, is that we are all strangers here! Here we are indeed strangers!!

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