The life and history of the departed have lessons for those of us on this side of the veil.
‘Senator Esho Jinadu (Buruji Kashamu) in his lifetime used the maneuver of law and politics to escape from facing justice on alleged criminal offence in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. But no legal, political, cultural, social or even medical maneuver could stop the cold hand of death when the Creator of all of us decides that the time is up’.
With these words, elder statesman, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo blew the long time held notion that you do not speak evil about the dead. This letter addressed to the Executive Governor of Ogun State, following the demise of controversial Senator Buruji from Covid-19, threw the whole country into a frenzy when it came out.
The debate was rife. It was a real fight between long held notions of not speaking ill of the dead and a new paradigm of speaking ‘truth to corpse’. Obj in his characteristic manner did not hold back as he tore in this letter to shreds the last vestiges of dignity of the Senator who was ever so popular in life and death as we have seen in his approach to life and politics.
He fought so many battles with law enforcement agencies, both internal and external. At some point, to thwart the determined attempt at extradition, he locked himself in his bedroom and was said to threaten suicide if the authorities did not back down. He finally got reprieve from our judiciary and I am not sure what state the matter was till his death.
So, the question that I would like to really address in this write up, as thrown up very powerfully in Chief Obasanjo’s letter, is the effect of our norm of ‘not speaking evil to the dead’ on our society, viz-a-viz attitudes of our leaders and, indeed, the rest of us while alive and with an eye of legacy.
Our culture and major religions support a positive look at the dead, even if the person was a mass murderer and worse than Hitler. Our society supports glowing garlands on him, even if he stole the place dry and spread the worse malaise. At his laying-in state eulogies are expected to be thrown at his ashen face, coupled with prayers seeking God’s face and a smooth transition to heaven. You never speak ill of the dead but you allowed his God or maker judge him.
It was only at the time of the passing of the maximum ruler, General Abacha, that we saw some level of difference. People were happy and actually jumped on the streets to jubilate. This was a first. But still at his funeral and other areas of mainstream discuss, his ‘positives’ were euphorically highlighted for all to see.
This OBJ’s letter, like his letters have want to achieve, have gone ahead to challenge societal norms. Poking an aggressive finger at age-long practices and boldly asking for change. I support this letter because of the effect it would have on attitudes.
The hope is that if you know that truth would be said at your passing, affecting your legacy and putting your family to shame, it just might begin to make you sit up while alive. Much more importantly, it would also begin to alter our attitudes especially as it affects the way we see wealth and its acquisitions.
So, my poll on the matter showed an overwhelming support of OBJ’s letter but the joy is limited if you consider the fact that the poll was elitist and did not really represent the position of the grassroots who are the most vulnerable and who get carried away by the pittance that is dropped on the floor for them to pick by these charlatans who parade around calling themselves leaders.
For a lot of people, OBJ did the right thing, and going forward may truth be spoken.
Author: Joseph Edgar…
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