The Obituary…

by Afolayan Adebiyi

…and In Memoriam

In those days of old, when the dynamic print or should we say, traditional media dominated the news space, I mean in the days of the omnibus. Those were the Daily Times titles, The Punch, Nigerian Tribune, long before the advent of National Concord in the newsstands, or the scholarly-minded,  The Guardian newspapers, I have always enjoyed staying glued to just any newspapers I can lay my hands on. And one particular section that interests me most was the obituary advert pages. These placements made Daily Times of particular interest to me. It always exhilarated my young impressionable mind to no end, each time I glossed through an obituary announcement.

The language, which in most cases, always baffled me. are the likes of – “The wicked have done their worst”, some would say, “departed from the world of sin”, or the philosophical, “with heavy hearts, but total submission to the will of God”. I must confess, I built my elementary lexicon from the various wordings I picked from reading various obituary placements in the dailies. I kept wondering then, as I even still do, the necessity for such effusively emotive language in obituary wordings. It became even more disdainful when I started realizing the make-believe empathy in such crest-fallen announcements, were, and still, to date, are meant to arouse the empathy of the reading public, no more.

Dying and transiting mortality into immortality to me ought to be a simple and straightforward issue. It should not require this complicated ceremonial exhibition of emotions when the heart of a living just stopped beating. The heart rate is flat upon the first stethoscopical examination. The medics pronounced the person dead. Several ailments or diseases might have wreaked havoc within the body. Vital organs might have been shut down, stopped working. Even an accident in the case of Nigeria, a group of bandits, Boko Haram, or sundry gunmen sadly crossed his path, and without thinking, rained hot leads into his body. Simply he’s dead. The Nigerian way! Therefore, resorting to the Oxford dictionary to put up “a notice of a death, especially in a newspaper, typically including a brief biography of the deceased person”. These criminal elements kill at random, most particularly, in the North-Western hemisphere of the Country. 

The dreaded Islamic State for West African Province (ISWP) has now taken over the Sambisia forests of the North-Eastern flank. These gangsters daily dispatch innocent people to early journey to the World beyond. Since ISWAP take over from Boko Haram, the entire North East has gone cold. The Islamic terrorists even claimed to have installed a “Governor” recently. But “Governor” over what territory?! But whatever is the legal, religious, or even social limitations of the act, the group did claim to have installed a Governor. We are watching. The response from the Government in Abuja is to deploy more jet bombers into the zone. Whatever success recorded by the Military can not be celebrated yet. This is because the group, like a phoenix, has unlimited capacity to spring up whenever one thinks they are down.

We dare not celebrate the obituaries of both the gallant combatant soldiers that are lost in the cause of fighting these terrorists. No matter how saddening, how do we write the announcements? We better leave that as it is. On the bandits ravaging the North West, I am not totally taken by the many narratives of how they come to be in the area. The Military is trying what

it could to contain them, but the ever-growing army of bandits calls for creative thinking among the Military top brass to contain them. Still, this is not the obituary announcement I have in mind. Not that those sent home early by the mentally perverted bandits do not worth the ink of my pen. No! Far from this!!

This is because millions are been killed all over the country without anyone batting an eyelid.

The other day, the Department of State Services (DSS) trumpeted the arrest or is it successful abduction of Maxi Nnamdi Kanu, the Supreme Leader of the Independent People’s of Biafra (IPOB). Kanu perhaps carried a bad joke too far. He really underestimated the power of a government. He became garrulous. He because wildly reckless. He actually put the cart before the horse. His backers are mainly political jobbers and nothing more. They only want to use him as a bargaining chip. Now he is in the cold. The cheerleaders have started pledging loyalty to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. With one Nigeria, we stand. They are now chorusing. What about the Igboho’s Yoruba nationalist agitator? Sunday Adeyemo perhaps did not know or failed to properly factor in the political interest of his targeted backers. Even, the so-called Aare Ona Kakanfo, the Generalissimo of Yoruba land, measured his support for him when pushing became shoving. Agitation for a nation is more complex than what a Sunday Igboho could undertake the way he was going about before the Ojota, Lagos, debacle. He has gone underground ever since with the DSS sniffing around for a trace. He has also been declared a stopwatch, meaning he should be stopped if he tries to leave the country.

The various support he got on the streets and social media have vanished. But, this is still not the obituary that agitating my mind. Both Igboho, Kanu, Shekau were all products of a damaging obituary we all ignore to announce or mourn. Because we all look askance when the man became critically ill, with no or little medical attention, until the “wicked did their worst”. And the man died, a la Professor Wole Soyinka. The late Premier of the old Western Region, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, wrote in one of his political classics, The Path To The People’s Republic that: the child of the poor whom the affluent or the government refused to train, at a point will not allow that your child you deployed all resources to train. Paraphrased mine, please.

Papa was noted to have only five kids from one woman. The driver was said to have 12 from three wives. This did not hinder Papa from helping the poor but, sexually reckless driver. He helped train most of the children. This attitude the man replicated in his 5 years stint as the Premier of the Western Region. He also encouraged his political lieutenants to pursue such policy as Governors in the Second Republic.

Education takes away many ills from society. Illiteracy is not an option at all. It is such a dysfunctional educational system that breeds the multitudes now called Boko Haram, bandits, a Nnamdi Kanu, and Sunday Igboho. There is no bending the fact. It stared us in the face. If the various governments, at all levels, from Independence, had pursued an aggressive policy of educating the citizenry, perhaps, the present slide in the country would have been avoided.

The famous Ladipo Spare Parts Market in Oshodi area of Lagos.

Just last week, the news of the brawl between some soldiers and some members of the Ladipo Auto Spare Parts dealers broke via social media. The brawl and the subsequent killing(s) were totally uncalled for if both sides were properly educated. Therefore resorting to taunting and violence are part of the dysfunctional educational system we run. The dealers are mainly uneducated fellows, who have been,  unfortunately, brainwashed about their myopic Biafranic status in the country. Yes, you can be a Biafran inside a prosperous and progressive Nigeria. I am a Yoruba man, first and foremost, before being a Nigerian. All apologies to late Pa Obafemi Awolowo. Nothing stops me from being a Yoruba man, an Oduduwa man, and a Nigerian at the same time. But resorting to the emotional Biafranic status anytime there is a crisis or disagreement may not work. It will only bring such dastardly consequences like the young chap who was gruesomely killed by the bullets fired by the retreating soldiers. We still lack basic education in our business dealings. To most of us, it is a win-win business all the time.

Attending to the aggrieved soldier in a friendly and peaceful manner might have averted the calamity and the entire subsequent hoopla it generated. But we prefer to spend 300 million naira burying a dead mother to using a fraction of such amount to educate the less privileged. Pa Awo remains an Avatar. He saw well ahead. And he did warn about the consequences of not helping the poor train the offspring they recklessly sirred. The friends of Obi Cubana who donated a whooping sum of 257 million towards the funerals did not help him at all. They have only compounded his problems. The list of the obituaries from the Cubana misadventures will soon hit social media, with furious venom, more deadly than this inglorious burial. We live in want and we live in opulence all at the same time. While a section is crying for help, a section is rollicking in blind opulence. It is difficult to juxtapose and synergized. No right-thinking person will take our lives of duality seriously.

This type of carriage is what further pushing the youths into unbridled criminality. Hordes toiling in the messy muddy ground of Ladipo, Mushin area of Lagos, while few are practically destroying currency in the area where these youths could not find opportunity but had to hop to the harsh terrain of Lagos. An antithetical line in this obituary announcement. Still, we move on. There is this Chinese proverb I particularly love. They say, “the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and another best time is now”. If we have missed it in the last 60 years, why can’t we try to reconnect with the system now?

We may still be more interested in reading the obituaries announcements because they filled our hearts with inanities of mortal passage. Not only the best pictures from the unfortunate man’s album being used to advertise his demise, the vain message that connotes nothing. After all, it is an obituary advertisement placement. It must usually appear cold and void.

So also are high schools results whenever released. They always appeared cold and void. Just recently, Professor Ishaq Oloyede’s led Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) pushed out the results of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) examination conducted between the month of June 2021. The statistics released simply set alarm bell ring vigorously all over the country. Some 86 percent of those who sat for the Matriculation examination were said to have scored below 50 percent average mark. Meaning they scored less the 200 out of the total nark of 400. This is sad but not disappointing. The foundation for such mass failure had been laid for a long. Only now that a serious academician like Professor Oloyede is at the helms of affairs we can rightly behold the systemic rot in our educational system.

The results returned by the Board is a better obituary advertisement than “after a well-spent life”, or “died after a brief illness” ones we assuage our mental with daily in the newspapers.

This past weekend, one Cubana Obi’s name hit the social media platforms with undescribable velocity… He was said to have buried his mother in a blind-spending hitting over 300 million naira. The name Cubana Obi never rang a bell until after the crazy jamboree. A casket worth 30 million naira was used and gold trinkets worth some 100 thousand dollars were buried with the woman. One need not ask any questions further here. But just concentrate on the wordings of the obituary placements. 300 million will certainly help any economy in this dire time of parlous economic stagnation. But Nigeria just obituarilised it. Obi Cubana is said to be a nightclub owner somewhere. Such is an example of the obituary placements I have been talking about. An obituary that kills more after the funerals for a fallen soul.

Whatever happens to standards in our schools is of major interest to me. I do know that the UTME/JAMB standard is a bit higher than that of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and that of the National Examination Council (NECO). But, the gap is becoming increasingly massive. And the reason for this we all know. Except we are trying to be economical with the truth. While the erstwhile Registrar of JAMB, Professor Dibu Ojerinde was at the helms of affairs, the efforts were not concerted. He did try, especially with the optional DIBU questions and answers format. But still, large-scale malpractices and irregularities were the order of the day. The imported SPECIAL CENTRES from WAEC and NECO moved over to UTME centers.

Fanciful marks were obtained by various candidates who could navigate the cobweb of the unscrupulous agents, especially the study centers and private schools. These agents of backwardness had earlier overtaken the WAEC and NECO various examinations and destroyed them. It is not uncommon to see a candidate with as much as 6 Alphas and 3 Betas in these examinations. Before Ojerinde, it was easier for them to compromised the UTME but with Oloyede, the music stopped. Each candidate is now required to face his test squarely. No matter what, a candidate that can be achieved several As and Bs in WAEC and  NECO examinations ought to break the average line barrier in the Matriculation examination. But what do we see now? Candidates with 8 As but cannot surmount the UTME test. Some score ridiculous 120, 140 in UTME.

These unscrupulous proprietors may not know. And so also the businessmen running the lessons and tutorial centers. They may not know. But they are preparing the worst obituaries messages for the country. The long years of gross abuse of the system at that level have started catching upon us. How on earth can a sane proprietor or school owner think by recruiting university graduates to write School Certificates examinations for their candidates would not come and hunt the system at a point? Now, most of these “special centers” products are stacked. They find it difficult to pass UTME examinations and even in the event they are rigged into one tertiary institution or the other, they hardly can cope.

The two frontline activist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo (Sunday Igboho) of the Oduduwa Republic & Mazi Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB

The many Sunday Igbohos, the Mazi Kanus, the Shekaus perhaps might have redefined their agitations if they were dealing with better-educated folks. Aside from Sunday Igboho who is down plain illiterate, one can see that Mazi Kanu had some level of education, and so also is Shekau. They only lead a large legion of illiterates.  The case of the bandits of the North West is quite different. No one can profile their leader. To me, they appear like a loose band of ragamuffins, some vagabond criminals. Reading, their activities always brings the memories of the old obituaries in the Daily Times back to me. The cold-hearted killings, clearly fit the “wicked have done their worst” narrative.

Behold, now is the time, the best time to start all over again. The efforts of the founding fathers have been laid to waste by some prodigal sons. We have destroyed the educational system that bread the best in Africa, in Commonwealth, in the World. We have killed the system that produced Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Simeon Adebo, J. F. Odunjo, Chike Obi, Ayodele Awojobi. Only to be supplanted with an ephemerally cosmetic system, whose products keep embarrassing the nation. Funding the educational system is a desideratum. Various governments must wake up to this reality. The era of the fire brigade approach should be over by now. Failure to do this could be damming. We have seen the worst of Boko Haram and ISWAP in the Northern hemisphere.

We have seen the rascality of the Eastern Security Network/IPOB  in the Eastern flank. And also have sniffed the clear and present danger a loose Sunday Igboho could present. I sincerely doubt if the combined strength of our weary Military can successfully reign in all these amorphous militant agitators should they choose to strike at the same time. So the time to stop the obituary script from getting to the print house is now.

Alagba Adebiyi Afolayan writes from Lagos, Nigeria

Feferity Media Group (c) 2021

Images: Courtesy, Google

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