As I unpacked my bag pack and took my clothes off, unassumingly opened the invitation card and realized it was for his father's burial ceremony. Realizing I goofed, I hurriedly put a call through to express my condolences. He was in an elated mood and never sounded like someone who had a deceased father, aged 61 to lay to rest in two weeks’ time.
As part of my final damage control effort, I promised to be in attendance. The guilt I had for being insensitive earlier in the day melted, when I realized the owner of the dead body was not even sober. Perhaps sensing my bewilderment he reminded me that his father passed on since December last year. Indeed, I recalled he mentioned it to me back then. I long concluded that he was buried shortly after, I was wrong again.
Sadness and grief overwhelmed me when I learnt why his burial took so long. He did not have a house. In order to be properly buried the children had to first build him one. Spending almost a year in the morgue, just so his children could complete him a house. The burial was colourful, it looked anything but a burial. There was food aplenty and drinks of different sorts and brands flowed ceaselessly like water from a fountain.
People from far and near had travelled to be in attendance. Relatives from overseas, far north of the country, friends like me and well-wishers had come to pay their so called last respect, even though many of us never paid the deceased any respect while he lived. As I observed all around me, I couldn't help but hold a conversation with myself.
If so much can be done for him in death-building a four bedroom bungalow, buying expensive suit and shoes with which to inter him in an expensive casket, organising such a feast his corpse would not partake in, how much was really done for him while he was alive and how much is being done for those that still breathe. As I struggled to understand these, I quickly recalled the last edition of CNN's Inside Africa that featured expensive burial and burial rituals of the people of Madagascar.
I concluded that something was amidst and needed to be addressed quickly. We need to focus less on giving people befitting burials and make their lives worth living. When we spend lavishly on burials do we really do it for the dead or to grease our ego and show off? Do the departed ones really find any joy or satisfaction in all of the expenses being incurred for them, especially when little was done for them while alive?
Earlier in the year, a contingent of secondary school students returning from representing Kano state in a quiz competition lost their lives in a road traffic accident, and the governor had this to say to their parents. “On getting information about the accident, I immediately called the governor of Oyo state who got personally involved and even visited the hospital to see the injured. We have also arranged for the injured and the deceased to be transported to Kano this evening by air.”
It will interest you to know that air lifting a corpse cost a whole lot more than flying the living. If their corpses could be airlifted, why where they subjected to the perils of travelling along roads that are in poor conditions? Already dead, why can't they be allowed to complete their journey by road? If they suffer another mishap at least they won't die a second time. Of what use is the comfort and safety of the air to them now they have been cut short in their childhood?
The governor's counterpart in Katsina will later spend an estimated N40,000 on 3000 units of metal coffins, totaling N120m. As a governor elected by the living, is it not only fair to have the welfare of the living rank higher than that of the dead? Of what concern is it to government how people inter their love ones. Many young and dynamic minds need only as little as N100,000-N500,000 to give life to fantastic business ideas languishing in their heads due to paucity of the needed fund. Should not that be of greater concern to Mr. Governor?
The tradition of honouring the dead more than when they were alive dates back to as far as even the biblical days. In Mark 16:1 "And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him." Jesus constantly spoke that his time on earth was brief, these women in question never thought it necessary to use any of their sweet spices on him, they waited until he had been crucified and buried. How the three of them intended to roll away the stone in the early hours of that morning is more than I can tell.
While it is important we commit the remains of our departed loved ones to mother earth in an honourable manner, it is more important we show how much we value and love them in life not in death. The dead cannot answer phone calls, drive cars, live in houses. The dead cannot eat or drink; the dead cannot smile nor admire its apparel. They can only sense and respond to love and kindness when they still have breath. Consequently, we must reorder of priorities and place the living above the dead.
The money you intend contributing in the event of someone's burial or to buy burial uniforms, is best given to them now to improve the quality of life they are living. Call me up now and see how I'm doing, buy me a drink, I like my wine cold preferably with a plate of beans and fried ripe plantain. Request for my Diamond bank account number. I love them turkish shirts and black loafers and you know it. Nothing turns me on like country music, why not buy me an album? You know how much football means to me, so who says you cannot pay for my DSTV subscription when it expires soon?
If you do any of these or more to me, in death you will owe me no debt but to join the choir as they sing my favourite hymn "Abide with me" by Henry Lyte, and softly lay my bones to rest. Is it not rather ironic, that sometimes the best sermons we hear that convicts us are the very ones we preach? There are persons I need to call now; I have deferred checking up on them for just way too long.