Keeping Death in View
By: Deji Yesufu
A few years ago, Bamidele Ademola-Olateju wrote a piece on Facebook about how certain literatures she had read on the subject of death totally redefined her perspective to life. She wrote on how death is a leveler and why we ought to be supremely humble that we have life today and why whatever else we do in life must be to benefit humanity and leave a legacy behind.
As I write this article, I am in my home in Ibadan, Nigeria, and the news of the death of our former Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, has just broken on the city. There has been all kinds of reactions. I shared a post yesterday that commended journalist ‘Fisayo Soyombo last week reporting of Ajimobi’s death and a Facebook friend wrote a comment cursing me and my family. Thankfully she deleted the comment and I appreciate her for that. In spite of it, I have not been able to bring myself to grieve for Ajimobi. I say this frankly: I neither rejoice or grieve over his passing.
My reasons are simple: I do not think that Ajimobi took full advantage of his eight year stay in office to better the lot of Oyo State people, and the main reason he did not do this was because he did not keep his own mortality in view. I once worked with associates of Ajimobi for a brief period at Agodi Secretariat, seat of Oyo State power, and I can only surmise one thing about those who worked for him: sycophancy. Everything was done in government to please Ajimobi. I was so put off with the manner they were doing things there that I ended up voting Ladoja in the 2015 elections. But all of that is history now; what is left is lessons for us all to learn from.
As we grow up, one thing we quickly realize is the fact of our pending mortality. It would come sooner or later; no one has ever wished death away. When you keep your mortality in view, you tend to do a lot of things differently. First there is humility. The fact that regardless of what you may have, the one that seem under you has an equal right to life as you should speak to you. It should humble you.
Then there is the matter of planning. If we were suddenly killed today, what happens to our legacy? How many of us have wills? How many of us have written books that will yet speak even after we are dead? A lady told me once of how her siblings and her were searching for the manuscript of a book their late father wrote. Now that he is gone, they so much desire to hear him speak to them in that book. I don’t know if they ever found the book.
What about legacy? How many of us do things that will out last us? I cannot bring myself to mourn Nigerian politicians’ death because many of them had so much opportunity to better the lives of people but didn’t do it. Rather they spent their time benefiting cronies (who are the only ones mourning their passing now); they steal state resources – building business empires for themselves outside the shores of the country; they treat subordinates with contempt; and after doing it, they want the people to thank them for the favor they did us for ruling us.
Americans cannot write an article on their political life without mentioning their founding fathers. They talk about the legacies these men left behind. They talk about that enduring constitution of theirs. They talk about the spirit of freedom the fathers taught them. They rejoice in the fact that their founding fathers had foresight and bequeathed legacy to them; which today they are building on.
Death is a leveler. But before it comes we can use the life we have now for more worthwhile purposes. We can be remembered long after we are dead. The eulogies that follow our deaths do not have to be forced ones. We can be truly celebrated in life and in death. Those mourning Ajimobi have a right to their grief. Some of us also have a right to our indifference. I think however that those who will leave the longest impression on us after their death are those who truly served humanity.
… so, you can go on and do likewise.