Demola Rewaju: Mourning and criticising the dead… the Agagu double tragedy

by Demola Rewaju

Olusegun Agagu...

The line against Agagu is that the crash of the plane is perhaps a certain retribution for his failure to fix the aviation sector during his tenure as Minister for Aviation. Of all the silliness this generation has produced, this is the silliest. We forget that this was a man whose was as dead as dodo already and to say that retribution was in play here is to imply that somehow, the innocent lives also lost in the crash did something worthy of death.

The unfortunate news of the crash of the plane conveying the corpse of the late former governor of Ondo state was followed quickly by terrible criticism from some quarters. He was not personally known to me but like every leader in Nigeria, I have friends and associates whose lives were touched forever during his administration. I am not concerned with the politics of the situation but with the morality and ethics of it.

You see, I am a humanist and I understand that this general lack of respect for the dead will cause us more harm than good as a people. The greatest nations throughout civilisation are the ones who paid the most respect to the dead because we understand that those who are dead are not truly dead but living on in another plane. In ancient Rome, it was believed that the spirit of a dead person would roam through Hades without rest if it was not accorded a proper burial. Finding the corpse of the dead for burial was a very important step. In Greece, two coins were placed on the eyelids of the dead to keep his eyes shut in this world and also that he may use the coins to pay the toll fee and cross over into the other world. America understands the value of one life and will do anything to protect their citizens in all parts of the world – great nations respect lives.

I am bothered but not terribly upset when our leaders demonstrate scant regard for lives – they are part of a fading generation; but when someone of my generation shows disregard for the dead, I get terribly upset that this one may one day be a leader in my generation. If I were President Goodluck Jonathan, I would wear on my person at all times the names of all those killed by Boko Haram in cold blood as a reminder of the humanity of the situation because when you reduce lost human lives to statistics, we miss the point and diminish our humanity. Indeed, the number of lives lost in road accidents in the past few years is more than the numbers lost to Boko Haram but that is statistics – the tragedy of students killed in their sleep numbs one because these are clearly preventable deaths – just as road accident deaths sometimes are.

The line against Agagu is that the crash of the plane is perhaps a certain retribution for his failure to fix the aviation sector during his tenure as Minister for Aviation. Of all the silliness this generation has produced, this is the silliest. We forget that this was a man whose was as dead as dodo already and to say that retribution was in play here is to imply that somehow, the innocent lives also lost in the crash did something worthy of death. This idea of pointing fingers at the other man as the problem and thus deserving of death is a condemnation of the innocent who die. If we say Agagu’s corpse that crashed was suffering punishment, what of those hundreds of innocents who have died at the hand of insurgents in our country?

If those who are promoting this silly talk have no sense of morality, then let them confront us on the field of logic: If the Agagu plane crash equals retributive justice, what shall we say of those who never had any chance to be ministers of aviation yet perished in the numerous crashes we’ve had in the past? What evidence have we that Agagu did not do his best as Minister of Aviation? What of former aviation ministers who are yet living and will die the kind of death after a brief illness that Agagu died? Was Agagu in all the other airplanes that crashed in times past?

I remember when Bola Ige died and only his empty coffin was brought to National Stadium, Lagos for us to pay our last respects and the same empty coffin was taken to Ibadan – his Rosicrucian fellowship does not tolerate such harassment of the corpse by flying it hither and thither. I spoke with one of Uncle Deji Falae’s friend this morning and the egbon complained bitterly wondering what they were flying the corpse about for or why so many had to accompany the body – hindsight is always 20:20.

Ige would always urge us to light candles for the dead and as the wax melted, to meditate on the life of the departed and the life of those of us living, to remind ourselves that the longer we live the closer we move towards death. We all will die, it matters not how.

We thank God for those who survived as we mourn the dead. When such things happen, feel the pain of others as though it were your own rather than talk foolishly about matters we can not yet understand. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum – speaking nothing of the dead except good is a Latin maxim we would do well to heed.

For those who are criticising the dead to score cheap points: his casket made it out intact and the burial will go ahead today as scheduled by 11a.m. at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Iju-Odo. The Ajanaku of Osooroland and a true Ikale son from Okitipupa will keep the company of angels henceforth. Let those who would speak ill remember that their day shall come, as will ours. Kokumo is Agagu’s middle name, meaning ‘he doesn’t die anymore’.

We will still die.

Think about that this weekend.

 

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Read this article on Demola Rewaju’s Blog

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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