Ezinne Ajoku: Family is everything [NEW VOICES]

by Ezinne Ajoku

A colleague lost his father recently and it got me thinking about family, death, relationships, the whole morbid enchilada. I recalled that day in February when my parents called me to inform me of a dear Uncle’s death. I was devastated. I could not believe it. I had seen him a few months back when I visited my parents, and sure he did not look so good, but death? Another death? So soon after the other uncle’s death? That just broke me. I spent the whole day in tears, crying for his loss, crying for the loss of other good men in our small community.

2015 into the better part of 2016 was not so great for our community, because we lost stalwarts, soldiers, pillars of their homes and the faith. We lost good men. But you know what, when these men passed, other men showed up in their stead. Swiftly, they set up a committee of friends, detailed list of responsibilities that needed doing, assigned those responsibilities, made contributions, visited with the family, prayed with the family, prepared meals, accompanied the family to visit the village elders, etc. More than that, at each of the burial ceremonies, an outpouring of love was shown by the number of guests that came in just to honour the memory of the deceased. From far and wide, they came in to pay their respects, because the dearly departed had in major ways influenced the lives of many a person. They also came to hold the hands of the grieving widows and children, to let them know they were not alone in their pain; they came to stand in solidarity with the families.

Lest you think you think it’s only in death that this display of support is given, it happens at weddings too. Sometimes wedding cakes and dresses are given to the couple for free, and where there is no caterer, people agree on a designated venue to cook; everyone drops a little something in the purse. Somehow, in some way, everybody pitches in.

I tell you, our parents’ generation know what family really means. They understand mourning with those who mourn and rejoicing with those who rejoice, and no it’s not just passive actions of dancing and crying, aggressive though those may be. It’s involvement, it’s hand holding, it’s standing in the gap, being a defence, talking with your pockets and also with your hands.

None of the men who died were related to us by blood, but they were family. None of the people who celebrated marriage unions were blood relations either, but they were family. Because family is not necessarily bloodlines.

Nigeria is in a recession, folks, and it’s bad. It’s really bad. Banks have laid off staff in their thousands, and those banks who don’t want to lay off staff have cut down salaries by a large percentage. Corporate Lawyers are finding things very difficult because most of their clients have closed up shop, filed for bankruptcy, or are about to go under. Their jobs are hanging in the balance. It’s only litigation lawyers that are smiling to the bank because in good or bad times, there’s always conflict. Even more in an election season. Most manufacturers have run off. International airlines have bade us goodbye. Small businesses are hobbling along. And with each company that quits, there are human beings who were part of that operation that can no longer fend for themselves; who are finding it hard to survive; who are most likely depressed and suicidal.

So in this season, be nice, keep an eye out, be your brothers’ keeper. Nigerians are a spectacularly hardy bunch, so all it takes are kind words, a little cash, foodstuff, anything really and we will find ways to survive. We will find ways to beat hardship. We will find ways to defeat death. Let’s band together for our survival, the survival of our people, the survival of our country. Let’s band together against government injustice, against the imposition of suffering from higher quarters. Let’s band together against #NYSCWickedness, let’s stand in solidarity with Ifedolapo Oladepo’s mum, Oyeyode Abimbola Inioluwa. Look what strides BBOG has made speaking for the Chibok girls: some of them are now home. Look what happened when we clamoured against NCC/Telcos data hike: It’s been suspended, and the House has spoken against it. We have a voice, let’s use it- for our survival and the survival of our people.

Growing up, whenever we had arguments or full-on fights with each other as children, my father always said to us that family is everything, and we best not sever our bonds in a moment of hate and weakness, because in the end, family is all we’ve really have. Adulthood has proven this to me to be true time and yet again.

Hear me, Nigerians. We are all we have.

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