Painful as it sounds, death is a natural end of all living organisms. We will all die one day even when we pretend and act as though we shall live forever. Sadly, we remember death only when those close to us die; afterwards we shrug our shoulders and move on.
But the last six days have been heart-rending and torturous, at least for me, considering how the Grim Reaper stalked us in the country and even yonder. As this column noted three weeks ago, election is war by another name in Nigeria and last Saturday was not an exception, regrettably. Rivers State became rivers of war and blood as brothers – read Governor Nyesom Wike and Rotimi Amaechi, minister and former governor- literally turned on each other in a fierce battle over who governs the state leaving scores of citizens dead and maimed in their egoistical battle. The electoral body was forced to postpone elections indefinitely in the state forcing one to wonder what would have happened if Amaechi’s APC had been on the ballot.
Regretfully, both men are Ikwerre sons who care less if their ambition and personality clash will cut short others’ lives. President Muhammadu Buhari too appeared less concerned with the deployment of soldiers to muzzle and silence citizens’ will in exercising their franchise. As commander in chief, he turned the other side when the army chief, our snake general, kept belching out orders like “the army will arrest” “the army will deal decisively” and other stuff that soldiers, who are not statutorily vested with election duties, will do during the elections. There is no record whatsoever that Buhari called soldiers maintained with citizens’ money to order over their conduct during Saturday’s election.
To rub salt in the wounds of those who lost loved ones to the barbaric conduct of our soldiers, the army spokesperson in a barefaced lie, said that soldiers who prevented citizens from choosing who will govern them were fake but till now, he has not shown us anybody arrested for perpetrating such crime. He conveniently forgot the incident at the INEC headquarters in Rivers where soldiers engaged policemen in a battle forcing citizens to scamper for safety, over who will secure the premises. Maybe those were fake soldiers too.
Kajuru local government area in Kaduna State has not ceased to be a centre for killings forcing the state government to declare a curfew just as Taraba is a battleground for those rejoicing and protesting the election results, which saw the present governor, returned under the PDP platform. Interestingly, the state remains the only state where successive governors have been PDP members. A police station was attacked in Afuze, Edo State with the divisional police officer and some other policemen, including a pregnant woman, killed in the process.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, however, prepared one for the death of Pius Adebola Adesanmi, essayist, colourful raconteur, literary critic, professor, and a special human being. Surfing the web with my 10-year old son early Sunday afternoon, the news of a plane crash jolted me out of my planned rest when we read that it was an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. Instinctively, I knew it is practically impossible for the flight not to have a Nigerian on board but the list BBC initially provided contain no Nigerian. With a capacity for figures that could have only come from his mother, my son quickly totaled the figures supplied and concluded, “Daddy, there must be more people as the numbers do not add up to the 157.”
Just last week, my friend and one of his former classmates at the University of Ilorin, Akinbode Oluwafemi, was discussing him with me in his office with nostalgia. Others stronger emotionally than me have been able to pay tributes to Pius, but I still find it difficult, as I can’t bear to refer to him in the past tense. Just like that, I kept muttering throughout Sunday night till early hours of Monday as sleep eluded me. One thing I remember about him is, or was, his ability to feel at ease with all and consciously make others to do the same too. For those of us who knew him before he became a global icon, he never turned his back and this endeared him more to us. Adieu, Pius, yours was short but impactful.
The failure of Nigeria in protecting her citizens came to the fore more vividly again in the building that collapsed on Wednesday at Ita Faji in Lagos. As a father, it left one devastated and traumatised when kids’ quest for education led to their untimely deaths. But what do we say of Lagos State Building Control Agency officials who are vested with the authority to inspect and demolish such buildings before collapsing? What led parents to enroll their children in such schools which like many others in Lagos do not deserve to be called schools? Who are the officials responsible for approving schools that sanctioned learning under such appalling conditions? Good enough that our lame duck governor visited the scene at a time when the citizens’ anger was still palpable, as he felt the raw emotions on display. Prosecution of all responsible for these avoidable deaths is a fitting memorial and not just the mere platitudes government officials mouth continually.
May all those affected directly by these deaths be comforted.