In Nigeria, when beggars die, there are no comets seen. But when a politician dies, we have to contend with hagiographic writings that fly into the public space seeking to beautify these dubious saints.
As noted when the President’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari, died recently, the attendant obituarisation-the effusive rain of tributes poured on him and which was at dissonance with the inept government that he served till his death-was a strong indication of how the living was using the dead to rewrite public memory.
Since that time, a few more people that have served in public offices have died and the story has been the same. People could barely wait for rigor mortis to happen before setting off a series of cute tributes about their lives. The underlying tactic seems to be preemption of the vitriol and the indifferent shrugs that would have followed their demise.
On Saturday, a former Ogun East senator, Esho Jinadu (aka Buruji Kashamu), succumbed to COVID-19 complications. A federal lawmaker who spent many quality days fighting extradition to the USA for alleged crimes of narcotics smuggling and peddling, he was no hero. Yes, he was adulated by the so-called masses for his acts of benefaction towards them, but so what? There are people out there who will worship at the grave of Sani Abacha if you let them. From time immemorial, the poor and the wretched of the earth have always venerated the same leadership class that denigrates them. That impoverished people saw a fugitive as their god proves nothing.
Hardly had the news of Kashamu’s death been announced when former President Olusegun Obasanjo picked up his pen and committed his renown hypocrisy to paper. In a letter he titled, ‘Letter of condolence,’ and addressed to the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, Obasanjo noted that although Kashamu might have manipulated the instruments of law and politics to evade justice, he could not escape the judgment of death. In a sharp response, former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, faulted Obasanjo and reminded him that he too would “still die.”
Then came the punchline when an All Progressives Congress chieftain, Bola Tinubu, signed a statement that said, “Again, Kashamu’s sudden death has demonstrated the transience of human life and rekindles the fact that death is inevitable for every mortal.
As such, it behoves us to be kind to the dead.” We were all socialised into believing it is socially inappropriate to speak poorly of the dead. They say since they can no longer defend themselves, we should zip it. However, what Obasanjo said was pretty factual and would have needed no rejoinder even by Kashamu himself.
It is curious how politicians who served in public office without a distinguished record of service now remind themselves about the transience of life and the universal fate of death.
People who are truly sobered by the thought of the end of life do not bicker over someone already dead; they demonstrate their conviction by pursuing a better life for the living. If the thought of inevitable death sincerely has a moderating influence on the actions of our leaders, they would not spend so much time and effort dispossessing the public of collective resources.