Monday, 16 July 2012

Pauper Lives and Princely Deaths

Mr. Obikeze, a commercial motorcyclist was involved in a serious accident.  He was rushed to the hospital for treatment.  After several days at the hospital, he was informed by the doctor that he would be ejected if his medical bills were not duly sorted. As a commercial motorcyclist, he could not afford the medical bills of a private hospital.  However, he had such relatives, who had not been particularly helpful in the past.  Then an idea struck him, tell them say I don die he suggested to the doctor who was alarmed and instantly shocked by his suggestion.  If you wan collect your money, tell them say I don die, Mr. Obikeze repeated for emphasis.  True to his words, upon the announcement of his death, the numerous relatives, friends and even enemies thronged to the hospital. Settling the hospital bill was no problem.  Their brother had to be given a befitting burial (despite leaving him to an un-befitting life), having him in the hospital was an insult to the clan.

Such is the primacy of death in African society and symbolism.  With a culture rich in signs and symbols than products and objects, Death has serious cultural philosophical connotations in Africa.  It’s unpredictably and uncertainty frightens the traditional African man (and much of humanity).  Its ambiguity has been strengthened by the fact that no one has died and come back to life to paint a picture of what death looks or feels like.  Stories of reincarnation, restless ghosts, ancestral spirits and guardians, heaven or hell only portray mans feeble attempt to either grasp  life at all means (even in death), or explain what awaits him on the other side.  Such mental denial and rejection of death is obvious in African Philosophy where death is seen as a transition, slipping into the next room where door can only be opened by spiritual separation from the body.  Death is seen as life expressed in another form.

As such, adequate preparations are made for the after-life.  Funeral rites are means through which the group prepares the dead for afterlife and also keeps in contact with the departed.  Life in the afterlife is conceived in materialistic and physical terms.  There is a lot of pomp, elegance and perfectly put into African burial rites, most times to the detriment of the living.  The contemporary African is appreciated more at death than in life.  He may live in penury, but is she to die and be buried like a prince.  The case of Rashidi Yekini, the late Nigerian football legend is a reflection of such anathema.  After giving his giving his life in service of his fatherland, he was discarded like an old rag after his football career.  Upon his death, governors are now making donations and establishing trust funds in his name.  This to the critical mind, which unfortunately is immune in this part of the world, is a case of misplaced priority.  To live here gracefully should be the most important concern of African symbolism, logic, culture and religious beliefs.

Ascribing time, money and resources to an inevitable but highly uncertain venture such as death could be likened to the Biblical proverbial character who buried his talents for the fear of losing it.  He was cursed by his master.  The contemporary African refuses to write wills, but he is quick to borrow to bury the dead.  This perhaps would give a cursory view to why despite its abundant resources and talents, the continent is still neck-deep in the most unimaginable conditions, with poverty accepted as the norm  Resources which would have been used to ensure better living, catalyze inventions and prioritize human ingenuity are used preparing for an utopic after life.

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.  Not in Africa symbolism where the bird at hand is overlooked for those in the bush.  If we are so quick to blame the elite, government and whites for everything, then why dont we wait for them to organize elaborate or carnival like burials?  Why do we have so much faith and accept responsibility for our roles in the after-life, yet are quick to pass the bulk to others for our fate in the living world?  Why not put such faith in developing knowledge?

Penury lives, princely deaths, such is the case of misplaced priorities in Africa.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Get widget