Sudden death, spiritual protection and our lawmakers

Casmir Igbokwe

Published on Sunday, 21 Oct. 2007

In recent times, the House of Representatives has treated Nigerians to a free movie. For that is what the crisis over the N628 million-house-renovation scandal has become. Hitherto, the honourable members’ play had been full of entertaining spectacles. But last Wednesday, it turned into a tragedy with the sudden death of a lawmaker, Dr. Aminu Safana. This was shortly after a scuffle in the House. To a fellow legislator, Emmanuel Jimeh, there is something diabolical about the death. In less than four months, he  noted, the House had lost three members. 

No doubt, every human being must die. That is the major debt we owe life. But in Safana’s death, there is a metaphor staring us in the face. It has to do with untimely death, which has become the lot of Nigerians. It revolves around the fact that our lawmakers prefer to pursue rats while our house burns, while Nigerians die in their numbers daily because of the bad policies of our leaders.

In Nigeria today, burial ceremonies have become a major outdoor event. This is typified in a recent report I read about a truckload of bodies allegedly abandoned at Ijeta Community in Ikorodu area of Lagos. The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, reportedly said about 10 bodies are picked on the streets of Lagos everyday. The mortuaries, he also noted, had become congested.

One major cause of these untimely deaths is road accident. That most roads in Nigeria are bad is no more news. The regrettable thing is that the government seems to have developed deaf ears over calls to repair these roads. For over five years now, the Lagos-Abeokuta Express Road has been under repairs. Even as repair work is still ongoing on one side of the road, there are potholes on the opposite side. The Minister of Transport, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, once lamented over the state of some of our roads. Until date, the Shagamu-Benin Express Road, for instance, is still a far cry from what a good road should be. In most of these death traps called roads, there are no road markings. No danger signs to warn drivers about the craters on the roads. Some motorists have lost their lives to this neglect.

Some of those who escape death on the road may not escape the poison some mobile medicine vendors sell in some of our commercial buses. Recently, in one of the popular luxury buses plying the eastern route, a vendor marketed what I may call a wonder balm. The medicine cures arthritis, rheumatism, high blood pressure, aches and pains and so on. The manufacturers were even honest enough to note that the claims have not been evaluated by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control. But the seller claimed that an ex-minister once came from Abuja to buy the wonder balm in Lagos. The balm, he added, could be used any time because it had no expiry date. Many people believed him and bought this medicine even when it is clearly written that it expires in 2009. It is even good that this one is for external use. People have bought fake anti-malarial and antibiotics that led to their untimely deaths.

Armed robbers and assassins are another group that send Nigerians to the grave without any warning. Just last Tuesday, a stray bullet fired by bandits reportedly killed a medical doctor, Nelson Idehen, on Benin-Auchi Road. Nobody is safe in their hands. Even those who have nothing to offer are not free. 

Those who have survived thus far do not know what tomorrow will bring. Some receive death threats for one flimsy reason or the other. Last week, I got an eight-page letter from somebody who describes himself as a semi literate reader of this column. He calls himself Okwuokwu Kpachapuanya (sounds like a fake name). And he says he lives at Sabo Geri, Kano. According to him, an article I wrote in this column on July 1 was a revival of Osu caste system in Igboland.

The story, entitled “See what swindlers have done to us”, merely stated in the first introductory sentence that Nigerians abroad suffered discrimination like an unfortunate Osu in Igboland. It was just a simile. But Kpachapuanya felt outraged. The matter, he noted, was “discussed at length and some people suggested your outright elimination using hired killers because you are reviving a dead and better forgotten culture of referring to an illustrious son or daughter of Igbo as Osu.” He called me unprintable names and placed a curse on my family uptill the fourth generation. I have received worse death threats, most of which are based on misinterpretation of the written word.

The police whose duty it is to protect lives and property are themselves victims of untimely death. Ill equipped and hungry, some of them have succumbed to the superior firepower of armed robbers. Out of frustration, sometimes, they move against the people they are paid to protect. Last September, for instance, the police in Akwa Ibom State allegedly brutalised many and killed over five people in a community called Afahakpo Enwang. Their major grouse, as reported in the Sunday Punch of September 23, was that about N8, 000 they extorted from commercial vehicle drivers and bike riders was stolen from the bush where they had hidden it.

This is partly why some Nigerians have chosen to disregard the police and adopt the Nepali solution to protect themselves. Recall that the Nepal’s state-run airline was reported to have sacrificed two goats to appease a Hindu god last September. They performed the sacrifice in front of a Boeing 757 aircraft that had technical problems at Kathmandu airport. A senior official of the airline gleefully announced that after the ritual, the plane flew successfully to Hong Kong.

On their part, some Nigerians visit native doctors to prepare charms for them. A few years ago, a herbalist in Benue State shot and killed a man while testing a bulletproof charm he prepared for him. Some besiege churches and mosques on a daily basis to pray for God’s protection. They put their trust in olive oil, back-to-sender oil and other types of spiritual materials. Even Jimeh, the lawmaker who perceived diabolism in the death of Safana, urged devout Muslims and Christians to come to the House to pray and dedicate it to God.

Christians always remind God that He delivered Paul and Silas, and as such, must surely deliver them. But it will be good if we as a people could make efforts to deliver ourselves first. May the death of Safana spur in our legislators the need to avoid trivialities; to stop using the hallowed chambers of the House as a boxing arena; and to use their good offices to proffer solutions to all the vendors of death confronting Nigerians today.         




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