Grieving Without Illusions
How does one grieve if the person does not subscribe to any religion or a belief in a God? How does one make meaningful sense of the tragic loss of a relative without pandering to ancient myths and misconceptions? Simply put, how does one thoughtfully come to terms with the pain and sorrow of losing a loved one without clutching some supernatural and superstitious mumbo jumbo? These questions have agitated my mind for some time. The agitation has become intense following the death of my father.
Growing up in an intensely religious environment, I grappled with these propositions because I knew that one day I would come face to face with grief and bereavement. Until the passing away of my father in April, questions about death and bereavement have been more of an academic exercise. But now they are no longer so. Death has hit so hard, and so close.
Right now, I am mourning. I am grieving in a way that has never been the case. I introspect, and reflect on death and dying. In the event of death, many people use religious and supernatural narratives to make sense of their grief or to console the bereaved. Some point to comforting myths and superstitions codified in scriptures and traditions to provide emotional support to those who mourn. Some years ago, while on a condolence visit, a Christian friend noted that religion -as opposed to non-religious outlooks- was richer in consoling and comforting those who are mourning. After the bereaved murmured some prayers in honor of the dead, he turned to me and said “That is why it is good to be religious”. I kept wondering about the substantial difference, if any, that those intercessory lines made on the fact of death and bereavement.
The religious way of grieving is predicated on the premise that the dead are in a better place; the dead have gone to heaven or paradise where there is no suffering or pain. Religions teach people to believe that the dead are not dead; that the dead have transited into another realm of eternal bliss where they would live and rejoice forever. People of faith claim to draw strength from these propositions. People of faith console the bereaved or try and make them draw strength from these misconceptions. They tell us that people who die depart this world for another world; the dead leave the here-and-now for the hereafter, this life for another life- the afterlife. Is that the case?
Meanwhile, there is no evidence at all to substantiate these extraordinary claims. As a mourning habit, people of faith deploy these suppositions to make sense of grief. But they never asked: are these narratives consoling? Or better, are these propositions not empty words, or mere condolence formalities that signify nothing? I am not interested if or whether a proposition is comforting or consoling. Grieving is a subjective experience. Those who are experiencing shock and trauma can temporarily be relieved even by a statement that is a lie. I am not interested in whether claims bring some relief to people who are mourning. That may be so, why not?
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I am particularly interested in what is true; what is based on facts, not fiction. Of course, I am not opposed to using fictive claims in everyday interactions. Fiction must be treated as fiction. Fantasies should not be presented as facts in the name of consoling those who are grieving. People who grieve or mourn are not stupid or dumb. Are they? Mourners are mentally alert and intellectually alive. That people are grieving does not mean that they suspend their sense of reasoning or rational judgment.
Those who are grieving do not disable their faculty of understanding and appreciation of what is true or false, reasonable or unreasonable, credible or incredible. Mourners should not be lied to as a traditional or institutionalized way to support them. I do not see the purpose that the superstition-filled grieving process serves.
I am not consoled by claims about death and the dead that (I think) are false. Many believing folks that I know are unpersuaded by those absurd and baseless declarations that the religious-minded make at funerals. Some consider those religious rituals and ceremonies to be unnecessary encumbrances on the mourning experience. Some regard them as a form of entertainment and temporary distraction from the painful reality of death.
I find those mistaken assumptions about death and the dead unhelpful. I deem it immoral to lie to those who are grieving or to peddle falsehoods about the dead. It is said that one should not talk ill about the dead. Right? So one should not say what is blatantly untrue, or what is not based on fact about the dead or dying in the name of mourning. Why should people lie to one’s face or lie to the face of the dead because one is mourning or grieving? Some would say: “But these are narratives to help those who are grieving cope with a tragic situation and achieve closure”. That is understood. But my question is: Why not use propositions that are informed by facts and sound reasoning? Why not deploy consoling lines based on evidence?
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For instance, in times of grief, people of faith console those grieving by saying that the dead have gone to rest somewhere, in heaven. They tell those who are mourning that they would meet their dead friends and relatives again where they would part no more. Really? Many, who make these declarations to support those who are grieving, know that this meeting in the afterlife is highly improbable or would never happen. But they still urge mourners to look forward to this imaginary Rendez-Vous. Believing folks claim that these suppositions provide relief and consolation to the bereaved. Do they?
In my case, my father is dead. He is no more. That is the fact. That is reality. His body will decompose and supply nutrients to other life forms. My father came from nature, and to mother nature, he has returned. We all who are alive will go the same way at some point. I do not intend to meet my father or any other dead friend or relative any time anywhere again. No, no. I do not nurse such aspirations.
My father lives on, not in any extraterrestrial heavenly realm. He lives on in my memory and in the memories of those who knew him. He lives in the minds of family members, former students and colleagues, and others who met and encountered him while he was alive. My father lives on in the genes that he passed on to his children, and in so many ways that he impacted my and other lives.
I draw strength from fond memories of him, memories of the good and bad times that we shared, memories of our agreements and disagreements, memories of his trials and tribulations, successes and failures, perfections and imperfections. As I grieve, I am comforted by these thoughts and reminiscences. They provide me with more meaningful ways of coming to terms with his demise than the comforting myths that religions and other supernatural enterprises peddle.
Death is one of the reasons why religion exists and holds sway over the minds of many across the world. Religion helps many persons to grieve and mourn the dead. Religion enables some people to make sense of their mortality. But as a humanist, the religious idea of life, death, and mortality does not hold. Its transcendental pretensions have little or no appeal. The humanist way of mourning offers an enriching alternative. One grieves without illusions, and superstitions about death and the afterlife in a fictive otherworldly realm.
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Rigged Elections And The Moral Burden Of Illegitimacy
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Adamu: A man who rigs his way to power carries a moral burden!
Orezime: A moral what?
Adamu: You heard me, didn’t you?
Orezime: I’m not sure I heard you right. Moral what you said?
Adamu: A moral burden, I said!
Orezime: Hahahahahahaha! You make me laugh! Are you from the moon?
Gani: Or Mars?
Emeka: In which country? In Nigeria? That principle does not apply in Nigeria! There is no moral burden on anybody in this country! The election which produced Bubu in 2015 was rigged. Where are the two million voters from Kano State who voted in 2015? Was an INEC official not burnt alive after that election? The one which brought Obj to power was also rigged by the forces which wanted him to ease the tension of the Abiola tragedy on the Yoruba people. Yet those men had the temerity to preach against corruption!
Orezime: The international community winked at the whole exercise.
Gani: Yes! That’s why those two could only preach; they couldn’t really act decisively. A moral burden? They spoke from both sides of their mouths on the issue of corruption. The late President Yar Adua confessed that the election which produced him was compromised. An honest man, he didn’t live long enough to right the wrong of the period!
Orezime: That’s why I laughed when Adamu talked about a moral burden arising from rigged elections.
Bankole: In the ideal world, any power that is stolen and acquired through a dubious means imposes a moral burden on the power holder. No matter what the person does, that power remains stained.
Orezime: What does that amount to in our country? Even the brigands who shot their way to power in the notorious days of military misadventure in Nigeria soon became legitimate.
Emeka: You are going too far in our history. See what happened in Lagos State in the governorship elections of March 18. Ethnic jingoists went about preaching hatred against Igbo people and warned them against coming out to exercise their constitutional rights. Security officials looked the other way when ballot boxes were snatched in broad daylight in places where the opposition was leading.
Gani: A serving state governor personally went about snatching ballot boxes and threatened to shoot whoever got in his way. The same governor declared somebody wanted without recourse to the Inspector General of Police! He worked against the party on which platform he won the seat to spite the party hierarchy!
Adamu: And to think that this is the President-elect’s state. He kept mute through the horrendous attacks on Igbo people in Lagos State just the way the incumbent president has looked the other way when herdsmen went on the loose!
Bankole: Rigged elections are so familiar yet notorious in our land. It was the main trigger to the crisis in the Western Region in the First Republic because the people reacted when they saw a rape of their rights and wishes! It soon snowballed into a conflagration that consumed the nation in the late 1960s. Already, the youths are talking about a protest in the ENDSARSNOW# manner. I hope it doesn’t result in disaster. We have lost too many lives already!
Orezime: What I fear is the rise of ethnic profiling in a supposedly democratic society. To be sure, Governor Sanwo-Olu and the party hierarchy did not single out any ethnic group for verbal attacks. They even courted them. Yet they didn’t caution their followers to stop the degeneration into ethnic hatred. It is a dangerous curve what is happening in Lagos. I don’t subscribe to the Lagos is no man’s land nonsense which some misguided fellows are spewing, but threatening anybody not to vote their candidate is a new low! Can a Sanwo-Olu victory be said to be legitimate if a significant percentage of the electorate is disenfranchised?
Emeka: Good question. They did not stop there. They rolled out the culturally dreaded Oro rituals on election night. Come on! Who is fooling who? The Oro festival was designed to drive fear into non-Yoruba in Lagos. In the 21st Century?
Gani: I am sure the reports from election observers will be damning.
Bankole: I don’t care about those biased observers.
Adamu: Where are we headed in this country?
Orezime: We are on the road to Kigali!
Bankole: May we not travel that route!
Orezime: It’s a good prayer. But what are we doing to avoid the descent into anarchy? Nothing. Those monkeys are simply interested in acquiring power.
Gani: The Obedient Movement seems to have lost steam once it was misbranded as an ethnic agenda to grab power at the national level. Peter Obi needs to tread carefully so he doesn’t become another June 12! Some people are egging him on to challenge INEC through protests.
Orezime: If he decides to lead a protest, it would be within his constitutional right to do so, especially as INEC is stalling on the issue of inspecting elections materials despite an order from the courts. Peaceful protests are guaranteed by the Constitution.
Adamu: No one can be sure whether a peaceful protest will remain peaceful after it starts. That’s the experience the ENDSARS people had.
Gani: It’s not enough to stop people from taking to the streets. Protests are fundamental to democracy.
Adamu: We do not want dead heroes! Mark my words.
Bankole: That’s ominous!
Emeka: It means nothing. Nigeria must change. We cannot go on like this forever! Things are just going down. No cash. No fuel. No power supply. No security. No nothing. Peter Obi gave a glimmer of hope. Now that has been dashed to the ground.
Adamu: Rigging will remain a moral burden each time our President-elect travels outside the country, each time he meets foreign observers, especially those ones who have a dossier on him. History will also judge him and assess how he came to power. This applies to all the states as well where some politicians have turned themselves into demigods and have compromised poor INEC officials with mouthwatering sums. This is not how to build a democracy. The votes must be counted and must count. Seventeen people have their lives during the governorship and House of Assembly elections. We are supposed to count ballot papers, not bodies. Sad!
Bankole: The moral burden of rigged elections is on all of us. Without our connivance there would be no rigging. We can only hope that this will end some day!
Emeka: Tough luck!
Professors On INEC’s Will (2)
By Tony Afejuku
On Thursday, 2 March, 2023, the Financial Times based in London, England published a blistering editorial on the February 25, 2023 Presidential election which up to now is the talk of everywhere beyond our shores. The said Financial Times editorial was entitled “Nigerians badly flawed election fails to set an example.” Indeed, it was a positively blistering presentation as any positively blistering presentation can be. Professor Olu Obafemi FNAL; NNOM drew the attention of the literati to the editorial that argued succinctly that “If Tinubu’s victory is challenged the courts should take a hard` look.” In his summation of the editorial Professor Olu Obafemi, who headed the debating literati, said he had nothing to add to the efficacious editorial but he would be happy – by my inference – to have the viewpoints of others. Thereafter the debate began. The arguments and counter-arguments began. Whose will was INEC propagating: Was it its will or the will of the cabal in the presidency or the will of the Nigerian people?
By the way, be it noted here and now that the Financial Times, though headquartered in London as already indicated, is owned by Japanese, by Nikkei, a Japanese holding company with “core editorial offices across Britain, the United States and continental Europe.” Why this point is necessary here will reveal itself in the debate I hereby tender to fit my creative and journalistic purpose. But you will notice that there is a shift in focus from the substance of the editorial to the question of anti-black or anti-African Western propaganda.
This is how Professor Ademola Da Sylva, FNAL puts it:
“The Western media are so powerful that they have their ways of turning non-Western genuine patriots and revolutionaries to look like some nameless demons all because they failed to toe servile line as underdogs! Idi Amin, for example, might not get it right in his choice of modus operandi, but he knew what he wanted for his Uganda people. His successful ejection of the British Asians was one of his policies that did not go down well with the hegemons because it devastated the British economy. So the Western media descended on him and painted him as a blood-sucking Dracula! Of course, there were Uganda compradors and cronies of multinationals from within who tried to undermine Amin’s revolution, too. Dedan Kimathi was also considered a “terrorist and a bandit” by the British imperialists; they got him arrested and hanged him, but we know he wasn’t a demon they tried to make us believe he was! Furthermore, no matter what we may think of Mugabe, the immediate past Zimbabwe President, he meant well for his country, he revoked the licences of large parcels of fertile lands, and also a large chunk of the lands from the White occupants and re-distributed the lands among the black peasants. That was ordinarily unthinkable in Africa by an African leader who wanted justice and equity for his people, but he did it and called the bluff of the West. Again, the Western media took over from there, painted a devil of him, and many Africans uncritically swallowed the gambit, too! The first accusation of the West against these patriotic leaders has always been that they were antidemocrats! Democracy is anti-African governance principles. It is the primary reasons why we never get it right, but it has always paid the West because it keeps Africa underdeveloped to the advantage of the West. The truth is: Why would you want to change a leadership that is up and doing, responsible and responsive, and doing very well, why? That principle foregrounds our sense of monarchy. A king remains on the throne for as long as his reign brings progress and security. Where a king fails, as in the cases of the indigenous Yoruba Obas, he is made to commit a voluntary suicide, and another Oba replaces him. Anyway, let me pause here.”
Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano’s stroke goes thus: “My view is that if humans have (or bear) an original sin, according to Christian eschatology, and if humans need to pray and carry out religious duties to be worthy of divine grace, and if secular education requires progressive edification of humans, and if humans are brutes unless they are inserted into a humane culture complete in all its sides (as Matthew Arnold has argued), and if the classical calculators looked forward not to human nature, with its brutal immersion in self-interest and wars and strife, and if humans have repeatedly to struggle to rise above their petty narrowness, then how can their voting behaviour or action be perfect, pristine or excellent? Those who expect a perfect electoral behaviour or outcome in a country brutalized by a savage economic policy and an insensitive and thieving cast of state officials, and the electors riven by religious and ethnic divisions are expecting a miracle. Yet at the local level, the electors did succeed in electing a new set of people to represent them. The problem with macro analysis is that it is positivism at its worst. At the micro level, the elections were expressive of the will of the people. In Kano State, for example, the newly formed NNPP swept the board with more than 18 out of the available 22 seats for the House of Reps and 2 out of the 3 Senate seats. Thousands turned out to vote. Finally, why should we believe anything the Western press says about us? Look at their reporting of the war in Ukraine. They keep saying, against the evidence and the facts, that Ukraine is winning the war with Russia, despite the former being slaughtered on the battlefield and having lost a staggering number of soldiers.
“Humour comes from the ridiculous and the ridiculous from the comical. Here is an example of a statement that is hilarious because it is ridiculous and ridiculous because it is comical: “Ladies and gentlemen, meet the newly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Reverend Mullah Professor Mr. Mallam IBK of Madagascar!”
Do I have any doubt that our readers will find it hard and uneasy to follow the mind patterns and strokes of the debaters who are trying in their peculiar ways to say something tangibly tangible about our will as voters and INEC’s will as electoral umpire? Not at all!
To be continued.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
Stomping For Sheriff Oborevwori
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
The political, social, cultural and perhaps spiritual forces which have produced Hon Sheriff Oborevwori as 2023 governorship candidate for the PDP are a watershed in the political history of Delta State. For as a humble, friendly, and perhaps unlikely candidate different from past candidates, his emergence took some in the party by surprise and indeed shock. It has brought joy to the Okpe people, the largest of the Urhobo clans who have rightly argued that the governorship of the state ought to come to their zone.
To be sure, it has led to a falling out, a disagreement among erstwhile comrades sworn to the preservation of PDP hegemony in the state. But the party machinery which was controlled by incumbent governor Senator Ifeanyi Okowa was able to pull through his candidacy even though he was pitted against some other candidates who had powerful forces behind them and who also paraded academic certificates that could intimidate the fainthearted. And so Oborevwori’s paper qualifications, his antecedent as a ‘street boy’, and his association with the incumbent governor have become campaign issues meant to denigrate the authenticity of his candidacy! But the courts, even the highest courts in the land, have validated his paper qualifications. David, the shepherd boy has emerged as the anointed of the Lord; so be it! It is also important to state that a man who was a street boy, gained admission into a university, took a first degree and a subsequently a second degree must be given credit. How many ex-street boys have lifted themselves to the level which Oborevwori has done?
A close interaction with Sheriff Oborevwori would reveal the deep stuff that has made it ensured his successful tenure as Speaker of the State’s House of Assembly for seven odd years. He is calm, patient, a great listener and a team player. Those who cry foul about his antecedents should also give him credit for staying a steady course as Speaker. He may not be Harvard educated but he definitely has matured on the job. Interacting with him shows how much he has learnt in the last seven years. It is sad that he is being castigated for the loans which the House passed after requests from the executive arm of government. The truth is that hardly any House of Assembly refuses requests from the state governors. This applies to the National Assembly and the President of the Federal Republic. When accounts are rendered, it should be for the Executive arm to account for how the funds were expended.
Sheriff has assured all those who have listened during interactions that he will shock the state in two years when he implements the infrastructure development programme which has been conceived and put into a blueprint. Sapele, Warri, Ughelli, Patani, Obiaruku, Orerokpe, Aboh, Ozoro, Ogwashi Uku will receive profound attention in terms of urban renewal. The youths will receive attention in terms of employment and empowerment. Our own Silicon Valley will help to redirect the minds of our youths to the positive aspects of the internet. There should be an end to Yahoo Yahoo because they would focus on development of different apps. Delta will be transformed to a construction site. That is a powerful thing to say. The team of highly-educated political gurus and technocrats around Sheriff will drive the development agenda. It is not going to be business as usual in development strides. The people must see the worth of their money. As a man who is widely in consultation with the grassroots, his agenda will be people-friendly, driven by inputs from the user’s end. In other words, he is not going to sit in Asaba and dictate what the people of Isoko need in the budget.
Those who criticize Sheriff’s association with the incumbent administration should remember that it is the executive arm that drives development programmes. Policy initiatives come from the governor. No matter the brilliant ideas which a legislator has, they won’t come to fruition without the blessing of the governor. As governor, Sheriff will introduce programmes that are close to his heart. To be sure, he has seen the weaknesses in all the administrations in the state and will plug loopholes to ensure service delivery. As a beneficiary of the incumbent governor’s benevolence, he will not turn against him. But areas that need better attention will be dealt with. For example, payment of pensions and gratuities will be vigorously pursued. Ditto for DESOPADEC. That organization will be better positioned to deliver on its mandate especially for oil producing communities. The goose which lays the golden egg must benefit from the wealth of the egg. Indeed, the MORE slogan of the Sheriff campaign means that he plans to do more and build deeply on the achievements of the outgoing administration.
The performance of LP in the February 25th presidential election showed a strong outing for Peter Obi, closely followed by PDP. This is comforting to the PDP. This is a clear sign that things are not as they used to be. Once Sheriff wins the ballot, he must ensure that development-focus is people-oriented. The mass disenchantment with the two establishment parties – PDP and APC- will need to be addressed radically through policy initiatives and implementation. Those who erroneously believe that APC will be different in Delta State should look at the abysmal performance of the party at the national level and forget the idea of an APC government in Delta State. Sheriff is a man on the ground who will not disappoint the people of Delt State.
Sheriff Oborevwori has matured with time and exposure. He served as Chair Conference of Speakers of Nigeria and the presence of some of these speakers at his campaign outings show his ability to build and sustain bridges. He has the good health, composure, and humility to widely consult stakeholders in order to keep the state together after victory come March 18. He also will keep intellectuals very close to the corridors of government. In other words, his government will not suffer intellectual deficit. He has the capacity to listen to profound ideas and distil the same into policy framework.
Finally, we should allow the ballot box speak for the people in the governorship elections and with the spirit of God’s favour with him, in counter disposition to mammy water spirit, Sheriff Oborevwori should be the next governor of Delta State. Grace speaks, principalities take a bow!
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