Monday, July 14, 2014 8:41 am
By Mohsin Bukhari
Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, (1898-1963) A.D. was an Irish Roman Catholic priest and senior official of the Roman Curia, and significant figure in Catholic resistance to Nazism.
During World War II, he was responsible for saving 6,500 Allied soldiers and Jews. His ability to evade the traps set by the German Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst, earned O’Flaherty the nickname “The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican”.
He was the first Irishman named Notary of the Holy Office. Ofcourse there were many others who also did remarkable things to save humankind from other humans but some like Father O’Flaherty stand out.
I am sure he was a true and good Christian and today lies in wait to enter Paradise.Karbala (a city in Iraq) was a desolate desert plain in 680 A.D. In that year it witnessed one of the worst crimes in human history.
The tyrant (a man called Yazid) who had usurped the Islamic Caliphate decided to legitimise his ignoble rule by coercing all in the land to offer allegiance to him. Most notables acquiesced but he felt that unless and until the noble and very well respected grandson (Hussein ibn Ali) of Prophet Mohammed had not offered his allegiance his glory would remain in vain and in danger of being set aside.
When Hussein repeatedly ignored and resisted Yazid’s calls he and his family i.e. the kith and kin of Prophet Muhammed, were brutally massacred and the surviving women and children were taken captive.
Though the tyrant Yazid prevailed physically his memory today remains as the vice-generant of Lucifer and although Hussein and his family perished physically their memory today remains as the inheritors of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed i.e. in choosing death Hussein ennobled life.
Nearer home Shaihu Usman dan Fodio (1754–1817) A.D. was a religious teacher, writer and Islamic promoter, and the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate. A teacher he lived in the city-state of Gobir until 1802. Dan Fodio wrote more than a hundred books concerning religion, government, culture, and society.
He developed a critique of existing African Muslim elites for what he saw as their greed, paganism, or violation of the standards of Sharia law, and heavy taxation. He encouraged literacy and scholarship, including for women, and several of his daughters emerged as scholars and writers.
His writings and sayings continue to be much quoted today, and are often affectionately referred to as Shehu in Nigeria. In the early 19th century he led a movement that undid the old order and set up a state that became the largest in Africa encompassing a significant part of North and Middle Africa. He was a great reformer and believed in the equality of all humans, irrespective of caste, colour or religion.
In my several meetings and discussions with Bamidele Aturu I found him thirsty for more insight into and knowledge about the role models mentioned above. There always remained so much to talk about and cherish that the discussions forever remained “to be continued”.
He was a man who believed in the universal ideals of morality and ethics. His life too was a continuous struggle to achieve “universal suffrage” for his people. Although his struggles were confined to Nigeria he held a world view that he incessantly toiled to implement in Nigeria.
He saw Nigeria as a hotbed of rampant and insatiable corruption that must be redeemed at any cost. His life was so simple that he could almost be termed a Christian hermit, a Hindu sadu, a Buddhist monk or a Muslim dervish interchangeably.
He lived to work and though he was a very loving husband and an extremely affectionate and caring father; the church and the office were his places of worship. Not too long ago he visited me at my home in Dubai and throughout most of his stay he continued to fast on a daily basis.
When I enquired that it was not Lent or any other of those traditionally prescribed fasting seasons he explained to me that his local church and community in Nigeria had decided and taken on an oath to fast during that time for a certain number of days.
He told me that he could not disobey my call for him to visit me nor could he abandon his oath to community, church and God – he was an amazing equaliser of all that he touched. He was simply not interested in politics or high office while at the same time he saw it as his messianic mission to reform these institutions and redeem his people.
He rightfully believed that here was one of the richest countries on the planet (in terms of per capita income) which had been reduced to being one of the poorest, simply because although God has Promised (in the Bible and the Quran) that He Provides for every soul that comes on earth; those in power had forcibly usurped the God Given share of others simply to amass untold riches that even these “barbarians” would never have the time to count or ever enjoy – God too is an Amazing Equaliser, Bamidele confided to me!
He dreamed of the non-violent Ghandisation (the great Indian emancipator) of Nigeria; he dreamed of the Martin Luther King (the great black American emancipator) dream for Nigeria; he dreamed of the Khumaynisation (the great Iranian revolutionary who brought Iran back from being the 51st State of the U.S. to being a truly independent nation) of Nigeria; he aspired to Mandelaise (the great anti-apartheid freedom fighter and father of modern South Africa) Nigeria.
Together we witnessed Nigerian politicians, civil servants and judges squander untold wealth on the streets of London and Dubai, wealth that had clearly been gluttoned from the resources of Nigeria, wealth that was the natural birthright of every Nigerian man, woman and child.
We both were irretrievably saddened by the sickly sights and our hearts bled. Maybe the accumulation of the struggle as the defender of the rights of the downtrodden and the sheer helplessness at the sight of these bandits took its toll on Bamidele. He was merely forty-nine and fit as a fiddle.
Bamidele was truly a multi-faceted man and was far ahead of his time. The loss of such a magnanimous figure should and must be mourned by one and all in Nigeria. The government should honour him as a true emancipator and a champion of the people.
A great and revered Islamic sage (Ali ibn Abu Taleb) who was also the son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad passed away during this month of Ramadhan some 1400 years ago. Immediately after his demise poor people from all walks of life could be seen on the streets of Kufa (Iraq) weeping profusely.
When asked why such commotion the common answer was, “there was a man who used to feed, wash, bathe and clothe us and we have not seen him for several days now – who will care for us now?” Ali today is immensely revered by millions and even worshipped by thousands. Jesus was also well known for alleviating the pain and suffering of the afflicted ones.
Today he is the ultimate Messiah for millions (Christians and Muslims alike) while millions also worship him in different forms.
I read online, some motor cycle riders and market women gathered around Bamidele’s house weeping uncontrollably – these were the ones he had so secretly and affectionately cared for throughout his life while he willingly abandoned even the meagre pleasures for himself and his family.
How many of us truly follow today the commands of the Bible and Quran when they state, “let not the left hand know what the right hand gives?”
Is that not why crown prince Buddha walked out on his father’s wealthy kingdom, in the middle of the night, never to look back or regret. Today he is revered and worshipped by millions the world over.
At the time of writing this eulogy I, as a foreigner, stand non-plussed and surprised that the President has not uttered a single word in memory – I can only say this then, “goodluck to you Goodluck”.
I still stand in disbelief that Bamidele is no more, the good Christian that I knew has left us and I hold my hands up to Allah and say, “O’ Allah do not grant to me the Paradise that does not have Bamidele Aturu in it”.