By Folorunso Fatai Adisa
There is a mortuary aphorism in Latin that reads: “De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum”. It means “Of the dead nothing but good is to be said”. It simply counsels that it is socially inappropriate to speak ill of the dead as they are unable to justify themselves. I wouldn’t know if that was where the Yoruba nation got their own submission of “you don’t speak ill of the dead” too. However, I do not subscribe to the aphorism because the late Lateef Kayode Jakande has defied that hypocritical narrative. In what follows, I shall give my reasons.
It is normal to mourn the passage of a beloved one to the great beyond. Our culture remarks that we respect the dead. However, I have yet to read or hear the part where our culture dictates that we should deodorise their bad deeds- using elegant prose. Hypocrisy.
I once stumbled on a quote somewhere and the quote is insightful. It reads: “Live your life so that the preacher won’t have to lie at your funeral”. Alder Shanon’s words also corroborate that. Here are the words: “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” Death does not confer sainthood and we cannot use it as an instrument to sanitize any life. That someone is dead doesn’t mean we should change the narrative- the truth must be told all the time. History.
When corrupt politicians/leaders are alive, you can’t talk safely. There are writers, journalists and political dissidents in jail and some are missing. When they die, you are told not to speak ill of the dead as a form of respect. Respect for what? A life that was dedicated to systematically emasculating millions of people? It is dishonest because the legacy of these people mostly do not deserve the respect you want .
Mandela was a politician. He died and the world genuinely mourned him.
Now, our own Lateef Kayode Jakande ,the first civilian Governor of Lagos State, is dead. And his numerous good handiwork are speaking for him.He was a journalist who became the governor of Lagos State from 1979 to 1983.
“He mushroomed the city with schools to bring every ward to learn in the morning. He built the largest number of housing units ever in Nigerian history by any government, whether federal or state, within four years. He opened what we know as the Lekki Corridor today. He was a seer as an environmentalist, pioneering a day off to clean the city.” says, Sam Omatseye. He continued, “He lived in his modest home, rode his Toyota Crown, was not drawn to the vanity of travels abroad, or the extravagancies of official boasts or swagger, was never a fop even for ceremonies. He loved his confectionary, Tom Tom, as if he needed something sweet that also reminded him of the bitterness of human suffering. Baba kekere means literally the little father. It, in earnest, meant the heir to Awo, the father of Yorubaland and politics.”
Because he was a genius of development, today people see him the way historian Thucydides writes of the great Pericles: “We have not left our power without witness, but have shown it with mighty proofs.” LKJ has left an indelibe imprint on the sand of time. With his visible achievements and the many thrilling tributes that people have been showering on him since his passing to the great beyond yesterday, he has defied the hypocritcal narrative of we don’t speak ill of the dead.
In LKJ’s demise is a lesson, for both the rulers and the ruled, that goes thus: Be good. Do your best so that we won’t have to hypocritically mourn you when you are gone.
Life has gone past the playing of cultural and moral gymnastics— when someone is dead— in order to put a blanket of sainthood on the dead. No! Before you are gone, be the person your dog thinks you are— a good person.
The truth is: death is like a wrecking ball. When it is our time, we’ll get hit too. Prompt us to be good and do good. We all know that we will eventually be housed in a swollen ground— grave. Death.
On the whole, Jakande, among the progressives , was popularly known as ‘Baba Kekere’. As he transited to the great beyond, I wish him Godspeed. May God forgive him of his iniquities and grant him a beautiful repose.
-Folorunso, Fatai Adisa (an unemployed graduate) writes in from Abeokuta, Ogun State.