By Promise Adiele
William Shakespeare’s admonition that “death is a necessary end and will come when it will come” has a way of dousing the tension associated with the brutal inevitability of death among humans. Although we acknowledge that death is predestined, we ultimately realize that there are untimely deaths. So how can we determine if a death is untimely since it is predestined ‘and will come when it will come’? As a major cornerstone of the tragic enterprise, death signifies the end of all activities associated with any living thing. Death is final. Other aspects of tragedy may present alternative opportunities for correction and advancement, but death does not present such opportunities. Perhaps it is the fear of death and its permanent closure to existence that makes Elesin Oba in Soyinka’s Death and The King’s Horseman seek to be intertwined in an amorous relationship with a seventeen-year-old girl before his death.
All through human history, people have always feared death, even some soldiers do. Perhaps that is why Shakespeare expressed shock at such fears by remarking that “of all the wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear”. But we all fear death, except for some people who deliberately take their lives through suicide. I saw a video of a young man about to commit suicide. When he heard gunshots around him, he dropped his rope and ran away. Besides suicide, everybody who has developed a sense of danger no matter the age appreciates and loves life. The death of a friend, close relative, even enemy is painful. Yes, enemies because sometimes we wish that our enemies remain alive to see us blossom. So when such enemies die, we grief because God cannot prepare a table before us without the enemy spectators.
Suddenly, death has become rampant in Nigeria. Every day, one is assailed with news of one death or another, the death of a neighbour, relative, friend, colleague, and even far away acquaintances. What is responsible for the widespread death in our land? Why are people dying in large numbers? Since the beginning of this year, I have heard about fifty deaths around me. Intriguingly, most of the people who die are young, with an average age spread of 20-60 years. In the estate where I live, I can’t count how many people have died in recent times, all of them young men. In my village, I have received too much news about the death of young people. In the many Whatsapp groups I belong to, it is death, death, and more death. Given these situations, one is forced to ask, what is going on in Nigeria, why the many deaths?
Some people insist that the deaths are direct consequences of the dire economic situation in the country, which gradually and steadily is becoming endemic. The effect of the economic hardship in Nigeria is corrosive. It affects mostly young people without their knowing it. Many young people have increased their levels of professional and career engagements to make ends meet. Such people leave the house by 5 am and return by midnight every day, sometimes including Saturdays and Sundays. Many people spend long hours on the road held up in traffic gridlock. Such people look healthy and strong, but the wear and tear on the body continues to grow. Suddenly, a young person drops dead and it is attributed to heart failure, coronavirus, one spiritual attack, or another. The truth is, with the high cost of living in Nigeria which does not correspond with stagnant income, many families are going through the crucible. Many young men with families are immersed in stress. Indeed survival in Nigeria has become a feat where only the fit pulls through.
Recently, I have heard about deaths as a result of domestic violence where the wife killed the husband or the husband killed the wife. Blame it on anger and frustration or emotional wreckage caused by one thing or another. I have read different stories of how a wife murdered the husband through poisoning, drugging, or direct gunshot. The reasons range from infidelity, lack of love or simply to cover up a secret that the woman didn’t want the man to know. I have also heard about some wives killing their husbands just to inherit their property, become free, and play around with young boys. Such women, I understand, join an unofficial association known as Widows Association of Nigeria. Members lure young girls to kill their husbands and inherit their property, pronto, welcome to the world of freedom and enjoyment. It is simple to know a woman who killed her husband. The age-long one-year period of mourning is immediately jettisoned and she embraces everything the husband stood against. There is joy over the man’s head. Men beware.
Also, many men kill their wives for reasons ranging from infidelity, and mostly for money rituals. I know of a man who killed his wife because he found out that out of his three children, he only fathered one, the only daughter. Desperate men enter into a covenant with the devil in exchange for wealth and the exchange item is either the man’s mother or his wife. There must be something in women that breeds money. Many women have lost their lives in this way because their husbands, the man they loved and trusted with all their lives, donated them to the devil in exchange for lucre or power. In this way, the incidence of death continues to rise in our country. Also, many young people suddenly die these days because they engage in money rituals. Even though it is common knowledge that certain types of money rituals require an exchange with one’s lifespan, yet many young men don’t care. They want to become billionaires today and die in two years. So it is not uncommon to see a young man become a billionaire without any visible means of income and die mysteriously a few years later. Young girls are also not left out. They are mostly interested in men, to get them to part with large sums of money. In these girls’ bid for the good life, they have fallen victims to money rituals where men harvest their body parts for use.
In contemporary times, death hangs delicately in the heuristic realm where it is used loosely to indicate inactivity or permanent incapacitation. Besides the death of individuals, Nigerians are witnessing different kinds of death in the country. Before this time, we used to read and hear of infrastructural decay in our country, but now, we are talking in terms of infrastructural death. Except perhaps the railway system, most social infrastructure is dead in Nigeria, they don’t exist anymore. Many lives have been lost in Nigeria through road accidents caused by bad roads. The contracts for most of these roads have been given to contractors who didn’t as much as dig a hole on them. Those who have died on such roads are many, yet we look away as if it is normal. The number of Nigerians that have died in our hospitals due to lack of facilities and basic equipment to treat ailing citizens is mind-boggling. How many pregnant women have died in the last year in various hospitals across the country? Our hospitals are dead which is why government officials and even aspiring governors and presidential hopefuls prefer to travel abroad for medical tourism. Most of our presidential aspirants are dead inwardly, we are deceived by outward appearance but we know that most of these people are packaged disasters waiting to happen.
There is death everywhere. It appears Nigeria’s legislature is dead too. They have woefully failed to provide the necessary checks on the Executive by summarily becoming lackeys, acceding to all the shenanigans by the Executive. Since the Legislative arm is dead, the Electoral Bill has become a personal document of the Executive to be manipulated.
Nigeria’s public university system is dead, although we may not accept this reality immediately. The federal government has ensured that our public universities are resting and will continue to rest in peace. It confounds common sense why the federal government has failed to honour the agreement reached with ASUU in 2009. If the federal government does not intervene, ASUU will go on indefinite strike soon, driving a long nail into the coffin of the dead university system in Nigeria. The psychological trauma parents suffer watching their children spend many years studying a course of four or five years cannot be aggregated. Private universities are expensive. Those who cannot afford them are stuck with dead public universities in Nigeria.
The Holy Book warns that those who stand should take heed, lest they fall. For those of us who are alive or think we are, let us take heed and ensure we are truly alive. For those who hold all the aces to our social structures, the death of such social structures will inevitably haunt them. For those of us who are steeped and committed to ushering in a misfit as our next president, good luck to us all but just know that the eventual collapse of the country will haunt us forever. In any way we are responsible for one death or another, the death of that man, woman, child, marriage, company, institution, State, Ministry, or Commission, we must all realize that posterity is an implacable monster.
Promise Adiele PhD
Mountain Top University