By Sunday Olugbenga Abire

I am forced to write about the beauty of death today. As long as a child has life, that same minute, the child is old enough to die. Who doesn’t know that a thin line exists between life and death? This is one notorious mystery about death. To grow to puberty, is grace. The Yorubas who believe in predestination – ‘akunlẹyan’ – had long consoled themselves that man had by himself chosen his path while journeying from heaven. What you chose is what you manifest in the world. So, no deity is accused for whatever woe or bliss that accompanied one’s destiny.

Death is like a vacuum cleaner. It obliterates man’s frailties and weaknesses. In death, enemies lower their angst. The dead is free to kiss the dust in peace. End of competition! By death, man attains a deiform pinnacle. In fact, in some cultures, a dead child becomes an ancestor to his earthly father. Anyone who stubbornly assumes that the dead is ordinary may be tortured by the spirits. No culture captures it better than the Yorubas – ‘Ẹni fi ojú àná wo òkú, ẹbọra má bọ̀ wọn láṣọ.’

I have battled what longevity should look like. The concept of good old age remains as controversial as what constitutes beauty. Since my elementary days as a diligent Sunday School student at The Apostolic Church, the Bible had taught me differently what good old age should be. The biblical Adam lived for 930 years as the Bible still considered Abraham’s paltry 175 years as good old age. The shocker of all is the logic in David’s 70 years of existence, yet, the Bible considered it as good old age, even when he couldn’t come close to what his forebears had. What then is good old age? When should death really come to man?

Nobody wishes to die truly. I remember my late grandmother, even as a centenarian, fearfully told me how someone was pursuing her in her dream. I jocularly advised her to surrender to that person without delay. However, it took me time to detach myself from David’s 70 years benchmark that most Christians have agreed to. I didn’t even understand how God, who allowed Adam and other patriarchs spend more years would suddenly reduce it to just ordinary 70. I have grown to know that the truest claim to immortality is etched and earned in good or bad deeds. This is because nobody remembers an average man. As we remember Obafemi Awolowo, we are tempted never to forget Sani Abacha. It is what it is.

While David lived for mere 70 years, when compared to the years of his forebears, it took three biographers to document his eventful life. Like David, Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, popularly known as Aketi, is tall in death today. He remains an enigma. Whether in career, politics, pursuit of religious harmony or other things that make life beautiful, Aketi came, saw and conquered.

At 67, he did finish his race and left the stage when the ovation was loudest. He accomplished his tasks, the ones set for him by his destiny and the ones he set for himself. How else could a man had lived?

It will be wicked to diminish Aketi’s beautiful transition on the altar of cheap politics. It is the greatest dishonour to reduce Aketi in death in order to be politically correct. It is satanic for the Ondo Political undertakers to continue to find faults.

Unfortunately, those who are making serious political capital from the demise of a man they faintly love are the real killers, not cancer. This is because their attitudes run against all known virtues of Aketi. The worst of death is the obliteration of one’s legacies. Aketi stood for fairness. He was frontal. He was blunt. He was courageous.

The mischievous undertakers, whose duty is to ensure headcount of mourners, should fear God for once. Like the Pharisees of old, who condemned Jesus Christ for healing the people on the Sabbath, the Ondo undertakers pretentiously cry and fall on the ground to mourn Aketi in the open, but they are exposed by their penchant for vanities at night. Of what benefit is the cry of pretentious undertakers, who go back to steal the treasures of the deceased? Their real loss is in their inability to steal more. It’s never in the love of the man they wear sackcloth to mourn his demise.

There are salient lessons in death. ‘Mafikuyomi’ – Do not mock me with death – comes to us as both a name and a warning. There is no special providence in the fall of a sparrow. We will all taste the delicacy of death. Nobody will live on earth forever. What matters is how we have lived to accomplish our tasks before exiting the world. What should preoccupy our minds will be to leave enduring legacies behind when we breathe our last breath. Nothing more. The continued vilification of the innocent man who has been raised by God should not be part of the Ondo undertakers’ strategy. It is purely a disservice to the man Aketi, who has completed his mission in grand style.

•Abire is Special Assistant on New Media to the governor of Ondo State, Lucky Ayedatiwa. 


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