The Parable of the Mourners, By Pius Adesanmi
Mourning a loss in the family in Nigeria is an interesting sociological proposition which cuts across divides of tribe, tongue, and faith.
Baba has gone to be with his maker. Baba was 90. He lived well and made his mark on society. He is survived by mama, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The extended family is really extended even by African standards. Baba was loved and admired far and wide. There will be many committees and subcommittees to plan Baba’s grand exit. There will be groups and subgroups staking a legitimate claim to the “ownership” of the corpse.
But all these groups, subgroups, and counter-groups can be divided into two grand categories. Those with very deep pockets, with means, with resources, with strategic aptitude on the one hand, and those who have nothing but very loud voices on the other hand. They will be able to contribute nothing to the funeral but noise.
Baba’s living room is always the situation room in such scenarios. As you, sympathiser, approaches the family home, you will be able to hear noise and wailing within a one-kilometre radius. Once the house is in sight, you will see a huge crowd of wailers outside. Many of them will be rolling on the ground, screaming and wailing and cursing. They will be threatening to go with Baba. They will be cursing Baba’s enemies and those who did this. They will curse and curse and curse. All efforts to restrain them will avail to nothing:
“Ha, the enemies have done their worst!”
“May those who did this never find peace in their lives”
“May those who did this never find joy in their lives”
“May those who did this never find fulfilment in their lives”
“From generation to generation they will know only sorrow”
“Ha Baba is gone? Somebody please tell me that it is not true”
“We will not take this lying low. A o ni gba! A ma ro oku yen ni. We must invoke Baba’s spirit not to sleep. We must ask Baba’s spirit to roam this land and hunt down the evil doers”
“We will not accept this.”
More screaming, more wailing, more gnashing of teeth, more rolling uncontrollably on the ground. Somehow, you get past this crowd of penniless wailers and get to Baba’s living room. There you encounter the people with means, with deep pockets, with resources, and strategic acumen.
You can barely hear a sound. Conversation is in hushed, polished, tones. Barely audible but refined whispers. Occasionally, eyes get misty but are dabbed with sophisticated handkerchiefs before the tears flow. They are planning the funeral and life after the funeral. They are planning strategically for the shape of Baba’s family after his funeral.
“Guys are you sure that 50 million naira is an adequate budget for this funeral? Sunny Ade must perform o. And we must also tuck in Banky W somewhere for the youth because Baba appealed to all generations. Let’s make it 70 million. I’ll take care of the additional 20 million naira”
“Great observation. I was also going to say that 20 cows will not be enough. I will provide an additional 20 cows”
“Where is the casket coming from? Britain? US? Canada? South Africa? Name the country, I’ll import it. Do we want gold or glass casket? Em… where is this boy, please tell Uncle Mukaila and Iya Onidiri outside to keep their voices down so we can plan inside here. All the wailing outside is starting to give me a headache.”
On and on they plan, this category of insider, unseen and unheard mourners. I repeat: you will not see or hear them. Only the wailers with nothing to offer will remain outside screaming and cursing without restraint. On and on and on: screamfest, cursefest, and hatefest by those outside.
At the funeral, many of the wailers will insist that they want to be thrown into Baba’s grave. They will scream and scream by the grave side, disturbing proceedings. The planners will be there in solemn postures, dabbing sweat from their own foreheads with white handkerchiefs. No drama.
After Baba is planted in the earth, the planners will move on to their destinations in the city, still completely unseen and unheard in public, and plan to keep in touch to keep working on strategies to keep Baba’s family together and sustain his legacy.
The wailers who have contributed nothing to anything? They will return to Baba’s house, eat some amala, and remain outside rolling in the mud, wailing, screaming, cursing:
“May those who did this to Baba never find peace!!!”
“May those who did this to Baba never find joy!!!”
“Haaaaaaa eni rere lo!” A good person is gone!”
“A ni ke fi mi sile ki n ko si kanga yi se! Please leave me alone! Let me jump into the well!!”
On March 28, 2015, a family suffered a metaphorical loss (not a death)…
There are quiet, fruitful and productive conversations going on with one of the two categories from the mourning family…
The other category, with nothing but noise and hot air to offer, are all over social media hating and cursing Buhari and his supporters…
We pity them.