14th May, 2014
By Tayo Ogunbiyi
Death is the last crowning glory of every man’s sojourn on earth. The fool will die. The wise will die. The rich will die and the poor will also not escape the cold grip of death. The deadly thing about death is that it will come when it will come. Some die at birth. Some die in their prime. Some die in their old age. Some die in their sleep while others die bathing. Some die in five star hospitals while others die in miserable dispensaries. Some die unsung while others are celebrated even in death. Some die plotting against death while some are trapped in the cobweb of death for some inexplicable reasons. That is death for you! It (he?) is so ruthless that it gives no room for negotiation between itself and its victims. Except for, perhaps, King Hezekiah in the Holy Bible, whom God gave the luxury of re-negotiating his exit date, death daily moves rounds the world, with so much pride and arrogance, to pluck from among men whom it wants.
Death meets man everywhere. It is procured by every instrument, and in all chances, and enters through many doors. To some, death comes by violence and secret influence while to others it comes by the aspect of a star and the scent of a mist, by the emissions of a cloud and the meeting of a vapour, by the fall of a chariot and the stumbling at a stone. Others encounter death through a full meal or an empty stomach, by watching at the wine or by watching at prayers, by the sun or the moon, by a heat or a cold, by sleepless nights or sleeping days. Others are gotten by death through water frozen into the hardness and sharpness of a dagger, or water thawed into the floods of a river, by a hair or a raisin, by violent motion or sitting still.
There is some truth to the old saying that there are only two days in a man’s life of which he could actually determine or do nothing about: the day a man is born and the day a man passes on. Everyone experiences death. Death and dying are an inevitable part of human existence. Some people know ahead of time when their death will occur. For instance, terminal illnesses, when diagnosed ahead of time, allows its victim to set his or her affairs in order, make relationships right, and say goodbye to loved ones. In this case, every person involved has a chance to gradually adjust and make peace with death, as much as possible. However, not everyone has this chance as many deaths occur suddenly, like the case of Amaka Igwe, Nigerian film maker, Nolywood icon, entrepreneur, prolific producer who recently died in the unripe age of 51 having given so much to the world. A visionary and pioneer of modern Nigerian TV drama and film, she hit national limelight as the writer and producer of award-winning TV soap ‘Checkmate’ and its off shoot ‘Fuji House of Commotion’. Her Nollywood projects include ‘Rattle Snake’ and ‘Violated’ – two critically-acclaimed movies that set apart Amaka Igwe Studios in the much-criticized Nollywood industry.
Like it did to Amaka Igwe, the cold hands of death equally caught up with a former Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, albeit at the prime age of 96. The late Justice Oputa, one of the few judges with incorruptible reputation in the country, was appointed to head a panel constituted to investigate rights abuses during military rule between 1976 and 1999 when President Olusegun Obasanjo took office as elected president on 29 May, 1999. His death has since been described by legal practitioners and Nigerians across board as a monumental loss not only to the legal profession but to the country at large. Fondly referred to as ‘Socrates of the Supreme Court’ , the late Justice Oputa was a gifted orator and prolific writer with over 40 publications in papers, lectures, conferences and seminars. A renowned jurist, cast in the style of Lord Denning, Justice Oputa’s death is, without doubt, a huge loss first to his family, the legal profession and, indeed, the country at large.
Like Amaka Igwe and Justice Oputa, former governor of Lagos State, Sir Michael Otedola, was equally not spared the cold treatment of death. Sir Otedola became a victim of the menacing hands of death at the age of 88, having served God and humanity in various capacities and fields. A great entrepreneur and uncommon philanthropist, Sir Otedola touched and transformed several lives through his many business enterprises and philanthropic activities. He was an unusual politician who abhorred violence and deception of any kind. He was such a peaceful man that many have wondered why he plunged into the murky waters of Nigerian politics. As the Governor of Lagos State, his achievements remain indelible. Indeed, the centre for excellence that Lagos proudly proclaims today was his choice when he was invited among other governors to choose a sobriquet for Lagos. It is also on record that his administration facilitated establishing the Yaba College of Technology campus in Epe, his hometown. An accomplished technocrat, upon leaving office, Otedola continued his career as a writer, a consultant while also holding positions on the boards of several companies.
While praying for the repose of the souls of these eminent and illustrious Nigerians, it is would be amazing if all of us could draw vital lessons from their commitment to humanity, selfless services to their fatherland and other such traits that made their sojourn on earth such a memorable one. There is no better time than now for Nigerians to draw inspiration from these departed compatriots in order to build a better, peaceful and united country.
•Ogunbiyi wrote from Alausa, Ikeja