Not speaking ill of the dead

Taking a holistic assessment of the life and times of the dead in this part of the world without attracting stones and cudgels is indeed almost impossible. One is regaled with tales on the inappropriateness of speaking ill of the dead should there be an attempt to take a brief peep into the dark chapter of the life of the dead.

You are expected to speak only speak in glowing terms about the dead, else you stand the risk of being pilloried by religious warriors and sanctimonious soldiers who would question your right to have an opinion and mercilessly drag you to the slaughter slab.

The scenario painted above highlights what happens when a public figure, particularly a political office holder, is harvested by the grim reaper. Apart from June 8, 1998 when Nigeria’s former head of state was suddenly humbled by death, sparking an assortment of celebrations in Nigeria’s major cities, there is hardly a time one can remember that the death of a public office holder yielded a spontaneous carnival across Nigeria.

But why would people roll out the drums on hearing the death of another human? Don’t speak ill of the dead, we are warned. However, nothing can be wrong in painting a man in his true colours. History defines Sani Abacha as a merciless looter whose regime spilled the blood of Nigerians who dared to challenge the dictator to install democracy. That’s the verdict of history. No revisionist can reverse it.

If there is any lesson on the transience of power and the invincibility of death, the life of the late maximum ruler presents a classic example. Nigeria has really never been in short supply of such lessons among men of power. Only recently, Nigeria mourned the death of former President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, who was regarded in some quarters as the most powerful appointee of the president.

But how well he used power has continued to spark debate among his admirers and traducers. Many, for example, were shocked to see a leaked memo from the National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno, warning service chiefs against taking directives from the late Chief of Staff. Monguno accused Kyari of giving directives to service chiefs without the knowledge and approval of the president, making it difficult for the government to contain insecurity.

But truth be told, his fierce loyalty to the president was never in doubt. Stories abound of his loyalty to his friends and how he was a fantastic family man. In a tribute by the Executive Secretary of the National Extractive Industries (NEITI), Mr Waziri Adio, he was described as a workhouse that approached his brief with “near missionary and patriotic zeal.” Adio further wrote: “Despite the constant demonisation of his person, I have not come across many in the public space in Nigeria that boast of the intensity, the passion, the meticulousness and the selflessness of Mallam Kyari.”

Adio and other friends of Kyari may be right about all the sugary things said about Kyari,but like every mortal, he had his foibles. While nothing can be wrong in paying glowing tributes to those we love, it cannot be out of place to play up a man’s weaknesses when he is no more, particularly as a public office holder. It is no hate, or something done out of malice. It is an important reminder to his successor that power is only transient and no one lives forever.

Like a wise man once quipped, you write your obituary when you are still alive. No matter how hard anyone tries to cover the failings or successes of a public office holder, they will always sprout like stubborn weed on an abandoned farmland. It explains why those who wield enormous power must tread with caution for our actions today become history tomorrow.

While we are admonished not to speak ill of the dead, it is our duty to remember and highlight the misdeeds of those who were once in the power loop to remind today’s leaders about the transience of public office and how kindly or otherwise history will judge them.

 Ladeadesope Ladelokun,






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