A disturbing consequence of the rapid disappearance of the much cherished and hitherto entrenched African culture and sense of communalism and neighbourliness manifested recently in Adeosun/Idi Orogbo community in Ido Local Government Area of Ibadan, Oyo State. This was signposted by the reported discovery of the skeleton of a landlord, Aderemi Abiola, in his room, four years after he was reportedly last seen by his family and neighbours. It was when the compound of the deceased was overgrown with weeds which had begun to constitute a menace in the area that the landlords association reportedly obtained police permit to clear the bush, and in the process they stumbled on the skeletal remains of Abiola in his room. The account of this incident leaves a sour taste in the mouth as it points in the direction of a significant disintegration of the values of neighbourliness and family in the society.
The factor of western influence which tends to promote individualism as opposed to communal life would appear to be taking its toll on the spirit of neighbourliness and communal living amongst many Nigerians. Another factor that has a pernicious effect on the sense of community and family in the country is the lingering parlous state of the domestic economy which breeds misery/ lack which causes many families to become dysfunctional and limits interactions amongst neighbours and households. It is rather curious and disheartening that the seeming disappearance of the deceased for four years could not put his family, neighbours and friends on enquiry. Truth be told, both the incident and, more importantly, the circumstances of its occurrence diminish humanity very significantly.
Quite a few issues around this gory incident still beggar belief. How and why was a dead body hidden and undiscovered for so long in his house within a developed neighbourhood? The man was said to have been a recluse but even at that, is it not striking that no neighbour knew of his passing for four years? According to the police, it was his son who read the story online and contacted the family. Is it not curious and astonishing that his family and relations did not see this man for four years? Did they bother to know his whereabouts? Did they do enough to know his well-being? How could a neighbour be dead for the past four years without anybody venturing to look for or check on him at any time during all those days? The police should endeavour to unravel the mystery.
The burgeoning lack of community interaction and existence in the country as epitomised by the discovery of the death of Aderemi Abiola four years after the incident occurred is really appalling and disturbing. It is evident, and sadly so, that many Nigerians no longer want to be their brother’s keeper. And not a few, especially in the city, are shirking their responsibility of good neighbourliness under the guise of respecting the privacy of others. The increasing tendency for people to be asocial, partly because of the burden of issues of life, deserves attention and intervention at societal and governmental levels.
The African society used to value neighbourliness and family arrangement and under such setting, it would have been unthinkable and impossible for a person to be dead in his/her home without others getting to know about it for days, not to talk of years. In the same vein, the African setting does not permit reclusive living where one would not want to interact with others as the result would/could be this kind of unknown and unknowable death.
It is, therefore, imperative that the society returns to valuing community living and family arrangements as these make for more purposive and purposeful interactions and shared responsibilities among people. It is also important for individuals to keep healthy interest in other people around them and/or in families in order to ensure that life continues to be lived and valued as collective and communal, rather than as individualistic.