Birthdays, private and public
Birth and death are two eternities, two extreme eternities in man’s existence. I am not saying anything new. I am not saying anything significantly new. But it is pretty pleasurable for me to say to anyone who is at all capable of experiencing the pleasures of happiness and the torments of joylessness that man always enters the interjacent chambers of these two interesting opposites in creation. We know birth as we know death. When a baby is born we are happy. When a born baby dies we are sad. We know that a new born baby enters creation through the mother who had got one, two or three drops of liquid nine months or so earlier from the dropper of liquids, the baby’s father. All of us know this to be our veritable experience of birth or how we stepped into creation.
At the material time of our biological birth, we knew nothing of this. We only know what we know thereafter as grown-ups through the birth of a newly born baby through whom we mirror what and who we were at the state and stage of the baby who has just come. None of us ever remembers what and who we were at our baby or infant state and stage. Then, too, we did not know who and what we would become on this earth plane or how long we would live on it.
At death, we sense or feel the same eterne experience. Unlike birth, whose source, whose only source we know, death is an experience or state of many routes and sources. Many events, many sources, many routes can lead to our leaving this earth plane. Any sickness, any accident, any homicide or suicide or old age infirmities or death at sea or in the forest or through any beast can end our existence on this earth plane. We know and feel and hear and see nothing when we die. And we know not where we are truly heading to despite everything we know and learn from religion, philosophy and mysticism. Am I being negative? Not at all, I say. I am only trying to dwell at length on the eternities that are birth and death. On the day of death, there is no medicine. When the time arrives for us to leave this earth plane there is no remedy. When the time comes to do our final niddle-noddle we will all forget our eternity-rings.
Why am I on this subject today?
Yesterday, June 4th was my birthday. I am not announcing it because I want it to be known in the public space and domain, but because yesterday was a day I nid-nodded non-stop as I enjoyed my thoughts and thoughts on the matter of existence in this season of Corona the ugly Virus, and on the subject of birthdays and those who celebrate them privately and publicly.
My birthday was extremely quiet and private as I wanted it to be not necessarily because of Corona the terrible Virus. For the past fifteen years or so my birthday had always come to me outside our shores and across the Atlantic. I always mused and mused silently for a stretch of hours academically and spiritually until sun down when I would visit a restaurant in the company of one or two persons for a birthday cuisine and offering of libations to my royal ancestors – even in a foreign land, for their continued blessings and protection in the name of the Almighty God. I did as I usually did in foreign places yesterday in the company of my four able young friends, fellow lovers of tradition, like yours very sincerely. I would not have changed my birthday modus operandi even if I was a public figure!
Clearly, I would not have encouraged birthday banners in my honour if I was a serving public official or a political bulldozer or a person pretending to be fondly respected by those who would be expecting this or that favour from me sooner or later. Of course, I must acknowledge that some persons there are who are unquestionably loyal to several public birthday personages, but those whose Modus Vivendi are not devoid of personal and conflicting interests are very few indeed. Once the public birthday personages are out of their public posts for good the ‘loyal’ rememberers and followers of the illustrious birthday personages deplete themselves deplorably. They hardly thereafter remember the birthdays of their erstwhile masters and godfathers or godmothers. I am not censoring public celebrations of birthdays. What I find deplorable is the hypocrisy of many of those who profess to share the celebrants’ felicific occasions with them. Many of them, many of the organisers of the birthdays of their ‘superiors’, are condescendingly felicitous in their posted advertorials. There are so many examples to cite from recent posts, but why should I go too far to question human nature – Nigerian style?
And with respect to felicitations to several birthday celebrants from the central government, one cannot lose sight of the purely political considerations of such felicitations. I have not read of any birthday message from the central government to any public birthday personage that is devoid of any political or nepotistic colouring. The image-makers of the central government, particularly of the presidency, thus give us enough reasons to question their motives which are rooted in psychological and political phenomena of presidential power. Perhaps I should illustrate my point by asking this question: How many Nigerian writers, genuine patriots, who have contributed highly and immensely through their writings, to the progress and development of our country, have been sent birthday wishes by the central government? And how many Nigerian intellectuals have been remembered on their birthdays by our presidency? Even if they are anti-establishment activists, they deserve our president’s pats on their birthdays because they are true patriots who want the best for our country.
Let me return to my private birthday reflections a little bit. My birthday reminds me of my mortality. Every birthday leads one to one’s grave. And I always remember that no one should count himself or herself lucky until his or her death day. So which one is more significant to us on this earth plane? Who can better appreciate and answer this question? My boyhood friend, Kofi Brown, an original Sapele-born and brought-up laughed off my concern last week Tuesday, May 26 on the occasion of his less than moderately celebrated quiet birthday. I was not at the event for obvious reasons. How would I beat the current cruel lockdown of severe casualties from my Lekki, Lagos base to Sapele, for instance? My great friend and the less than a moderate number of persons who were his pepper-soup-and-fresh-fish guests belong to the tribe of persons who want to suck life to the brim of very satisfactory satisfaction before leaving this world behind. Kofi Brown of Oguanja, a hot Sapele suburb in the days that were days, merely told me to wish him a happy birthday. He followed the request with a text message thus: “I never knew I will be able to measure up with my contemporaries in life.” I phoned him to give him my congratulations – after telling him that I appreciated his position as a member of the elite of the comfortably rich in the Niger Delta. “Philosopher”, don’t waste your strength on the ideas of life, and on the headaches of our country.” “Why?” He was silent for a while before speaking further: “Your splendid ideas can’t change our country. How then can they clean the world? Happy Thursday, June 4th in advance. Bye for now.”
My four guests yesterday did not share Kofi Brown’s sentiment. Men of superior ability always see something to be done in the endeavour to tidy up the dirty notion of public life and of human nature. They cannot and will never give up their dreams and hopes.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.