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Harvest of deaths in the land

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Balarabe Musa

Death has stalked the land, raiding villages and towns, and stumping cities to add to its already disturbing haul. We are befuddled and left aghast by the development. Before an obituary could be crafted for one, many more people have fallen victims. Mr. COVID-19 is prowling in the dark and in broad daylight. Terrorists stump the farms, bandits are roaming in the forests and kidnappers lurk by the highways, all agents of death. In the past, when life was more predictable and deaths far between, obituary and immemoriam columns could be fascinating as well as sobering. They were bus stops in the journey of life where one could invite himself into deep contemplation: Where am I? Where does my path lead me after this life? What is death? In some cases, the thought of death and questioning could race through the mind momentarily.

While one talks about obituary, one can’t but remember the past. Then, the obituary and immemoriam columns were sections in newspapers that were avidly read—as Sad Sam once put it, you never know when you could stumble on your own obituary! There is paucity of the obituary pages today—obviously for a number of reasons among which must be economic pangs that have hit the country and enthusiasm dampener the pandemic lockdown has constituted. But I want to believe that where the columns appear they are still keenly read. They are columns which express profound grief, the pains of a definitive parting and in case of a man or woman who passed away in a ripe old age, deep love. Hardly does one read of a celebration upon the exit of a man. It is even a rarer spectacle when the scum and the depraved dies, a character you would hold at an arm’s length, and a character with whom you would dine with a long spoon, for his notoriety and menace.

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The announcement of a departed is often preceded by A and B “regretfully announce the death of their husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and father-in-law which sad event occurred on so, so date.” Another could read “with a heavy heart and deepest sorrow…” Another could yet say “with deep sense of loss…” These are cases of deaths involving men in their prime, men whose lives were promising, or men who were simply breadwinners. For those who have crossed the proverbial 70-year threshold before their departure are reserved with the following words: “With gratitude for a life well spent…” To give clear and concise expression to their thoughts, some summon the scriptures to their aid: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.” Overflowing love is exhibited in immemoriam: “25 years in mind: Today and always”; “In most cherished and affectionate memory of our dearly beloved…” “In evergreen and affectionate memory…” etc.

In the writing of epitaphs, all prose and verse skills are brought to play. In an age love letters are forlorn, and there is a dearth of poets; in an age the few poets there are preoccupying themselves with power struggle and the economy, not any longer with stars, not about woods, about rivers, waterfalls, mountains—the summit or the slopes; not about flowers with rosette hue; nor the moon on Christmas Day. Epitaphs have come as substitutes which remind us of love and beauty in nature. And thank goodness, there aren’t today in the papers expressions of unforgiveness, rebellion, and vengeance: “The enemies have done their worst.” “O death, where is thy sting!” I am informed that so precious are obituary notices that they form part of the will and an attorney is duly notified to keep an eye on the portion and ensure it is promptly published and should include such clauses as “which sad event took place in London after a brief illness.” Dying in London or Germany is a big deal.

What is death? This is a question which has perplexed mankind for millennia. It has sent cold shivers down the spine of a great many for what is regarded as its suddenness and finality. A man does not have to be manifestly ill to be called away, to be seen no more. Doctors are later to say the man has died of cardiac arrest. Nothing yet known to man has thrown him into such helplessness and resignation as death has. Scientists are not giving up. They are seeing what they call the Death of Death. Reports say Jose Luis Cordeiro, Spanish, and David Wood, Cambridge mathematician assert that immortality is a scientific possibility. They tell the world that death will be optional in 2045. In their research, they see the possibility of one postponing his death and literally ask it to come back at his pleasure. Human beings will only die in accidents not of natural causes or illness any more.

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In recent times, the following have departed life on earth: Jerry Rawlings, former President of Ghana; Alhaji Balarabe Musa, first civilian governor of Kaduna State; Dr. Duro Soleye, proprietor of Duro Soleye Hospital at Ikeja, and one-time Commissioner for Health in Kwara State; Oba Israel Adeusi, the Olufon of Ifon, a first class Oba; and Arthur Nwankwo and Mrs. Tola Olubunmi Oyediran (Nee Awolowo). Four prominent journalists also died. They are Celebrated Columnist and editor, Gbolabo Ogunsanwo; Mr. Bisi Lawrence, a veteran journalist and columnist, Soni Ehi Asuelimen, a former correspondent of The Guardian and later member, editorial board of Compass newspaper and Prof. Dayo Alao , one time editor of Times International, who later migrated to academics, becoming deputy Vice-Chancellor, Babcock University, Ilisan. He had just completed his tenure as Vice-Chancellor, Adeleke University, Ede, in Osun State. Harry Akande, one-former presidential hopeful, has just passed away. Abiola Ajimobi, former governor of Oyo State, also left. So did Kashamu, businessman and politician.

It is not only into the ranks of prominent men and women, the nobility and the powerful that death threw its punches. Plebeians, too, die. In stormy weather, ripe and unripe fruits fall. Such is the situation in terrorism, war ravaged parts of North-East zone and banditry invested parts of North-West zone. Amnesty International in its report for 2019 says Boko Haram terrorists launched 31 attacks in which 378 civilians were killed. The worst of the attacks was carried out in Rann in January, killing no fewer than 60 persons and displacing more than 9,000. At least 30 people died in July when suicide bombers attacked a football viewing centre in Mandarari.

Children die; the unborn sometimes dies in its mother’s womb. It has been known that a child could die a few moments after its birth. Some children born in the morning have been known to have died in the evening. No parliament or emperor has successfully legislated against death, to banish it from his territory. Myths have been woven around death. In the process its obscurity has been increased. Death, however, is unmoved by human opinions or attitude to it. It strikes a great deal of terror in the hearts of a majority of mankind, and that is putting it mildly and the population of mankind conservatively. It is such that many avoid funeral processions and cemeteries and not a few wear dark glasses. Many suppress any thought of death, unable to bear the fact of its inevitability which stares all of us in the face day after day and second after second. The grief is aggravated when the closeness of relationship between the departed and the bereaved is awakened in memory, how his companionship and valued advice will be missed, or when the reality of final separation dawns on relations. The primary consideration is hardly for concern of where the departed heads for but in most cases the material well-being of the bereaved. Does the departed head for the dark region (hell) or the light spheres?

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A person is said to have died when he is motionless and speechless brought about by the absence of his animating core. His relations can no longer hear him or get him to see them as they are accustomed. He can no longer participate in their activities and his body cannot move of its own. He can no longer protect himself nor can he be seen to inflict harm on others. The causes of death are well known from illness to being murdered. Death will cease to be a riddle only when man has the right knowledge of who he is. Except in cases of murder or accidents, death occurs when there is disequilibrium in the exchange of radiations between the body and the soul. When the radiation connection drops to zero or to near zero, the soul walks out of the body. The radiation connection diminishes with age or from illness or dross overlaying the soul from shortcomings and wrongdoing overlaying the soul and hindering its performance. We human beings have no excuse whatsoever to live in ignorance any longer, not with the blessing of the existence and the Light of new and higher knowledge spreading on earth in the present time.

Man is more than flesh and blood. We have come to the recognition of this in our sayings. When a person passes away, when his remains will be buried is announced. It is clear from the expression that it is what remains of him that will be buried. The other part will not be buried because it is not dead even though it is invisible to the physical eyes. Hit by pangs of pain and sensing or convinced that the departed is not dead, relations have been heard to ask: “Why do you do this to us? See your children. You did not give us notice. The word “departed” itself connotes that someone other than the remains has left their midst. In traditional societies, the departed is said to have been summoned to give enlightenment on a disputed property. There is the prayerful wish that he may “sleep in perfect peace.” Kings are admonished on what not to eat in the beyond. Some kings in certain cultures had had wives and servants buried with them so they could continue to minister onto their masters in the beyond.

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The remains are the cold physical body. Who the man is, is what a majority mankind has not gained clarity about. Is he a soul or is he a spirit? Before the question is answered, after we establish, even if only partially that the body is not the same as the departed, one is visible to the physical eyes and the other invisible, it will be helpful to establish that there is pre-existence before birth on earth. If it were no so, how come that we speak of a “sent leader.” A good leader with an unusual vision, with uncommon standards is often said to have been sent by the Almighty Creator. From where was he was sent? In the rural communities, an expectant mother is sometimes told by clairvoyants who the child she is carrying is, that he will bring peace, prosperity and joy to his people. Here is a child who is unknown to its mother and prospective father. From where did it get its testimonial from that the seer has read to its parents? In the days of old, there were promises of prophets and some other unique leaders who were coming, to be born among mankind. Where were they coming from and who was sending them? Examples abound of cases properly recorded, which incontrovertibly, if considered deeply and objectively, prove pre-existence. We can talk about John the Baptist of whom it was written: “There was a man sent by God whose name was John.” Since the Creator does not live in this world, it follows that John must have been sent from a sphere other than this earth. The same case can be made for Elijah and for Jeremiah who was reported to have said, while narrating his appointment as a prophet: “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed thee in the womb I knew thee; before you were born I consecrated thee and appointed thee a prophet to the nations.” And, of course, about the Lord Himself it was prophesied that He would come to save His people from sins. He Himself spoke of the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter; the Son of man Whom He would send at this time, the Age of the Holy Spirit to remind mankind of what he had taught them and lead them to further Truth, who would complete His Work cut short by the political and priestly establishment of the time. And of the great prophet of the Most High, Mohammed, it was written: “Verily we have sent to you a Messenger who is a witness over you.”

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Two points have been made which should shed light on the subject at hand—death. These are that there is pre-existence and there is life after the so-called death; that is there is life after life since man does not die. What is regarded as death is the passing of a man from one plane of existence to the other. He merely discards the body at the time of the passing on. The body, it can now be seen, is a dress, a cloak, but a vital one at that. This can be likened to a man who is travelling down to Nigeria from the Artic Region. He will have to remove his overcoat because he will not need it in Sokoto. He may even have to remove his vest and coat on reaching Yola and he will still be regarded as properly dressed. However, when he is returning to the cold region, he will put these dresses back on his body to meet the demands of the weather in his native land. Man is a traveller whose native home is Spiritual Realm more universally referred to as Paradise. The irony for us human beings is that we all want and pray to go Paradise, but terrified of the thought of death, yet the road there is through the beyond. Indeed, death is the gateway thereto—to Paradise!

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