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Golden casket: Gani and Michael

By Clarius Ugwuoha
THE piece captioned as above, by Yushau A. Shuaibu, in the Economic Confidential of October 2009, was no doubt very riveting.

The juxtaposition of Gani’s obsequies with that of Wacko Jacko’s was somehow amusing, if not temptingly cathartic. That Gani’s interment strongly contradicted his world-views while alive was incontrovertible.

He was an apostle of zero economic wastage, democracy and good-governance, and championed the cause of the masses. But Michael Jackson does not deserve to be compared with someone like Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi.

On the scale of the masses, Jackson did not impact on the lives of the underprivileged nearly as markedly as did Fawehinmi. This is all the more reason why the choice of ‘red-ribbon’ casket for Fawehinmi’s burial, only a few months after Jackson’s in the same ostentatious device, more than raised eyebrows.

It cannot be verified, for obvious reasons, if the manner of Gani’s burial, was the very instruction of the late legal luminary.  What we could see, however, was that the family did not wish to bury Gani secretively, to entomb his atypical achievements surreptitiously in a white shawl.

That even the government, purportedly blacklisted by the late icon, as vouched by his immediate family, were given free rein to participate in, sponsor and actively steer his burial, was unbecoming. There can’t be more immediate issues in a person’s burial than their will, if proven.

I am not a puritan. Even as a Christian, however, I have always taken exceptions to expensive burial rites, preferring the Islamic way of letting the dead bury their own dead.

I was truly overawed, when, in 1998, the late Gen. Abacha, a tin god only a few hours earlier, was, upon demise, bundled in a white shawl into the luggage wing of an aircraft bound for Kano and interred almost immediately on arrival.

Even though his rein scandalised the nation, but he had enough followership to grant him the costliest burial, was that the dictate.

Bootlickers, contractors, attention seekers, and outright clowns, would have taken strategic positions eager to share in the burial limelight and blitz. I do not believe that bodies have to be embalmed and refrigerated for months, and in some insane cases, years, just to afford the deceased a befitting burial. I respect the Muslims for that uncommon wisdom of immediate burial.

It is pure vanity to inter someone with a gold casket, where we are well aware of the fate of such treasure chest, soon to be delimited by maggots and worms. It is really doubtful that Gani would have liked, if he had a choice, to be paraded in that device of ostentation, surrounded by the indigent and the oppressed, for whom he devoted his entire assiduous and eventful life.

Whatever it was, the event is over and Gani buried in a blaze of pageantry, befitting only a former head of Government, which he was. If we can forget the anomalies and incongruities of his burial, we will have more space to savour the glorious achievements of that worthy son of ours.

And Comrade Governor, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, has, in his capacity as an individual, thrown the floor open by endorsing a Foundation for Democracy, Justice and Good Governance in Gani’s name.

Why not, we will welcome it if the Ondo State and Federal governments would, in their respective contributions, endorse care trusts for the underprivileged in Gani’s name, reform the system to eliminate corruption, truly democratise and enthrone egalitarian leadership.

We will be satisfied, if the ensuing years prove that Gani had not lived and died in vain, that his spirit had continued to fight on in the grave through, of course, the effort of the living in his name! Gani was quoted as saying that he would fight on from the great beyond.

If this were so, it is a cryptic remark we would need to interpret realistically. Gani was passing to us the liability of sustained challenge of an irresponsible system until it becomes responsible, to care for the underprivileged among us rather than hoard wealth and titles to the detriment of fellow Nigerians, to fight despots to a stand still and make Aso Rock inconducive for such.

Gani was enjoining us to be brave like he was, to risk jail-terms and our precious lives for the cause.

How prepared are we to take up the Gani challenge?  The question looms over us like a colossus.

Mr. Ugwuoha, a social commentator, writes from Egbema, Bayelsa State.


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