By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoa – What could have made a young man in his prime to organise his own wake when he is still alive and kicking. Could he be a member of an unknown cult and is only doing the bidding of the group?
These and many others were the questions that agitated the minds of many who witnessed the bizarre event of last week when the man at the centre of the storm organised and supervised his own funeral rite to the bewilderment of all.
This was the confusing situation the people of the Otuasega community in the Ogbia local government area of Bayelsa State found themselves when one of their own, Daniel Banono, a 29-year-old school leaver printed his own obituary posters announcing his demise and wake keep.
Many had initially dismissed his action as the outcome of an unserious mind when the obituary posters were circulated. But they were taken aback when the young man went a step further to hire and erect canopies and musical instruments for the D- day, his own wake keep celebration which lasted four days.
But the celebrant fondly called â€˜â€˜Biabiaâ€™â€™ by the community folks had his own reason for embarking on what could best be described as this odd but true story of â€œcelebrating his death aliveâ€.Â The action of the young Banono was said to have caused a stir in this sleepy Ogbia settlement with the enlightened natives, especially the elderly staying away from the ceremony largely viewed as strange.
It all started as one of the many of jokes in Yenagoa where rumour mongering is a thriving business when this reporter received a phone call of the bizarre event from a long time acquaintance who incidentally is a Roman Catholic priest from the area.
The Reverend Father (name withheld) had said: â€œSam I have a story that might interest you. Have you ever heard of a situation where a man organised his own wake-keep even when he is alive. Well if you havenâ€™t heard then this one happening here at Otuasega will make news to you, or what do think?â€ Confused I asked: â€œFather, are you really serious? What if I drive down to Otuasega and it turned to be a joke?â€
But he insisted that I should come and that I would be amazed like himself who also stumbled on the weird development as he was passing through the community. Now convinced he was serious, this reporter who was going to Opolo in company with a colleague from the News Agency of Nigeria made a detour and headed straight to Otuasega in the outskirt of Yenagoa, the state capital.
On speeding through the narrow tarred, bumpy road leading to the community we made enquiries and a lady volunteered to take us to the place. However some distance to a place where some canopies were erected and filled with people, our guide asked to be dropped, saying we could now find our way to the venue.
It was not difficult for us to locate the venue as we were greeted by the noise of music and an army of youths observing the wake keep with the supposed â€˜â€˜dead manâ€™â€™ whose obituary posters were pasted on the canopies.
Music was blaring out from giant loud speakers mounted at the venue with bottles of local gin, popularly called Ogogoro, being passed round to those present.
The celebrant who identified himself as Daniel Banono later told Vanguard Metro why he chose to hold his own funeral party even when he is alive. The twenty nine year old school leaver declared that his supposed obituary party was a symbolic protest against the hardship faced by majority of the youths from poor background.
He noted with sadness that â€œit is only when a man drops dead that relations come out to waste their money on the frivolities of organising a burial instead of providing assistance when the person needed their help.
â€œI decided to organise my wake-keep while alive. When you are alive nobody wants to help you but when you die relations and others will come and donate for burial,â€ he said.
Banono who said he is not bothered if his action could cost him his life for doing what may be considered a taboo declared: â€œI donâ€™â€™t care if I die. The message is clear we should help ourselves when we are alive. Nobody has done this kind of thing in Bayelsa State beforeâ€.
A top government official from the area who spoke anonymously told Vanguard Metro that he had to run away from the wake-keep ground when the celebrant approached him for a handshake.
He described the action of the celebrant as bizarre saying: â€œMy brother, I had to tactically disappear from the area when I noticed what was going on. The whole thing is strange. So the best I did was to avoid the area when the celebrant wanted to shake hands with meâ€.