Viewpoint

June 21, 2024

Death, Iku

Death, Iku

BY TOLA ADENIYI

I WROTE ‘Visit the Mortuary’ as Tola Adeniyi in my Sunday Times column [1974] and ‘Death I salute You!’ as Aba Saheed in my Daily Times Aba Saheed column in [1975]. The two articles were primarily written on the theme of Vanity, that terrible affliction which is central, nay, dominant in the pursuit of most human beings.

“Visit the Mortuary” was an invitation to human nakedness in real term and time. The mortuary is a game changer. No sane man would visit the mortuary and see the parade of all sorts of men and women, boys and girls, dashing young men and charming young ladies all exposed in their stark nakedness and remain the same again. The sight humbles you beyond imagination. In fact, nothing is left to or for imagination. This is you!

“Death I salute You!” was simply an expression of gratitude to Death for being there at all times to put an end, at least physical, to all the arrogance of men and women who play God. However powerful, however tyrannical, however whatever you think you are, Death is a constant reminder to you that you are a mere gas!

Vanity, which in some cases tends to consume both body and soul of some individuals, begins to fade or rather , expected to  diminish as one advances in age, say from age 60 upwards. At the age when you realise that most of the children you had invested all you had upon hardly find time to visit you or even call you on the phone, talk less of sending you presents, the age when your choice cars are gathering dust in the garage because of lack of use, the age when you could hardly climb the stairs to your bedroom and your water-bed and golden Jacuzzi are waiting to be resurrected by your successors, one comes to terms with the stupidity and thoughtlessness of vanity. One does not need the Bible, Quran, the Holy Creed of Mareism or any other religious literature to ram it into one’s skull.

Death, known to the Yoruba speaking race, as Iku, a very short three letter-word, which nobody likes to be wished for him early in the morning, is that stage in human existence when the human body loses the capacity and capability to accommodate the breath of life. The body can no longer breathe in and breathe out, a solid realisation of the almighty importance of air as the main engine of the body.

My faith, Mareism: Belief both in Olodumare the Self-Manifest Creator and In the Supreme Efficacy of the Sacred Breath of Life, celebrates the AIR as the ‘all-and-all’ of creation. 

‘Whenever the body, the body- garment,                                                                                                      the living-body which houses the Soul-Spirit is weary,                                                                                                                                              weak, injured, diseased and withers and dies,                                                                                                                                                                           the Soul-Spirit exits and hovers around the body that has been its house,                                                                                                                                until the body is interred in the bowel of the earth’                                                                                                                                            [the Holy Book of Mareism chapter 9 verse 3].

Death therefore is not the finality of existence. But that may be a subject of discussion for another day. Death as being discussed here is to examine various circumstances which can lead to the cessation of the capacity of human body to carry the burden of hosting the breath of life. We will also look into the last stages of the physical existence of life in the body and give a thought to modes of death. We have death caused by injury. We have death that is caused by depression. We have violent death caused by accident. We have painful death which may be sudden or prolonged. But by far the most dreadful form of death is the one caused by humiliation arising from torture.

There is the common saying that no one knows when death would come calling, where the termination will occur, and how it will occur. This is a saying as old as human existence and may not require over-flogging. Rather what shall be discussed is, as earlier hinted at, the very point at the end.

Injury to any part of the body, particularly to the internal organs or other parts of the body that are susceptible   to gangrene will surely lead to death if not attended to or treated in time. This is not a particularly dreaded cause of death because a person has opportunity to treat that cause and give self another chance of prolonging one’s stay on the planet earth.

Depression is another cause of death. It is a gradual process which does not culminate in cessation of life in a jiffy. Depression can also be treated if the depressed seeks help or if neighbours step in at the right time. Otherwise a depressed person may simply lose the will to live and gradually give up. A most traumatic result of depression is suicide. It is difficult to say what goes on in the mind of the suicidal, especially at that point when the victim gives up. Suicide by hanging or by ingesting poison will surely involve some pain at the closing moments of consciousness.

Violent death is bad. Violent death is mostly experienced during war or physical altercation or confrontation in combat. Violent death may also be a consequence of a fatal accident. Death arising from motor accident, aeroplane crash, fire outbreak, shipwreck, volcanic eruption or major hurricane may all result in sudden painful death where victims rarely have the luck of saying goodbye to their loved ones. It is a form of death where the victim comes face to face with death staring menacingly at them.

There is the main painful death arising from the excruciating pain inflicted on the body by certain diseases, the most common of which is cancer. Death brought by pain is not generally quick, it is gradual and this is where, like death through humiliation and torture, it is most dreaded form of exit from the land of the living. It is painful in several ways; the victim and their relations are forced to go through humongous expenses and both the victims and the relatives are drained physically, emotionally and even socially before the final curtain. Like death through violence, the victim who passes on through pain associated with his/her ailment is generally brought face-to-face with death. In fact, such causes are called ‘terminal’ which means the victim lives each passing day in expectation and anticipation of the inevitable. Nothing could be more painful [emotional pain] and sorrowful.

There is death occasioned by gratuitous humiliation associated with cruel torture. It is the death in the hands of kidnappers and abductors. Fighters captured during wars also experience this kind of horrible and horrifying death. There is a lot attached to it; wicked suspense inflicted by torturers, the humiliation of your body and pride by being treated shabbily and inhumanly by your captor, exposing your person and dignity to the elements and in some instances subjecting the victim to lurid and extreme form of sexual abuse. Torture may include serious and severe beatings, sleep deprivation, hunger and wicked mutilation of the body piece-by-piece. It is not the best way to leave this world. It is not the best way to depart from friends, relations and loved ones. It is not the desirable way to end one’s journey, one’s activities and services on the surface of the earth. 

And on top of all that, being almost certain that death will come any moment!

Unlike most other causes leading to death, death by humiliation and torture is man-made. It is man who delivers the victim, in captivity, to death a la carte! And in this era of ceaseless senseless wars and global tension, this era of crass religious extremism and idiotic intolerance, this season of extreme global poverty and unprecedented criminality, death arising from torture has become most commonplace.

Nowadays, people just die. They drop down without notice and warning and just die.

We have those who are hell-bent on reducing the population of the world, those who are hell-bent on imposing a ‘New World Order’ on the rest of the world, and those who are generationally wicked and blood-thirsty and with all these idiosyncrasies combined with the shenanigans of those who hunt human beings as game, Death, yes Death, has unending open market.

By the way, I didn’t ask you my reader, which one is your preference?

You may want me to recommend the way my beautiful mother commenced her journey in the Continuum. On that bright morning on October 31, 2013, the forever young and robustly energetic lady asked for a special breakfast of moinmoin and ogi. She requested the onidiri to decorate her head with a special plait and also asked the grandchildren and daughters in-law to make pounded yam and fresh-fish vegetable stew. She chose salmon fish specifically. She treated herself to delicious lunch which was shared, and resumed her usual chitchat with the company in her living room. Within an hour, she stopped contributing to the chat and with a smile on her lips, the last breath escaped. No illness, not even ordinary headache. She was 96.

*High Chief Tola Adeniyi is a syndicated columnist, author, playwright, poet and dramatist, philosopher and mystic.