Once a man dies in Nigeria he instantly becomes a saint.
Even diabolical pagans who had a thoroughly worthless lifetime are bountifully canonised at death.
There is the almost general view that one must not speak ill of the dead. I do not in good conscience know who made the law.
The recent death of the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari via the novel coronavirus has commandeered attention all over Nigeria and beyond.
One of the touted powers-that-be behind the Buhari government, Mamman Daura paid this tribute to Abba Kyari: “In point of intellect, he stood above all ministers and SAs in this government.”
Even the Americans are in on the bandwagon with the top news of how Abba Kyari helped with the return of the Abacha loot.
President Buhari who knew Abba Kyari for all of 42 years in a heartfelt letter dated April 18 penned: “Mallam Abba Kyari was the very best of us. He was made of the stuff that makes Nigeria great.”
The president’s wife Aisha who had well-publicised battles with the “cabal” in the presidency took to Twitter to condole with Abba Kyari’s wife, Kulu, thusly: “From God Almighty, we came and to Him we shall return. I condole with Mrs Kulu Abba Kyari and the entire family of Late Mallam Abba Kyari over the death of their husband and father. I pray that Allah (SWT) will forgive his shortcomings, grant him Al-Jannatul Firdausi and give the family the fortitude an to bear the loss.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama regaled the world with stories of his lasting friendship with Abba Kyari that was forged during their days as students in Britain and which culminated into the departed one being the best man of an Igbo Catholic man wedding in a Yoruba Anglican church, serving as the son’s godfather in a Catholic baptism and presumably earning him an esteemed post in Buhari’s government.
Even the otherwise fire-eating Femi Fani-Kayode had soft words for Abba Kyari, to wit: “How are the mighty fallen…”
The beatification of Abba Kyari is indeed overwhelming with ill-assorted newspaper columnists and sedulous pundits weighing in with choice words and anecdotes.
Everybody out there is very busy dropping the name of Abba Kyari. It’s as though I am the only one on this earth who Abba Kyari did not know in his chequered life!
Maybe I should pose and also write a tribute even as it is very obvious that the now canonised Muslim never knew me from Adam!
The slippery act of mourning the dead in Nigeria cannot be better illustrated than the case of Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu who opposed Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his lifetime only to pronounce the Ikenne sage “the best president Nigeria never had” once the old man was safely dead!
The hypocrisy of mourning the dead reminds me of an award-winning novel Condolences by Bina Nengi-Ilagha that I read back then. Published by Treasure Books, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Condolences tells the intriguing story of Pere Alazibo, the dashing and wealthy young entrepreneur who dies at the height of his powers in a ghastly road accident. At the laying to rest of Pere Alazibo, a writer all the way from cosmopolitan Lagos depicts him as “a true Nigerian with a finger in every pie, a resilient character, a ponderous elephant which could only be appreciated, depending on what part of it you touched.”
According to Bina Nengi-Ilagha, “When the condolence register was opened in Pere’s honour, more often than not the comments were devoid of actual feelings towards him. They wove a tissue of hypocrisies and lies in the register, while they went their way with hard feelings which even their grief could not wipe away.”
To return to Abba Kyari, there were some praise songs that somewhat struck home, such as that of Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, Head of the European Union delegation in Nigeria, who said that Kyari “was an inspiration with his passionate approach to the development of Nigeria in general and the North in particular.”
When a diplomat minces no words in saying that someone is a Northern irredentist one cannot but stand up in salute.
As an unchallengeable godfather who had all within his command, Abba Kyari had it within his budget to equip the State House Clinic and the National Hospital, Abuja to the hilt to solve all health challenges – but it was such a shock when the news was put out that he needed to be transported to a Lagos private hospital to get treated for his ailment.
What is there for me to say than to remember that Mario Puzo who wrote the bestseller The Godfather also wrote another book entitled Fools Die…