Mallam Abba Kyari, the former Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari is dead. The consensus is that it is evil to speak bad of the dead. This viewpoint was dramatized by what happened in Kano. The Kano Commissioner for Works, it was alleged, tweeted that Nigeria is relieved by the death of Kyari, a usurper of presidential powers. Suddenly, the state governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, fired the commissioner. Of this we hold no opinions. It is just the drama we are interested in.
Besides the drama, something has to be made clear. First of all, the following caveats. We have not watched Kyari with any dedicated interest. In other words, we have no informed opinion of him as a courtier in the presidency. And will not make one.
What we know is that the government he serves has been taken universally as a regrettable episode in Nigeria’s history. In other words, it is safe to say that Kyari as canvassed and eulogized by his admirers was a good man serving a bad government, was an efficient engine running a tottering ship of state. We find such double speak difficult to comprehend. For us that makes Kyari more occult.
Anyway, our main task is to disprove the wrong supposition that men should not speak evil of the dead. To the extent such a platitude has meaning, it is restricted to private lives. That is, if one lost one’s spouse, etc., decency demands we keep mum if we can’t speak good of the departed. More so, the deceased are not around to defend themselves over largely private matters.
However, public persons are in another universe. That is such powerful personae are not to be granted the luxury of encomiums or condemnations, in life or in death, if they do not so deserve it.
To repeat, we are neither capable nor interested in any conjectures as to Kyari being a bad or good guy. Our only interest is that it is harmless, in fact, indicated, that we speak ill of the powerful who are deceased, if they were evil in their lives.
First of all, the deeds or omissions of the said public figures are in the open. In other words, there are sufficient open data on both sides of the protagonists. What next is left is for the partisans, those who assert he is evil, or those who claim he is good, to persuade the rest of us of the merits of their cases. Of course, the enlightened general public are intelligent enough to know a hagiographer from an inquisitional archivist.
The fact of this is important for our historical hygiene. This is because, if we fall prey to the seduction that we do not speak ill of the dead, then this. We are likely to end up not speaking out against those who conducted genocides, generalized mass murders, stole billions, etc, a day after they are gone? And perhaps our history books will recall nothing of the industrial inhumanities these evil men engineered and lived on?
That is not historical accounting. Historical accounting demands that on the hour a great man passes, that the consolidated balance sheet of his being will become his tombstone. The implication is that the balance of his assets and liabilities will be in the open. And judgment passed. This is the modern and more enlightened standard.
Thus to say Kyari was an evil or an excellent man is not in issue. What is in issue is providing proofs for whatever positions one canvasses. However, what we have also noticed is that many confuse the memoir with history. While a memoir is a personal history as it concerns you, history proper is an impersonal, “globalist” recount of the past.
What do we mean? We have read an overwhelming number of tributes to Kyari. And what we get is how he was personally nice to the memoirists, etc. In nearly all instances, the memoirists are unlike Kyari, of non-Northern-Muslim background. And these memoirists go out to extrapolate that Kyari, in being nice to them, was thus a detribalized Nigerian, and even a universalist man. Well, we are sorry to tell, this is still memoirist and no proof of their conjectures.
Why do we say so? Sufficient historical records have shown that it is possible to love individual members of a given nationality or tribe and yet hate their people as a group. Contradictory? Perhaps, yes. However, this contradiction, to the extent it is, has happened to the point of lovers of individuals, canvassing genocide for the individuals’ nationalities.
For example? Well, Professor Martin Heidegger was a genius, perhaps the greatest philosopher of the modern era. But the mad specialist was also a rabid Nazi and enabler of Nazism. Heidegger, however, had a lover, Hannah Arendt. Arendt was a Jewess. And both were in love. That is, if Arendt was to write a memoir of Heidegger, she would recall Heidegger as a tender loving reed, etc. However, if Arendt were to pen a history of Heidegger, it would be written that such as he was a rust iron monster. Contradictory? Perhaps, but one is private, personal, trivial, and the other is substantive, universal, taking into account the trivial, the private, etc. In other words, one can’t extrapolate Heidegger’s love for Arendt to conclude on Heidegger’s fondness for world Jewry or our common humanity. A historical proof of Heidegger’s love of world Jewry or our common humanity, if ever, must stand on its own feet and not deduced from insufficient grounds. The point remains that our private purchase of a man is typically not the same with the public possession of the same man.
Our advice, therefore, is that those writing of their personal experiences of Kyari are in order. But that is only to the extent they limit themselves to authoring memoirs, not extrapolating Kyari’s universal public history. The problem here is that, when such an attempt is made, it runs into being a bubble. So, if Kyari was nice to you, state so. But don’t turn that into a philosophy of life for Kyari. That is not how history is written.
Finally this. The Nigerian obsession that you don’t speak evil of the dead is fuelled by her unscientific and superstitious worldviews. Nigerians fear death like she was capricious and monstrous, not of a natural order. Point, however, is, death is as natural as breath, just as bread is as natural as hunger.
In other words, it is this fear of the occult that drives the Nigerian responses to the dead. Thus, a typical Nigerian’s sanitary speeches about the dead are never really to honour the deceased. They are to express his irrational fear of death and what comes after. So, to talk ill of the dead for Nigerians is to breach the gods, who are keepers of souls of cadavers.
However, the point is indicated that, if a man is supremely ok, sufficiently human, he would limit himself to matters of the earth, as Confucius advises. As to the rest of what happens after, man is better off letting the gods have a job reflecting on that. And there are consequences to accenting to our humanity as the supreme or of the co-equal order with the gods. “Don’t ye know ye are gods?” the holy book asks.
The issue is that Africans must come to knowledge that it is the possession of the technology of “don’t you know ye are gods?” etc, that explains the development of the rest and not Africa. For example, to the Chinese, under the instance of Confucius, if there is to be paradise, it can only be the ones constructed by us on our own patch of the earth, here in Wuhan, in Beijing, in Shanghai, etc.
But trust the Nigerian, the African. An intriguer, his scheme is to abuse his patch of the earth and flee into paradise by death. And the cost of his purchase of paradise are 1. Not speaking evil of the dead, 2. Never being able to develop, but believing in imported deities, aka Islam, Christianity, etc. 3. Blaming leadership. 4. Playing Ludo, etc.
Tick the list and see there are nothing on the manufacture of new ideas, in mathematics, in physics, in philology, etc. And these are the things the oyibos and the Chinese concentrate on to turn their portions of the earth into prefectures of paradise.
God is not a construction company. He has not built any paradises for you. If you must have one, you got to build it yourself, here on earth. And if you never can build one while alive, be certain no one admits you to one when you die. Admit a Nigerian to paradise? He did turn it into a slum.
“A slum is in inheriting a paradise without imagine-nations.” Mother A’Endu. That’s all we have to say for now. Ahiazuwa.
Quotes on the nature of the universe
“None of us needed to be personal friends of Sheik Maktoun or Lee Kwan Yew… for us to know that they were great men. All we need to do is visit Dubai and Singapore.”
–Onye Nkuzi. @cchukudebelu