————-By Goodluck Edafe————
MORE than ten years ago, I wrote on the issue of befitting burials. It was a respond to a strange philosophy and emerging trend in our society especially in the Christian states of South South and South East. The burial of dead relatives becomes a display of family pride and affluence. People feel proud and boast about giving befitting burials to their dead who perhaps died retched due to neglect, frustration and lack of care as if it were some awards winning venture. It is shocking that ten years after my article and in a world of new consciousness where social needs far exceed the resources at hand, the government of Delta State could still talk about or pacify the people with the folly of befitting burials for principals who suffered untimely death due to bad roads everywhere.
In last March, a collection of Secondary school principals invited to Asaba for an official meeting lost their lives in a ghastly motor accident along the Sapele – Benin expressway. And recently, the Honourable Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education Mr. Chiedu Ebie visited the family of one of the late principals, Miss Agnes Eriayoma at Effurun. During the visit, Commissioner Ebie announced to the family perhaps with some air of pride that government will give a befitting burial ceremony to the late principals and will also assist their families in fast tracking the processing of their death benefits.
I want to tell Mr. Chiedu and his principal, Okowa that burials don’t befit the dead. For it is indeed an index of spiritual timidity for anyone needless a government to think that big burial ceremonies can befit the dead. Medical doctors don’t continue to apply treatment to patients once they are dead. They do not because treatments applied to the dead do not only amount to material waste but also are unhelpful and do not alter their circumstance. A dead man lying flat on a highway doesn’t say to himself let me leave the road before an oncoming vehicle smashes me to pieces. As they lay so they will remain until the vultures tear them apart. The holy bible says, “The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing. They have no memory and their love, their hatred and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun”. King David coined it differently, “…In the grave who will give you thanks?” Ps 6:5. To the man who wanted to bury his brother in a special way, Jesus said, “Follow me. And let the dead bury their dead”. Dead people don’t show appreciation for services delivered to them. They don’t say thank you to children for burying them with diamond caskets or to the multitude of sympathizers or to pastors for their flattering and alluring prayers. Befitting burial is all but a wiggling of a society with a malnourished spiritual civilization and social content. Beautiful casket, crowed of witnesses, abundance of food and drink, dances do not make a burial to befit the dead.
But while will there not be motor accidents in Delta State when all the roads are bad? The Amukpe – Abraka – Agbor road is terribly in bad shape. Take your car there and you will mourn for it. That road connects the three senatorial zones and essentially vital to the economy of the state but is in a total mess and long abandoned by the state government when in actual sense it should be dualized for ease of movement and safer journeys. Its inglorious state has made it a den of robbers and it is only government’s insensitivity can explain why people going to Asaba from Sapele and Ethiope West would need to pass through Edo state or PTI Effurun to Agbor or Asaba when a shorter Amukpe – Abraka – Agbor road is staring at them. Going from Ethiope West to Agbor or Asaba through Benin or PTI is a wicked imposition on the people by a mindless state government. It is an unnecessary Israelites journey in a world of science and technology.
Need I mention the Ughelli – Isoko – Asaba road dualization that is never completed? It is obvious that government intentions are not genuine. For sure, the billions of naira reportedly committed into that road project do not justify the level of work done. That is the situation of things in our state in a competitive world of pro-society politics and governance. The three kilometers Jesse road dualization is yet another mockery of government’s lack of sincerity and non-commitment to genuine development of the state. For more than ten years now, government in Delta state could not complete a three kilometers road dualization to the glory of God and for the benefit of a community known for its industrious disposition and abundant food supplies to the state and Nigeria at large.
Hypocrisy and a tip of the tongue sympathy with families of the dead is not a solution to future road accident in the state. As I have indicated above, school principals in Sapele and Ethiope West have no business going to and fro Asaba, their state capital through Edo state if the shorter Amukpe – Agbor road were put in good condition for vehicular activity. What is a government to a people without a commensurate service delivery to them?
Nobody is excited by Chiedu assurances of a befitting burial for the dead. It is rather unfortunate that government in our state wants to please the dead when it has not pleased the living. Befitting burials should mean that Governor Okowa will give to the remaining members of the families of the dead and indeed all Deltans quality governance – build good and safer roads, pay salaries and gratuity as at when due, provide quality healthcare, sustainable educational infrastructure, etc. However, the needs of society cannot be narrowed to physical infrastructure alone. Society has a moral and ethical component. There is need to raise moral awareness in the state. And the necessity to grow a pro-society consciousness cannot be overemphasized. Both government and the people have to live right – obey laws, pay taxes, love their state, develop work attitude, transmit ethical and conventional behaviours.
Hon Chiedu also assured the families of the dead of fast tracking their death benefits. His assurances typify an idle mind. The families of the dead naturally deserve those benefits. Therefore, it does not amount to a thing worthy of praise or an award winning achievement that government paid death benefits on time. For me, it is even an indictment on government that it could speedily pay benefits because men are untimely cut down but could not pay benefits to the living. Many pensioners have died before their time because of government insensitivity and refusal to pay their retirement benefits on time. They died leaving behind their pensions in the hands of politicians to play politics with them every four years, recruit political thugs, buy bullet proof cars, build mansions here and abroad and recline at bar with pushy women. The beauty of life is that everyone has a date to die whether now or later or whether poor or stupendously rich. The principals are dead and for sure, no burial ceremony can befits them. Therefore, I urge government to rather concentrate on evolving programmes that will give meaningful life to the living – qualitative governance. The argument that a road is a federal road and therefore a state government cannot provide emergency repairs to portions of it to save the lives of its citizens is callous and irresponsible. Former Governor Rotimi Ameachi spent rivers monies to dualized the Imo State border of the Port Harcourt – Owerri federal road. Today, it is the people of rivers state that enjoy the beauty of that road. While calamities hold their peace, government must use her moments of peace to build safeguards – to repair and build safer roads. The idea of jumping out to express a tip of the tongue sympathy whenever men are dead speaks about the ungodliness and nonchalant attitude of our government. Today, news has it that government has mended the pothole that caused the accident that killed the six principals it wants to grant a befitting burial. This is unfortunate and quite disappointing.
Is a frontline member of the Campaign for Social Justice and Constitutional Democracy.