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by Owei Lakemfa

A man was very poor. So much that even when he worked hard, begged and scavenged, he remained hungry. He decided that his best option was to die. So he went in search of death. He knocked death’s door but was told he could not be admitted because he was a living being.

Asked his mission, he complained of being too poor to survive so he wanted death to take him. But death said it does not kill, that what kills is happiness. So he went in search of happiness and in the process became so prosperous that he shared money on the streets.

Whenever he went out riding his favourite white horse, people thronged the streets picking money. He had all money could buy, including position. Every day he organised a festival.

Soon, he got bored and decided to hold a festival no other being had hosted: The Festival of Money. He knew nobody could compete with him. As the festival drew to an end, he decided to take a victory lap at the festival square. As he galloped furiously, his favourite horse threw him in the air. As he lay dying, he saw death. He said: “Death, how can you kill me at this time when I am so wealthy and still so vibrant?” Death replied: “I told you I do not kill, it is happiness that kills.”

I have met or read about Nigerians who shared money on the streets beginning with Da Rocha. Some even compete at parties and festivals on who has more money to spend. There was one in Lagos with the sobriquet of a fish whose money got exhausted at a night party and decided to dash home to bring more money. He never made it back as he died in an accident due to over speeding.

There was another, a toast of musicians who used to compete with his friends over money. He died in a ghastly motor accident on the road to Ihiala where he was due, as usual, to spray money. He was ‘Mr. Too Much Money.’

I have never met anybody killed by death. If anything, death is the most maligned of all creations. Over the ages, human beings in falsely accusing death of killing, have asked the rhetorical question: “Death where is thy sting?”

But death has never responded or sued for defamation because it never claimed to have a sting like the scorpion. It has always been a false allusion.

To show the duplicity of humanity, the same human beings who falsely accuse death of killing have, over the ages, tried to find out the “cause of death.” If they truly believe it is death that kills, why carry out post-mortem?

In ancient times, when people are not sure of the cause of death or thought a victim was murdered even if through supernatural means, they do not blame death, they blame the supposed perpetrators and ask the gods to strike them dead.

Also, we now know that the ancient beliefs that death is a personified force who went about with a cudgel clubbing people to death, or a scythe-wielding skeleton collecting souls, is false. This was part of the human strategy of accusing death of killing people.

In any case, death is not a finality; the dead merely transit from the physical to the spiritual. Death is just the policeman and prosecutor who takes every human being to the final judgement where the sentence is either hellfire or heaven. So death is the beginning of the journey into eternity where hopefully, there will be no more sorrow or death.

COVID-19 is a test of faith. But as it ravaged the world and a country like Saudi Arabia shut its borders to pilgrims, some Islamic faithful, the Tablighi Jamaat movement in Pakistan, decided to hold its international religious festival from March 10-12 in Lahore.

An estimated 100,000 to 250,000 attended with 154 of the locals testing positive and some dying. Two Palestinians who also attended have died. Most of the foreigners from Nigeria, Indonesia, China and Afghanistan had left before the Pakistani authorities could stop and subject them to COVID-19 tests.

Only 1,500 of the foreigners could be stopped. In Pakistan itself, over 20,000 of the attendees have been quarantined. The movement also held similar festivals in India and Malaysia from where, along with Pakistan, the virus was liberally spread across Asia. If these attendees die, death cannot be blamed.

Before Nigeria could have such an experience, government wisely shut down places of large congregation, including those of worship. But some faithful disagree because the churches and mosques, not their homes, are their places of refuge.

So they decided to begin congregating again; the Muslims for Jumat and the Christians for church services and the Easter festivities. It is like pregnancy; it has a period of incubation and it takes time to become visible. It is people of little faith like me that are worried; is it not said that The Lord takes care of His own? Even if the worshippers are infected, death will not kill them because they are too protected.

In any case, even if the faithful die, where else will they go but heaven? Is that not the final destination? So even if they die, the faithful will be going to heaven where angels are waiting to receive and serve them eternally.

In any case, apart from politicians like my friend Dino Melaye, we also have men of faith who have assured Nigerians that it is the 5G network, not Coronavirus that kills

The actress, Funke Akindele-Bello and her husband made an error of judgement by hosting a social party that violated the law on social distancing and were convicted.

But can such indiscretion be compared with those who assure people the virus is a scam? If people get infested and die as a result, can such persons be tried for manslaughter? I do not foresee any conviction because the clerics would claim immunity on the basis that they are mere messengers of the Almighty. As for the politicians, even when caught on camera, they can always deny.

Just as the Pakistani clergy encouraged the mass gathering in Lahore which spread COVID-19, some respected governors are encouraging gatherings for Jumat, church and the Easter festival by lifting the ban on such gatherings. If more infections of the virus and deaths occur as a result, we cannot charge them with manslaughter because they have immunity.

My fellow humans, let us drink and make merry while we still can, there is no certainty this obtains in heaven. While doing so, let us be rest assured that death does not kill, there is always a cause of death

(Owei Lakemfa is the Secretary General of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity – OATUU)

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