By Jude Eze
After reading and following the reactions of Nigerians at the death of Mallam Abba Kyari, Senator Buruji Kashamu and Mallam Isa Funtua, respectively, our weekly feature digest - The Concourse, raised a verdict: It begged all of us who cared to listen to lead good lives and lessen the burden of our prospective biographers - those on whom the work of writing our funeral oration will fall on.
Barely a month after, the roll call from the great beyond beckoned on another controversial political gladiator, this time in the south east.
On May 17 (about three months and three weeks ago), death was announced of Senator Fidelis Okoro who represented Nsukka senatorial district in the federal legislature for three terms.
And the people were jubilant! A situational irony, uncharacteristic of Wawa people.
It was the first time in modern times, people witness such in Nsukka land. The other similar incident I heard, was a ballad narrative about one prehistoric traditional prime minister, named Ag'nwebonyi, whom the moonlight story said ruled Greater Obollo with iron fist. It is said that his death was like gaining independence for our forebears.
So, I was startled. How could the Senator amass such unanimous hatred from his people even at death? They came to his burial as observers instead of mourners.
A fortnight ago, in this space, I composed a poem on Nsukka cosmology. It highlighted what I had earlier written, on the unique hospitability, mutual love and fraternal solidarity that characterize the generality of Nsukka people in their natural habitat.
I was bold and proud, reeling out those humanity attributes of our people in the poem, because they were verifiable didactic royalties of the people that inhabits the northern hemisphere of Igbo nation.
But then, jubilating and sneering at the death of her former political stakeholder sharply contradicts the inherent traits of humanity and respect for the sanctity of life, which our people were known for.
Ancient Greek civilization had an advisory; that we say nothing but good about the dead. How come these same people we saw in the poem few weeks ago, became so malignant to their former senator? What actually were Senator Okoro's offences to attract widespread condemnation and apathy that trailed his death?
But while we were busy regurgitating on these, up came 4th September, (four days ago), the date for his burial, which would break all the strange records for unsympathetic bereavement.
Everyone in Nsukka trooped en mass to his country home, Ihe-eg' Nru, in Nsukka Urban. They went there to be sure that the "akrikpakpa" equivalent of what standard Igbo language call ųchų ògbųgba, (Obollo dialectical word for cursed misfortune/bad omen) was truly dead and buried.
The commoners, the clergy, the political class and settlers alike. All came to the burial with straight faces of indifference.
No one mourned!
The drama that showed all these perverted emotional irony started so early in the burial session. As the corpse got to the compound, the usual final wailings and cries that accompanies such situation was absent.
Then, as the burial brochures directed, the interment was to be preceded by Holy Mass. The priest of his home parish, Rev. Fr. Eva Isife declined, point blank, from presiding over the mass! But he was 'gracious' enough to permit his Catechist to conduct a burial service prayers.
Everyone was happy at the development except the dignitaries. And it was not surprising, because the deceased belonged to their class. But since the weight of Catholic Church scales heavier than their collective and individual countenances, they had no option than to keep calm and play along.
As the Catechist struggled to come to terms with his 'novel' task, seeing that he was in a delicate emtionally charged environment, and the world was watching at the strange unfolding of events. The naive Catechist managed to come to the end of the prayer rituals.
The only sympathetic faces on ground were those of top political elites: Enugu State Governor, His Excellency, Rt. Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, former governor of old Anambra state, Chief Sen. Jim Nwobodo, former senate president, Dr. Ken Nnamani, the renowned Justice of the supreme court, Chief C.C Nweze, Hon. Dr Pat Asadu of Nsukka-Igbo Eze South federal constituency, Senator Chukwuka Utazi etc. These stakeholders had come for their own, and so it was understandable why they were uncomfortable with the scenario.
The final arbiter who draws the line that plots the graph of how one served in public offices or how one lived his life is the people who bore the impacts of one's goodwill or misgivings. So the body language of the men of power didn't matter here. They will always support their own.
Back to the unbecoming burial service. The last straw that broke the camel's back was to come when the service was done, and Fr. Isife was to give his remarks which press men mistook for the rite of 'homliy.' He took the microphone, and gazed around the sympathizers, observers and onlookers, and said: "The state of the late Senator is enough homily for everyone."
The whole arena became chilled like ice.
Pin drop silence enveloped the venue. The masses were glad in their hearts, that the church could understand the 'selfish' and 'diabolic' lifestyle of the late senator and has refused to accord him full burial rites.
But the political elites can't take it anymore.
Up rose Senator Utazi. He grabbed the microphone and rebuffed that. He went rampage. He became the ispo facto "Man of God" and struggled to launder the sullen image of the dead senator. He performed some postmortem plastic surgery to give a different perspective to an already known truth.
But before he did that, he had to first condemn the people for vilifying the ways of Late Sen. Okoro. He tried almost through his nose to mutter some good will to the name of the senator, but he drew blank!
Then, the Mic fell to Sen. Nwobodo who commands high respect from all and sundry for his great development strides while in office as the Governor of old Anambra state, in the early '80s.
But on that fateful day, Chief Jim was base and unsubstantial. He too struggled to purify the persona of the senator. But like Utazi, he found out that it was a Herculean task.
Hear him: "When he contested the Senatorial election to represent Enugu North Senatorial District, he won the first time but faced opposition when he wanted to recontest for the second tenure. I waded in and ensured that he won."
From the above, it can be deduced that Nsukka people actually rejected the man after his first term, and it has to take political heavy weights like Chief Jim to intervene and "rig" him in (the words in parenthesis are mine).
According to Vanguard: "the late Senator was in a bad book of the people following several of his anti-human policies which he held on to while he was still active in politics."
For those who don't know him, Fide Okoro's sins was not just about his ineptitude, and utter non-performance in office, it spans across rude, anti-social and diabolic intricacies credited to his person.
Stories were told of his insatiable libido towards other men's wives, his being fingered in the series of human ritual and extrajudicial killings, and his refusal to accord help to teeming young men from his constituency who approached him for employment when he had the electoral mandate of his people etc.
He was on record to have said that he doesn't eat chicken, he 'eats' women. He was also said to have asked some men from Nru who came to Abuja for job hunt, "if all you you get white collar jobs, who would be cultivating cocoyam in imufu village?"
Anambra state has the record of producing three female senators and all of them outperformed our male senators in office. From Joy Emodi to Oduah, to Iyom, Ekwunife; Anambra North and central senatorial zones fared better and were handed fair representation in federal parliament than the whole Nsukka since 1999.
The penultimate stanza of the poem about Nsukka we read here three weeks ago stated why our people spitted at the senator's corpse.
It ran: "We are a people known for honesty We don't settle for travesty And anyone who lacks in this quality Is living in clanish fantasy And so he should trace his paternity To other tribes not in our fraternity We'll have to denounce him in totality For we exault only in nobility That's our rich heritage from antiquity"
Senator Okoro did not observe these tenets and Nsukka people 'denounced' and disowned him.
Hon. Pat Asadu, a Physician and incumbent three-term house of reps member, eulogized him because according to him, "In 1999 he came to my clinic and encourage me to join politics, and that was how I joined politics and today am a ranking national legislator. Possibly, without that encouragement and advice from Okoro, I may still be in my clinic as a medical doctor. So I benefited from him."
Such a selfish reason to exonerate a dirty soul. No wonder he and Utazi are toeing Okoro's path.
Of the people that gathered for the burial only three persons: political well-to-dos eulogized him (even if they did it tongue-in-cheek). One is Jim from Nkanu Obubu Eze, the other two are current legislators who are penciled in the same social ledger as the late senator.
Well, Nsukka people are not saying that Fide Okoro will go to hell. It is not in our power to decide that. What the masses who bore the brunt of his 'diabolism' (whether real or imaginary) in both public and private life is saying is that he is a bad man. And they went there to hiss a sigh of relief that he was truly dead and gone.
Newspapers don't feature the thoughts and opinions of the common man in the street. Those who dared the get closer to them, will savour the groanings or reliefs in their breaths. The morning papers of 5th September gave us the details of the Big men's position on the life and times of Okoro at his demise.
And so this piece is a confluence of the two views (that of the masses and of the elitist class).
The masses were saying that "heaven or hell depends on God's mercy and justice, but may nothing like the senator ever happen to Nsukka land again."
A big lesson to other public office holders from the zone and elsewhere in the country.
May he rest in peace and may Nsukka fare better in his absence.
... Jude .O. Eze wrote from Nsukka, Enugu State.