By Steve Aborisade
Yesterday, friends across the divides of Human Rights and Politics were mourning beloved ones. Uche Wisdom Dureke, a consummate rights activist and Hon. Kehinde Ayoola, a serving cabinet member and respected politician from my state of Oyo, bids us farewell. I pray to God to shower His mercies on those they left behind.
Death is a necessary end for all of us and, it comes when it comes. It hardly gives notice nor the room for consultation or negotiations. For those close to these two gentlemen, I offer my condolences.
However, when friends and loved ones dies, we are reminded of our own vulnerability, being mortals. Our reality today as Nigerians or Africans is such that as we live, we also must consciously engage the fact that we can die due to age-related frailty, serious illness, and sudden deaths to calamities. We shy away from these facts and remain in denial about what the times connotes for us. Living itself is a gift. In our case, it has become a gift with an expiry date.
As Nigerians, our life expectancy is pegged at 55/56 years against South Africa at
64 years and United Kingdom at 80/83 years. These are World Bank figures. We should stop being in denial of what this portends for us.
The reality is not reassuring for majority of people within 50 – 60 years as mortality within that age bracket would not be surprising given our life expectancy, especially as we are recording increasing mortality of age bracket 40 – 50 as it is. It is a fact that the chances for anyone above 45 years in Africa to die has become higher due to increasing underlying health conditions we are ill equipped to manage.
We generally fear to die and, I think what feeds our fear of dying the most is our acute helplessness in this part of the world in matters of life and death – our poor conditions of living and broken health system. This may be responsible, in part, to our increasing religiosity which some faith entrepreneurs are milking to the brim.
Our fear of death is such that even when we have a most horrible of life experience, we still don’t want to go! We love life so much that the promise of living again after dying, and of an everlasting life that does not involve dying in a paradise that is to come may be the main incentive for most of us to worship God and not because God deserves our unconditional worship. In essence, we do God because of what we can gain from him, especially as it fulfills our desire to not die!
I think more and more, with the realities of our existence today, it is not a bad idea to anticipate and actually plan for when we breathed our last. We must learn to embrace the end of our time on earth. As a Nigerian, once you are smelling 50, it makes sense to start to plan. I know we will be in denial with this postulation and be shouting ‘God forbid’, I ‘cast and bind’ or ‘it is not my portion’ but facts don’t lie. The percentage of our aged population continues to shrink! We no longer live to old age.
According to “The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency” (www.cia.gov. Retrieved 10 April 2018), proportion of children under the age of 15 in Nigeria in 2010 was 44.0%, 53.2% was between 15 and 65 years of age, while 2.7% was 65 years or older. 2020 data by worldometer also puts the median age in Nigeria at 18.1 years. What these suggests is that we are no longer growing old. This may not be a matter for prayers but a strong demands for good governance from those ruling us. With this outlook folks, this is what I suggest we do:
We must find a higher purpose for our time on earth and ensure we moderate our expectations with the reality that we face. We won’t all be blessed with a long life, as it is playing out now, but then, the essence of life is not how long we have to live, but how well and meaningful we make it. Across the political divide in my state, it was interesting to see how individuals extolled Hon. Ayoola. And this seemed genuine, not the usual Nigerian thing of not speaking ill of the dead. Same for Comrade Dureke who was praised for his commitment and dedication to what he believed in.
There is a thin line between life and death, while we all thread on that thin line on a daily basis. That line can snap for anyone, at anytime, without notice. That is why we have been told to live life as if today is our last. May we all find a higher purpose for our lives beyond our daily struggles to feed, pay house rent or build a more befitting house, pay school fees or send our children abroad, buy the latest cars, shoes and other accessories, while we struggle for promotion or appointment or take another wife or sire children we won’t know how they fare when we are gone. May we understand that purposes which transcends our hedonistic and ephemeral desires, that outlives us, are what can make here better for those coming behind. What type of world do we want them to inherit?