Death and the Mourning Society

Before that Dana plane crashed into a tenement building in Iju-Ishaga suburb of Lagos, Nigerians died in the hundreds every day. They died on the road, victims of bad roads or the highwayman’s bullet. They died in their homes, bodies riddled with bullets fired by armed robbers. They died in churches and mosques, victims of those who say evil deeds can be used to achieve godliness. They died across Nigeria, untimely and unpleasant deaths, victims of a government’s insistence on continuing paying lip service to progressive social development.

While some of these untimely taken belong to the class people have come to believe are elites, the larger percent are masses, the new age commoners, without renown beyond their immediate environment, these ones are not mourned by the nation. No media adverts extol their qualities, no social media buzz is generated around their pictures, no websites are created to tell about their lives and the deep pain their passing wrought on those they left behind. Nothing is heard of them other than the wailing of relatives and friends, and that too is soon muted as the world winds on. While the government habitually gives last warnings to those who kill the masses and promise to fix the roads that mangle their flesh and suck their blood, the dead are buried, sometimes in mass graves, their deaths in vain still, unknown in life, silent in death.

However, these are the nameless dead, the ones without keys to the fabled rainbow’s end. Their fate is not for those who could zip around in airplanes. For these ones, the passing is loud, with a nationwide call to tears.

Ill-fated Dana plane

It is common street knowledge that planes are not for the poor, even those who eat three solid meals with meat to spare have nothing to do with it. For many of us, it is a privilege to travel from Lagos to Abuja on a plane. Why not, the cost of a one-way ticket is more than the national minimum wage. So it is a testament to the privilege and position of the victims of the Dana Air crash, at least those on the plane proper, that the buzz generated by their fate remains at giddying heights, or how else would fellow elites and wannabes mourn the passing of their peers?

Ok, let’s turn the sarcasm down a bit. Perhaps there is need to explain my tone and stance, which I hope is clear by now.  Don’t get me wrong, I feel profound sympathy for the family and friends of those who perished in that crash, but I also feel the same sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to bombs, bad roads, armed robbers and whatever causes premature death. As such, I refuse to grant the Dana victims more space than I did the others and it is irking me like mad to see others do so, and do it exclusively.

The Anyaenes: Symbol of the Dana plane victims. 9 family members perished in the crash

The whole hype surrounding the Dana victims, minus those on the ground whose pictures or profiles most bloggers ignore or can’t readily find, is synonymous with the penchant for Nigerians to glorify anything perceived to be associated with the wealthy. While many of the victims may not be rich, they are caught up in the fantasy world we created for the moneyed.

I have mentioned bombs and auto accidents and have written about stuffs like that here and here, but apart from efforts of some churches and NGOs, not much was heard about efforts by the twitter generation to collectively move to alleviate victims suffering. For Dana Air crash, it took less than a day for a massive social media campaign to kick off. This is not withstanding the fact that those who needed help on the ground, due to the nature of the crash and where it occurred, were not as numerous as what we get from some of our bombing situations.

Death on Nigerian roads are routine

Then there is that call for people to mourn for longer than the stipulated three days. A call, which even if seriously misplaced, one has never heard same sources mention in the other instances already mentioned. Abeg, when last did we have a day of national mourning before this? And those calling for more mourning, are they at home crying themselves to sleep?

It would have been great if people just called for collective mourning, but to trying to enforce it as some bloggers are doing, show a lack of understanding of human nature—again, you can never mourn more than the bereaved. Hence, the noise about Sanusi’s turbaning and the marriage of one victim’s brother is misplaced sanctimonious tosh that should not have found expression in this age.

My point:

  1. Our people say the corpse of a stranger is a bunch of firewood to the onlooker, so people should not ascribe their personal whims on others, mourns forever if you will, but life is for the living.
  2. America went right back to work the day after 9:11, we should too, hopefully with reasons learnt, or not.
  3. If you desire to help the needy, make it across board. Picking what you think is a fashionable causes is redundant. DanaCrashAction great job, but take note and reach out to other causes. Bomb blast victims, auto crash victims and so on.
  4. Bloggers yammering about propriety, people mourn differently and the pain does not need to be advertised to show it is there, let people mourn in peace.
  5. Sanusi’s turbaning did not happen at the crash scene and postponing it will never turn back the hands of time. Besides three days of national mourning has come and gone, schedules don’t wait.

All said and done, this story will pass and another dance, hopefully a happy one, will get the attention of my fellow internet generation. However, for now, know that we do have people to be grateful to. We have not given enough credit to the man that piloted that ill-fated plane. I was at the scene of the crash after the fact (read my accounts of what I witnessed here) and could see that aside divine intervention, that guy picked the spot he placed that plane. An empty church, an empty warehouse, a closed printing press, and then the two-storey building that acted as brake. To the families of Peter Waxton and his co-pilot, I say your sons were heroes.

Sadly, as I penned the above, reports of a suicide bomber in a church in Jos reached me– The circle of our life as Nigerians.

Mazi Nwonwu

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