ColumnsNigeriaOpinionPoliticsPastor Siju Iluyomade’s Birthday Party and the Finality of Death

“No matter how good and generous the dead may be, there are those very close who are eager to erase their memories.” —Ebuka Onyekwelu

In a deep and sober conversation some time ago with my uncle, Benchuks Nwosu, after we had talked for over an hour, he paused. Then, after some two minutes, he said, “onwu wu mmeli,” in Nnewi dialect. This comment can be generally translated in English to mean that death is the (ultimate) defeat. When he said this, he paused again. “Did you hear what I said?” he asked rhetorically, “onwu wu mmeli,” he repeated himself. Then he sighed and I can’t recall what else was said thereafter. Somehow, that comment has remained unforgettable. The more I think about it, the more I am shocked to realise how sudden death has changed the destiny and fortune of an entire people. It’s even a common and regular occurrence.

 The dead is always defeated where he once reigned and those alive who once revered the dead while they lived, can have their way – whatever it may be. In many instances, it ends in denigrating the dead. Not only that the dreams and wishes of the dead have more or less naturally died with them, but in most cases, the living makes sure those dreams and wishes are also forgotten and buried with the dead. It does actually appear that people are more eager to move on, than we are willing to admit. Maybe, humans are not that honourable. Perhaps, they are too forgetful. Perchance, that’s how many people are.

The death of Dr. Herbert Wigwe along with his wife and son, has been variously described as a monumental loss. It was such a sad and an unfortunate event that many considered it an extraordinary misfortune. But while people were still trying to come to terms with the fact that the tragedy actually happened, Dr. Siju Iluyomade organised a lavish party to commemorate her 60th birthday. Siju is the wife of the pastor of the City of David parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God – RCCG, where Herbert Wigwe and his family worshipped all his life. A Church which he was a pillar of support till his very tragic end. This only happened, not because life is for the living and the living must live on, but because death is the final verdict of defeat on the dead. Consequently, there are things that people would never do, except death has passed its judgment to embolden their choice. If for any reason we assume that the helicopter tragedy in California had only taken Herbert Wigwe’s wife and son and left Herbert alive, well, it is easy to figure that the birthday party organised by Siju would most certainly have been postponed.

The bigger misfortune is that sudden death would continue to trigger uncharitable behaviour from the living

Worst still, many people have wondered what a pastor’s wife is doing inviting Flavour, a secular, and ‘worldly’ musician to her birthday party, instead of Dunsun Oyekan, an A list gospel musician of the same RCCG Church. This is the part that is even more disturbing for many self-professed Christians. Some have gone as far as questioning the faith of Siju and her husband, for trying hard to fit into the absurd society standards with blurred lines of morality. Quite honestly, for a pastor who should be the model for decency, uncompromising moral standards and unquestionable decorum, inviting Flavour to her 60th birthday is definitely abominable. And this only aggravates the irritation that Siju could be partying at the time the Church’s committed member and stakeholder, had only died a few days before, in a most shocking tragedy, with his wife and first son. In other words, Siju was partying while the Church was mourning! In the end, there is nothing that explains this more lucidly than the defeat of death. Yet, the bigger misfortune is that sudden death would continue to trigger uncharitable behaviour from the living. Between mourning and partying, the Bible was unequivocal in its position when it admonished that it is better to mourn than to mery. But, apparently, that is not for Siju, afterall she can afford a lavish birthday party where Flavour can entertain her guests, while she raises hands dancing to Flavour’s “money is nothing”.

No matter how good and generous the dead may be, there are those very close who are eager to erase their memories. Death exposes the pretense, hypocrisy and wickedness of the living, or their genuine love and loyalty. Unfortunately, the dead are not near to witness what is happening so that they may make amends or reverse decisions. This may suggest that death is unfair to the dead.

What else? This is a lesson for the Church and for the living. There are just too many disturbing angles to this incident and it is most unfortunate because they are all completely avoidable. The birthday party can wait. But the decorum which was ruffled cannot wait. It will remain a monument for Siju and her husband, and even the Church and the living.

Ebuka Onyekwelu (Staff Writer)
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