In Africa, the Dead are More Taken Care of than the Living

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If you’ve attended a burial ceremony like the ones that take place in my home country Nigeria, you would marvel at the synergy of purpose, extravagance and display of wealth in the midst of poverty just to honor the dead by giving the late individual a ‘befitting’ burial.

We break the banks for the dead and lock it up for the living. I’ve seen lavish burial celebrations for individuals less than 60, even as the children get on the dance floor after shedding all the tears they’ve got at the burial site. 

The celebrations are well planned and uniformed silk, laze or ‘ankara’ wears are sometimes sold or distributed to family, friends, associates and enemies alike who may wish to join in the “celebration of life”.

The coffins will tempt a thief with its gold décor and undertakers that dance with the body in the casket – it’s a carnival you can’t afford to miss. The folks from the diaspora, coming in with their pounds sterling and dollars converted into weak local currencies are ready to show to all their glorious arrival by flaunting their swags and wealth from the other side of the world. 

They do have a psychological feeling they are from another planet too. From reception halls, assorted wines, sumptuous delicacies, stage musicians or DJs smashing hit songs from the blast of a 5G speaker, you can only wish the dead a safe trip to paradise, if indeed he/she truly makes it. Unfortunately, folks don’t even think about that anymore. It’s all fun and fun, it doesn’t matter if the dead is receiving a spanking on the other side, who cares now. Women’s head gears on the occasion can be as sharp as helicopter blades, rising stylishly on the head for a colourful matchup. 

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Some religious practices (Islam for instance), make it mandatory that prayers are offered for the dead. Meanwhile, seldom do we pray for the living. Isn’t that the reason we have “#prayfor” hashtags all over the world whenever people die in large numbers?

Families spend from $7,000 to several thousands of dollars on giving a ‘befitting’ burial to the dead. Many African churches allow this wastefulness to persist against the Biblical standards of burying the dead (as if they really don’t read and study their spiritual manuals any more). What could be more befitting than the burial of Jesus whom Christians are taught to learn from? 

Many go as far as taking loans, withdrawing lifetime savings and soliciting assistance from several people to support financially. With over 75 percent of the population languishing in extreme poverty, imagine how coming together to raise seed capital by family members could have salvaged the continent from a generational poverty. They blame it on curses and continually seek redemption through sacrifice of prayers and fasting rather than doing the right thing. If indeed curses are effective, we’re simply the ones pulling the trigger.

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Consider the number of millionaires that we could have made if we supported the young ones with innovations and entrepreneurs among us. Imagine having hospitals being built through family empowerment scheme.

I once fell into such bondage of improper culture when I had planned to attend a burial ceremony of a distant relative. As I began trying to push myself to the limits by sourcing for funds, a still small voice from within raised a question in my mind, “why are you not at peace over the dead, whom you believed have gone to rest in peace”? It was a deep inner power that made me re-think and ultimately well relaxed and at peace with myself.

Rather than worry over the dead on how to give him/her a befitting burial, I have devoted my energy to the living. Moderacy is key, but Africans have not learnt that. This is a point where we must begin a revolution. It starts by radically changing the improper culture such as the way we bury the dead and set out to do what is most worthy and reasonable. If people are not repentant in their actions and beliefs, they will get leaders from among them just as they are. We deserve the kind of leaders we get.

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E. Africa

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