Anatomy of death
By Abdul-Warees Solanke
Monday, April 09,  2012

On Sunday 4th March, I received a phone call from home in Ibadan on the death of my “first son”, Sherif. As I took the next available okada from Ikotun to Iyana Ipaja to board the last bus to Ibadan, hot tears streamed my flat cheeks.

His death reawakened in me the real meaning of life, the meaning of meaninglessness, of futility. It redefined my understanding of ambition, ambition as mirage when death is not minded. After all, Sherif was one of my dreams. He was clay in my hands. I was his potter. I was already glorifying in my dexterity as potter of sorts. He died on Friday March 2, in a tragic accident in Ikire, Osun State while returning to Ibadan from Ede, where he worked as the farm manager with the Oodua Farm Institute.

Following the birth of his new child, Abdussalam, a month earlier, he had relocated his young family to Ibadan for necessary post-natal support and care. It was in the course of his weekly family run that he met his martyrdom in the cause of his young family. With his death, he became my broken pot, shattered into smithereens, in my hands. I was involved in digging the grave of this promising son of mine. And, as I joined rows of my sympathisers behind this broken pot of my ambition and unfulfilled dream for the last ritual of janaza at Orile Erunmu via Iyana Ofa, Ibadan, I reflected on the colour of ambition. Not colourful, if not mindful of the hereafter.

Few days later, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, John Haruna, went down with a helicopter in Plateau State, crashing to death while on active state service, this tragedy coming barely three months after another top fly in the police who was also a Deputy Inspector General, died in a hotel room in Ikorodu, Lagos while representing his principal, the IG on an assignment. In the duo’s death, I had another glimpse of ambition. Ambition crashes when it is about reality.

And there is another color of ambition in the death of the Apagunpote of Egbaland last month, in the lake of a golf resort he superintended, a place he originally designed for comfort and relaxation, but ended being his abode of annihilation. The death (whether suicide or otherwise) of a scion of Abeokuta, Apagun Oluwole Olumide who played very visible role during immediate past government in the Gateway State also gave me another insight into the colors of ambition. Ambition fizzles when the ovation is loudest or man is at a Kilimanjaro of the actualization of his dream, when being on a Mambilla could be as equally fulfilling.

Since I am a Diaspora son and not part of the politics of my home state, and I don’t have access to privilege information on what transpired in Abeokuta in the preceding eight years of OGD, except what everybody reads on the pages of newspapers and rumours that fly around, which in any case I treat with disdain, it becomes impossible for me to join the bandwagon of critics on the circumstances of Apagun’s death.

From Apagun’s pedigree, however, all I know is that he was a man of ambition. So in his death, I gained a new insight into the colors of ambition, that not all men of ambition have a deathbed laid with roses, and surrounded by light and beauty, nor do they have the grace to say Ebenezer; here is where the Lord hath led me in pleasure and satisfaction. They may never even have the privilege of smiling at the moment the black angel comes knocking, violently, mercilessly. Nonetheless, I have another view on his death, rooted in Yoruba mythology, after all Apagun was a Yoruba cultural ambassador, a traditional title holder of the chivalrous order.

For me as a muslim, my ultimate ambition, in whatever I lay my hands on, in whatever I pursue, the goal I set, my vision for the future, in whatever partnership or allegiance I forge, in whatever project I handle, is to attain the pleasure of Allah. So, as I reflect on the death of my first son, my eldest sister’s first child, Sherif Ariyo Ayobanji Alani Abdulazeez who died at the age of 33, while on active duty and family commitment, I was consoled that he attained a purpose in life, a modern day farmer who found pride farming and training young farmers at Oodua Farm Institute, leaving behind a very large loving family, his death a wakeup call that longevity is not the definition of reaching the goal of life.

Solanke writes from Lagos.

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