It is not for us to confess that in our civilized attitude towards death we are once more living psychologically beyond our means, and must reform and give truth its value? Would it not be better to give death the place in actuality and in our thoughts which properly belongs to it, and to yield a little more prominence to that unconscious attitude towards death which we have hitherto so carefully suppressed? This hardly seems indeed a greater achievement, but rather a backward step…but it has the merit of taking somewhat more into account the true state of affairs…

                          ( Sigmund Freud, “Thought for the Times on War and Death”)

In vain, the workman showed his wits

With Rings and Hinges counterfit

To make it seem in this disguise

A Cabinet to vulgar eyes/

Oh! Cealia, Cealia, Cealia shits!

(Jonathan Swift, The Lady’s Dressing Room)

“Are you a purgatorian?” the question struck me as odd. The voice continued “ we prurgatorians use water when we pray.” Now the question becomes clearer. I was having a bottle of Eva Water and have directed the tricycle driver to Vaults and Gardens, Ikoyi. For the benefit of those who have not been to Ikoyi, Vaults and Gardens is a private cemetery among others that is located beside FRCN off Federal Secretariat Road, Ikoyi Lagos. Indeed, am not a purgatorian, however on this day I have come to be part of the funeral ceremony of a friend who was flown in from the United States who have decided to be buried in the cemetery other than her home town of Abak in Akwa Ibom State.

Two things struck me on this visit, first is the high rate of disappearance, i.e missing people in Lagos evidence by the number of posters found in Falomo bus stop. Secondly is the location of the cemeteries right behind Dodan barracks stretching through Sani Abacha way. This second fact got me thinking. Why did the Army boys allowed the cemeteries to exist or remain close to the seat of power. Of course the cemeteries could have been there before the creation of Dodan Barracks, in that case it is a colonial project and was permitted by the military to remain or on the other hand, they created it. I am not old enough neither am I a Lagosian to answer the question. However, what I know of the Nigerian military not to talk of Dodan Barracks as the seat of power is enough to say that the military could have closed the cemetery if they wanted.

Whatever be the case, there is a cemetery or cemeteries behind the Dodan Barracks, the former seat of power occupied by people like our current President Muhammadu Buhari. The cemeteries could then have served as the glory of the Military boys akin to the attitude of Walter Mosca of Puzo’s Dark Arena or they stood and still remain convenient places for burials. However, I want to pursue a different line of thought, that is, the cemetery as the underside of power—of the hero. In The Denial of Death the psychologist Ernest Baker argues that the first thing we have to do with heroism is to lay bare its underside, show what gives human heroics its specific nature and impetus. In this sense then, heroism is first and foremost a reflex of the terror of death.

People admire the courage to face death, it moves them deeply because they have doubts on how brave they themselves could be. The hero faces death with courage and equanimity. Puzo’s Godfather, Don Corleone died while chanting “life is good.” The ultimate hero then is one who could go into the spirit world and return alive. The triumph of Christianity over all other mystery cults as competitors is because it featured a hero who died and resurrected. The Christian Easter canticle “Victimae Paschali laudae” is then a joyful song other than Isthar lament for Tamuz. Here, I will quickly point out that the heroic welcome received by the ex convict and ex governor James Ibori on his homecoming , i.e, his exodus from Britain takes its clue from this idea of the courage to face death, in this case incarceration.

The courage to face death, i.e, to be a real hero is also the courage to handover or set things aright. It is the courage to say “Son behold thy mother, mother behold thy son” it is that courage that understands that life and living itself is bigger that an individual. In essence “life is good “ is the affirmation of philanthropy whose root is biophily. In this regard, we have to acknowledge the heroism of President Muhammadu Buhari in transferring power to his vice when juxtaposed with the late Umaru Yaradua.

Lest, misunderstanding creeps in. I do not wish President Buhari death. When I see the images of Robert Mugabe, the old Bob, I know that a human being can live above Ninety and still looks healthy. However, everyone is not Bob and will not be. President Buhari has been sick for over a Month and the only thing a public spokes-person could tell us is that he is elated hearing the President’s voice. And when I read such news I ask myself what is the real meaning of deception or its other side.

Finally, all the members of the BMC should remind the President that he was once in Dodan Barracks and he may like to have a tour even if it is a mental one, a quick flight through the other side of that seat of power, short of the Abacha way and branching in to the FRCN—Vaults and Gardens.