Wednesday, August 19, 2020


By Folorunso,  Fatai Adisa

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.– William Shakespeare, “Macbeth”.

There is a mortuary aphorism in Latin that reads: “De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum”. It means "Of the dead nothing but good is to be said". It simply counsels that it is socially inappropriate to speak ill of the dead as they are unable to justify themselves. I wouldn’t know if that was where the Yoruba nation got their own submission of “you don’t speak ill of the dead” too. However, I do not subscribe to the aphorism. In what follows, I shall give my reason.

On Saturday 8 August, 2020, tragedy struck in Ijebu Igbo, an area of Ogun State. One of her illustrious sons, Buruji Kashamu, was pronounced dead at the First Cardiology Consultants, Lagos. News has it that he died from complications from the deadly COVID-19. And since then, both good and bad commentaries have been trailing his death. 

Buruji Kashamu who was born on 19 May 1958 was a Nigerian politician who served as a Senator representing Ogun East in the 8th National Assembly.  Senator Kashamu was the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on States and Local Government.

The most controversial condolence message to both the Ogun State Governor and the KASHAMU’S family was the one that emanated from a former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo. He expressed his view on the person of Kashamu. While some people stood with Obj’s in his standpoint, some were against him. To summarise their message, they noted: a condolence message is a condolence message. You don’t speak ill of the dead. Below is my position:

It is normal to mourn the passage of a beloved one to the great beyond. Our culture remarks that we respect the dead. However, I have yet to read or hear the part where our culture dictates that we should deodorise their bad deeds- using elegant prose. Hypocrisy.

I once stumbled on a quote somewhere and the quote is insightful. It reads: “Live your life so that the preacher won't have to lie at your funeral”. Alder Shanon’s words also corroborate that. Here are the words: “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” Death does not confer sainthood and we cannot use it as an instrument to sanitize any life. That someone is dead doesn’t mean we should change the narrative- the truth must be told all the time. History. 

Mandela was a politician. He died and people genuinely mourned him. There are numerous politicians across the globe and, maybe, some in Nigeria too who will be genuinely mourned if they die. Be good. Do your best so that we won’t have to hypocritically mourn you when you are gone.

Life has gone past the playing of cultural and moral gymnastics- when someone is dead- in order to put a blanket of sainthood on the dead. No! Before you are gone, be the person your dog thinks you are- a good person.

Incontestably, it is only the hypocrites, the intellectually dishonest and the play-it-safes that will not see the asphyxiation of freedom (of speech) in Nigeria and the only time you have the luxury to speak your mind freely is mostly when these politicians die.

When they are alive, you can't talk safely. There are writers, journalists and political dissidents in jail and some are missing.  When they die, you are told not to speak ill of the dead as a form of respect. Respect for what? A life that was dedicated to systematically emasculating millions of people?  It is dishonest because the legacy of these people mostly do not deserve the respect you want people to give them.

Kashamu was many things to many people. Incontrovertibly, I know that many people love him in his Ijebu Igbo home. I witnessed that too in 2014. However, it doesn’t change the narrative that many holds the beliefs of his being a drug baron/peddler, court Maradona and the US extradition saga amongst other things. 

I am with Dr Olusegun Obasanjo. It is not criminal for the man to have expressed his view on the departed soul. He even added as an addendum that anyone should mourn him the way they like. Yes! Death can not change the narratives. Everyone has the right to hold and express their views.

Notably, it has become a new normal to see pretty prose proliferate immediately a politician is dead. Every politician, in Nigeria, becomes a good man immediately s/he is dead. Anyone who holds a contrary view becomes inhuman and gets prompted that s/he will die too.

The truth is: death is like a wrecking ball. When it is our time, we’ll get hit too. Prompt us to be good and do good. We all know that we will eventually be housed in a swollen ground- grave. Death.

It will be counselling to close this piece with a some words from the Western Philosophy as surmised by Martin Heidegger in his Being and Time (1962 p.289),  “As soon as man comes to life, he is at once old enough to die,”  death is no respecter of age. The saint and the sinner are both condemned to death and whoever does not die today will certainly do another day. Before you die, endeavour to be as good as possible so that we will not have to quarrel with others over the warped idea of “you don’t speak ill of the dead” when you are gone.

Folorunso,  Fatai Adisa, a Corps Member, wrote in from Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.Ogun State, Nigeria and can be reached at:

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