A great man once said that a thing that must be done, should be done properly. Ok, I made that up. But it is true. Somehow we all must die. Don’t ask me the cause of that product defect. Even if you cheat death like Mugabe who at 120 is still insisting on ruling Zimbabwe, someday it must all end. This no one can control. But how we die, this is more important than dying itself. Because to die without a ripple, without some stirring in the air, is to never have lived. Death is not a noun or a state. It is an event, the success of which requires proper planning.
This is how to die in Nigeria.
One way to die is to ensure that in life, you did something worth remembering. This action need not be good or exemplary. In Nigeria no one cares if you were good or evil when you die. The only crime is dying without having done anything worthy of note. Like dying so poor no one knows your name. In Nigeria death, especially the death of someone rich or powerful, confers sainthood that cannot be challenged. Coup plotters and government thieves assume the title of elder statesmen and heroes of the nation. It will become forbidden to dig into your wicked past and you will be beatified. You may even get a posthumous national award or have universities and streets named after you. And most importantly, the newspapers will carry ads about your unfortunate exit or ‘Call to Glory’. In this way your death will have a meaning. So, please, if you must die in Nigeria, acquire power and wealth. I don’t care how and if you do, no one will.
Do not die in the company of important people if you yourself have not attained importance or notoriety. This is crucial. If you go and die in the company of an ex governor or ex militant, the news will say Governor so-and-so has died in a ghastly motor accident. Then the report may add that ‘also among the casualties were two persons traveling in his convoy’. No one will know which of the two unidentified persons you are. Or if you are male or female. You will pass on into oblivion without so much as an ad in the paper. Because in Nigeria, you are a number unless you are important. God forbid that this should happen to you.
The only exception to this is dying in a plane crash. This is the most respectable death for persons without a title to their name. The flight manifest- one of the few records that are consistently available on demand in Nigeria- makes it possible to have a full list of everyone on board. Usually this list is published and somehow the world will receive notice of your untimely death. Your name will appear in full in newspapers and news reports. Your death will matter.
Do not make the mistake of dying in a luxury bus accident. You do not want to go out with the headline ‘Dozens perish in bus crash’. Because to die is one thing and to perish is another. If you are unfortunate the reporter will say something like ‘25 crushed to death’ with an emphasis on the crushing instead of the dying. All people will see in their heads will be human flesh being crushed. No face. No identity. No names.
Dying in a flood, a cholera outbreak, a collapsed building, these things are unacceptable. Rather than that, it is even better to die while having carnal knowledge, in which case at least one of the tabloids or gossip blogs will find out your name and carry your story. Your family may not like it, but at least people will know your name.
One of the worst places to die however is in a terrorist attack. Nigeria is not any of those countries where they respectfully identify people by name in a terrorist attack. God will judge them for trying to make us look bad. We cannot afford such luxuries. Here, when a terrorist kills you whether as a student in a school or a traveler on the road, you become a summarized into a number or fraction. An official of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was once quoted as saying that when fatalities occur in a conflict situation, they feel duty bound to reduce the figures, so as not to escalate the crises. What wise thinking. So if there are 200 deaths, NEMA may report 60. Or just cancel one zero and say 20. Imagine being summarized. Not even counted as a whole dead figure. So if you run into a terrorist bent on taking your life, beg the man. Tell him you are not opposed to dying for his cause. Plead with him to try something else, maybe make a video or something. Because it would be a tragedy to fade into oblivion, unannounced.
One great way to go is to die on camera. Hundreds, including school children may die or be slaughtered every month in Maiduguri and Nigerians will go about their daily activities. Because in their heads Maiduguri is one faraway North Eastern state that could pass for Chadian or Nigerien territory. In their heads 160 killed in Borno is what it is, a number. But if you have your death captured on tape, perfect. Then you can have NGO’s calling for legislation to outlaw whatever type of knife they used to stab you. If you are fortunate, your name will trend on Twitter and hashtags will spring up like #MakeSicklesIllegal, #VictorSickleSlaughter, #OutlawSickleStabbingNOW, #Justice4Tolu, #NeverAgain or #R.I.P.Kevin. People will grant interviews and there will be hundreds of badly written blogs about you. And believe me, a hashtag and a badly written blog post with a link to your death video or a photo of you gotten from Facebook is better than dying as a number. The only exception to this is dying as a hated minority. Like a Shiite. Or a Biafra protester. If you die while hated, whether on camera or not, we will spit on your grave. Just don't be a minority. Or if you cannot help it, then try the best you can to avoid dying. May an untimely death not befall you, but if it does, may it be sexy enough for a hashtag.
You cannot leave your death to chance. Because, as they say, to die is human but to die properly is divine. Ok, I made that up too, but you catch my drift, no?