Opinionista Babatunde Fagbayibo 15 January 2018

When The Dead are not dead

Mr President, I humbly advise that you take your current approach to the next level by appointing dead persons as ministers and ambassadors. In our dealings with the EU, IMF and UN, please state categorically that the negotiating team will be led or by dead persons. If they ask you any of those Eurocentric, imperialist questions, be firm in your response.

Dear President Muhammadu Buhari,

Happy new year to you and the family! I hope that the gracious and true African city of Abuja is treating you well. If so, doxology! I am writing you this letter not only as a citizen of Nigeria but one who drinks daily from the warm spring of pan-Africanism. As such, my eyes are always wide open, and my ears fully tuned to grab any message – good or bad, minute or gargantuan – that concerns our beloved continent. Mr President, I must also add that I do this for free, my own contribution to ensuring that the sun that witnessed the nativity of this continent may never dim.

Mr President, my letter is essentially based on the recent announcement of the appointment of 209 chairpersons and 1,258 board members of government agencies and Parastatals. Many have taken to social media and newspapers to lambast you for including the names of at least three dead persons in that appointment. The number has since increased to eight. They even said that you had sent a condolence message to the family of one of the appointees when he passed on last year. Others have started coining terms to describe your action: necromanocracy (‘government of the dead, by the dead and for the dead’); necrocracy (‘government of the living by the dead for the living’) etc.

These criticisms hurt me deeply for one main reason: our people’s inability to see your ingenuity regarding this matter. Mr President, I have seen the hurried and unreflective response of your media aides to try to address this controversy, and I must say that I have been very unimpressed. Mr President, let it be clear, you are way ahead of your time, and you have been gifted with mystical eyes, one that sees beyond the land of the living. I would like to refer your critics to the saying that in African tradition and customs, the dead are not always dead, they continue to exist among the living. What you have done here, Mr President, is give practical effect to this saying. The question your media aides should have asked your critics is this: “Why should we deprive ancestors of the right to directly participate in governance matters?”

Mr President, our people have for long been brainwashed by Eurocentric ideas and ideals to the extent that we now demonise our cultural norms and values. If we keep saying that we must decolonise our systems, why should we then turn around to vilify those that show keen interest in turning theories into praxes?

Mr President, I will humbly advise that you shouldn’t reverse yourself on this position; in fact, you must take it a notch higher by appointing dead persons as ministers and ambassadors. When you need to send envoys to address conflict situations on the continent or negotiate intra-African trade deals, please send dead persons. In our dealings with the European Union (EU), World Bank, IMF, and the United Nations (UN), Mr President, you must state categorically that the negotiating team will either be led or have as members dead persons.

If they ask you any of those Eurocentric, imperialist questions, be firm in your response about how we can no longer exclude our ancestors from our ways and means. Let them know that the ancestors remain angry at us for having removed them from our existential matrix. This bold act of yours might just inspire other African Presidents to start exploring this possibility, and also find means of backing it up with constitutional and/or legislative powers.

Some half-clever intellectuals may already be sharpening their pens to point out the logistical impossibility of this point. Again, Mr President, we have an answer for them. If the dead person appointed is either the Chairperson or member of the board, all that must be done is to place the name tags of the dead persons in front of the empty seats. A government agency, under the Presidency, should then be tasked with liaising directly with spiritualists (Christian, Muslim, and traditional practitioners) who will also seat in those meetings to convey the views of the dead member(s).

In terms of financial arrangements, the spiritualists should be paid per sitting, and the money accruing to the dead member should be paid to his or her (I see that you have not appointed dead women to these boards, Mr President we must be mindful of gender equality here) family members. To save some cost, I will advise that only 65% of the money be paid, with the remaining 35% regarded as ‘life tax’, to be remitted to the treasury for handling issues of the living. This arrangement should also apply to any appointed dead minister or ambassador or envoy.

Mr President, you have indeed started a trend here, one that is likely to change the course of African history. Many who don’t operate in your realm will find it difficult to comprehend but time, the ultimate arbiter, will tell. I must also add that Nigeria as the leading economy and largest population in Africa has an historical obligation to lead the way in advancing the decolonisation process.

Mr President, please continue with your good works, and I surely look forward to more appointments that show the logical continuity between living and the life beyond vice versa. DM

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