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Lateef Raji and the arrogance of death By Tayo Ogunbiyi

Late Lateef Raji

One of the most painful experiences anyone could have on earth is the death of a loved one. No doubt about it, death occurs in diverse places and through various means on a daily basis. In-fact, man has come to accept with philosophical calmness the reality of death as an integral part of human existence. Such is the audacious brutality of death. In-spite of the larger than life’s carriage of death; it however takes a sense of personal loss to really come to grapple with the pains that come with the demise of a close acquaintance. When we hear stories about the death of people in far and near places, we just take a casual note, shrug a bit and move on. It is one of those things and life goes on.

But then, when death decides to pluck from the midst of those you consider as very dear to you, the reaction sharply differs. I had lost a dear brother and it was a very agonizing experience. It is never a tea party to lose a dear one. Though the hurt has healed, but the scar remains. Once in a while, I can’t but ruminate on what life might have looked like if my brother hadn’t succumbed to the cold hand of death. With the experience of my brother’s heartbreaking demise, I had erroneously thought that my heart is now cast in iron and no news of death could ever break me again. How wrong!

Few years later, death was to strike again. This time around, it happened in a most wicked and traumatized manner and at a most unusual period. February is usually considered as a month of love. It has become a global tradition. Nearly everyone looks up to February in anticipation of a festival of love. But this particular February was a different one. It was a month of thick darkness. Characteristically, with darkness comes deep sorrow. Ironically, it was on a Sunday. Till now, everything had gone perfectly well. We have just had a glorious service at the church and were blissfully heading home. Then, my phone rang! It was a messenger of death! And suddenly, darkness beckoned. Few hours later, we had completed the burial of a dear colleague and her husband who died in a ghastly motor accident. It was an awfully tormenting experience that was so hard to fathom. But then, never undermine the capacity of the human heart to absorb misfortune. With time, we got over the shock of the deeply scary episode. Life is like a train in motion, though it stops at various terminals, it must move on. So again, life goes on.

But then, as earlier affirmed, death is a daily routine in human existence. Few days ago, with the precision of a sharp shooter, death struck again. This time, death was quite subtle in its tactic. When I chatted with Hon. Lateef Raji on a popular social media platform that Saturday morning, I had great hope and immense relief that all was going to be fine. Hope is an essential component of life. Hope is a daily necessity. Without hope, life would be an excruciating torment. Hope has the ability to help people heal faster and easier. But death is arrogant. It has no place for hope. Indeed, death earnestly detests hope. Its primary mission is to turn hope to despair.

So, barely 48 hours after the chat that ignited great hope in me that Hon. Raji would, indeed, play a fast one on death, the deadly monster struck with the decisiveness of a Supreme Court judge. Very early that bleak Monday morning, the messenger of death was again on duty. The mission was to herald the gloomy news of the demise of Hon. Raji. My heart ached! How does one begin a Monday morning with such devastating news? If he must die at all, must it be on a Monday morning? Such is the arrogance of death. It has no regard for time and place.

Death meets man everywhere. It is procured by every instrument, and in all chances, and enters through many doors. To some, death come by violence and secret influence while to others it comes by the aspect of a star and the scent of a mist, by the emissions of a cloud and the meeting of a vapour, by the fall of a chariot and the stumbling at a stone. Others encounter death through a full meal or an empty stomach, by watching at the wine or by watching at prayers, by the sun or the moon, by a heat or a cold, by sleepless nights or sleeping days. Others are gotten by death through water frozen into the hardness and sharpness of a dagger, or water thawed into the floods of a river, by a hair or a raisin, by violent motion or sitting still.  Many deaths occur suddenly, like the case of those that recently lost their lives in Sierra Leone after a three day torrential rainfall. You see? Death even hides in rains!

 As I began to process the shocking news of Hon. Raji’s demise, in my distress, I thought: Why couldn’t death spare good people. At least, allow them live longer to reap the reward of their goodness. Hon. Raji was a good man. Initially, as the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor (2011-2015), he was naturally my boss. But then, good people aren’t too good at playing bosses. So, he soon became a friend. Later he became a mentor. He loved people and he wanted to make them happy. He ran an open door policy. His ears were ever opened to the yearnings of the people. Though he didn’t have much, but he was willing to share the little he had with people. Unlike modern day’s counterfeits, he was a real comrade who didn’t believe in undue craze for wealth. He had little but was quite contented with what he had.

As I continued to process the news of his sad and untimely death, the rhetorical question came up in my mind once again: “Why would death not spare good people?” Well, that is what makes death arrogant. It does what it wants and gets away with it. Nothing can tame death. Not science. Not technology. Not even watchfulness. Death will strike when it will.

As for the departed Hon. Lateef Raji, one would like to remind mourning family members, friends, loved ones and colleagues of the philosophical and immortal words of legendary Williams Shakespeare in Julius Caesar:  “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once”. Death has done its worst. It can’t kill him twice. Adieu, Lateef Raji! You have fought a good fight. As for all aching hearts, with time, they will heal again and life goes on.

 Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.

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