Nigerians woke up Monday morning to learn of a wide spreading rumour that President Muhammadu Buhari, who had left the country just few days before to seek medical attention in the United Kingdom, was on a life support as a result of the deteriorating health. Another even more disturbing are claims that the President may even have died.
To those whose ears did not catch the rumour earlier, as they had later revealed, they had wondered why there were clusters of people sitting or standing in and talking in whispers at several corners.
Those who gathered around mosques within the residential areas were in solemn moods and wore disturbed expressions on their faces. There were others along the streets who talked excitedly with gesticulations suggesting something not associated with the usual loss or pain of death.
Even uniformed men were not left out in the palpable atmosphere created by that rumour. Could anyone be joyous at the rumour of death of another? At first, yours truly and, of course, those others to whose ears the rumour reached later, never read much meanings to such gatherings, as they moved about their businesses.
As much as modern civilization has erased certain strongly held superstitions in Africa, the mystery surrounding the phenomenon of death has continued to endear this abstract reality such dreadful awesomeness that even the valiant, mighty, brave, or gallant, cringe at the mention of it.
Death is not a thing to play with. It is an obvious and inevitable end of not just man but every living thing. But no one wants it as a topic – even of a fairy tale.
Rumour about someone’s demise has lived with man through time. In Nigeria, some of our founding fathers had rumours of death spread about them while they still lived. The late Zik of Africa – the great Nnamdi Azikiwe, Owelle of Onitsha and Nigeria’s foremost nationalist had rumours of his death spread on about two different occasions while he was still healthy and kicking.
To those who ignited the rumours and spearheaded the spreading, he had retorted that he was above human destruction; and that he would remain alive to attend their funerals. That was the time leading political figures in Igboland were struggling to fit into his shoes of high caliber political intellectuality, prowess, and acumen. They wanted to be his successor in the political leadership of Igboland.
True to the myth that surrounded his personality, Zik, the political Deity that he was, those fingered to have engineered the rumour of his death all died before him and he attended their funerals. Elders had to say that when a rumour of death is spread about one, one was sure to be closer to his grave sooner. But in Zik’s case he outlived the rumour with more than ten years.
In recent times, rumours of death have been spread about Nigeria’s former military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. His has occurred in two different occasions and ha has always bounced back alive and kicking.
In response to such rumours, the former military President, being a devout Muslim, has always applied religious philosophy to the effect that time to live or to die belongs only to the Almighty.
What is more baffling in the rumour of President Muhammadu Buhari’s death is the excitement which Nigerians demonstrated at it. For a President of a country like Nigeria, a leading African nation, such rumour should not have been encouraged from its initial stage. Even some uniformed men were seen beaming with some sort of relief at that rumour.
What did a President stand against in a commoner’s life? We are surely in a decadent society where economic hardship has knocked off sense of morality of the ordinary citizen. The seriousness of this matter and the grim situation it presented informed the press conference addressed by Nigerians in the United Kingdom condemning the rumour and those who initiated its peddling.
Unfortunately we, in our neo – primitivism do not have the science to know or track the originators of the rumour. We do not have a crystal ball, either, to help us find out who it is that wants President Muhammadu Buhari dead by announcing his death before time. Who really wants the President dead?