By Rafiq Raji, PhD
In the concluding days of the year just past, former Nigerian president Shehu Shagari was put to rest in the Islamic fashion. Some fellow Muslims wondered about the filming and photographing of the humble man’s grave. They were speaking from the pedestal of what they knew. Most Islamic clerics take on the responsibility of censoring their pronouncements to avoid the risk that should the wider and bigger picture be presented as it is, there might be misinterpretation.
Broaden your understanding
To the extent of my understanding, the privacy that was the former president’s right were those rites that were not done in the public eye. A camera is analogous to a pair of eyes. The proper context is whether the rites that were filmed are allowed to be seen with the naked eye in the Islamic context. There is no argument there. The other potential misunderstanding is about the propriety of pictures. I do not subscribe to that interpretation. That which I subscribe to is whether what you are viewing is good or bad. And what you do with pictures. Besides, the sobering effect of how death equalises the high and the low epitomised by the Islamic mode of burial is of greater consideration than any other.
There is tremendous utility to be derived from the recent death of the former president. And the manner in which he was buried. Mr Shagari lived a simple life. And he was buried in the simple Islamic way. If he had lived an opulent life, as a Muslim, he would still have been buried in the same simple Islamic manner. The lesson is for our current leaders who do all sorts of despicable things to acquire and wield power. And judging from our developmental evolution thus far, they have not done so entirely for the benefit of our Commonwealth.
Unfortunately, many of them would not take the lesson. They are likely to continue their nefarious ways.
The history that Mr Shagari and President Muhammadu Buhari share is well-known. I do not suppose there was much angst between them as is publicly perceived. The strife that leaders must endure to rise to their elevated positions grants them unusual insight and understanding not available to most people.
What Mr Shagari and Mr Buhari share is simplicity. Judging from all that is evident, Mr Shagari was clearly a man of meagre means. In other words, the pilferage of our Commonwealth that occurred under his watch in the 1980s were not likely to his benefit. But as leader, he was responsible. And I suppose this was likely a source of tremendous regret for him later in life.
Those who desire a comfortable life in the hereafter know to run away from positions of authority. This is because the likelihood that you would make heaven is tremendously diminished in the aftermath. Mr Shagari was severally investigated by the incumbent president while a military head of state. If something could be found, General Buhari would have found it. But like he probably thought, that did not vindicate him from any responsibility for the sheer malfeasance that occurred back then.
But that is history; the only benefit of which is to learn from past mistakes. Incidentally, there is a bizarre parallel between Mr Buhari’s current stint in government and Mr Shagari’s back then. True, there is relatively less corruption now. But to simply dismiss murmurings about some level of ‘business as usual’ under the current goverment would be tantamount to not learning from our past mistakes.
My point? Should Mr Buhari win again, he should devote all of his energy towards leaving a lasting legacy where in a Nigeria, institutions matter more than the individual, due-process is taken for granted, and anyone, low- or high-born, can aspire to the greatest heights and succeed.