DR. CHIEF DOZIE IKEDIFE, Ikenga Nnewi.
Thinker, Philosopher, Equal Rights Activist, Humanitarian, Altruist.
A look at some of the issues Ikedife cared about.
“An unexamined life is not worth living.”
The above dictum by Socrates as reported by Plato in his Apologia, was innate in Ikedife when he was born on the 24th of August 1932 and imbued him with such relentless intellectual curiosity that propelled him headlong into the then esoteric subjects as Classics, Ethics, Historiography, Cosmogony, Philosophy, and Natural sciences even before he was through secondary education.
Little wonder then that Ikedife ended up in medical sciences obtaining a Bachelor of Sciences degree from the University of London, a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Glasgow, Scotland.
Ikedife’s avidity and appetite for reading light and arcane works were legendry. Thus he was at home discussing epics such as Gilgamesh, Mahabharata and Ramayana, Hesiod’s Theogony, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aenid, etc.
Where Robert Kennedy found distraction during trying times by reading Aeschylus’ Greek Mythological Tragedies, Ikedife relished for relaxation, the ancient dramas of the playwright triumvirate of reputation; Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides.
A couple of weeks before Ikedife passed, he often made comments, which with the benefit of hindsight now show that he felt the end was near.
Yet such was his love for reading and pursuit of knowledge that he continued to purchase books till just days to his death.
Ikedife’s life wittingly or unwittingly was influenced by aspects of stoicism, an ancient Greek philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium around 3rd century B.C.
Stoicism, mainly a philosophy of personal ethics, prescribes self-discipline, fortitude and the pursuit of the virtues of wisdom, courage, justice and temperance as means of overcoming destructive emotions and developing in the process, clear judgment, inner calm and freedom from unnecessary suffering due to the vicissitudes in human experience and condition.
Stoicism enjoins us to live according to nature i.e. human nature, consisting of two propositions:
On the one first part, we are essentially social animals. Though we are able to survive by our selves, we thrive much better when we exist in healthy social networks as families, kindred, societies, communities, villages, towns, cities etc, living in one universal spirit of brotherly love and helping one another while minimizing such external differences as rank, wealth, stratification due to pedigree of birth or social standing. Thus at once propounding cosmopolitanism and egalitarianism.
Secondly, with our epistemological foundation, we are vested with certainty of knowledge attainable through the use of reason, with the mind being able to distinguish a representation of reality that is true from one which is false.
Stoic reason is however practical and therefore different from reason in the Idealism of Plato for whom the mind alone was the source of knowledge, the senses being the source of all illusion and error. Put simply we are capable of practical reasoning, which we should apply at all times to improve our wellbeing and that of the society.
Among the stoic leaders; Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius the later was the most admired because despite being the Roman Emperor, the most powerful man on earth, he sat down each day to write himself notes about restraint, compassion and humility, subsequently collated in his book: Meditations. These values guided Ikedife’s life.
Dr Dozie Ikedife was an exemplary family man, a loving and dotting husband to his dear wife Mrs Christine Ikedife Ayolugo. He was a good father, teacher and role model to their seven children, now successful men and women brought up with those necessary values of generosity, resourcefulness, resilience, modesty, self control and humility.
The Ikedife household was usually filled with jocularity and jocundity mostly because of Ikedife’s infectious humour and dry wit balanced always with the requisite dose of discipline. Temperance!
In the late fifties when Ikedife earned his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees, the educated professional class in Nigeria was less than 0.1% of the population, which made most of the class type arrogant and haughty, but definitely not Ikedife.
A quintessential egalitarian, he had no speck on his shoulders whatsoever and related affably with every one on an equal footing.
Buoyed with love of culture and tradition, Ikedife maintained a strong affinity and kinship with the cultural and traditional men of greater Nnewi society.
For many decades Ikedife was the leading light in the cabinet of Igwe Nnewi, availing the palace with his wealth of knowledge, extensive contacts and material resources while serving in various capacities in the cabinet and participating in Igwe’s formal travels, engagements and protocols.
A vigorous member of Ogbe, Umuenem, Otolo and Nnewi communities, Ikedife contributed immensely to the development and general welfare of these collectives.
Who would forget so soon his billowing voice of reason and logic as he spoke with flawless Nnewi dialect during various meetings in these communities? I remember with nostalgia one of his exhortative speeches at Nzuko ora Nnewi, which he ended by intoning bunu bunu o to which the assembly sang back with ululations ibu anyi danda. (A clarion call to duty through collective effort and an acceptance by the assembly, jointly and severally to participate in the effort).
The public spiritedness and humanitarianism of Ikedife were easily evidenced by the testimonies of numerous recipients of such his charities as education finance, medical bills, start up capital etc.
His benevolence was accentuated by the silent manner with which he dispensed philanthropy.
Intrinsic in Ikedife’s sense of fairness was his abiding belief in the natural and equal right of the individual and the group as the pathway to justice in the society.
A thinker and social justice activist in is his own right, the reggae artist Peter Tosh in the 1977 album titled Equal Rights philosophized that “Every one is crying out for peace, yes
None is crying out for justice
I don’t want no peace
I need equal rights and justice”
The accepted fact that each of us is created in the image of God begets equality and makes equal right a natural right granted to us by God invested with inalienability and universality, amongst other natural rights.
The political philosopher John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government, states, “In races of mankind and families of the world, there remains not to one above another…” Locke then describes the state of nature of mankind as one of equality with each person endowed with natural and equal rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.
Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other political theorists posit that under a social contract, free persons in a state of nature consent to yield up to the society and its government structure some of their freedoms in exchange for a social order necessary for the protection of the remaining natural rights, these yielded rights become their civil rights.
Any such government structure must therefore govern with the consent of the people.
The founding fathers of America adopted Locke’s political theory and declare in their Declaration of Independence that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…..”
Thirteen years after the American Declaration, the French issued their Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen at once declaring the natural and civil rights of persons in one document.
Liberty, equality and fraternity subsequently became the national motto of the French Republic.
Global acceptance for declaration of rights came with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1948, whilst the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights was adopted in 1981 and continues to guide the fundamental principles of the Economic community of West African States (ECOWAS) in its dealings the citizens’ rights.
In Nigeria these principles were domesticated in the 1999 Constitution particularly in chapter 2 sections 13-24 and chapter 4 sections 33-46.
Ikedife was an activist for the equal rights of the individual and for the group.
On the individual level, equal rights to Ikedife encapsulate the significant context of social justice defined as “justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society”.
The various Declarations of Rights mentioned above as well as the Nigerian constitutionally mandated Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy include economic, social and cultural rights such as right to and security of employment, right to health care, right to education, right to social welfare and security, freedom from discrimination, equal opportunity and government accountability.
In 1941 on the wake of Hitler’s unfolding World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in an address that later came to be known as the Four Freedoms Speech, proposed four fundamental freedoms that people everywhere in the world ought to enjoy, as: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in their own ways, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
Roosevelt may have intended to rouse some Americans from their naïve disposition to neutrality in the face of a fast approaching cataclysm, but he ended up providing an instructive context and perspective to equal rights and social justice.
The Vienna Declaration and Programme of action pointed out in 1993 that “poverty inhibits the full and effective enjoyment of human rights”
A poor person not availed the necessary tools of education, training, healthcare; etc would have been denied equal rights to social wellbeing.
Governments under the social contract principle bear the bulk of responsibility for the provision of social justice to its citizens. Yet humanitarianism and voluntarism behoove the better-off members of the society to help the less fortunate, as Ikedife would say “onye aghana nwanne ya” (Brotherhood and fraternity).
To Ikedife equal rights for the group pertain mainly freedom from discrimination and equal opportunity.
In the classical Greek antiquity, Athenian democracy is said to have developed accidently by Cleisthenes taking the ordinary people (demos) into his own group during his struggle for power with Isagoras, backed by the Spartans.
Fortunately, Cleisthenes and the demos prevailed and having tasted power, participation could no longer be taken away from the people going forward. The ensuing democracy was discriminatory excluding all except adult male citizens.
Over millennia democracy evolved in fits and starts and it is yet to fulfill its promise of providing equal opportunity for participation of peoples in the political process of the polity.
In America supposedly the beacon of democracy, women achieved suffrage only in 1920 with the adoption of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution. And despite the passage of voting rights act in 1965, poor African Americans and minorities are still struggling to vote unhindered. Women and minorities in America and world over are even more denied of equal opportunity to political and bureaucratic positions, equal pay for equal work, access to education, and academic positions.
Nigeria has fared much worse in affording equal opportunity to the female gender and minority ethnic groups.
Ikedife was rankled that nearly sixty years since Nigerian independence, Ndi Igbo a majority tribe is yet to produce the head of government or executive president of the nation, wheras the other two majority tribes have had two to three turns each at the headship of federal government.
The fact that Ndi Igbo have perennially been excluded from the headship of Nigeria’s security infrastructure was also of much concern to Ikedife.
He felt that the exclusion of any group whether ethnic, gender, or religious must stop if the government desired to continue to enjoy the consent of all Nigerians.
A founding member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Ikedife was appointed and served as the presidential liaison officer to President Shehu Shagari.
A peer, friend and personal confidant of Dr Alex Ekwueme, Shagari’s vice president, Ikedife was frustrated by the coup d’état that brought to an end Shagari’s second term government just a few years to Ekwume’s expected election to the presidency. He felt that this was the nearest an Igbo man came to the headship of the Nigerian government.
The perceived injustice was made worse, when his friend Ekwueme, a mere vice president with hardly any executive powers was thrown into prison while Shagari the executive president on whose table the buck stopped, was held in house arrest. And for all that, Ekwueme suffered in vain as the subsequent judicial enquiry found that he left the government poorer than he went in.
Nontheless, ever the magnanimous family, Kene Ikedife the second son of Ikedife ran for an assembly seat on the platform of CPC, President Buhari’s initial political party, while Dozie Ikedife jnr the first son of Ikedife contested for Anambra deputy governorship post on the platform of APC, Buhari’s post merger legacy political party.
In 1997, Dr Alex Ekwueme convened a political summit to discuss the possibility of returning democracy to Nigeria. Unknown security agents dispersed the meeting. Undeterred Ekwueme organized the metamorphosis of the group into a pan Nigeria political group called G-34, which became the nucleus of the political party that is known today as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
There was a tacit understanding amongst the party leadership that Ekwueme was to be the presidential candidate being the leader of the party and given his pioneering role in its formation, his seniority as the former vice president, his dignity and integrity, underscored by need to give Ndi Igbo an equal opportunity to the presidency. This was not to be as the military industrial complex swung into action and orchestrated General Olusegun Obasonjo’s entry into PDP, wherein they pulled all stops and levers to skew the primary election to Obasojo’s favour.
Ikedife was sad that then PDP leadership led by Chief Solomon Lar was corralled into awarding Obasanjo the party presidential ticket despite being disqualified by the party constitution by reason of his failure to win his polling unit for the party in an earlier election.
Notwithstanding the injustice, Ekwueme patriotically deployed his energy and brilliance in seeing to the successful introduction of the six geo-political zonal structure of the Nigerian polity. This brought forth ease of political administration and rotation of the presidency among the zones and was widely accepted with gratitude by all and sundry.
Consequently every informed Nigerian knows that in 2023, the president should be produced from Ndi Igbo of the southeast zone.
One may therefore understand Ikedife’s chagrin and consternation at the brazen attempt to deny Ndi Igbo once again their turn at the presidency by some of the leaders of the two majority parties, PDP and APC, abetted by some Igbo leaders.
Ikedife looked on with askance as Abubakar Atiku campaign worked vigorously with Igbo leaders of PDP and Ohaneze to secure the presidential ticket of PDP for a potential two-term presidency by Atiku effectively denying Ndi Igbo their turn in 2023, in exchange for the so called restructuring of Nigeria.
Restructuring stands for the devolution of some constitutional powers, functions and responsibilities of the federal government to the states in order to bring government closer to the people, ensure greater participation of the citizenry, increase efficiency and service delivery, generate more value for money, strengthen local capacity, and adapt requiring government policies to our rich cultural diversity.
The notion that this restructuring as explained above, would benefit only the Igbos as to impel us to give up our turn at the presidency in exchange, was preposterous.
These people have through body language, inflection of tone, nuance, dog whistle and photo ops, managed to package such a necessary and fitting national exercise into a divisive shibboleth and sold same as a southern quest against the north rather than a mutually required recalibration of the polity to achieve its potentials.
One may ask, would this restructuring be done extra constitutionally; perhaps by divine proclamation or vide a coup d’état?
Restructuring done constitutionally, would require amendment to some of the provisions of the constitution. And with the South versus North body language of its propagators, it would be very difficult to obtain the two-thirds majorities in the both chambers of the National Assembly and of the State Assemblies necessary for passage.
Ikedife was also appalled to hear some APC leaders in the southwest telling the voters to vote APC to enable the southwest produce the president in 2023. He was even more saddened to see some southeast stalwarts of APC canvassing the voters on the same premise that southeasterners required to vote APC overwhelmingly in order to produce the president in 2023.
The right of Ndi Igbo to produce the president in 2023, is an equal right to equal opportunity, God given and natural, inalienable and universal, codified as our civil right by the spirit of section 14 sub-section 3 of the 1999 Constitution, a right that cannot be diminished, burdened or encumbered by the imposition of any condition.
Politicians and statesmen in the quest for power, often times fall easy prey to political realism, that branch of political philosophy that assumes that power is the primary end of political action, a theory well propounded by the Melian Dialogue, Nicole Machiavelli’s best known work, The Prince and Shakespeare’s Richard III.
Yet, it was to negate power-at- all-cost syndrome that modern polities such as Nigeria established the ideals of equity and justice for governments and the nations, protected by the necessary constitutional impetus, the violation of which would put government in a precarious position of losing the consent of the governed and the consequent legitimacy.
It needs however be stated that while Ndi Igbo are struggling to realize their full natural and equal rights as citizens of Nigeria, we must, as a matter urgency deal with the abominable cruelty unleashed by our very selves on our brothers and sisters through the inexplicable nonsense of caste.
All of us adult Igbos share a collective guilt for dehumanizing of some of our brothers and sisters.
Science has long proven through sequencing of DNA that genetically, all human beings irrespective of race are descended from the Mitochondrial Eve.
How totally foolish and ignorant we look therefore, to regard some of our brothers and sisters even of the same race as somehow different.
We have always found it convenient to blame our fore fathers for this inhumanity, making us seem even more stupid for having the ocean of knowledge at our disposal today and yet blaming our illiterate, ignorant and superstitious fore fathers.
ALL IGBOS ARE OF THE SAME RACE AND OF THE SAME CASTE, NON LOWER AND NON HIGHER !!!
Ikedife’s religion merits some mention at this point.
He was a firm believer in God.
A lover and promoter of African culture and tradition, Ikedife preferred Godian religion as a vehicle of worship.
Godianism is a monotheistic African traditional religion that existed before the missionaries brought Christianity to Nigeria. Godians believe in the same one God, as Jews, Christians and Muslims, etc the difference being only that the focal point for the Godians is God, Chineke, the creator of all things and no one else.
Godianism was formally established around 1949 as the National Church of Nigeria, as part of the nationalist struggle for independence in the South East.
The story has it that the refusal of the mainstream churches to organize a memorial service for 22 colliery miners shot by the colonial police in Enugu while on strike as part of the struggle, led to the labour movement organizing an open air memorial service in which patriotic and traditional war songs enthused the spirit of revivalism of Igbo culture and tradition.
These anti colonial sentiments led to the formal inauguration of the National church of Nigeria, which in 1962 changed its name to Godianism.
The first line of the Godian creed is the same as the Christian Nicene creed, the belief in Almighty God, maker of heaven and earth, while injunctions similar to most of the Ten Commandments are also stated in the Godian creed.
Religious tolerance is very important to the Godianism. Out of 18 articles of the Godian creed, 9 articles are devoted to religious freedom and tolerance.
Ikedife thus believed in religious toleration and the rights of persons to believe and worship as they pleased. He saw religion strictly as a matter of individual faith.
Seemingly simple issues of spirituality and religion have for thousands of years been mired in disputation. Even the almost universally accepted fact of existence of God is not spared controversy.
It was a Benedictine monk, Anslem, archbishop of Canterbury Doctor of the Church who offered the first philosophical argument for the existence of God using ontology. He posits that God is the greatest conceivable being and that a fool understands this claim even if he or she doubts the existence of God. Anslem argues that if a fool understands the definition of God, as the highest conceivable being, then God exists in the fool’s understanding i.e. his mind. Employing the logic of reductio ad absurdum, Anslem deduces that if God existed only in the mind and not in reality, it would lead to absurdity because a being which a exists in the mind and reality should be greater than that which exists only as an idea in the mind. And since we cannot conceive something or a being greater than God, therefore God exists in the mind and in reality.
The French philosopher, Rene Descartes and the German philosopher, Gottfried Leibniz with some modifications, offered similar a priori proof of God’s existence as a supremely perfect being.
These ontological arguments drew criticisms and objections. The disputations are not surprising as all philosophical arguments for the existence of God are rooted in rationality; nevertheless, spirituality and religion are ultimately matters of faith.
Even theology, which could broadly be defined as the study of the nature of the divine, must make an assumption at the outset of the existence of God and which in itself is an act of faith.
The first objection to the ontological argument was that of another Benedictine monk, Gaunilo of Marmoutiers, a contemporary of Anslem. He employed the analogy of a perfect island to argue that Anslem’s argument could be used to prove the existence of anything, which in fact does not exist. Anslem countered that Gaunilo, missed the essence of the ontological argument.
Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason criticizes Descartes’ ontological argument to the effect that existence not being a predicate adds nothing to the essence of a being, makes it possible to conceive a supremely perfect being not to exist.
On his part David Hume, an empiricist, disputed the a priori reasoning in the ontological argument and the idea that anything can exist necessarily.
The most critical take down of Anslem’s ontological argument was by Thomas Aquinas, a priest and the most influential philosopher, theologian and Doctor of the Catholic Church.
Thomas’ main objection to the ontological argument is that God’s existence is self–evident but not to us, therefore God may not be deduced from claims about the concept of God. He also argued that humans are only able to understand concepts of finite things and therefore are incapable of fully understanding the concept of an infinitely great being as God, in the manner suggested by Anslem and that the ontological argument would be meaningful only to a person who understands the essence of God completely, an impossibility, as only God can completely know his own essence.
In the light of these disputations, we must hold unto faith ultimately as our greatest tool for our belief in God.
Yet Aquinas in his works Summa Theologica and Summa Contra Gentiles, considered the five arguments for the existence of God, known as the five ways or the five proofs: arguments on motion, causation, contingency, gradation and teleology.
The circumstance in each argument is different but the logic is essentially similar in the five arguments, so lets just summarize the argument on motion. Things in the universe are constantly moving or changing. Whatever is moving or changing is being moved or changed by something else which mover or changer is in itself also being moved or changed by something else and so on. This chain cannot be infinitely long, so there must be something that causes the movement or change without moving or changing itself. This is what we understand to be God.
This argument with Aristotelian origin seeks to prove the existence of God by reason. Unfortunately, reason can only go so far.
Firstly, movement or change is empirical but the notion that movement or change cannot continue ad infinitum is not an empirical supposition, clearly not in this era of atomic science. And if we claim to know it a priori, we would be taken back to realm of ontological argument.
Secondly, the fact that the unmoved mover or the unchanged changer is God has not be proven by the above logic in the argument on motion, for it may well be understood to be any other entity or being, consequently we know that God is the unmoved mover by faith.
Our belief in God is propelled by faith and so also does faith influence our individually chosen manner of worship of God.
ALL religions espouse a belief in God and a moral code, adherence to which is necessary to meet God in the after life.
The system of worship is different inter and intra religious faiths, but the moral code is similar, founded on the universal ethics of good versus bad, virtue versus vice with love as the principal engine.
Hillel, the Jewish religious leader, credited with the development of Mishnah and Talmud, summarized the moral code of Judaism when he was asked a question regarding the difference between his teaching and that of a rather tough leader named Shammai. He answered thus “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; now go and learn” This became known as the golden rule.
Centuries before Hillel, Confucius was asked this question: “Is there a single word that can serve as a guide to conduct throughout one’s life?”
Confucius answered “Perhaps the word ‘shu’, ‘reciprocity’: ‘Do not do to others what you would not want others to do you’’
The Confucian and Judaic moral injunction is same as the Christian ethic. Our lord Jesus Christ issued the same command, for us to do unto others, as we would have them do unto us.
When asked, Christ answered that the greatest commandments were love of God and love of neighbour as one’s self.
One cannot love God without loving the neighbour but to love one’s neighbour as one’s self is to love God.
Love of one’s self is a great love if not the greatest therefore to love the neighbour as one’s self is the basis of golden rule.
Article 2 of the Godian creed states, “…Love your neigbour as you love yourself; do unto others as you would want others to do unto you….”
Also for Islam, the proclaimed principles and fundamental purpose of Islamic morality is love: love for God and love for God’s creatures.
The golden rule as a moral code is therefore the threshold test of what is a religion and what is not.
Nna Nkayimuo, my grand maternal uncle, a Godian, was an upright man who lived by the golden rule and believed that any infractions would be punished by sanctions levied in his lifetime as well as hereafter.
Dr Dozie Ikedife’s life was driven by the golden rule and biri ka mbiri, egbe belu ugo belu (live and let live) principles of Godianism.
Eschewing religious prejudice, Ikedife admired the exhaustive training that Catholic priests undergo before ordination and sponsored the training of some priests anonymously. Fittingly, Ikedife’s burial rites were officiated by a Catholic priest.
How much better the world would be if religious bigots, jingoists and chauvinists could emulate Ikedife’s toleration.
Notwithstanding the general belief in one God and the universally avowed love based moral code of most religions, millions of people have been killed or subjected to atrocities over millennia, through pogroms, massacres, and wars, on account of their faith.
These killings and atrocities have occurred and continue to occur between faiths and within faiths. Killing for God, on behalf of God, to benefit God, to support God, to exalt God etc., for the same omnipotent God, benevolent God, compassionate God, merciful God, forgiving God etc., how utterly contradictory in terms, logically incompatible, and crazy. !!!
To kill or inflict atrocities on people for our omnipotent God is to deny God’s omnipotence, a grave sin. !
To kill or inflict atrocities on people for our benevolent, compassionate and merciful God is to deny God’s benevolence, compassion and bountiful mercifulness, another grave sin. !
The major reason why intolerance festers is ignorance. Most people are inculcated with their religious beliefs during their rearing as children together with their psychological, sociological and spiritual formation. Unfortunately, prejudices, sense of religious superiority, falsity of other religions or denominations and other negatives are also ingrained in the child; these combined with ignorance prepare a potent bed for intolerance.
Ignorance leads to fear or hate either of which can lead to violence and if coupled with a zeal generated by the false premise of need to fight or avenge for God, would set of an explosion of extreme violence resulting in massacre, pogroms, carnage, war and other atrocities, all in the name of our omnipotent, benevolent, compassionate, and bountifully merciful God.
Thankfully, like Ikedife there have been some leaders and common folk, though few and far in between, who have shown exemplary behaviour towards religious toleration.
The sixteen century Muslim Mughal emperor of India, a culturally and religiously diverse empire, Akbar the Great, fostered unity by ensuring full and unfettered freedom of worship, equal treatment of all faiths. He believed that there was truth in every religion with none better or superior than the other. Akbar encouraged religious education to sustain understanding among all faiths.
Surely, if Akbar had been at the helms of affairs in India at its independence in 1948, the rancorous partition between Muslim Pakistan and present day India together with the sectarian violence and killings of thousands of innocent people that attended the exercise would have been avoided.
What about the heroic efforts of Oskar Schindler who saved 1200 Jews from Hitler’s extermination during the 2nd World War; or the heroic efforts of Salah Farah and other Muslims who shielded Christians during an attack by Al Shabab fighters in Kenya, for which Farah ended up losing his life; or the heroic efforts of the Nigerian imam who saved Christians from a terrorist attack; or the heroic efforts of a Muslim man from Iraq who risked his life to save ancient Christian texts from ISIS; or the heroic efforts of Christian aid workers, doctors, nurses etc. who risk their lives daily to helps Muslim war victims in war and terrorist zones.
Very many of these aid workers and medical personnel have lost their lives in this noble humanitarian effort, and in some gory cases, by public beheading.
Every religious faith suffers from internal schisms between the so called conservatives who insist on the strictest interpretation of its code of belief and worship, which in turn affords them their much needed moral superiority, and those much more concerned with the essence God’s love manifest in God’s benevolence, compassion and bountiful mercy.
The zealous enforcement of the strictest interpretation of some provisions and injunctions in a book of faith often times result in killings, massacres, and indescribable atrocities against even people of the same faith, as experienced in various parts of the world today.
In some faiths however, the disagreement between these puritans and essentialists does not lead to bloodletting but produces unnecessary tension and distraction.
The Catholic Church is a case in point.
Pope Francis’ ascendancy to the papacy marked a turning point in the evangelization focus of the church. A man of immense humility, his deep concern for the poor led to his choice of the name of Francis in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi. He says that the most powerful message of our lord Jesus Christ is mercy and that Christian morality is not just titanic effort of the will but includes a response to the mercy of God.
Driven by these views, Pope Francis has rekindled the effort and focus of the church in the fight for social justice, particularly championing the alleviation of the plight of the poor, the migrants, the sick and the neglected.
He has reinvigorated the church in its corporal and spiritual works of mercy and the pursuit of blessings promised in the Beatitudes.
Laying emphases on mercy, the Pope issued a papal bull, Misercordiae Vultus (“The face of Mercy”), and inaugurated a Special Jubilee Year of Mercy at the end of which he established the World Day of the Poor.
Pope Francis, known to wash and kiss the feet of AIDS patients, promotes an inclusive, open and welcoming church and which is neither chauvinistic nor harbours a sense of superiority over other religious faiths.
In October 2013 he said in an interview, “ I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, for there is no Catholic God”.
The so-called conservatives much more concerned with dogma than social justice, mercy and inclusion, were already concerned with the new focus, when Pope Frances issued his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amori Laetitia (The Joy of Love) intended to review the question of admitting civilly divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion.
Unsurprisingly, these so-called conservatives pounced. Why not! They are the watchmen of the gates of heaven lest one divorcee slips in when our omnipotent and omniscient God is asleep.
Articles appeared remonstrating with the Pope and not to be outdone, four Cardinals issued a dubia questioning the Pope on his Apostolic Exhortation.
Just imagine if men were God. (Azi bulu Chukwu…) as Ikedife would parody.
As Winston Churchill says, we may allow ourselves some limited joy, for in the world suffused with intolerant zealotry and its dastardly effects, there exist some men and women of goodwill and exemplary tolerance.
Ikedife was one of these few, surely the man who would sponsor the education and training of priests of a religion other than his own, deserves our encomium and eulogy.
Yet nothing describes Ikedife’s attitude to life than his death and funerary instructions.
Since the dawn of civilization, mankind has been solemnizing and lavishly celebrating funerals of fellow humans, building in the process, mesmerizing monuments as tombs.
From the earliest pyramid of Djoser, pharaoh Khufu’s great masterpiece at Giza, not excluding other 130 or so pyramids, the mummies and the exquisites at the Valley of the Kings typified by Tutankhamen’s tomb with its 5400 funerary items, the Egyptians led the way in funerary constructions and arrangements.
Cyrus the Great of Persia toned it down a notch with his tomb in Pasargadae in present day Iran, but that did not deter Qui Shi Huangdi, the first of emperor of China, who perhaps felt that his successful unification of China, entitled him to build such a tomb so vast, complex and delicate that Chinese technology is yet to develop the necessary equipment capable of exploring the mausoleum. According to the Chinese historian Sima Qian, 700, 000 men were pressed into work back in the day, to build the city-sized mausoleum, and for good measure, they also built the Terracotta army of about 6000 life-sized soldiers, chariots and 40, 000 real bronze weapons, to protect the emperor in his after life. What an after life!
Later in 7th century AD, the Mesoamericans rolled out their masterful Temple of Inscriptions, a stepped pyramid tomb for their king Pakal located in Palenque in the modern-day state of Chiapas, Mexico.
About the same period, Imam Hussain Shrine was built as a mosque and burial site of Husayn ibn Ali.
Other great monuments to the dead include Castel Sant’Angelo, a mausoleum for Roman Emperor Hadrian, tombs for Mughal Emperors, Humayun and Jahangir, the world-renowned Taj Mahal commissioned by another Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
Deserving of mention also is the tomb of General Ulysses Grant, the granite exterior of which is modeled after mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Even the then communist Russia seemed to forget the plight of workers when they splashed such huge resources for the mausoleum of Comrade Lenin.
Closer home funerary arrangements have ranged from rumoured burial of very important personalities as some traditional rulers with accompanying human sacrifice, week to month long ceremonies and huge celebratory events funded by huge out lay of cash.
The phrase, a befitting burial, has meant families of modest means go borrowing to fund funerals of relations, mortgaging the future of their kids and their general well-being just to meet societal expectations, competition and rivalry.
Most times, to prepare for these befitting burials, deceased relations are kept in morgues for many months on end, sometimes as long a year or longer.
As usual with the prevalent gender inequality and equity gap, the married women in some cultures have borne the onerous burden of the death of a spouse much more than the men.
In some parts of India the burden is fatal as the bereaved wife is expected to climb the funeral pyre even before her dead husband, whereon both are cremated. This ancient Hindu custom called Sati has largely been stopped but still happens in some rural areas now and then.
As for the wife in Igbo land, she suffers a restriction of movement and withdrawal from societal affairs for a period varying from 6 to 12 months after the funeral ceremony in addition to the period preceding the funeral.
The question is why all the fuss and grandeur for a dead person??
The ancient Egyptians believed in life after death, necessitating the burial of the deceased with everyday objects for use in the afterlife. Tombs were therefore erected to provide storage space for funerary items.
Following unification into one kingdom and consequent increase in the wealth of the nation, larger tombs were built with bigger store-chambers. The Pharaohs became godlike in status, thus setting off the boom in pyramid construction.
The first Emperor of China obsessively but unsuccessfully sought immortality through elusive elixirs of life, and so, his city-sized tomb, Terracotta army and huge cache of weaponry, were provisioned for the continuation of his life after death, i.e. if he eventually died.
In the main Abrahamic religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam, there are some differences of belief in some aspects of what happens after death. There is however, a common belief in the finality of death and the promise of God to judge on the judgment day, leading to reward with eternal life in heavenly paradise for the righteous or punishment with hell for the evildoers.
Adherents of Godianism, the African Traditional Religion believe also in the finality of death, and that sanctions for evil deeds are meted out to the doer in his or her lifetime and thereafter.
Ever the philosopher, driven by reason and temperance with a hint of asceticism and impelled by the need to examine life long held notions, Ikedife stated that he did not believe in birthdays or celebrating the dead with the usual lavish ceremonies and condolences.
If one really thinks it through, everyday is a birthday, for if today were your fortieth birthday, tomorrow would be your fortieth and one day birthday, and so on. It does not sound so nice just because we are used to counting yearly.
Due to the reality of finality of death, Ikedife insisted that funeral ceremonies and condolences were of no use to the dead and could only lead to unnecessary waste of resources by the living, pushing the bereaved into avoidable debt in some cases. He also found the practice of not burying the dead as soon as possible and keeping the corpse in the morgue for weeks, months, and in cases years as repugnant.
Consequently, Ikedife’s funeral instruction was simple and that was, for him to be buried within 24 hours of his death and with no funeral ceremonies after that.
I would bet that Ikedife intended his funeral instruction as both his well-reasoned proper course of action and dialectic geared towards a healthy debate. It would therefore do disservice to his memory as a philosopher to accept such as truism without the attendant examination.
To bury the dead within 24 hours of death or at the earliest possible time, is without question the proper and necessary course of conduct, because the soul departs at the point of death leaving behind a mere carcass for which no tomb no matter how big or how beautifully decorated would be of use and for which no ceremony no matter how grand would be of use.
While Ikedife was right that a funeral ceremony was of no use to the dead, I dare argue that he was wrong to deem it unnecessary on this premise or on the premise that it would lead to waste and/or avoidable debt for families of modest means.
Apart from opportunity for collectively praying for the dead, funerals ceremonies are more for the living than the dead. They avail the bereaved emotional distraction at the lowest moment and provide opportunity for the commencement of process of healing and closure.
Participation in funerals helps to refocus our attention to our mortality, while speeches, sermons, funeral orations and tributes contribute to the discourse on public morality. Just the fact that Reverend Father Udemba officiated at Ikedife’s burial and extolled his virtues reminded people of the good in religious tolerance and of the morality of Ikedife’s virtues.
Moreover, we often forget that funeral ceremonies for elders as Ikedife are at once mourning and celebration of lives well lived and are therefore economic activities contributing to the local economy and the overall gross domestic product.
Hardly can the expenditures made to attain the above objectives be taken as wasteful, and by the same token, families should however apply prudence on spending for funerals so as to avoid debt. Only those families, who desire to and could afford it, should undertake such ceremonies.
This dialectic is one sided since Dr Ikedife is not available to offer his usually vigorous rebuttal.
We miss him so much.
The other vexing issue relating to burials in some parts of Nigeria is the habit of burying the dead in residential homes. Let me leave this for another day.
When Dozie Ikedife Jnr asked for my tribute, I warned him that mine would not be the usual hagiography but a look at some of the issues Ikedife cared about and that it would be longer than Pericles’ Funeral Oration.
For want of time and space I have looked only at a few issues and non-exhaustively at that, otherwise I would require to write no less a book in order to do justice to the intellectual colossus that was Dr Dozie Ikedife, thinker, philosopher, humanitarian, equal rights activist, altruist.
Nnayi Ikedife, Ikenga Nnewi, Ikuku Ebu Mkpu, Odezuluigbo, je nke oma, oke gi na be Chukwu ga bu OKEOMA !!!