Death in the Republic and the Coroner's call By Adeolu Ademoyo

Recently, in his response to the Dana plane decimation of about 156 human lives, Mr. Femi Fanikayode the former minister of aviation under Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency claimed that there is a blood cult in the Nigerian aviation industry who believe that shedding of human blood facilitates the acquisition of power, money, and wealth.

Factually, Mr. Fanikayode observed that either by act of omission or commission we have lost 800 lives between 2002 and 2012 to domestic air crashes.  We should be concerned with the moralities of these pogroms and human cleansing.

After the Dana deaths at Iju Ishaga, a local community in Lagos, it became obvious that public ethics and community morality will be the most important reference.  This is because with headless bodies, waist less tummies, bodyless heads and chopped human parts, this Dana human cleansing confronted us with not just deaths, it dragged us, unwillingly, into the extreme privacies of the bodies of fellow humans who are no longer alive to protect these privacies or seek for redress of their brutal violations.

Thus, when Mr. Falana ad his law firm initiated a Coroner’s inquest, he has correctly gone beyond the legal in our lives to connect with an old age moral tradition in civilized human cultures and norms when death comes stalking.  

That human tradition is the opportunity available for genuine closure to those who seek to mourn or refuse to do so via the instruments of a right to know that is embedded in a public ethics.  As for the community of mourners and grief, it then boils down to the reality of a human, mournful, and moral pain far beyond the glitter and din of politics and law.

Death, anyone’s death weighs heavily on the conscience of any civil public.  This is because conscience seethes through its pores, it has to be soothed and nursed with truth. And given that death is eternal, a failure to uncover the cause of a death, it sustains the brutalization of the public, and it impels a society back to a state of nature where life is short, nasty, brutish and blood sucking and occulting even when it is driven by naked profit, wealth and power as Mr. Fanikayode  pointed out.

However, it is not the pursuit of a cause for its sake that is important for the public, for in any case death is a compulsory tax, which everybody pays regardless of class. Thus what is important to a civil public is knowledge–to know–in order to prevent a cause of this pogrom and the next pogrom from being interred.

This is the point at which the need to know a cause intersects with the ethics of truth in decent publics. This is the point in Mr. Fanikayode’s observations. This is the point in Falana and Falana Chamber’s coroner’s inquest.

Also, way back into history of ethics, human civilizations and cultures, this was the case one quiet morning about a century ago in the English world when the coroner system in public morality and law started. To the ladies and gentlemen of the English public sphere to leave the cause of public deaths in a community hanging is a slide to barbarism and blood cultism.  The public either votes to consistently sustain its civility or it lunches back to a beastly, nasty, brutish and blood cultic state. The local coroner system is that vote to prevent a slide to that state of nature from which the English public attempts to negate and distance itself from philosophically.

So when Mr. Falana’s office initiated a Coroner’s inquest in the case of the Dana Deaths they are tapping into a long moral and ethical tradition, which puts the intersection of ethics, truth and law at the heart of a public. By public we mean the human and social agency to act in a sovereign manner in unconditional pursuit of the moral. It is that agency that is urgently needed to stop the blood cult Mr. Fanikayode alluded to.

So many things could be said about the Dana decimation. It could be argued that we had a mechanical failure and we should let bygone be bygone. It could be said that the state has initiated a ‘high-powered” inquiry including sending the “black box” for “high tech” testing. It could said that the Senate is “investigating”. It could be said that Dana is paying some “money” already. The question then  is: why do we still need a coroner?

All these miss the important point about deaths-both physical and moral- in the public. This is because the congenital failure of the Nigerian ruling group or the so-called ruling elite to see and actualize the moral worth and dignity of the human person in every Nigerian is one of Nigeria’s main problem.

This criminal and evil ruling group  cannot see that the private and the public are linked in deaths in the public.  This criminal ruling elite did not see that when Joel, Chisom and Esther  Okwuchukwu returned home to the private  last week during father’s day, these children did not meet a father, they did not meet a mother.  And these children have not been told the cause of that.

Thus, the Coroner is that moral power in the hands of the local community –facilitated by law-to know. Because this would happen right there beside their former home, it is the only moral agency in the hands of Joel Chisom, Esther Okwuchukwu to know why “mom has not come back…” It is the only right we parents as parents (only),  who still have the luxury of living have to mourn and defend the now  disembodied privacy of those parents like us who cannot rise to do this anymore. It is the right of us parents to help put a balm on the extreme injury, which Dana and their ruling class sponsors inflicted on the hallowed privacies and bodies of the dead

This is why this Coroner’s Inquest must hold. This is why those who come to the Iju Ishaga Coroner should please come only for the sake of truth in the public. This is why I appeal to Mr. Godswill Akpabio the honorable governor of Akwa Ibom state who had had cause of a moral premonition of this mournful incident to kindly come to the public to  honor the call of the community through the Iju Ishaga Coroner. This is in the name of truth, the dead and the living.

Adeolu Ademoyo,,  is of the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.


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