The Arena With Viola: Silent Rivers And Roaring Deserts…


The first time I heard the term, “sympathiser crying louder than the bereaved”, I tried and tried to find a way to explain what must be such a queer situation.
The bereaved have just suffered a loss that is as baffling as it is confusing. It is also a little bit insulting, but as things stand at the moment, they will need some time to clear their heads and think. They need to determine the best way to handle this elephant in the living room, the corpse of their slain relative. For now, they are still in shock and have stoically refused to mourn. This is not the time for tears, but a time to reflect and ensure that when the burial comes round, the coffin is sealed so tight, that even rot and decay cannot penetrate. 
And so they leave the corpse to fester for a few more days, while they reason out their strategies.
The sympathisers who are their neighbours across the fence however are affronted by such non chalance and declare, “How dare they? We are Africans and we respect death. We fear death, but not always as much as we respect it because when death happens, obito (firewood jollof rice and bottles of chilled sontins) must happen. How dare you prevent us from having a well laden obituary because you are strategising? Do you not know you are supposed to start wailing as soon as a dead body falls, who trained you like that? Anyway, you can lontunu but as for us and our households, we shall mourn”.
So, while there is silence with regards to the corpse in the sitting room by the bonafide owners of the “deadi bordi”, while they perhaps plan and strategise and focus on other pressing issues that might lead to either the interment of the corpse or whatever, the sympathisers begin to prepare – IN THEIR OWN COMPOUNDS – for a befitting funeral.
They purchase aso-ebi and allocate them in groups.
They bring out the firewood and begin to measure out dericas of rice.
A cow is dragged into the sympathisers’ compound and tied to a tree – it chews the cud as it watches it’s sure demise as planned by the unaffected, and contemplates the bestiality in man.
Canopies are rented.
Musicians are commissioned.
And just on the off chance that the wails of the sympathisers are not loud enough come funeral day, extra mourners are purchased. I hear that even for rent-a-cry, there are special rates depending on the type of service you want.
1. Looking sorrowful, shaking the head from time to time, biting the index finger and muttering unheard words in the general direction of the man in the sky – tiritausan, 1 bottle of star and a bowl of jollof rice with ogufe.
2. Crying out for a period of three minutes at a stretch, clutching the breasts or genitals (depending on gender), walking up to the deadi bordi and telling it off for dying and leaving the family in sorrow –  faiftausan, 1 bottle of star and 1 of Odeku, One bowl of jollof rice, small amala with abodi.
3. Weeping and mourning and “garnishing” of teeth, snatching your own headtie off your head and throwing it on the floor, rolling on the ground all over the burial ground and cursing the gods – seven tausan, tiri bottles of any chilled drink of your choice. Jollof rice with beef and ponmo, pounded yam with shaki, abode and abula.
4. Doing number three above plus threatening to jump into the grave but for the restraining hands of other “mourners” – ten tausan plus anything you want to eat or drink.
5. “Mourners” who will hold firmly unto the arms and waists of category number four – one tausanfaif hundred naira plus a bottle of fanta.
After due consideration, the sympathisers decide to engage all categories of mourners to make for a more colourful feast. They are willing to break the bank in order to ensure that the deadi bordi in their neighbour’s compound is properly celebrated and honoured in a befitting way, no expenses spared.
But wait o, what is this I am hearing?
While the sympathisers are busy wailing louder than the bereaved, they actually have a presing issue on their hands. 
One of their errant sons who has refused to clearly spell out his grudges but descends from time to time to steal, kill and maim his blood relatives has just hacked down some of his cousins in broad daylight. They lie in the courtyard, mangled and bleeding. If anyone deserves a decent and befitting burial, it is these ones who have met an untimely and undignifying death.
But the sympathisers are not deterred.
Their brothers can die in millions if they so desire. Matter of fact, they can all die right away, nothing spoil. The most pressing issue for them now is how to give their neighbour’s deadi bordi a befitting burial.
Drinking Alabukun on another man’s headache.
I never see!
Let each man bear his own burden. For even though the Rivers are silent and the Desert is roaring and thundering in jubilation, the day of reckoning is fast approaching. Less than three moons now!