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Wrong time for a birthday bash

The Igbo have a proverb which says that when someone else’s corpse is being carried along the road, it can seem like a bundle of…

The Igbo have a proverb which says that when someone else’s corpse is being carried along the road, it can seem like a bundle of firewood to bystanders.  It isn’t my business (and I tend to mind my business), but that elaborate 60th birthday bash of Dr. Siju Iluyomade, a pastor, and wife of Idowu Iluyomade, a senior pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, City of David, Lagos, a week after the monumental loss the church suffered, was insensitive. And tone-deaf. It should never have taken place. The Bible sef talk am say all things are lawful, but not all things are expedient. That you are able to doesn’t mean that you should.

The Wigwes, who died in a helicopter crash nine days before the party, were not just members of the church; the family (through Mr Herbert Wigwe) contributed substantially to the church. Mr Iluyomade himself spoke soon after the crash to journalists and said the deceased was “God’s general, who donated generously to the church and its activities… Wigwe did a lot of good work. He was the chairman of the finance committee with Pastor Siju; and I remember when we wanted to start the fundraising, he took us to Eko Atlantic, he put a marquee there, he brought people from America to come and see, and in that event, we raised about N600 million… When we wanted to start God’s Children’s Great Talent Project, he partnered with us again. While we spent about N300 million, he spent about N500 million to raise talents. He had a heart for things of God.”

In addition to that, the Wigwes were also said to be good friends of the Iluyomades. I bet they were on the birthday party guest list. I’ll say it again: throwing a party a week after, dancing and jiving before your good friends have been interred even was in poor taste. The clip that went viral had Flavour serenading Madam Pastor, a fellow Big Baller. The optics are not good. And yet there are those defending her, making all sorts of excuses: the hall was already rented, the food was already bought, the clothes already made — what choice did she have but to let the party go on? SMH.

First of all, throwing a birthday party isn’t a must. It’s not a necessity. It’s not oxygen. She wouldn’t have died if she hadn’t gone ahead with it. The world wouldn’t have ended. There are people who go through life never throwing a birthday party, not even for the milestone ones. If they mark it at all, they have a meal with their families. There are those   who spend milestone birthdays giving back to their communities, visiting orphanages, sharing their birthday jollof with children who probably have never celebrated a birthday.

If Madam Pastor’s party couldn’t be postponed, and she was going to lose the deposit on the hall, she still should have chosen to forfeit the money. It wouldn’t have made a difference to her bank account. As a pastor, she more than anyone else should understand the concept of sacrifice.  If food had already been bought, she could have given them out to the poor. The souvenirs made could have been given out or saved for a more appropriate time.

The affection, the love, the respect she (and her husband) claim to have the Wigwes as their friend (never mind as their pastor) should have compelled her to act with more dignity. Anyone who doesn’t get that has completely missed the point.

Years ago, I was at an almost empty market in Enugu. One of the traders explained that the market was empty because one of their wealthy colleagues had lost his father, so everyone had trooped to the funeral to pay their respects. Almost none. of them knew the man’s father. The colleague was well respected and many of the traders went to him for help.

However, he quipped, once the wealthy colleague himself died, he was sure his funeral wouldn’t see such a huge turnout because you couldn’t ask a favour of a dead man. He wouldn’t know whether you turned up or not. I’ve been thinking of that wise man a lot, and about Madam Pastor who wouldn’t allow the death of the Wigwes, whom she apparently respected in life, to alter her plans for a big birthday bash. Life must go on, folks have said, but a life that goes on selfishly, thinking only of its own pleasures, that life isn’t a life worth emulating. And anyone who tells us they’ve been called to the religious life in whatever capacity should live like they were truly called. There is a reason why it is called a ‘calling’ after all.

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