Several weeks ago, I got into a thought-provoking discussion with a Lebanese man whom I had come across in my line of duty. During our conversation, he told me about how he had stayed in Nigeria for quite a long time, twenty four years to be precise, and how he actually felt like a Nigerian. And then he said sometime. In his words, ‘’one bad thing about Nigerians is that you people like to spend money on burial ceremonies than on treatment’’. I sat back and thought deeply about what he had just said.

He made a point; a very valid point. It is common to see people die in hospitals simply because they couldn’t afford the cost of treatment either in terms of purchasing drugs or doing laboratory investigations. Such drugs and results of laboratory investigations could have gone a long way in affecting the outcome of the disease positively and improving the prognosis as well. When such men or women die, members of their nuclear and extended families hold series of meetings on how to give such individuals a befitting burial. An expensive casket, made from quality wood and glass, is purchased sometimes running into tens and hundreds of thousands of naira. The cost of the cloth the dead man or woman will put may actually be enough to pay for some of the laboratory investigation or purchase some of the drugs which could have prolonged the life of the deceased.

Furthermore, the amount required to provide food and drink to ‘’celebrate a life well spent’’ is frightening, sometimes even absurd. And then there is the small matter of the “Aso-Ebis”. So when you take stock of the amount spent in planning a burial, you realize that the cost of keeping an individual alive is much cheaper when compared to carrying out the funeral rites. This is even more perplexing if the cause of death is an illness that could have been cured with a fraction of the funds which would be spent on the burial ceremony. And we all sit there, mourning vigorously, giving eulogies about a man or woman whom we did little to save. Making and giving speeches about a man who lived a good life and stating further: “God gives and God takes, He knows best”.

So I sat and wondered.  Could such funds have been diverted to paying the bills and give the individuals a good shot at survival? Do we feel that giving a man a befitting burial is much more important than keeping the man alive? Does an expensive casket translate into a life well spent or will that show gratitude to God for a life well spent? Will the dead man look down from heaven with gratitude for the efforts his relatives put in to ensure that his burial remains the talk of the town for weeks, months or even years to come? So, while a man, who died a pauper, is lying in state in his transparent glass coffin, we should sit back in the midst of all the euphoria and ask ourselves some questions. Were we fair to this man? Could we have done more for him? Or do our actions portray us as hypocrites?

It is common knowledge that many people see opening churches as a huge investment with potentials for profits. Certain people see it as an avenue to generate limitless funds. Nowadays, pastors buy the most expensive cars and private jets with reckless abandon while members of the congregation live in abject poverty. In case you are unaware, many of those individual live a life of uncertainty, unaware of what the future holds. They think every day, how do I provide the next meal for my family? How do I pay my little child’s school fees or pay for her medical bills if something goes wrong? What about the utility bills and the next rent? How long will I be able to put a roof over my head? Will I ever become a proper bread winner? While these pastors preach about faith, hope and prosperity with their clean and well starched suit at the pulpit every Sunday, many of those they preach to continue to wallow in abject poverty. Don’t forget, you are expected to sow ‘’series of seeds of faith” and more importantly, different covenant seeds because we need to be in a covenant with God. The common rhetoric is if we do all these, we will be his responsibilities, he will let no harm befall us and will provide all our needs according to his riches in glory. These various collections at the church further dwindles their lean purses.

So I thought to myself, can’t these pastors and churches be that source of blessing to members of the congregation. For examples, can those seeds of faith be used to provide clothes, food and perhaps funds to clear bills for people that are impoverished? How will a private jet or expensive cars driven by a man of God affect the life of an individual positively?  This is not to say that religious organizations are not offering a helping hand. I believe that they can do so much more. Can more churches and mosques offer scholarship programmes to intelligent youths whose parents cannot afford to send them to the university? The fact that the most expensive tuition fees are being charged by institutions of learning owned by religious bodies, says it all. Can committees be set up within these religious bodies to tackle poverty and bring it to its knees? Can they attempt to offer hope to those who think that their tunnels have no end, not to mention light? Can they?

The news of music producer OJB’s poor state of health has spread pretty quickly. Some renowned entertainers have offered some form of assistance to save his life. He is lucky that he is/was a star. If he wasn’t, then his chance of survival would have been bleak. If he was an average Nigerian with a kidney problem, would D’Banj have offered N7million? Would Don Jazzy have offered a support of N1 million, not to mention P square and others?

Finally, it is high time we realized that we are nothing without the next guy. We need a hand to keep moving and someone close to you may just need your hands to help them steady their feet and set them on a path towards prosperity. Hopefully, we will offer a helping hand to others regardless of their social standing, and more importantly, in times of difficulty.