By Uthman Shodipe

IT is hard to refer to him now in the past tense. It is hard to perceive him now as a mere moral passage, yet another yielding of the flesh, yet another fated succumbing to that final confrontation all mortals must be pitted. But he is now gone, primitively savaged amid a brilliant trajectory of life much hopefully destined for the highest seat of power in a state he had served with the purest of commitment and the noblest of vision.

The dreams are now buried. The hopes are now entombed, abrupted by the unknowable ways of heaven. There is a tarnishment in all our conscience. There is an erosion in all our redeeming truths. The emblematic statement of virtuous existence is no longer a valid reprieve against the withering cudgel of adversities. The good and the evil are dispatched without partial distinctions, without that necessary instructive moral which traditionally delineates the heights of the seraphic from the valleys of the doomed.

Funsho Williams is gone, dissolved in a bestial, shocking departure that baffles all the promptings of our common humanity, mocking our pretensions to higher values, betraying the primitive depths of societal terrors. Indeed it is impossible to fathom that mind that could destroy any life with such hate, that could throttle existence with such infinite venom without a chastening restraint. Do such mind wake and sleep? Do such mind thrive in this living space, engaging with everyone in the mundane inter¬course of existence?

This murder frustrates the illustrations of logic and philosophical enlightenment. It cannot be comprehended. It negates the verities of an all-knowing, all-present theological shepherd girdling the righteous from the slings and arrows of the wicked. If a genuinely decent man can be this destroyed, there is no refuge again save despair and the utter meaninglessness of the living. There is no privileged sanctuaries anywhere. Every existence is now reinforced as a fleeting privilege held by that precarious and unknowable caprice of heaven. Friedrich Nietzsche understood this utter senselessness of the fatidical logic very well when he pronounced the triumph of the furies of life as a signal of the death of God. For the good and wise providence cannot really stir in living, redemptive authority when evil is undisturbed in the totality of its scourge.

There was no God in that murderous moment when Williams was hacked to death. The heavens were absent here. There was no avenging intercessor halting the pace of evil. There were no brightening passages of the core civilizing values. Nothing ennobling here save hate and psychopathic malignity.

There is indeed that uncomfortable helplessness in the ambivalent philosophy which insists that God sees all, knows all, therefore sanctioning everything, good or ill. This is hardly a redeeming refuge. If evil must triumph anyway there is hardly any reason to be righteous. For existence itself can only be meaningful when there is reward and punishment, when there are treasurable values to define the ingredients of humanity.

God therefore cannot be good and at once be indifferent to evil. Providence cannot at once embrace darkness and light. That dis¬torts the essence of the beatific truth. He must stand somewhere. It is where He stands in the hour of darkness that remains an existential mystery, baffling man since that primeval beginning on the eternal plans of Serengetti.

The triumph of evil, the voiding of the righteous cannot be rationalized in some comforting pacification. Evil must rankle, dispiriting the certitude and balance we gain in what is right, in what is decent. There is no evil then that can ever be surmised in some hunting predication of a higher good. Our normative firmament is disrupted and even dissolved in that very moment of barbarous enlargement.

That is what happened when Funsho Williams was murdered in the repose and comfort of a private hearth. For he was a man without malice, virtually without venom, instinctively wrapped in a quiet, unobtrusive individuality. He was a man of taciturn reflex, unknown to rhetorical grandeur, stripped of any sharp, rancorous edges, preferring the genuine reflections of private discussion of the false theater of manufactured podiums.

Williams was an unusual man in a riotous public arena that often thrives on
y and savage blackmail. Somehow he brought his own decency to bear, incredibly untouched and undistorted by the bruising dirtiness of the partisan fray. He was a man of withdrawn and even distant formality. He was a Lagosian original who was born well, who was raised well. He had no need to impress anyone. He had no reason to assume a false identity. He remained true to himself, true to his pedigree.

My relationship with the Captain which began in 1990, deepened in friendship and proximate professionalism when he invited me about two years ago to join his caucus team as we plot¬ted his journey to the seat of power. In all the privileged caucus meetings we held either in his house or that of Mr. Fujah, his bosom friend, he steered the proceedings with a quiet strength, with vigorous intellect and humility. It was in these private proceedings he came alive as a resolute man, thoughtful about the concerns of others, self-denying, stubborn about the necessary renewal and rebirth of the Lagosian heritage. He was too trusting in the will of God, predicating everything on the sanctification of heaven. Even as discussion steered towards his worst enemies he remained indifferent, without malice, without passion, merely insisting that God’s will must be done, that destiny cannot elude the bearer of the truth.

It was bandied in uncomplimentary circles that Williams could not fight, that he could not brave the severity of the tempest, that he winced before battle. All lies. They do not know him. True, he was not a street fighter in the muddying slug-fest of the depraved ill-born who wrestled with him. But he was a polished, resilient fighter in the heroic frame. Assured of the certitude of his pursuits, propelled by the unwavering devotion and loyalty of his thronging supporters, he was focused in that unyielding concentrated energy, faithful to the end.

At a dark moment of aberrational vastness when alien usurpers have made it a crime to wear the proud badge of indigeneship, when atavistic charlatans have substituted abuse and calumny for the ingredients of statecraft, Williams was our salient icon of solidity who stood bold and tall to retrieve our purloined heritage from the benighted tools of power.

Now he remains to those of us who are left as a shining illustration of the denied possibilities of the people and the state he loved. He will be remembered both in the dark passages and in the bright days as a glittering incarnation of a redeeming largeness. He cannot be forgotten.
First published Sunday, 13 August, 2006.

About the author

Uthman Shodipe

Uthman Ademilade Shodipe, a descendant of King Ado, the first King of Lagos, is from the Dosunmu Royal House. A student of Classical Antiquity and History of Political Thought, he studied Comparative Literature and Intellectual History of Europe 18th Century at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).