Controversy Trails 19-Year-Old Corpse That Refused To Decay
In the 80s, Foko area of Ibadan turned to tourist destination when a bulldozer accidentally exhumed an old corpse found in the state it was buried years earlier. Same story has played out in the same Ibadan few days to last Christmas at Onipepeye community where the remains of one Pa JimohAdeniji who died in 1999, was exhumed. TUNDE BUSARI reports
The Onipepeye axis of Ibadan metropolis, sitting on some plots away from the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and adjacent to Agodi-Adegbayi Old Ife road, recently attracted public attention over a strange discovery of a corpse buried in 1999 but refused to decompose 19 years after.
It was the corpse of a late leader of the community who was known in his lifetime as Pa JimohAdeniji. And the one-storey building, beside which the body was exhumed, has since turned a cynosure of eyes, with the people passing what looks like unanimous remarks on the attitude of the deceased seen as reason his corpse defied law of nature.
Nigerian Tribune gathered that Adeniji passed away on the night of August 20, 1999 shortly after he had retired to his bedroom following his return from mosque where he had earlier observed the obligatory night prayer (Ishai).
According to Islamic law, which forbids night burial, Adenijiwas interred the following day after burial rite (Janazah) had been performed by the congregation of the Muslim community to which he belonged.
However, a government recent directive hadbeen issued to some houses in the proximity of the expressway in connection with the ongoing expansion work on the ever busy expressway. And the directive contained a deadline of three weeks after which the affected houses, including that of the late Adeniji, would be demolished.
That news did not only jolt the entire family, it also destablised them given the timeframe and most importantly the burial site of their late patriarch which was also marked for demolition.
In that regard, the family made efforts to beat the deadline after emergency meeting during which it was agreed that Pa Adeniji’s remains be reburied at a safer spot within the compound.
Therefore, they settled for early morning of a day in December to exhume the remains in order to keep the exercise away from public glare.
According to one of the wives of the deceased, AlhajaMisituraAdeniji, a team had assembled at the burial site as planned and went into work immediately. The digging of the earth started on a hard note apparently because of the dry season.
“It was not that easy getting to the corpse. We thought everything had decomposed when we could not get there easily. But at a point we began to smell scent of perfume as if the perfume was just applied. The scent became serious as we dug further. Then we sighted the plank used as coffin. It was broken and the fresh body covered in white was seen,” one of the men who performed the exhumation but declined his name narrated.
The dark man stressed that the traditional white cloth with which the body was wrapped and placed in the grave remained in its purity with no stain spotted. That discovery, according to him, shocked them to start chorusing Allahu Akbar, a development which instantly attracted attention of the people who were just waking up from bed.
While that unexpected drama was playing out and the corpse being removed from the grave, a phone call was promptly put across to the current imam of Onipepeye central mosque as expected of Muslims trapped in such circumstance. Like Olympic gold medalist sprinter, the Chief Imam, Muhammad Lawal, raced to the scene where a sizeable crowd had gathered in bewilderment but acknowledgement of God’s mysterious act over man.
“I arrived there and inspected the corpse according to sunna. Then we made arrangement to rebury the corpse. They dug the earth and I performed the janazah. Everybody returned to his and her places but the news was the topic of discussion in every household. It was part of my sermon in the mosque to attesting to the work of God and need for us to work towards attracting God’s favour,” he said.
Stories behind great hymns: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,”
The 45-year-old further exploited the incident to reminisce the last Jummat (Friday) prayerwhich Adeniji observed on the day he departed the world, recalling that he gave him N100 while delivering sermon about death before the congregation.
“Baba just stood up and said ‘we know death is certain and thank you for refreshing our memories today.’ That was exactly what came to his mind when the news of his death got to him same day. There is no doubt that he is one of the special beings favoured by God. The evidence is clear in his corpse being intact after 19 years,” the Imam stated.
Imam Lawal told Nigerian Tribune that his father was the chief Imam who also supervised the burial of Pa Adeniji in 1999, making a reference to SuratAsri in which, according to him, God speaks about preserving some select individuals. The corpse of king Pharaoh of Egypt, who desperately went after Moses, was said to have been preserved on the command of God.
corpse The Islamic scholar added that by the power of God some corpse disappeared from their graves as soon as they were buried, inferring that God did not create their bodies to decay after death.
“God works in many mysterious ways that defy human comprehension. And because of my own education as a scholar, there is other explanation to this incident apart from the perspective of what we were taught and read in Holy Quran. As I told the congregation after the incident, everybody should do what is right because death is certain. We should all be concerned about what happens to us in the grave thereafter,” he said in Yoruba Language.
Imam Lawal and Dr Busari’s argument seems to have set a stage for debate as Pastor Timothy Oyeola of Fear of God Gospel Ministry, Ayewa Street, Akute, Ogun State declared without ambiguity that corpses that put question mark on natural law, are not of God. In reference to Hebrew Chapter 9 Verse 27, which states “It is appointed for men once to die, and after this judgment, ” the pastor insisted that judgment is sacrosanct and end of every mortal after death.
“The incident has no place in the Bible. For instance, Lazarus died and his body stank in four days before he was revived. What does this mean to you? It gives more meaning to Genesis 3:19 which says “for dust you are and to dust you shall return.” Any corpse that does not respond to this divine command deserves a second look. It is only hair and teeth that can’t decompose, which means a body that human factor is involved in bodies which do not decompose because our people have supernatural powers which are not of God. But at the end of the day when repercussion comes, they still face the reality that God is supreme,” Pastor Oyeola said in a tone of finality.
Beyond scriptural explanation, however, geologists affirmed that such occurrence could happen based on presence of some external factors in the burial process. According to Professor Gbenga Okunlola of Geology Department of the University of Ibadan, the grave where the corpse did not decompose should be subjected to test to ascertain the real cause of the occurrence. The scholar identified three reasons corpse cannot decompose including rocky soil, ice place, salty environment and application of formalin to body.
“Without the above, there is no reason corpse would not decay. If it does as you asked me, it is a mystery. Even if the corpse is wrapped in a nylon material, it will generate heat. Then bacteria will come and finally decay of the body. The corpse you talk about must have been preserved somehow with high dose of formalin. But if the family says otherwise, it is a mystery,” he said.
The Chef Executive Officer of Real Drill Hydro konsult, Alhaji Ajani Najeem, shares Professor Okunlola’s submission, saying that there is no geological or scientific back up to the occurrence and also seeing it from the angle of mystery which, he maintained, science cannot explain.
Like the professor , Ajani slso emphasized that decay of soft materials like human bodies, clothes, polythene etc rarely occur in salty terrains or coal region because of what is referred to as fossilization and biological non-decomposition either chemically or physically.
“Summarily, it is a mystery which science cannot unravel at present but, may be, research can do in the future. On the soil factor, the presence of ants, termites and other insects with percolation of oxygen to the subsurface, aid decomposition. The pertinent question here is: Where in the soil don’t we have all the above aiding agents of decomposition except in salty terrains where those agents can survive?”, Ajani remarked rhetorically.
Another Islamic scholar who is also a lecturer in Osun State College of Education, Ilesa, Dr Kehinde Busari is on the same page with Imam Lawal, stressing that God has the prerogative to preserve the corpse of his chosen one who live life of piety. The outspoken academic, however, identified soil composition and environment where the corpse is buried as possible cause of preservation.
“This environmental factor is important in this regard. But Almighty Allah has some Waliy, (saints) and He may also decide to preserve their corpses to show how holy they were during their lifetime. In other words, the incident is not impossible as far as spiritual explanation is concerned,” he stated.
Regardless of different shades of arguments, the wife of the deceased remains in the same page with Imam Lawal describing her late husband as man of God who breathed his last just after he had served his God in the mosque.
“Men of God tell us that he died the way special choice of God go. I was the one who rushed to his room when I head him coughing unusually. I got to him and quickly rushed out to call his younger brother. But before we returned, he had gone,” the wife who sells bean cake near the house said.