Death And The King’s Horsemanship – by Okey Ndibe @okeyndibe

Published:20 Aug, 2012

Death And The King’s Horsemanship – by Okey Ndibe

It’s good, I believe, that President Goodluck Jonathan and numerous Nigerian officials traveled to Ghana last week to attend the funeral of John Atta Mills, that country’s immediate past president. The death of any man of power always strikes me as an occasion for other powerful men (and women) of power as well as their would-be counterparts to contemplate the finiteness of their lives, and to come to terms with their ultimate feebleness in the grand scheme of things.

By media and eyewitness accounts, Ghanaians gave Mr. Mills a decent send-off. Reports in Ghanaian and foreign newspapers portrayed the solemn air of the man’s funeral. Ghana’s political class, including many prominent members of the opposition, offered a harvest of celebratory tributes. Numerous foreign dignitaries chimed in with statements that highlighted the deceased president’s quiet grace, intelligence and capacious pacifism.

For me, however, the most reliable measure of a leader’s stature must be taken, not from the predictable – and obligatory – plaudits that issue from the equally high and mighty. There’s often something inherently self-serving in the tone of sentiments that come from such exalted quarters. Few prominent politicians or public figures are willing to risk publicly professing their unflattering views of a peer brought low by death. To give vent to abusive (or plain frank) thoughts about a deceased leader is, for the politically or socially elevated, to court scandal and trigger a frenzy of repudiation and chastisement. It’s not in the nature of well-placed figures to speak with brutal directness about the foibles or flaws of their dead peers.

Luckily, the generality of the populace is not hampered by such strictures. Yes, there’s the ostensible convention that the living must refrain from unkind remarks about the dead. One wonders, however, if this so-called tradition is legitimate, or represents one of those myths that, left unchallenged, begin to resemble reality.

My own experience is that, on the death of any fellow whose conduct was widely viewed as unrelentingly sinister, people frequently intersperse emotions of awe with bold (even if whispered) references to the deceased’s record of infamy and contemptible life. My experience is that people hardly ever ascribe virtues to patently evil men and women.

My experience is that, when a so-called powerful politician passes on, the streets are apt to be infinitely more honest than those who haunt the rooms and corridors of power. So, last week, I rang a friend of mine who has lived in Accra for more than ten years. He testified to a marvelous, spontaneous outpouring of grief by the Ghanaian populace.

If Ghana were like North Korea, I would have suspected that my friend’s palpable portrait of bereavement was a choreographed performance, a feigned and overhyped display, a farce mandated by the state. As leaders go, Mr. Mills was far from a genius. But people hardly ever expect their leaders to rise to the stature of geniuses. It suffices that a leader be fueled by a vision of transformation, and lends himself, the best he can, to the realization of that vision. It is often enough that a leader tries his best, and is seen to do so. Mr. Mills failed to do many things as leader. Some critics assailed him for going to sleep as Ghana slipped into a kind of ethical doldrums, with the corruption index creeping up. Yet, he was hardly accused of pursuing self-enrichment through questionable means. Some within his own party found his style too uninspiring, and did not care for his reticent, self-effaced personality. He was a rare politician who seldom raised a voice to speak in anger, irrespective of the decibel of verbal abuse his opponents heaped on him.

I’d be curious to discern what lesson, if any, Nigeria’s President Jonathan and his delegation picked up from the funeral for Mills. As they viewed the inert remains of the former Ghanaian leader, did they reckon that this – that is death – is the destiny of us all humans, including the supposedly powerful? Did they have the eyes to behold the cloud of sorrow that had enveloped Ghana, the pulse of sorrow that had quickened the hearts of the Ghanaian people? Gazing at Mr. Mills’ stilled body, did they figure out that vanity is the sorriest, scariest bane of any human, but of leaders especially? Did it occur to them, finally, that they themselves – like the rest of us – will one day draw a last breath, and thenceforth be subject to the unscripted judgment of history?

The first draft of that judgment is always written in the hearts of fellow citizens, and our first intimation of its shape and content is glimpsed from the streets’ reaction to a powerful man’s death. Former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha spent several years in office engaged in depraved, primitive accumulation of riches. When he died – by many accounts, in the company of several young women, foreign and local, he was about to ravish – Nigerians exploded in a bolt of celebration. Anybody who today suggests that Mr. Abacha was anything but a knave would be arguing against the unambiguous verdict of history.

I always like contrasting Mr. Abacha with former Tanzanian leader Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. Unlike the Nigerian, Mr. Nyerere was an enlightened, visionary and articulate man. Deeply human, he made numerous mistakes as his country’s leader. Yet, for every mistake that Mr. Nyerere made, Mr. Abacha committed several crimes. Unlike General Abacha, whose central ethic was to gut and pauperize his country in order to fatten his own pocket (and his minions’), the Tanzanian’s missteps derived from policy and ideological choices that were well-meaning but – in hindsight – inhospitable.

After leaving office, Mr. Nyerere had to take out a loan from a bank to build himself a modest house in his village. Since he never stole from the people, he had no need to ensconce himself in a hilltop mansion, isolated from the reach of fellow villagers. No, he delighted in living among his people. Each morning, neighbors and other visitors would stream to his unfenced home to sit, drink, eat and converse with the man they affectionately called Mwalimu, Swahili for “Teacher.” When Mr. Nyerere died, with little in his bank account, Tanzanians did not take to the streets in orgies of jubilation, as Nigerians did when Mr. Abacha, our billionaire ex-dictator passed away.

Mr. Nyerere’s luck was to grasp an enduring truth, that a true leader is distinguished by the quality of his/her leadership, his/her impact on the lives of his people, not just the coterie of rogues that are called “stakeholders” in Abuja. When Mr. Nyerere heard that a tested leader should be invested in the L word, he knew that the letter stood for Legacy, not Loot. He knew that the quantity of a person’s loot, the size of ill-gotten wealth would not be reckoned with in the inevitable, final account. Today, no serious Tanzanian historian would suggest that Mr. Nyerere was less than a great leader.

The vast majority of those who pass themselves off as Nigerian leaders are puny crooks capable of prying open a baby’s hand to steal its bottled milk. Sold on the crappy creed that people are defined by the sum of their possessions, these men and women chase after lucre with such deranged zeal that they forget to ask the question: What, then? After looting all the funds they can get their hands on, buying all the expensive toys that there are – then what? Can money buy any magic to stay Death’s cold hand? And is there ever enough money to whitewash infamy, to deodorize a stinky legacy, or to bribe history?

Did the Nigerian delegation at President Mills’ funeral learn any chastening lessons? Or did they leave Accra as obsessed with indulging the desires of their vain minds as ever?

 

Okey Ndibe

Please follow me on twitter @okeyndibe
(okeyndibe@gmail.com)

via SaharaReporters

Okey Ndibe

Okey Ndibe  was born in Yola, Nigeria, in 1960. After a career as a magazine editor in Nigeria, he moved to the US to be the founding editor of African Commentary, an award-winning magazine published by the Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe. A visiting writer-in-residence and assistant professor of English at Connecticut College, Ndibe  has contributed poems to An Anthology of New West African Poets, edited by the Gambian poet, Tijan Sallah.

He has also published essays in a number of North American, British and Nigerian magazines and writes a weekly column for the Guardian, Nigeria’s most respected daily newspaper. Arrows of Rain is his first novel. With it, he says: ‘I felt I was grappling with an important human drama that just happened to be set in Africa… I wrote it while I was out of Nigeria. It would have been a different book if I had written it while in the country more angry, less meditative.’

  • muslim

    God bless you, once again.
    (

  • Elesho Abidemi

    Thank GOD we still ve people like u around 2 emphatically stress the need why people should not allow their conscience to be smitten whenever they are opportuned to be at the helms. This should be a daily devotion for every helmsman.

  • ibrahim danladi

    Most stories about abacha were lies and over exagerated.eg he was not found in the mist of ladies. And if I may ask what has abacha that that successive govts including this one have not done worst.tell me.

  • http://www.azpaydayloansonline.com/ Daniele

    Asking questions are actually fastidious thing if you are not understanding something completely, but this article provides
    good understanding even.

Related Posts

Recent Posts

I Have Not Been Approached, Caitlyn Jenner Opens Up On Dating

In the latest episode of "I Am Cait," Caitlyn Jenneropens up about her future and if that includes dating. "It's been, like, a month or two now that I've been out," she said at the time of taping for Sunday night's episode. "So I honestly haven't even thought or been approached or been tempted in any direction," she added according to People magazine's recap. Read More: GoodMorningAmerica

9 Best Compliments You Can Give A Woman

1. A Sweet Thought "'I want my daughter to turn out like you.' Told to me by two different men, one of whom I consider my professional mentor and one of the main reasons I got into the line of work I did. This was in my early 20s, when I was earnest, relatively vice-free and full of promise. The daughters in question were young teenagers. Haven't heard it lately, but I always thought of this...

Kris Jenner, 59, Shows Off Bikini Body

At 59 years old, it's safe to say Kris Jenner's still got it! The Kardashian matriarch showed off her enviable physique while walking on the beach in St. Barts during the family's annual vacation, sporting a little black bikini. Check out the mother-of-six's impressively flat stomach above. Read More: ETonline

An Eligible Bachelor Is Off The Market With Baby On The Way

Sorry, ladies! One of R&B's most eligible bachelors has officially been taken. Ne-Yo caught everyone by surprise when he announced that he and his fiancée, Crystal Renay, not only tied the knot, but they are expecting a baby as well. The image Renay is holding in Ne-Yo's Instagram post is subtle, but a source...

Why Justin Bieber Cried After His VMAs Performance

After performing at the VMAs for the first time since he was "that sweet kid with the haircut," Justin Bieber broke down in tears. When the crying started, the Internet was ablaze with questions. As Buzzfeed asked, was his harness too tight? Was he not allowed into Taylor Swift's clique? Did Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus' spat upset him? The answer, as it turns out, is that the Biebs was just plain overwhelmed. According to a source...

Masquerade Arrested After Invading Church, Floging Pastors & Church Members

Four masquerades, on Sunday, invaded Christ Apostolic Church in Epinmi Akoko, Akoko North-West Local Government Area of Ondo State, disrupted the service and flogged officiating pastors and some members of the church. A source said that the masquerades, who were earlier prevented from entering the church by the workers, forced their way in and headed towards the officiating pastor, beating him and other pastors. The invasion disrupted the service, as members of the church, who...

Nigerian Air Force Makes Full Deployment Of Aircraft To North-East

The Nigerian Air Force has announced the full deployment of its aircraft to combat the security crisis in Nigeria’s north-east. Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall, Sadique Abubakar, who announced the deployment on Monday, said the current security challenges in Nigeria heavily relied on air power and that discussions were ongoing with the Presidency to ensure the Air Force was battle ready. He urged Senior Officers of the force to ensure that integrity, excellence and service...

37 Migrants Die As Boat Sinks Off Libyan Coast

A boat carrying migrants sank off Libya’s Mediterranean coast, killing at least 37 people, a local official said, the second such fatal accident within days. “We had reports this morning that there are seven bodies of illegal migrants that sank off Khoms (east of Tripoli)…but we don’t have any details how many migrants were on board,” said Mohamad al-Misrati, a spokesman for the Red Crescent in Tripoli. Fishermen later discovered 30 more bodies in the same...

Buhari Should Invite Looters For Talks So They Can Return The Loot – Cardinal Okogie

Former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, advised President Muhammadu Buhari, to invite suspected looters of the country’s treasury for talks. He said that since the President is working to retrieve looted funds, he advised the president that it would be easier if looters were allowed to return their loot without castigating them publicly. Okogie, said: “I agree with the National Peace Committee that the President should...

China Endorses Nigeria’s Bid For UN Security Council Permanent Seat

China has endorsed Nigeria's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. According to the Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to House of Representatives  Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Mr. Turaki Hassan, the Chinese gave their nod for Nigeria`s quest to occupy a permanent seat on the UN Security Council during a meeting between the Speaker and the Chinese officials at the United Nations, New York. China's endorsement of Nigeria's bid was disclosed...

Nigeria’s Unity In Diversity Taken By Granted, Fayose Criticizes Buhari

The Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose has criticised President Muhammadu Buhari over the several appointments made and other action taken so far by him, which he said had majorly favoured the Northerners, saying “this has tainted ethnic and tribal colouration, which is inimical to the unity of Nigeria” The Governor who warned Buhari against actions that could divide Nigeria, observed that since May 29, 2015, the actions taken by the President so far has...

Boko Haram Horsemen Attack 3 Villages, Kill Nearly 80

Suspected Boko Haram gunmen on horseback shot dead nearly 80 people in attacks on three villages in the North-East at the weekend, a vigilante and residents told AFP on Monday. The attacks were the latest bloodbath in the six-year-old insurgency by the extremist group aimed at carving out an Islamic state in the volatile region. Babakura Kolo, a vigilante fighting Boko Haram, said 68 people were killed in the attack on Baanu village in Borno...

Akpabio’s Vehicle Collided With Ours – US Embassy

The United States Embassy has confirmed that the convoy of former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, collided with a suburban jeep belonging to the mission on Monday. The Senior Information Specialist in the embassy, Sani Mohammed, said local authorities had commenced investigation into the accident. When asked about the condition of the driver and the vehicle involved in the crash, Mohammed said he did not know. He said, “A US embassy vehicle was involved in the accident. We...

EFCC Arrests University VC, Others For Selling Govt. Owned N13m SUV As Scrap

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Monday arrested top officials of the Adamawa State University for selling a N13 million government-owned Toyota Land Cruiser as scrap. The commission’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the arrest in a telephone interview. Mr. Uwujaren said the vice chancellor of the university, Shall David Joshua, and the bursar, K.E. Anjili, were among those arrested. “Our operatives in Yola, Adamawa State today arrested top officials of the Adamawa...

Nigeria Exports N2.1tr Petroleum Products In Second Quarter

The Federal Government exported ?2.1 trillion worth of petroleum products during the second quarter of this year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. This represents a 73.7 per cent of the value of the country’s total exports in the quarter under review. Besides, the country imported N140.5 billion worth of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, during the same period. NBS in its second quarter trade statistics released at the weekend,...

PDP List Achievements As Party Celebrates 17 Years

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigeria’s oldest political party, yesterday, marked 17 years of its existence with a low-key event at its Wadata Plaza, Abuja National Secretariat. Briefing Journalists in Abuja, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, who catalogued the achievements of the party in its 17 years of existence, said it lost some of its founding and leading members because they could not withstand what he termed, stiff competition within the party and some mistakes...

Club Captain Wayne Rooney Asked Me Who Martial Was – Schneiderlin

The 19-year-old is set to complete a move to Old Trafford but his countryman has revealed that the Manchester United captain approached him about his club's latest target Morgan Schneiderlin has revealed that Wayne Rooney had to ask him who Anthony Martial was when it was confirmed that the 19-year-old was nearing a move to

Governors, APC Defend Buhari’s Appointments

Critics of President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointments yesterday got a reply; they are based on merit. The All Progressives Congress (APC) and some governors defended the appointments which have been criticised as sectional. The President’s men also denied that they were appointed based on sentiment, after three of them took the oath of office yesterday in Abuja. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Southeast’s leading socio-cultural group, urged the Igbo to remain calm. Governors Rochas Okorocha (Imo) and...

Akpabio Discharged From National Hospital, Suffered Injuries On The Chest

The immediate past Governor of Akwa Ibom State and Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, monday escaped death when he was involved in a ghastly car crash on his way to Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja to join an international flight. Reports say that his car ran into a convoy conveying a foreign envoy whose identity has not been determined at the time of filing this report. He was however discharged at about 6 pm yesterday after he...

N140bn Has Been Spent On 2nd Niger Bridge, Oshiomhole Insists

Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, has insisted that he will not back down on his claim that the Jonathan administration expended N140 billion on the yet to be completed 2nd  Niger Bridge in Anambra State. Similarly, the governor has stood his ground that the sum of $700 million was surreptitiously moved from the Sovereign Wealth Fund, SWF, for the same bridge, which has not risen above the...

Publish Statements Of Govt Accounts, Amaechi Challenges Wike

Former Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, has challenged his successor in office, Governor Nyesom Wike to publish the statements of government accounts with Skye Bank, FAAC, Zenith Bank and Access Bank, insisting that about N7.5 billion cash was left as balance in the state Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, as at May 29, 2015, alongside money in other accounts, totalling N8 billion. Amaechi in a statement, yesterday, by his media aide, said: “Our attention has been...