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.

  • 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 stand by my allegations, I will never apologize” – Lawmaker Abdulmumin Jibrin Dares Speaker Dogara

Lawmaker, Abdulmumin Jibrin has said he will never apologize to speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara over allegations of padded budget 2016.   In a series of tweets reacting to the Speaker’s statements issued, Jibrin wrote, “I will not and will never apologize to a shameless fraud in high office who has glaringly abused public trust like speaker Dogara and 3 others”.   The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu...

Yummy: Cockroach Milk May Hit The Markets Soon – Researchers

A little cockroach milk with those cookies? Chock full of protein, the insect milk may someday be transformed into a food supplement worthy of human consumption, new research indicates. Scientists have found that the Pacific Beetle Cockroach feeds its bug babies a formula which is remarkably rich in protein, fat and sugar. Don't expect to find it next to the regular milk in the dairy section, however, at least not for now. "Any liquid harvested from a...

Fresh: APC/PDP At War Over Rivers Election Re-Run

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has slammed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for postponing the National and State Assembly rerun elections in Rivers State once more. PDP voiced its anger in a series of tweets on its official Twitter handle on Wednesday and noted that this was second postponement following an initial postponement in March this year.   The party, which also aimed potshots at President Muhammadu Buhari, claimed that the postponements have only allowed for the continuation of ‘unjust...

Netflix Director Buys 600,000 Shares—Stock Soars

In a filing after the close, Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) saw a rare insider buy. Director, Jay Hoag, disclosed the purchase of 600,000 shares. Data showed he bought 200,000 shares on three consecutive trading days: 07/21/16, 07/22/16 and 07/25/16. Average prices paid were $85.93-$87.60. The buying comes as the stock is down 23% YTD and 11% since earnings on July 18, when the company posted disappointing...

Congolese Musician Koffi Olomide Detained In Prison, Reaches Out To His Fans For Support

Congolese musician Koffi Olomide was arrested by Police at his home on Tuesday. He was taken to a court building, subsequently charged by a prosecutor with assault & battery and detained in prison pending the outcome of his case. This is coming after the music star was deported by the Kenyan government last week after a video emerged showing him kicking one of his female dancers at Nairobi Airport. The Music star has now released a...

Top Pope Aide Investigated For Australia Child Sex Abuse- Report

Vatican finance chief George Pell is being investigated by Australian police over child sexual abuse allegations, a report by the national broadcaster said Thursday, as the leading Catholic cleric denounced the claims as “totally untrue”. The new allegations against Pell being probed by police in Victoria State span two decades, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported, and came just months after the cardinal admitted he “mucked up” in dealing with paedophile priests in the state. When he...

Aviation Fuel Price Soars Above N240 Per Litre

The pump price of aviation fuel (popularly known as Jet A1) yesterday surged above N240 per litre, representing 100 per cent increase from the N120 per litre price sold about this time last year. The development also jolted the flight schedule of domestic airlines as cancellations and delays became the order of the day. Nigeria’s aviation industry has been hit by severe scarcity of Jet A1 with prices rising steadily from N120 per litre to N150, N180 and eventually...

How Nigeria Is Fighting Corruption – The Economist

  NIGERIANS know what to expect when they approach police checkpoints. “How can you appreciate me?” ask officers, AK-47s dangling languidly from their shoulders. “Happy weekend!” say security guards from the early hours of Friday morning. Or simply: “What do you have for me?” Nigeria, as David Cameron, Britain’s former prime minister, pointed out, is “fantastically corrupt”. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, it is 31st from the bottom. Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler, wants to change...

Chairmanship: PDP Group Endorses Gbenga Daniel

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) New Era has backed a former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD), to become the party’s next National Chairman. Members of the group, who addressed newsmen in Abuja Wednesday, said despite the fact that the party’s zoning committee had zoned the position to the south, the South-west should be given the opportunity to occupy the post for the first time in the history of the party. The group’s...

France Aims To Ease Religious Fears After Church Attack

President Francois Hollande sought Wednesday to head off divisions between France’s religious communities after the jihadist-claimed murder of a Catholic priest in his church, as calls mounted for tougher security measures. Hollande gathered top religious leaders at his Elysee Palace offices, as a violence-weary France struggled to come to terms with the latest attack, just two weeks after the Bastille Day truck massacre that killed 84 people. France’s large Catholic community was in shock after...

Man Who Spent $100,000 To Look Like Justin Bieber Dies

An autopsy report shows that a man who claimed to have spent $100,000 on plastic surgery to look like Justin Bieber has died of drug and alcohol overdose. The 35-year-old man, Tobias Strebel, who went by the name Toby Sheldon’s body was found in a Motel in the North Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. The coroner’s report says Strebel’s body was in a state of “moderate decomposition.” Drugs found in his system include Valium, Xanax and alcohol,...

EFCC To Arraign Suspects For Duping Swiss National Of $530,000

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has secured the leave of a Kano High Court sitting Kano, to arraign Saminu Umar Ta’ambu and Ahmed Maiturare of the popular kantin kwari textile market, Kano, for offences bordering on obtaining by false pretence. They allegedly used the name of Kano State government to induce a Swiss National, Mathias Hee, Owner of Okutex Ag, into supplying them with fabrics worth $530,000. Justice Dije Aboki gave the nod after hearing argument on the application...

El-Rufa’i Raises Committee On Army/Shiites Clash

Gov. Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna State has set up a nine-man committee to produce a white paper on the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Army/Shiites clash in the state. The Army/Shiites clash in Zaria last December had left many people dead. This is contained in a statement issued by Mr Samuel Aruwan, Media aide to the governor, in Kaduna on Wednesday.El-Rufai said that the committee would commence work immediately and submit...

Police Nab South African Cocaine Trafficker’s Nigerian Accomplice

A Nigerian suspected of having sponsored a South African woman, Lerato Lekganyane, who was allegedly caught with 1.21 kilogrammes of cocaine at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport (MMIA), Lagos on May 20, has been arrested.  The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) disclosed this on Tuesday at Lekganyane’s trial before Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court, Lagos.  The unnamed Nigerian man and Lekganyane will be arraigned, (she for the second time) before...

Engage In Female Genital Mutilation, Go To Jail– Aregbesola

Worried by the recent rating of Osun State as number one on the hierarchy of the six Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) most endemic states, the wife of Osun State Governor, Alhaja Sherifat Abidemi Aregbesola has warned perpetrators of the risk of going to jail. Addressing a press conference in Osogbo, Alhaja Aregbesola  expressed  sadness that despite efforts being put in place to eradicate the practice, the recent rating by the National Demographic Heath Survey (NDHS) calls...

Fourth Substitute Pilot To Take Place During Extra-Time In This Season’s FA Cup – From Quarter-Finals Onwards

This season’s FA Cup will pilot the use of a fourth substitute by teams, the Football Association has announced. Pending approval by the International Football Association Board, from the quarter-finals onwards clubs will be able to make an additional substitution during extra-time. The move follows the scrapping of sixth-round replays, meaning drawn matches will go straight to extra-time...

Police Arrest Girl, 18, Over Sale Of Own Baby

Operatives from the Enugu State Police Command said they have arrested one   Okike  Ezinne,18, from Isu  Mbaneze in Ohaozara Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, who is also the mother of an 18-month-old baby for allegedly selling the baby for N300,000. The state Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amaraizu who confirmed the incident, said that Ezinne told the police that she had the baby girl out of wedlock and decided to keep her, except that life...

New: Ex-President Jonathan Indicted In Fresh Corruption Charges

Former President Goodluck Jonathan has been implicated in fresh corruption charges laid against Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State.   The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State has accused embattled Governor Olusegun Mimiko of using N15b from the federation account to sponsor his election.   The APC also claimed that Goodluck Jonathan personally ordered the release of the funds to Mimiko for his re-election.   This is coming after former NSA adviser, Sambo Dasuki recently spoke about Goodluck Jonathan’s role in the arms...

Pep Guardiola Considers Playing Fernandinho At Centre-Back ‘To Create Good Build-Up Play’

Pep Guardiola has raised the prospect of using midfielders Fernandinho or Fernando at centre-half as the Manchester City manager sets out his plans to make the team more creative and stylish. Guardiola regularly deployed midfielders Yaya Toure and Javier Mascherano as centre-backs during his time at Barcelona and utilised the likes of Javi Martinez and Xabi Alonso in defence with similar success at Bayern Munich.

Three reportedly killed during Hausa-Yoruba clash in Lagos

Three persons were reportedly killed in a clash between the Hausa and Yoruba community at Ijora Badia area of Lagos state yesterday July 26th. According to Vanguard, trouble started when a man named Ojo was allegedly attacked and stabbed to death by some Hausa boys in the area. The Yoruba youths in the area staged a protest that became violent. "For long, these Hausa boys have been attacking people here. They waylay people, dispose them of cash and belongings....

FG Should Extend Amnesty Till 2019 For Sake Of Peace – Ex-militants

Former Niger Delta militant leaders have requested the Federal Government to extend the terminal date of the Presidential Amnesty Programme in the region to 2019.   The ex-militants, under the aegis of Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative, made the request at a news conference in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, on Tuesday.   The National President, LPCDI, ‘General’ Reuben Wilson, (a.k.a Pastor Reuben) argued that the extension of the programme would provide an ample time for the beneficiaries of the programme studying abroad...