Monday, December 9, 2013


Posted: December 9, 2013 - 06:36

By Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed

Today on our Tribute To Mandela series, we shall entertain a most inspiring piece by Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, one of the people I respect the most in Nigeria. He writes on MANDELA WAS ANGRY WITH NIGERIA and I reply ANYONE NOT ANGRY WITH NIGERIA CAN'T CLAIM TO LOVE NIGERIA. Thank you sir, and I hope you will approve of this course of action when you finally learn your write up was reproduced on my blog. It is such an honor. I would make it a lifelong desire to meet with you in person someday.

Happy Reading All.

"It is better to help a friend pay his fine,than tell a lie to help him cover a crime."  - Nigerian proverb.

It was literally a life-long ambition, and I used every opportunity to meet the old man in person. I was finally in a position to press buttons and call old friends to render favours, and in early 2007 I succeeded. I was told I could see Mandela for only 30 minutes at his home, but I needed to get there one hour earlier. Colleagues I had leaned on were skeptical that I would see him despite the appointment, particularly since I will not say it was official. An old South African friend and course mate from South Africa who helped, suggested I asked questions or matters I wanted to discuss with him and send them in advance. I did not think that was the type of meeting I wanted, so I did not.

Mandela was surprised when he was told I worked at the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but had spent 6 months trying to see him to pay my personal respects. Why did you not go through your colleagues here? I told him the visit was not official. I just wanted to meet him. He relaxed and apologized that it had taken that long for me to see him. Others left us, except a lady who sat discreetly away from us. I thought she was a medical person.

How are my Nigerian brothers and sisters? He asked me. He will not let me take the initiative. 'You know I am not very happy with Nigeria. I have made that very clear on many occasions'. Now I was curious. I knew of course that he led our suspension from the Commonwealth after the hanging of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa and his Ogoni compatriots. It was also no secret that South African governments including one he headed had considerably cooled off towards Nigeria, and by the time I was meeting him, Nigeria was a dirty word in most cities in South Africa. I mentioned that Nigerian people had very strong and positive dispositions towards South Africa and the Southern African region, and many were puzzled that people who marched all the way with South Africans can be despised by the governments and people of South Africa. Yes, he responded. Nigeria stood by us more than any nation, but you let yourselves down and Africa and the black race very badly.

I knew I was going to get a lecture, so I sat back. He spoke with passion and anger at a nation which has one-quarter of the black race, and had everything needed to be great, but is known principally for its dictators and its criminals. Your country, he said, used to be respected. After your suspension from the Commonwealth, many western countries approached me to help in isolating Nigeria so that it will be easier to bring down your military dictators. I consulted many African leaders, and all were unanimous in their advice. They told me to stay clear of Nigeria. That you will fix your problems. You have done it before. ‘But’, he shook his head, 'you have not.Not this time'. The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence. Nigerians love freedom and hate oppression.Why do you do it to yourselves? He remembered Tafawa Balewa, the first leader who gave his party, ANC, financial contribution.

I saw an opening here. I suggested that all Africans are bitter at their leaders. With due respect, I  said, his presidency had not changed lives of black South Africans much, and his successors are not likely to do so. Yes, he agreed,' but we raised hopes that others can do so. ‘He was back to Nigeria. 'Your leaders have no respect for their people. They believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people. They take people's resources and turn it into personal wealth. There is a level of poverty in Nigeria that should be unacceptable. I cannot understand why Nigerians are not more angry than they are', he continued.

(To Be Continued)

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