When Winnie Madikizela Mandela passed on recently the world rose to honour the passing of a great woman. Uncommon courage was celebrated by friends and foes alike. A life characterized by almost unending sacrifice was recognized and applauded.
However, each time I hear Nigerians, especially those belonging to our own special edition of Constituted Authority, spew out the usual rhetoric about emulating her life of courage, my first reaction is to offer a sad smile.
Yes, there is everything good in desiring to emulate a life of great impact but when it comes from people who have a history of honouring the word, sacrifice, only in the breach, it can only elicit first grade cynicism from some of us.
What do we know about sacrifice, really? I’m not talking fighting for how breakfast can return to your dining morning after morning, even animals do that so well.
I’m talking about leading a fight in which your dog is clearly absent. I’m talking about fighting for equity, fairness and justice, even when it’s clear that you and yours are well above the fray in every way.
Alas, such Nigerians are few, and that’s a major reason we will continue to have misfits and clowns deciding which side of the bed we should wake up from each dawn.
Whether it’s about the sack of dozens of women by Globacom, the back log of salaries media owners are proud to owe journalists, or the needless and senseless killings of unarmed civilians that have become a daily narrative in Nigeria, once we are done howling in the social media, the matter is closed.
We are so good at regurgitating the rhetoric and horrible at mustering the courage and staying power to see to the things that truly matter. That’s why an organisation like NAWOJ - Nigeria Association of Women Journalists - whose members suffer endlessly under unscrupulous and greedy media owners, will be urging African women to emulate the late Winnie.
It’s all about the rhetoric.
How many of their executives will agree to take even a fraction of the hardship Winnie had to undergo, if that’s what it would take to ensure equity, fairness and justice for their members?
I tell you, it’s all about the rhetoric.
Of course, when we’re not being our docile and apathetic selves, we are tearing each other apart, fighting those we perceive are shaking our precious table.
The first and only female president South Korea ever produced, former South Korean president Park Geun-hye was sentenced to 24 years in prison for abuse of power and corruption. At 66 and barring any last minute appeal victory or government pardon, she would likely spend the rest of her life behind bars.
I’m still waiting for that country to go up in flames. But it won’t because unlike Nigerians, those people are serious about leaving a better country for their children.
Recently also former president Jacob Zuma of South Africa joined the exclusive club of former African presidents and Heads of state who have been docked for corruption trials. Life is still going on in South Africa.
Just imagine that any of the two scenarios above happened in Nigeria…unimaginable.
The ensuing war would have as many colourations as there are in a United Nations conference. The religion, tribe, party and gender interpretations that would follow would throw up enough confusion to leave even the Devil bewildered.
And you know who the chief actors would be? Certainly not the political elite or their children. It would be you and I, the supposed long-suffering masses who have been chanting the change mantra, going up in arms against each other in defence of certified thieves.
The same thieves who have ensured that we remain underwater while the rest of the world waltzes by in progress. But the table will be untouchable because we are affiliated by tribe or religion to those standing on it and making life unbearable for the rest people.
We have become so used to looking the other way that our necks have become too twisted to look ahead with dignity.
We are not ready for change.
Forget whatever anyone is trying to make you believe, we hardly shake any tables in Nigeria. But then, how could we when almost everyone and their rabbit are sitting right on the table, eating with both hands and belching from overfeeding?
Even those who are unable to get direct space on the table top are either shamelessly scuttled underneath or pitiably clinging to the legs of the table.
But you see whether we shake this table or not it will fall someday because events will come to its aid and cleanse it of every leech, so it may enjoy a new lease of life.
My pity – in advance - to all those who would still be clinging to it when that day comes for none shall escape without life changing injuries and scars.