Religion , Law and Politics

A Lion in Zion -By Loretta Oduware Ogboro-Okor

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As I think of Desmond Tutu, my mind wanders to Mandela. He too, is on my bucket list. I did not meet him either. As I reflect on these two, it dawns on me, that these icons are some of the characters we need to emulate in today’s world. More importantly, my mind takes a stroll into Nigeria and my beloved Edo State – after all, these are my roots. When one is unhappy, the mind wanders home.

At 16 years of age, I began making a bucket list of 100 persons I wish to meet before I exit this earth plane. It was a list of men and women whom I perceive to be worthy of having me as a mentee for a variety of reasons. I decided to start a list, which was devoid of geographical, racial, ethnic, gender, religious or strata leanings. One by one I pen down their names. The list is still on-going and as can be imagined, it is a tad radioactive.

What do I mean?  It simply refers to the fact that people fall off and sometimes come back onto the list. That you are on my list today, does not mean you will still be there tomorrow. Criteria for removal just like my criteria for selection, is also varied. However, the greatest threat to my list was highlighted by my father. My father pointed out to me, all those years ago when I first started my list,

“Nature herself, may pluck some names from your list Loretta” he mused.

To which I responded, “Hmmm…nature may pluck a name off my list, but nature cannot pluck the person and what they represent, out of my mind”.

My father laughed upon hearing this and jokingly retorted “Then, let us hope you never develop amnesia because if you ever do, then your mind may lock out your list”.

On hearing the news that Archbishop Desmond Tutu has bid this Earthly Plane goodbye, I ponder to myself – there goes Mama Nature, plucking another name off my list. Ninety years is not a particularly bad age to take a bow from this life as we each know it. However, I feel unhappy that in 2019 when I was in South Africa, scheduled to see this great man, due to his health issues our meeting could not hold. I did not bother to push too hard at the time…. because like Arnold Schwarzenegger, I told myself, “I will be back” soon. Unfortunately, Covid-19 showed up on the world stage and I am yet to make it back to South Africa.

As I think of Desmond Tutu, my mind wanders to Mandela. He too, is on my bucket list. I did not meet him either. As I reflect on these two, it dawns on me, that these icons are some of the characters we need to emulate in today’s world. More importantly, my mind takes a stroll into Nigeria and my beloved Edo State – after all, these are my roots. When one is unhappy, the mind wanders home.

My sadness is neither for Tutu nor is it for Mandela. My sadness arises from the fact that though these persons are not from my home state or country, their spirit and what they represent is what we need to adopt –alas, such spirits are rare. My perception of both men is summed by one of my quotes.  I tell all my kindred who have ever cared to listen that “our shared humanity, is the true religion”. In my opinion, Tutu and the other side of the coin, Mandela have led their lives along the lines of my quote. The spirit of their patriotism, their love for their people and all people, coupled with their team spirit is remarkable. Their disdain for what is not right as well as their ability to speak up, is needed by all of us from Edo State and Nigeria.

To stand for something and not waiver! To make sacrifices and be long suffering! To understand teamwork and not destroy unity! To postpone instant gratification for future development of generations yet to come! To affect lives and not amass wealth at the expense of the living! To focus on the common good and not be distracted by love of self! To understand your calling and go with it, without debasing others (there are accounts of how Tutu was being pushed to go for the Presidency of South Africa at the time, but he insisted that Mandela would come out of Prison and be President…. not him). These are the elements that make these two men defy geographical boundaries and reside in the hearts of millions ….my humble self-inclusive. It is this kind of spirit all of us from Edo State, at home and in the Diaspora, must begin to adopt. The same applies to Nigeria and other African nations. We all need to imbibe this consistent spirit of the common good, for our collective humanity.

Tutu wanted to become a medical doctor but due to a lack of funding and the racial discrimination in his time, he became a teacher and then went on to train as an Anglican Priest. I often want to thank God … that this man never got to study medicine because somewhere in my ‘human’ mind, I believe he may not have affected the world the way he has. Permit me at this point to borrow from the words of two social change agents: Praise Fovwewe and Dr Tony Osakpamwan Agbons as well as the Veteran Broadcaster Soni Irabor.  I do this because their words resonate with and summarise my reflections on this unique creation of God.

Dr Agbons wrote in his tribute; “Desmond Tutu is an icon who represents the league of humanity who never sat on the fence. Along with Nelson Mandela, both changed the narrative of their environment. They brought change, great evidential change to their society and generation.” Fovwewe penned his reflections thus; “as I reflect on the passing of Archbishop Tutu and the headlines by BBC, it dawns on me that one must be known for something and not stay neutral in the face of oppression. The Archbishop and many great minds like his, will never be remembered for building the largest auditoriums which in itself, is not a bad thing but he will be remembered for standing against oppressors and setting the people free”

In all of this, as pointed out by the veteran broadcaster Mr Soni Irabor, there are still those who are unhappy with some of the roles played by Desmond Tutu at the Truth and Reconciliation meetings he chaired some years ago in South Africa. This is indeed true. There will always be the dissenting views. However, like a standard Gaussian bell curve of the normal distribution in mathematics, what lies at the extreme of the curves on either side, does not supersede the events around the symmetric mean – which is the line through the centre of the curve. Where are the Nigerian Tutus? Taking it closer home, where are my Edo State Tutus and Tutresses? Both at home and in the Diaspora, where do our Tutus reside? People who are truly committed to liberating minds and teaching their people how to fish. People who will not engage in seasonal distribution of ‘the Nigerian Rice’ or poisonous self-aggrandisement.

For me, Tutu and his friend Mandela have run their exceptional races on earth. They have each left in style and I do not doubt, that both of them will sure be sipping freshly brewed tea made by ‘Angel Mikey and Angel Gabe’ at this very moment.  Let Leah Tutu and her children take solace in the fact that their husband and father lives on because death “cannot pluck what he represents, out of the minds of millions of people globally and even those unborn”.  Rest in Peace Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the son of Zacheriah Zililo Tutu and his wife, Aletta Tutu. Your father was an elementary school principal and your mother catered at a school for the blind, but they gave this world one of the most liberated minds ever. Rest in Peace great legend of our time who though may have been imperfect, did not give up working at perfection. His humility and that of his friend Madiba, remain my beacon – Ubuntu!

Dr. Loretta Oduware Ogboro-Okor is Author of the Book, My Father`s Daughter

 

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