By Muyiwa Adetiba
We all have those things that remind us of our parents whether dead or alive. Things which were so ingrained in them that they became parts of who they were.
Little things that have consciously or unconsciously shaped who we in turn, have become. I remember my father never raised his voice in the house let alone undertake any violent abuse. He was a disciplinarian but his punishments were measured.
Often in line with the misdemeanour. As an educationist, many times it was simply to order his misbehaving or playful children to go to a corner to study and present the assignment to him after a number of hours, usually two.
Other times, it was to memorise bible passages. Most of the psalms I know off-head today were as a result of my ‘punishment’. The canes came out in extreme situations and he would often tell you calmly why you deserved corporal punishment. It was gratifying when I recently heard my youngest child telling her new sister-in-law that she never saw me raise my voice while growing up. My father’s trait had unconsciously become part of me. It is hoped that her brother will continue with the trait.
I once eavesdropped as two young women talked about their fathers’ favourite bible passages. One quoted ‘May the Lord bless you and keep you’ as the favourite passage which she said she had engraved on the doorpost of her new house. To the other, it was ‘Ask God to bless your plans so you can be successful in carrying them out’. A passage she said has the pride of place on her work table.
Both are inspirational passages. The fathers of these young ladies have unconsciously left a legacy, a part of them in their daughters’ hearts. Many people believe legacies must be big monuments, visible achievements or fundamental ideals that influence and change the lives of thousands if not millions of people. Yes, they are correct. That is what many people, especially leaders strive for.
But many miss the trees while looking for the bush. Legacies can be little seeds sown in the hearts and minds of loved ones either through words, actions or attitudes. They are not always worthwhile or even positive. A bitter young man once sarcastically said the path to success for him was avoiding everything his father did. That was obviously not a positive legacy.
Another negative legacy that people in this part of the world often downplay is success built on shady or dark foundations. Like that of a Civil Servant owning opulent homes here and abroad. Or sending four, five children to Europe for foreign education. That parent has lost the moral right to preach about honesty or probity to the children because they will sooner than later realise just how much a Civil Servant no matter how senior, earns.
And they will realise that such a parent has in some way, abused, if not defrauded the system. They might enjoy the spoils. They might enjoy the privileges. But they know in their heart of heart that their parent has robbed the commonwealth. The same way children know if they have been raised by honest parents.
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It is even worse for political leaders whose children know their parents have looted the system. The damage done by their actions is not only in the public square where their legacy is there for everybody to see. It extends to their homes where the values of their children might be twisted and warped for life. These ‘successful’ parents might not be too proud to tell their children details of their road to success.
President Babangida turned 80 last month. It was a landmark birthday marked in a style that reflected the mood of the country but also captured the persona of the man. It was not gaudy by any standard. A lot has been written about General Babangida and his legacy. I am glad he is alive to read many of them and reflect.
If any Nigerian had what it takes to succeed, it was Babangida. IBB is cerebral -many people including his detractors know that. He is bold and courageous -we saw the way he addressed many of the fundamentals in the country during his time. He is strategic -he not only took part in all the successful coups, he understands the forces at play in the country. He is certainly a detribalised man. Although a Northern Muslim, he didn’t wear that toga in office. Southern Christians not only breathed, but thrived under him.
He can be charming – I can attest to that having met him privately for about an hour while he was at the peak of his power as President. So why is he being viewed so negatively in spite of these attributes? Why has his legacy turned sour in spite of the many interventions he made to our polity?The answer in my opinion is that he was more Machiavellian than principled. Many of his otherwise worthwhile ventures fell because they failed the integrity test. He looks well for 80. I wish him many more fruitful and reflective years.
President Buhari is worried about his legacy like all human beings. A lot of that has already been shaped. It is shaped by the things he addressed and the things he failed to address. It is shaped by the things he promised that he didn’t deliver on and by the things he didn’t promise that he delivered on. It is shaped by national things like insecurity, poverty and fractionalisation of the country.
It is also shaped by personal choices like his constant medical trips to the UK while the healthcare system nears collapse at home. Medical tourism was something he promised to stop. He turned out to be its chief promoter.
It will be further shaped by the lavish, in your face wedding of his son in these austere times. The wedding broke the written rules on Covid 19. It broke the unwritten rules on sensitivity and empathy. That wedding was another of Nigeria’s, nay Buhari’s version of fiddling while Rome was burning.
One last word on legacy. General Abacha’s children and family were said to be shocked at the passing of their patriarch,by the extent of the loathing the people he ruled had for him. May it not be the lot of our current President when he eventually leaves office. Many of those who turned out in private jets at the wedding of Yusuf might yet be his nemesis when he leaves power.
That wedding with the Kano tarmac parked with a multitude of private jets – some reports claim fifty – at a time Nigerians in their millions are struggling for survival, will be remembered and talked about for a while.