My Madiba Moment – Part 1 By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.

It is quite normal to see Ghanaian leaders jockey ahead of one another to see who bests his/her rival or political nemesis in paying fulsome, and noisome, tribute to the prominent, powerful and influential deceased. That is what we do best and better than most other Africans. Last Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, the global spotlight shifted onto the Democratic Republic of South Africa, with the glorious and historic passing of the legendary political icon, Mr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. In his frenzied spurt to putting in his proverbial five-cent tribute before all else, one Ghanaian leader pathetically misspelled the old man’s middle name as “Rolihala.” How pathetic!

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I, for my part, take the seismic, albeit long-expected, passing of “The Madiba,” as he was affectionately called by his clansfolk and most of his countrymen and women, personally because I was an honorary member of the African National Congress (ANC) as an undergraduate student at the City College of New York of the City University of New York (CCNY of CUNY) in the mid-1980s. I attended most of the club-hour meetings of the ANC chapter of CCNY and wrote and published quite a bit on the crescendoing anti-apartheid liberation struggle.

I also maintained a very cordial relationship with one of the leading members of the ANC’s main political rival organization, the Sobukwe-led Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC). And that leading member was Dr. Pheko, who served as the PAC’s chief diplomat and ambassador to the United Nations. We never had the chance to meet, but we conversed by phone several times. Dr. Pheko also periodically snail-mailed me PAC ideological and propaganda literature and audiotapes. I make the foregoing observations in order to apprise my readers of the fact that when it comes to the politics of South Africa, I am no “just-passing-through” journalist or a photo-opportunity tourist.

What I intend to do with my writings on the Mandela phenomenon the next several days, and perhaps even weeks, is to critically examine a number of tributes composed and published by some of the most prominent Ghanaian leaders, and the far-reaching implications that such tributes have as striking reflections on the political and ideological caliber of these leaders vis-a-vis the collective destiny of the Commonwealth Democratic Republic of Ghana. For these tributes are in reality far less about the legendary and immortalized spearhead of the anti-apartheid liberation struggle, than they are squarely about what the authors themselves represent, in terms of how they self-interpret the Mandela phenomenon to have been all about.

For Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Mr. Mandela organically and reflectively embodied “compassion, conviction, integrity, sincerity, generosity, loyalty, dignity and humility.” The two-time presidential candidate of Ghana’s main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), goes on to observe that the preceding qualities “are values that are earned from one’s actions and not just one’s words. Mandela held with remarkable consistency a very high ethical standard in line with these values.”

It is also quite interesting that Nana Akufo-Addo would list “Humility” as one of the salient behavioral attributes of Mandela, whom he also dubs as the greatest African personality of our age and time. For the author of the Mandela tribute captioned “Madiba – The Noblest African of Them All” ( / 12/6/13) has himself been widely known for a lot of admirable personality traits except, of course, “Humility.” And if he is really sincere in his belief that “Humility” played a significant role in molding The Madiba into the oustanding and nonesuch personality of his generation and age, then, indeed, it was long overdue for the former Foreign and Justice minister in the Kufuor government to emulate the man whom he claims to have been the “Noblest African” of our time.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D. Department of English Nassau Community College of SUNY Garden City, New York


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