Sad news hit the world and its foundations shook upon hearing the news that a selfless African leader (a rare attribute in our part of the world!) was gone. Nelson (which some zealots strangely write and pronounce ‘Nursing’) Rolihlahla Mandela has left the world after 95 years. His years of fighting for freedom was over, he fought dead rumors amidst failing health until the final hours on Thursday when he said his final goodbye.
Have you imagined what would have happened if Mandela had been a Ghanaian?
First, the airwaves would have run amok with dirges here and there with lots of funeral experts talking what should happen next. Media experts will first question themselves if the required rites and rituals have been performed first to ‘leak’ the information about his death out to the international media. We won’t only have the death of a hero to deal with, but also try to answer that dodgy modernity versus culture riddle.
For the Flagstaff House which is the seat of government, there would be confusion if to issue a statement to that effect, hold an impromptu press conference or wait unto the family to avoid any ‘she say he say.’ State burial, chieftaincy to deal with or family instructions; which one will be adhered to? Controversy and tension will be thick in the air.
We will learn from traditional authorities of how gods and deities in his hometown should be pacified before he can be buried. The weather will all of a sudden be gloomy for the next odd days reflective of the sad passing of a proud son of Africa.
There would have been serious confusion over where to bury Mandela. His family would have claimed him; the government would have battled them strongly with the government pushing to bury him in Accra and the people of Nsawam where he spent 27 years in prison would have also laid claims to the body. The burial musical chairs will be in motion…
A few government spokespersons would have tried to push the agenda that criticisms of his government while he was President some 15 odd years ago ultimately contributed to his death at 95. Even in death, this politicization will find run in the hearts and minds of millions of Ghanaians. Opposition would have been making firm claims of wanting to know what finally took the most loved man in the world away from all. Are we not an interesting bunch of people?
African witches and wizards would have taken a fair share of the blame too. In Ghana, there cannot be a thing like natural death here, you know. You either die a supernatural death or a man-made death. A lot will curse them for not holding the precious life of someone like Mandela until the end of time.
We would have been hearing revelations of a triumphant entry of Mandela into heaven where he had been made crown prince to the throne and messages he had given these seers to tell the nation – most of these messages will be about how one man or the other should be supported as a leader. Ghanaians are such wonderful beings!
Soon, giant billboards would have been splashed in every town, village and ghetto announcing his death with various messages. Yes! The cocoa season for some people that would been. You hear ‘ogyabi wua ogyabi tse ase’ to wit, don’t people profit from people’s loss every day?
Prophets would line up to tell us that the death is a result of the huge sins committed by the Ghanaians and a sign that the Almighty wants nothing to do with Ghana. Prophecies of more deaths of prominent persons, calamities, accidents and fires would be attached and then my favorite part, we will be asked to pray – so in one breath, anytime another important person dies or there is an accident, we will quickly be reminded of these prophecies but should nothing of the sort happen for some time, our prayers would be deemed to have worked.
The hottest job would have become the Chairman of the Funeral Planning Committee and its membership. And oh they would be given a blank cheque to spend as they would make frantic appeals for donations trying to play on the emotions of the world. Adverts would be placed on CNN, BBC, Aljazeera et al all appealing to the goodwill of the world to donate for a befitting funeral for a fallen hero.
Announcements would have been made about the one week celebrations which would be organized in every village, town, constituency, district and region and the colors prescribed for all such events would be the colors of the ruling party to the sheer anger of the opposition.
Journalists will start getting hints and making wild allegations regarding where the coffin will be imported from considering his status and how many millions of dollars it will cost the tax payer. Even in death, some will try and ask if it is too expensive and whether such a simple man needs that to be spent in his name in death.
It will take just some few hours for Makola Cloth Sellers Association to outdoor a new cloth with large pictures of Mandela with witty names embossed on them. The name of the cloth will either be “b33ma b3 y33 bi” (man came to do some and not all), “opanin ko a na ago rasa” (when the elderly leave, the party ends) or “mo ay3 a f3re” (ain’t you ashamed now that he is no more?).
Religious, traditional and civil society leaders as well as all other eminent personalities would be queuing and falling over each other to tell us why he should be worshipped and why such worship should be state sanctioned.
Overwhelmed by emotion, Oko Vanderpuije and the Government would have hurriedly changed the name of Osu to Mandelaman; Tema Harbour to Nelson Mandela Harbour and the 37 and Korle-bu Hospitals to Mandela Medical Centre A and B respectively.
There will be a rush to import much needed cattle, goat, chicken and akomfem for the much awaited grand funeral.
Ghanaians love and worship their dead and go every length to give the dead a benefiting funeral like the dead will see and applaud them. They would do a thousand and one necessary and unnecessary thing which will never bring the dead back.
*Written by Boadu Kwabena with editing and contributions from Abubakar Ibrahim