One of the favorite proverbs of the great Achebe (may God rest his soul) is, ‘If someone cannot remember where the rain started to beat him, such a person will not know where to dry his body’. I have been completely taken aback by the reactions of many Nigerians, indeed Africans, to the death of the so-called Iron-lady of British politics, Baroness Margaret Thatcher.
That Thatcher was a divisive figure is probably an understatement. She was as conservative as they come. She belonged in that group of politicians alongside Reagan, Kissinger and Pinochet, who harbour total contempt for the ordinary folks, and who believe strongly that ‘Might is always right’. These people appeal to the basest of human instincts, preying on the weak and vulnerable, at home and abroad. Thatcher’s failing arose not necessarily from her ideology (Tony Blair, with a different ideology, will almost certainly also be vilified in death), rather it emanated from the hubris of an ambitious politician, and a glaring lack of scruples and fellow-feeling for the weak and vulnerable.
She and her ilk hobnobbed with the apartheid regime in South Africa; even while their respective governments’ official policy stood in condemnation of the abominable regime. Thatcher went even further than her fellow travellers; being a very regular visitor to the racist enclave that South Africa was and his only son making the country his primary abode of residence. She obviously believed in white-supremacy, and saw everyone different as a potential target of dominion. In fact, her son was tried and convicted of complicity in trying to forcefully take over the control of a sovereign oil-rich African nation. Like mother, like son; Baroness Thatcher never hesitated in deploying the machinery of the British government to ensure that her wayward son escaped justice.
Thatcher was the Prime Minister that took Britain to war against Argentina over the Malvinas, a group of islands off the coast of Argentina. She was able, with the help of her close friend and fellow supremacist Ronald Reagan, to defeat the puny military of Argentina and further the cause of colonial tendencies and domination into the twenty-first century and even till this very day. The Thatcher doctrine of ‘Might is right’ has no moral compass.
Despite the fact that she was a very capable individual and even more so, a woman who succeeded in the male-centric arena of politics, Thatcher failed to use power to fight on the side of the powerless. The argument that she did well for her country is being contested by a big segment of the British population. One thing is clear and undeniable: she presided over the terminal decline of British industry and facilitated its replacement by a virulent brand of casino-based pseudo-economy, more commonly called the financial sector. It is quite bewildering to see people from Glasgow to Manchester to Sheffield, jubilating happily, even gloating, at the death of the departed politician.
Why would any African with full functioning faculties, celebrate the death of such a controversial figure? I go back to Achebe, ‘until the lion starts to tell its own stories, the story of the hunt will continue to glorify the hunter’. Africans needs to learn the act of looking after their own collective interests. A Nigerian leader once said publicly that the country does not need history in the school curriculum. With these kinds of leaders, it is clear where the cluelessness of the African comes from. Without a good number of people in the know of what led us to where we are, how are we ever going to know the way to where we should be? The vacuum thus created is filled by all sorts i.e. CNN, Sky, BBC etc, who are all but mouthpieces of hegemony: social, political, economic and cultural subjugating agents of imperial powers.
Any African whose last name is not Botha, Verwoerd or De Klerk, should have no reason to eulogise Thatcher in death; it is counter-intuitive and only shows such a person as utterly confused. Why would any self-respecting son or daughter of Africa have any regard for Thatcher who openly referred to Mandela as a terrorist on many occasions? She was never an advocate of ‘live and let’s live’; at every point, her modus operandi was, ‘I am right, you are dead!’ I cannot but see it as poetic justice that the great Madiba eventually outlived all his detractors, Thatcher included.
It is depraved consciousness for an abused people to valorise the purveyors of their calamities. It is this same warped consciousness of the African that makes so many to subscribe to the idea of a commonwealth of nations, so soon after gaining flag independence from the same Queen and country which have plundered them so unconscionably hitherto. Self-flagellation is a symptom of deep psychosis; African’s reactions to the death of Thatcher confirm the existence of psychological torture in the recesses of the average African mind. Consequently, as Africa continues to be led by half-wits, many of the African leaders have released meaningless statements commiserating with the government and people of Britain on the demise of Thatcher. The trite saying that a people get the government they deserve is quite apposite.
This same self-loathing underpins most African’s attitude to their native cultures and languages. It is as if everything foreign, everything from Europe and America is better than anything Africa has to offer. We can attribute these tendencies to Kolo-mentality, as Fela said, but there needs to be emancipation at some point. If we do not summon the effort to correct these anomalies, we can simply forget altogether the much desired renaissance of the African.
Margaret Thatcher is gone but her toxic legacies lives on. For the religiously inclined, she will answer for all her deeds to the ultimate Supreme. However, for those who have survived at the sharp end of her political exertions, these times call for sober reflection, and actions, to undo the vestiges of her social, political and economic policies, and definitely NOT to sing the praises of the departed.
Ayo Faleti is the author of ‘Yoruba Proverbs and Their Contexts’