VIEW FROM THE GALLERY BY MAHMUD JEGA
A family doctor came to my house recently, armed with a laptop, with a medical app that I had never seen before. He clamped a clip that was hooked to the laptop on my thumb. He then pulled out a dozen statistics on my state of health. I knew some of them were true from previous hospital checks. Others were new to me. One statistic, however, baffled me. He said categorically: “Your memory is failing quickly.”
If he was a native doctor instead of a general practitioner, I would have thought invisible spiritual powers had told him so. Instead, I wondered if this GP, their laptop, or their software should be tested themselves.
As the year 2021 draws to a close in a few days, it occurred to me that I have been reading the newspapers for 50 years now, from the day when, as an elementary student, I crept up to ‘at my teacher’s desk Mr. Obinwe and read the last page of his diary as he read the first page. He noticed my curiosity, told me to go back to my seat, and handed me all the paper when he was done. Since then, I have read the newspapers almost every day.
In order to independently test the family doctor’s claim about my failing memory, I sat down and tried to remember some of the people and events that have dominated the news at one point or another during the course. of the last half-century. For no particular reason, I thought of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, head of the All India Sikh Students Federation in the early 1980s. Campaigning for the religious right of Sikhs to carry a dagger on commercial flights, his activist boys turned out. hidden in the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the holiest sanctuary of the Sikhs, from where they launched attacks on the security forces. When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the soldiers to storm the temple and disarm them, the seven holy gurus sentenced her to death. This was duly carried out by his two Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, as a religious duty.
I also remember Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, prominent leader of the Sikh Akali Dal party during the troubles in Punjab, who was assassinated in 1985 because he had signed a peace agreement with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Across the Palk Strait from India, I thought of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. Not for good reason: Newsweek magazine declared in the 1980s that she was one of the most nepotistic leaders in the world, alongside President William Tolbert of Liberia and Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceauescu. Many ministerial and other high-level positions in their governments were held by family members.
I was shaking with fear at the thought of another Communist leader, Yuri Andropov. Before succeeding Brezhnev as head of the Soviet Union in 1982, Andropov was head of the Soviet secret police, the KGB. TIME magazine said Andropov reached out at a dinner at the Kremlin and offered to fill another guest’s glass with vodka.
The guest refused, however, so Andropov said: “You should take it better. The KGB has a long arm. Just in case Alhaji Yusuf Bichi reaches out to fill someone’s glass at an Aso Rock dinner. , always remember that DSS has a long arm!
Not just Andropov. I thought of all the members of the Politburo of the Soviet Communist Party at that time, including General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, Prime Minister Nikolai Tikhonov, President Alexei Kosygin, CPSU Head of Ideological Affairs Mikhail Suslov, Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Gromyko, Defense Minister, Marshal Dmitry Ustinov, Prime Minister Heydar Alirza Aliyev, Vasili Kuznetsov and Brezhnev’s Chief of Staff Konstantin Chernenko.
We didn’t know who was the Politburo’s second in command until 1979. In a rare interview, Brezhnev showed the editors of TIME magazine a chair in his office and said, âThis is where I sit when I chair Politburo meetings. Unless I am absent, Comrade Andrei Kirilenko will chair.
Until the 1980s, China was much less open than it is today, so we only knew a few leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, including Deng Xiaoping, Zhao Zhiyang, Hu Yaobang, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao. . It was after the deaths of Mao Zedong, Chou en-Lai and Marshal Zhu Deh. Deng once told a story that Chairman Mao Zedong tabled a question in the Politburo and asked anyone who disagreed to stand up. Only the diminutive Deng stood up, so Mao looked at him and said, “Since I can’t see anyone standing, it is unanimously adopted.”
On the day that current Chinese leader Xi Xinping took power, the BBC presenter performed a humorous play in his name. He said, “So what will Xi, I mean him, bring to the table?”
Where is the Chinese neighbor Shin Kanemaru, the Japanese political godfather of whom one said “to know who will become prime minister after the next one?” No title of national leader has ever impressed me as much as that of Burma’s senior general Than Shwe. I found his title more interesting than the lackluster “head of state” used by the Nigerian military rulers. The ruling Burma Law and Order Council was also more impressive than Nigeria’s lackluster âSupreme Military Councilâ. Equally impressive, to me, was Polish General Wojciech Jaruzelski, chief martial law administrator and his National Salvation Military Council from the early 1980s.
In 1989, when Solidarity won the first multiparty polls in Poland, the BBC journalist in Warsaw said the Polish Workers’ Party would allow him to form the government but would retain the ministries of defense, foreign affairs, and government. Interior and Finance. The BBC News presenter then said: “If the Communists keep these ministries, why then did you call it a government of solidarity?
What happened to the case of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, the Polish Catholic priest who was killed by rogue secret service agents in 1984, without the approval of the leadership?
Before I get lost abroad, let’s go back to Africa. No name has ever stirred up so much resentment in me as South Africa’s Justice, Police and Prisons Minister Jimmy Kruger, who serially “banned” Winnie Mandela under the 1950 Law on Prison. suppression of communism. His successors Cobie Coetzee, Adrian Vlok and Louis LaGrange were no less despicable. The apartheid regime then renamed this ministry to the ministry of law and order, which did not soften its image.
Africa has forgotten its heroes. When the Secretary General of the South African Communist Party Yusuf Dadoo died in 1983, it was
revealed that he had never missed a SACP meeting in 40 years! Or Ruth First, wife of Umkhonto We Sizwe Commander Joe Slovo, who was killed by a parcel bomb in Maputo in 1982. Where is our United Democratic Front [UDF] hero, Patrick “Terror” Lekota? Today, young Africans think of Cyril Ramaphosa only the former president of MTN. During the epic coal miners’ strike of 1988, BBC World News repeatedly opened its sound sample. He would deliver a militant message and the news anchor would say: âThe head of the National Union of Miners of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa. Even today, this memory brings tears to my eyes.
Africa should never forget Josiah Tongogara, Commander of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe National Liberation Army [ZANLA] died in a car accident in Maputo six days after the signing of the Lancaster House Accord in 1979. Or for that matter, Lieutenant-General Dumiso Dabengwa and Major General Lookout Masuku, commanders of the People’s Revolutionary Army from Zimbabwe by Joshua Nkomo [ZIPRA] who were imprisoned by Mugabe in 1981 for allegedly hiding weapons on a farm in Matabeleland.
In around 1980, TIME magazine published an article on then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Every day at noon, Sadat’s close friend Osman Ahmed Osman, owner of Arab Contractors, arrived at the door of the presidential palace. Sadat went out and they walked for an hour in the garden. They barely said a word to each other as they walked. At 1 p.m. they were back at the gate, Sadat walked in and Osman got to his car and left.
The long fatal illnesses of Spaniard Francisco Franco, Algerian Houari Boumedienne and Yugoslavian Josif Broz Tito in 1975, 1978 and 1980 respectively, captivated the world because their governments published daily medical bulletins until death. of these leaders. Today we only hear that âhe died after a brief illnessâ.
In our lab one day in 1984, my physiology professor, Prof. Robert Miodonski, told me that if after three months a student can remember ten percent of what he read for the exam , then his memory is very good. Please tell my family doctor.