Kenneth Kaunda meets Awo, Zik, Bello at Heaven’s gate

1 Jul 2021

Twenty-four hours after doctors at Maina Soko military hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, pronounced him dead, Kenneth Kaunda (KK) arrived at the large gold Pearly gates.

Angel Gabriel stood at the gates with a silver sword in hand and a vuvuzela over his shoulders. He led Kenneth Kaunda through the gate without looking into the book for his name.

Angel Gabriel: Welcome, KK, the great teacher. How was your cruise?

Kaunda: Lovely! I’m surprised that you called me teacher. I last taught in 1949.

 

Angel Gabriel: I know. You last were in the classroom with chalk in hand in 1949. But you continued to teach every day after with your safari-suit moral examples. That is what earned you a place in this coveted estate.

Kaunda: Does it mean that all my numerous accomplishments after being a teacher mean nothing?

Angel Gabriel: Accomplishments like what?

Kaunda: With the likes of Zik of Africa, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Hastings Banda of Malawi, I’m one of Africa’s foremost liberation heroes, a Freedom fighter — the last of my generation. I was a party leader, President of the Republic of Zambia, Chancellor of the University of Zambia, OAU chairman, a great supporter of the Non-aligned Movement, global statesman, holder of an honorary doctorate from the University of Belgrade (Yugoslavia), Grand Cross of the Order of Prince Henry (Portugal), Commander of the Most Courteous Order of Lesotho, Supreme Companion of O. R. Tambo (South Africa), a friend of Martin Luther King Jr, President Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, US Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, UK’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein, and so many others.

Angel Gabriel: All those titles and honours did not save your retirement home in Chinsali from becoming an abandoned edifice, did they? The last time we checked on Google map, weeds, broken tractors, and debris had taken over what was once pristine lawns. Your mansion’s high roofs were collapsing, and the road to the mansion lined by Bougainville plants was in disrepair, with moss on paved walkways. That is a good illustration of life and leadership in Africa – an unfinished symphony.

Meanwhile, the Mount Vernon home of George Washington, who died over 200 years before you, has been immaculately preserved.

Kaunda: You got me there, Angel Gabriel. Let me ask you the number one question in my mind on my way here. Did my beloved darling make it to this side of the great divide?

Angel Gabriel: Which one? Do you mean your official daring or your unofficial darling?

Kaunda: I knew it. Betty must have told you about the one that once got away, who later in life couldn’t run so fast. Or did she tell you all about Rosy? Please don’t tell me she did? Which one did she talk about? That was why I wanted to go before her. I knew once she got here, she would open her mouth and spoil my good name.

Angel Gabriel: Your dear wife, Betty, didn’t have to tell us. We see everything. Remember?

Kaunda: Oh.

Angel Gabriel: And be careful what you wish, KK. You don’t want to be like Tanzania’s John Magufuli, who got here before his wife. But on the same day he arrived, his wife announced to the world that he loved early morning sex. Let me ask you, was Magufuli’s wife, Janet, implying that John Magufuli would miss it here in heaven or that she would miss it there on earth?

Kaunda: You should be the one telling me.

Angel Gabriel: Telling you what?

 

Kaunda: What else but what Janet Magufuli meant. But really, are there 72 wide-eyed virgins out here waiting for those who died fighting for God?

Angel Gabriel: What do you think?

Kaunda: I think it must be a misunderstood allegory.

Angel Gabriel: You think so? Do you mean allegory, as in a complicated parable?

Kaunda: Or maybe it is a reference to something like what we now have on earth. They are called sex dolls. Is that what it is? Do you throw in some 72 sex dolls into their mansions as a reward for their sacrifices, fighting for God? I don’t expect some women to be slaves of some men in heaven.

Angel Gabriel: Does all you know about God point to a being that needs feeble creatures of His to fight for Him?

Kaunda: I don’t think so.

Angel Gabriel: So why are you so concerned about people getting 72 virgins in heaven? Were you afraid that you would miss out because you did not fight like crazy for God?

Kaunda: Not at all, Angel Gabriel. That promise of 72 virgins is the inspiration for so many foot soldiers of God who obey every word of a jihadist’s command. They dream of protection from punishment in the grave, dying as martyrs while choking Africa from all angles. There are ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Shabaab in the Western horn of Africa, Boko Haram and the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) in the West African region, and the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama in Mozambique down the South.

I fear for what will become of Africa in another 100 years from now if these groups continue to gain ground. They would ransack all of Africa from the four corners and converge in Congo. It won’t be a pretty sight to behold.

Angel Gabriel: Africa, that cradle of creation, is not a pretty sight to behold now. I hope when you meet Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, and Joshua Nkomo, you all can reflect on the legacies you left behind. You can brief them on the latest.

Kaunda (pointing at a house in sight): Whose house is that?

Angel Gabriel: That is Anwar Sadat’s home.

Kaunda: Really? But he is not a Christian.

Angel Gabriel: Christianity has nothing to do with who makes it here in heaven. You are judged by your work and not by your religion. You all succeeded in turning religion into politics and politics into personality cultism. That is the first mistake.

Kaunda: So what is the secret of making heaven?

Angel Gabriel: It is simple. In the words of brother Matthew, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Kaunda: As a son of a Church of Scotland Reverend and a mother, who was the first African woman to teach in colonial Zambia, I know that by heart. As a former choirmaster and headmaster, I can recite the apostolic creed with my brains switched off and eyes shut.

Angel Gabriel: I know you can recite them, but can you abide by them? That is the challenge that humans face. Somehow, what is in your head is not found anywhere in your heart. In some of you, the path from the head to the heart is clogged.

Kaunda: How is Tito?

Angel Gabriel: Do you mean Josip Broz Tito, the man you wept openly over his casket in Yugoslavia in 1980?

Kaunda: Yes.

Angel Gabriel: He is here.

Kaunda: I want to tell him of what became of his beloved Yugoslavia and my fear that Nigeria, Africa’s last hope for a powerful nation, is going the way of Yugoslavia.

Angel Gabriel: What is the point?

Kaunda: Maybe he can reflect and tell me the mistakes he made in Yugoslavia. Maybe we can apply the lessons to save Nigeria.

Angel Gabriel: You always want to save the world, solve every problem. Why is that?

Kaunda: Maybe it is the teacher in me.

Angel Gabriel: That was how you planned to hand over a quarter of Zambian land to Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to establish utopian agricultural enclaves called heaven on earth.

Kaunda: Please don’t remind me. I was naïve.

Angel Gabriel: You have always been the epitome of naivety.

Kaunda: I am?

Angel Gabriel: Didn’t you write the U.S. President Lyndon Johnson in 1967, asking him to provide you with nuclear weapons?

Kaunda: Yes, I did.

Angel Gabriel: What did you smoke that day? And don’t lie to me.

Kaunda: Nothing!

Angel Gabriel: When you bought 16 MIG 21 fighter jets from the Soviet Union, did you think they would transform your country into a superpower?

Kaunda: My country Zambia is landlocked. We are like a sandwich surrounded by Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola. I was looking for a way for us to be significant in the affairs of men.

Angel Gabriel: You once tried to convince Saddam Hussein not to attack Kuwait. Was something wrong with your head?

Kaunda: I thought I could be a peacemaker.

Angel Gabriel: You were a butterfly that thought itself a bird.

Kaunda: That was then.

Angel Gabriel: You are still very naïve if you think Tito has the solution to the Nigerian problem.

Kaunda: So, who can help?

Angel Gabriel: Why don’t you talk with the Nigerian founding fathers themselves and see if they had any insights or any regrets.

Kaunda: I would love to.

Angel Gabriel: Ok, I will excuse myself and let you talk with them.

Kaunda: How? Are their houses around the corner?

Angel Gabriel: No, they are all on the other side.

Kaunda: Really?

Angel Gabriel: Really, really.

Kaunda: But…

Angel Gabriel: There is not but. The judgment here is fair and square.

Kaunda: I see.

Angel Gabriel: Do you want to talk to them?

Kaunda: Yes.

Angel Gabriel: Just call their names, and they would appear.

Kaunda: How?

Angel Gabriel: Like Zoom, this time more sophisticated.

Kaunda: So, what should I do?

Angel Gabriel: Trust me, just call their names, and they will appear. And you can chat with them. It gives them a break from the horrible place they are.

Kaunda: Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello.

(Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Ahmadu Bello appear in the cloud)

Awolowo: My African brother.

Azikiwe: KK

Bello: As-salamu alaikum, my brother.

Kaunda: I am sad to see that you all did not make it to this side.

Awolowo: I still don’t know why, but I accept their verdict. After all, only the deep are called to the deep.

Azikiwe: K.K., If I knew then what I know now. If only…

Bello: I cannot argue with the management here – things happen for a reason, or should I say, things happen, for whatever reason.

Kaunda: I wanted to talk to you three about your country, Nigeria.

Azikiwe: What about it?

Kaunda: It is in bad shape.

Awolowo: It is all Azikiwe’s fault.

Azikiwe: Look who is talking?

Bello: I was the only one who called it as I saw it. I tried to warn those two, but you did not listen. We were not ready for independence. We still are not.

Awolowo: Speak for yourself and your people. You were not ready for independence. And 60 years after, you are still not ready for independence. That is why you are still holding tight to the carcass of that geographical expression called colonial Nigeria while everyone else is ready to shed off the old skin and become a new being.

Azikiwe: I still insist that with merit as our motto, fairness as our flavour, justice as our jazz, peace, and unity will germinate, and there will be no limit to where Nigeria could go in space and time.

Bello: Zik, you never fail to amaze me. It is always about your rootless idealism, effervescent hope, and fleeting imagination of a world that does not exist. They are all a cover for you, you, you. You want merit because you want to dominate others. You want to eat up everything like a caterpillar and leave others behind to starve.

Awolowo: Alhaji, you are still looking for undue advantage. Ask yourself, in the last 60 years, where has it gotten you? Thirty years after, you still need a score of 7 and 12 to get into unity schools when others need a score of 130 and above. Isn’t that a sign that the policy, disadvantaged states or is it catchment area, whatever the policy is called, has failed? If you had competed on the same footing and not be dependent on receiving an extra hand, you would have been able to stand on your feet and compete with others as equals.

Bello: Are you calling me a parasite?

Awolowo: I am saying that there is nothing wrong with you that cannot be cured by competition. Competition breeds hard work. Hard work breeds success. And success breeds independence.

Azikiwe: Proverbs about rags prick the mind of old women.

Bello: Zik, are you calling me an old woman?

Azikiwe: All that I know is that the ideals of Nigeria have not been tried and found wanting; instead, they have been found difficult, and as such, left untried.

Awolowo: So, Azikiwe, you and this your non-stop nonsense ideal. As my people in Bendel would say, ideals never kill you reach make you get sense?

Kaunda: Guys, guys, hold on. So, you are still bickering here while the nation you three built is collapsing. Awolowo, what one thing is responsible for the collapse?

Awolowo: The constitution.

Kaunda: Bello.

Bello: The constitution, of course.

Kaunda: Azikiwe.

Azikiwe: The constitution, stupid. But K.K., why are you this concerned, anyway?

Kaunda: Mandela said that until Nigeria gets its acts together, Africa has no chance of being respected?

Azikiwe: To hell with Mandela. So, you know, he ain’t that wise.

Bello: True, Zik. I had greater solid accomplishments in Northern Nigeria than what Mandela achieved in South Africa as president.

Awolowo: I tell you, if Gowon had left me in prison for twenty-seven years, I would have achieved greater worldwide fame than Mandela. And the world would have marvelled at my accomplishments in the Western Region. Yes, I built Cocoa House, established the first TV station in Africa, and gave everyone free primary education.

Kaunda: Hold on my friends. What happened to all your senses of retrospect?

Azikiwe: My friend, just go your way. Leave us alone if you don’t have anything important to tell us.

Awolowo: Yes, leave us alone.

Bello: Bye, Felicia.

(Angel Gabriel reappears.)

Angel Gabriel: Are you ready to head out to your mansion, KK?

Kaunda: Yeah.

Angel Gabriel: Say goodbye to your friends.

Kaunda: I don’t even know them anymore. I don’t know how to reach them or make them understand the importance of what is going on in their home country.

Angel Gabriel: And you wonder why we said, let the dead bury the dead. Say bye to them.

Kaunda: I don’t even know how to anymore.

Angel Gabriel: Just tell them to keep catching a cruise.

Kaunda: That’s a harsh thing to say considering where they are stuck.

Angel Gabriel: Across the bridge, there is no more pretence/Across the bridge, there is no new sense/Some just don’t see things/While some smart ones see through things.

Kaunda: I guess.

Angel Gabriel: So wave to them and say, we move.

Kaunda: Folks, we move.

By RUDOLF OKONKWO for People’s Gazette