By Bassey Ubong
In a world choked with bad news, the story of Madam Kadama, an Ethiopian woman, should generate tears of joy in every heart.
By way of a short video, a woman climbed into the cabin of a commercial flight from Lebanon to Ethiopia to be received by her son, the pilot of the aircraft. The footage tells the story of a woman who worked in Lebanon for thirty years to raise money to finance her son’s education. The young man became a pilot, received his mother into the aircraft, gave her a bouquet of flowers, and flew her home. What a fabulous story of realisation of dreams, tenacity in good deed, responsible attitude of a youth, and other wonderful angles?
The case of Madam Kadama has several dimensions which require review. These include among others, persistent hope, endurance, faith, the role children should play in their lives, and whether bad news should be good news in the contemporary world.
Madam Kadama, we hear, left Ethiopia thirty years ago to Lebanon to seek the proverbial greener pasture. One of the countries countable on the fingers of one hand, which escaped the trauma of colonialism, Ethiopia has had a chequered and tumultuous history. The world knew more of Emperor Haile Selassie than the nation which hosts men and women of extraordinary handsomeness and beauty, rich culture, and ancient history. I continue to recall with fondness the 1976 film titled, “The Message” approved by the Supreme Council of Islam at Jerusalem on the early history of Islam.
The film highlighted the Kingdom of Aksum, today known as Ethiopia and Eritrea. The kingdom hosted the First Hegira or flight of new adherents to the religion of Islam from oppression in Mecca in 615 AD. The Christian king, Armah, received and hosted the new Moslems, and rejected appeals by emissaries from Mecca to release the new Moslems to the rulers in Mecca for possible execution.
After Emperor Haile Selassie’s dethronement, Ethiopia has witnessed considerable turbulence, civil war, ethnic strife, natural disasters and in general, bad news.
As of today, the country continues to struggle to rise above poverty and civil wars. In my opinion, just two things make the country stand out – the Headquarters of African Union and Ethiopian Airlines. Few people know Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General and Chief Executive Officer of World Health Organization (WHO) as an Ethiopian. First elected in 2017, Dr. Tedros serves a second 5-year term at present.
The brief review above and in particular the crises-ridden situation in Ethiopia should tell us the possible reason Madam Kadama, among millions of others, left her beautiful country for Lebanon, itself a country with a history of turbulence. All the same Madam Kadama worked in Lebanon and used her earnings to support her son’s education. No details are available on the woman’s background to draw from, but we know she took her son through school till he became a pilot and flew her home, either to retire or for holidays. I should be forgiven of the speculations on the woman given inadequacy of information on her.
Madam Kadama, like most underprivileged mothers, must have scrimped to ensure her child received good education. And she allowed her son choice of a profession outside the fanciful ones and in particular medicine, law, and engineering.
Some years back someone pointed to a woman who refused to spend one Naira on her children. Whatever the children ate and wore along with school needs were supplied by the father of the children although she worked with the government of a state.
Through the eyes of the mind one can see Madam Kadama on her dark days as she struggled to ensure her son progressed. One can imagine the place of faith which scripture regards as hope for things not seen. She must have held onto a dream of a wonderful future for her son with or without her as a beneficiary. Thanks to God for the grace to be alive to fly in an aircraft her son flew.
President Barack Obama lost his maternal grandmother a few days before he won election to become America’s first black and minority race President. Mr. Stanley and Mrs. Madelyn Dunham brought up Mr. Barack Obama after he lost his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. Madam Kadama has God to thank for the grace of life and health.
Carefree mothers – and there are many around – should learn from the tenacity and sacrifice of Madam Kadama. And based on my current experience, parents need to allow their children to choose careers aside from latitude to be human by way of managed independence. Some parents appear to experience excessive anxiety over their children to the point that borders on psychotic disorder. Excessive policing and control may be counterproductive in the long run.
The pilot, name not reflected in the video clip, requires serious mention. He must be applauded because he worked with his mother on his future, left the joys of the flesh, including the macho angle which pushes youths into antisocial groups, and focused on his future rather than the immediate ‘good life.’ When a child goes through school and returns with expected qualifications some parents congratulate themselves and ignore the role of God as the Father of grace. Millions of parents go in and out of hospitals to battle high blood pressure, ulcer, and related health issues induced by children who lack vision and priorities. Rain has fallen on the vulture for a long time as a Yoruba proverb tells us.
In my days in the University of Nigeria in the early 1970s, we were aware of the concept of ‘permanent students,’ those who enjoyed studenthood for decades. Such students continue to exist today to the chagrin of their families.
Imagine a child who demands for a car while at school because the parents can afford it. Imagine children expelled from school as a result of membership of groups which their schools have banned. Imagine the pain parents feel when invited to Police stations, and worse, when they have to pick up the remains of a child felled by bullets or knives or axes.
Imagine a man with a fine pedigree who built a name in the finance industry and rose to the rank of Managing Director/Chief Executive of United Bank for Africa Plc, current Chairman of Jaiz Bank, among several high positions in the public and private sectors. Imagine such a man whose image became tainted by his son, the so-called underwear bomber. The young man in the name of religion attempted to bomb a Northwest Airlines flight in 2009 over Detroit. Alhaji Umaru Abdul Mutallab remains in the first three of my most admired personalities in Nigeria because he reported his radicalized son to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) before the bomb attempt. The episode changed security arrangements in commercial flights worldwide, I believe for all time. The young man serves fifty years without parole and we can imagine the pain the parents will go through till their last days.
This piece commenced with the issue of a world suffocated with bad news. Should bad news be regarded as good news because the former sells, while the later tastes drab? I have no answer, but we need to worry about the possible impact of bad news as the new normal.
In an attempt to relax, let anyone enter social media pages and online newspapers, news of accidents, murders, natural disasters, broken marriages, corruption, and related things pop up far more than heart-warming news. The current generation appears to be used to bad news to the point they find it difficult to appreciate good news.
Just this morning, as I write, a medical doctor, Martin Akpan lamented the depth to which humanity has gone and noted the impact of negatives on youths.
He said, “These days when you tell children good things about the past in Nigeria they look at you with surprise and boredom.”
In our contemporary society, some news organs thrive because they are harbingers of disasters and corrupt practices. It begs the question whether bad news is good news, which one appeals more to news organs because of the profit motive, and which one should be preferred by society.
In the 1970s, Lagos Weekend enjoyed a niche as a scandal newspaper. The current fad has been Big Brother Naija, which keeps youths and adults awake to watch a nexus of immorality and commerce in public space.
At the end of the day, the world needs more Madam Kadama stories because they fill everyone with hope for a better tomorrow. Everyone used here refers to the rich and the poor, the upper crust and proletarians, the clergy and the laity, saints and sinners. All the social groups and strata have ugly stories to tell of the lives and times of their children who prefer the left path to the right path. Madam Kadama and her pilot son, God will continue to bless two of you as well as all mothers and children who replicate their wonderful story.
Dr Ubong, a writer and public policy analyst, lives in Uyo.