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Daaga, his political and philosophical legacy

Published: 
Friday, August 10, 2018

For the second time in as many weeks, I wish to recall some of the legacy that the late Chief Servant Makandal Daaga left for us in Trinidad and Tobago. However, in my previous statement, I made an error which needs correction.

I was reminded by a reader that Wednesday, August 8 this year was the second anniversary of his death, not the first and having been corrected it reminded me of how quickly time has passed. In fact, next year is the 50th anniversary of the founding of NJAC and the following year 2020 shall be the 50th anniversary of the Trinidad & Tobago (Black Power) Revolution, 1970.

It is interesting that some of the Chief’s public statements which form a part of his political legacy are fairly well known. That legacy stretches back to 1962 when he formed PEGASUS, developed in 1967 when he became president of the Guild of Undergraduates, UWI, St Augustine and then on to 1969 when he established NJAC.

For example, when Daaga spoke on the night of April 21, 2010, just after the Fyzabad Declaration was signed by the People Partnership, he asked the assembled gathering to shout in unison, “I AM THE GOVERNMENT.”

He did so to emphasise to Trinidad & Tobago that the people must not be passive but should participate creatively in national affairs. He considered that protest demonstrations, blocking roads with burning rubbish and picket lines were hardly participatory enough.

To her credit, the former prime minister, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, reminded T&T of the Chief Servant’s words many times during her administration.

But even as he spoke in such strident political tones, the Chief Servant used to express himself more quietly during the internal meetings of NJAC. One particular set of meetings took place between 1970 and 1985. Brother Makemba Kunle, of NJAC’s Caribbean Institute of Information and Research, took extensive note of his sayings.

In 2014, Brother Moriba Kwamina, head of the institute, edited the recollections now entitled The Thoughts of Chief Servant Makandal Daaga. It was printed by UTT and is currently available at the NJAC office at 40 Duke Street, Port-of-Spain.

Of the 25 sections in the book, one that I wish to feature is the Ten Requirements for Building a Great Organisation. They are summarised as Pride, Humility, Discipline, Knowledge, Faith, Understanding, Power, Selflessness, Destiny and Love.

The first requirement the Chief Servant spoke of was Pride, he said “… you should develop a fierce pride—pride so fierce that it would be destructive of anything that interferes with it. In other words, what they have been telling us is that pride is a sin; … we must not apologise about it. Our pride must be fierce and thunderous—so thunderous that it brooks no interference because it is of that pride that great men and nations are made.

He said the second requirement was Humility, “Humility is greatness in itself and every great man has been humble. The reason why he is humble is that he understands his greatness and this understanding brings humility. The people who are not humble do not understand greatness.

“Like the swimmer with all his ability, he can only swim thus far recognising that the ocean is limitless and he becomes cognizant of his own limitations. He knows he can never swim the ocean. So he does not boast, he learns to be humble. If as leaders we can be proud and humble at the same time, it would be an achievement to be proud of.”

He also said, “But by humble, I do not mean you bow before every lever of strength that appears… that you make of yourself a doormat… suffer to achieve like some say, or sing while lions devour you in the dungeon, that is not humility.

Humility knows no fear.”

Aiyegoro Ome

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