In Memoriam: Big G’s enduring legacy in every aspect of this, that, and the other

In a peculiar twist of destiny, two leaders with opposing ideologies find themselves entwined in a profound lesson of life.

It is with deep regret that I convey my profound sense of loss for President Geingob, a cherished elder brother, esteemed friend, formidable adversary, parliamentary peer, and leader of our esteemed Republic. It is safe to say that I am profoundly moved by the colossal void left by the departure of this statesman, a paragon of both intellect and refinement.

On August 26, 2002, a serendipitous encounter occurred at the Heroes Acre, where Paramount Chief Riruako and I found ourselves in the company of President Geingob. As we stood together, he expressed his recognition of leadership, affirming that I resembled the future. This encounter was prompted by his disquiet over a career-altering event albeit briefly when, as the sitting Prime Minister, he went unrecognized at a state event, even by the Founding President Nujoma. He extended a handshake and jovially suggested a future meeting, which duly transpired.

A pivotal moment in our association unfolded during a Congressional visit to the U.S., accompanying Rt Hon Speaker Dr Tjitendero and the late Ella Kamanyah. An invitation from PM Hage Geingob at his opulent residence in Washington initiated deep discussions on our nation’s sociopolitical landscape, its limitations, strengths, fears, and aspirations. Our political alignment on the necessary course of action solidified during this conversation.

Subsequent to a late-night outing, President Geingob, true to his earlier commitment at Heroes Acre, invited me for a tour of his newly acquired residence. Recognizing my profound understanding of national issues and perspectives on the future, he promised a one-on-one meeting, which materialized the next day, marking a turning point in our shared history.

During my time in the U.S., I engaged with a man resilient in the face of adversity, always embodying a victorious spirit. A personal connection evolved through regular calls and friendship facilitated by my life partner, the constant recipient of calls from my esteemed elder brother.
Affectionately referred to as “Big G,” President Geingob and I both experienced temporary setbacks in our respective careers. While I faced defeat against my predecessor and endured ostracism, he lost the Prime Ministership, becoming an outcast. Yet, both of us harbored political aspirations for the future.

Even in moments of adversity, President Geingob never portrayed himself as a victim. As friends, we fulfilled the roles of confidants, providing support and guidance for each other’s future prospects. During his turbulent marriage and divorce, and my early days as a newlywed, we assumed the unconventional roles of marriage counselors for one another.
President Geingob, with his refined taste and appreciation for the finer things in life, enjoyed indulging in exquisite food at various city restaurants, despite financial constraints. First Lady Monica often amusedly observed our sartorial debates, as we vied for the title of the better-dressed gentleman.

Our careers experienced simultaneous upward mobility, with President Geingob returning to the cabinet, eventually becoming party VP and later Prime Minister, while I assumed leadership in my party. This ascent shifted our camaraderie to the background, making room for intense political engagements and disagreements.

As a statesman and politician, President Geingob exuded strength and a commanding presence on the political stage. His ability to persuade and articulate his arguments stood out, even as he sought to control narratives. Despite his political prowess, I occasionally exploited his impulsive nature to gain an advantage, much to his chagrin.

President Geingob’s zest for life was coupled with a keen awareness of danger. A memorable incident during a visit to a conservancy in the Kunene Region, where a stray elephant posed a threat, showcased his quick decision-making skills.

At the negotiation table, President Geingob proved to be a skilled negotiator. I vividly recall lengthy consultations on constitutional amendments, a testament to his determination and strategic acumen.

Despite his strengths, President Geingob had his share of weaknesses, notably his moods and sensitivity. During moments of moodiness, a subtle leg shake signaled the need for careful engagement. His sensitivity was evident when a playful remark about his role at the airport left him momentarily disconcerted.

President Geingob’s legacy lies in his embodiment of a true compatriot, fostering national unity through bridge-building and forging friendships with political opponents. While our political journey witnessed its share of disagreements, our interactions never descended into condescension.

Our final moments were marked by heartfelt texts and mutual support during challenging times. His attempts at consolation, despite his own struggles, revealed a man with a compassionate heart.

In bidding farewell, I acknowledge that I have engaged with a formidable opponent. Permit me, in the name of my forebears, to mourn my esteemed elder brother and worthy adversary. It is poignant that our last one-on-one encounter occurred at Heroes Acre, echoing Shakespeare’s words, “Whether we meet again, we know not; if we do, we shall smile. If we don’t, then these goodbyes are well meant.”

President Geingob, your enduring commitment to Namibia will be remembered. In this, that, and the other, we shall forever remain compatriots and amigos. I oppose your departure with the fondest of memories.

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