News analysis by Obike Ukoh
The late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa remains a household name globally because of his numerous outstanding achievements, impacts and legacies.
Mandela, fondly called Madiba by his countrymen, ruled South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Mandela, an anti-apartheid campaigner, freedom fighter, and the first black and democratically-elected President of South Africa, was born on July 18, 1918, in the village of Mvezo in Umtata, then part of South Africa’s Cape Province.
He died on Dec. 5, 2013, in his home in Johannesburg, with his burial on Dec. 15, 2013, in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, attracting leaders from all parts of the world.
Madiba wrote his name strongly on the sand of time through his advocacy for freedom and equality, love, sacrifices, forgiveness, leadership style and humility.
His impacts on South Africa, African Continent and the world generally would not be forgotten by generations, as he showed love and compassion even to his detractors and oppressors. He was credited with many words on the marble.
In recognition of his global impacts, the United Nations, in November 2009, declared July 18 annually as Nelson Mandela International Day.
The declaration is a global call for everyone to make impacts with any power, position or talent he has.
In his message to mark the 2019 Mandela Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, described Mandela as an extraordinary global advocate for dignity and equality, who anyone in public service should emulate.
According to Gutteres, Mandela was one of the most iconic and inspirational leaders of the time.
“Nelson Mandela exemplified courage, compassion and commitment to freedom, peace and social justice. He lived by these principles and was prepared to sacrifice his liberty and even life for them,” Guterres said.
He said that Mandela’s call for social cohesion and an end to racism were particularly relevant today when hate speech cast a growing shadow around the world.
“As we work collectively for peace, stability, sustainable development and human rights for all, we would be well served to recall the example set by Mandela. Our best tribute is found in actions. Every one of us can step up and act for enduring change.
“Nelson Mandela’s message to the world is clear, and we all have the duty to do so. On this day of reflection on Mandela’s life and work, let us embrace his legacy and aspire to emulate his example,” Guterres admonished.
In Nigeria, the South African High Commission, in collaboration with University of Abuja and the Nelson Mandela Foundation Initiative also commemorated the Nelson Mandela Day with tributes to the sage.
The Senate Chief Whip, Dr Orji Kalu, in a lecture entitled, “The Mandela I know,’’ extolled the qualities of the late sage.
Kalu, a former Abia Governor, recalled one of Mandela’s words on the marble: “When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive.”
Kalu said that the day was set aside to remember “one of the greatest men to ever emerge on the African continent, a global giant who left positive footprints on the sand of time”.
“As we all know, Mandela was not just a revolutionary leader; his record of philanthropic commitment to not only South Africans, but to citizens of many other nations, was quite exceptional. He taught the world the meaning and essence of humility, forgiveness, acceptance, perseverance and tolerance, not through precepts but through an incredible force of personal example that probably has no parallel in human history.
“As a prisoner on Rhodes Island, Mandela brought to bear his terrible and negative experience, exemplary and positive qualities of discipline, endurance, patience, hope, fortitude and remarkable stoicism.’’
Kalu noted that Mandela, who was elected South African President at the age of 77, retired after only a tenure, setting example for other African leaders.
“His hunger for the freedom of South Africa, somehow, became the hunger for the freedom of all, irrespective of tribe, colour and religion. He took on a campaign that set the leadership bar for African leaders and Africa’s leadership,’’ he said.
Kalu also eulogised Mandela’s forgiving spirit.
“When Mandela left his abode in prison and became a president, many expected him to use his powers as president to enact revenge laws and payback those who set about to destroy his life and family.
“He had it in his powers to do so. He could have used the South African police or military to deal with those who saw him as an enemy because of his guts and imprisoned him. He could have used the South African secret police to eliminate them. It was within his powers to also go after their businesses and asphyxiate them economically.
“It was also possible that some of those persons had prepared themselves for exile. The world watched as he put out a raging fire and calmed the storm by publicly declaring his forgiveness for past misdeeds against him and against the South African people. He opted for peaceful co-existence.
“Ladies and gentleman, we must all know why the world still worship Mandela today and will quite certainly do so. “Nobody would have believed that he would allow his predecessor and erstwhile Leader of the apartheid regime, Mr Pieta Botha, to live peacefully and die a natural death in South Africa.’’
Kalu said that even Botha would be shocked that Mandela forgave him.
“I doubt if there is any other African leader that would have been so large-hearted. It goes to show how Mandela lived a practical Christian life; he showed that with forgiveness, you will achieve more than any weapons can. He left us with the understanding that forgiveness frees you to pursue more noble and worthwhile objectives.
“For this singular act, the world loved him more. The world was attracted to South Africa. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace because of this rare demonstration of love.
“You will recall that his funeral attracted leaders from all parts of the world. They came in honour of a man who, with a single act, changed the story of South Africa,’’ Kalu said.
Kalu, however, regretted that Africa of the post-Mandela era, did not seem to appreciate the meaning that he brought to life.
“Today, Africa is replete with leadership that is neither visionary nor forgiving. From one country to another, we are seeing a return of the sort of leadership that irked Mandela.
“Mandela opted for only a single term in office, he voluntarily opted out of a second tenure. Out of office, he became more powerful and more significant as a global force than he was while in office.
“With that, he demonstrated that one does not necessarily need an endless term of office to positively impact on his society or to remain relevant.
“Today, we are seeing African states being gradually torn apart because of one man’s decision to retain power even when his leadership has lost all relevance to his people,’’ Kalu said.
The former governor said that Africans had suffered much under visionless and oppressive leadership.
This, he said, made them to be looking forward to another Mandela to give them hope for tomorrow.
Kalu noted that Madiba had admonished that Africans must strive to be moved by a generosity of spirit that would enable them to outgrow hatred and conflicts of the past.
Mr Bobby Moroe, Acting South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, urged Africans to uphold the virtues of Mandela who, he said, was not only an icon of South Africans, but all Africans.
He advised Africans to live a life worthy of emulation and do their best for humanity.
“Since the launch of the day by the United Nations in New York, all we should do is to spend 67 minutes doing good for humanity.
“Today is a very good example for us to espouse the principles of Mandela; this is to ensure every one of us promotes good behaviour for 67 minutes.
“The concept of 67 minutes is derived from the life pattern of Mandela who was imprisoned for 27 years and spent most of his time doing good to encourage positive change in our society.
“As we enjoy our day-to-day life, it is important we share our privileges with those who are less privileged; so we have been challenged to play our roles to live everyday as Mandela day,’’ he said.
He identified poverty alleviation, sanitation, food security, shelter and education as priority areas of Mandela’s life that promoted good behaviour.
Prof. Abdul-rasheed Na’Allah, Vice-Chancellor of University of Abuja, said that Mandela contributed to the world of knowledge.
According to him, Mandela’s life principles are in line with what the university community stands for in terms of youth development.
Na’Allah said: “He worked for the youth; this is the place for youths, his movements were tailored to bring development centred on youth empowerment.
“Mandela emphasised active citizenship, which is what the university community was established to achieve so that students become global change agents when they graduate.
“We will commit ourselves and continue as a university to support the Mandela global movement to achieve this goal.’’
Some of Mandela’s words on the marble are:
*If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy; then he becomes your partner.
*What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.
*No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background, or his religion.
*People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
*Lead from the back and let others believe they are in front.
*It always seems impossible until it is done.
*Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.
*It is in the character of growth that we should learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.
Like the other impactful great men, Nelson Mandela will continually be remembered.