The news of the sudden demise of the former South African President, Nelson Mandela “Madiba” on Thursday 5th December 2013 vibrated around the entire world like an earthquake or tsunami phenomenon.
The late Mr. Nelson Mandela, the unrepentant crusader and freedom fighter against the obnoxious apartheid regime in South Africa became an instant toast of the entire world when soon after his release from prison at the notorious Robbins Island in 1990 where he spent twenty seven long years in solitary confinement for his noble role in the fight against the despotic and authoritarian white minority regime, preached the gospel of tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation among the diverse racial and segregated groups in South Africa.
Dr. Nelson Mandela
Mr. Mandela’s uncommon spirit of tolerance and forgiveness largely facilitated the peaceful transition from the racist apartheid regime to non-racial democratic government in South Africa. Nelson Mandela’s amazing personality and his eventual election as the first black South African President in 1994 brought to an end almost a century of white minority domination and blatant discrimination against the 26 million black majority South Africans.
The white minority South Africans had introduced the obnoxious apartheid system of government in 1948 which segregated the various groups in South Africa along racial lines. The black majority South Africans consequently adopted the armed struggle stance as a direct response to the inhuman and brutal apartheid system of government hence the late “Madiba” was in the forefront of that struggle which later earned him a jail term of twenty-seven years at Robbins Island Prison.
Mr. Mandela became the symbol of resistance not only in South Africa but to all oppressed and subjugated people of the world. Mr. Mandela’s emergence as a leader of free, non racial and democratic South Africa obviously became a turning point in the annals of the history of that part of the world which for many decades had lived under excruciating economic sanctions and socio-political isolation mounted by the international community.
Mr. Mandela’s extraordinary humane disposition and forgiving spirit took the entire world by storm and utter amazement.
It was no surprise therefore that this singular attribute informed the choice of “Madiba” for the most prestigious Nobel peace prize jointly awarded to him and his former political adversary and immediate predecessor, ex-president Fredrick W. De-Klerk who paradoxically shared the rare honour with his former political prisoner under the defunct racist regime.
This great legend of all times ruled a free, non-racial and democratic South Africa for only one term of five years and gracefully bowed out from office and active politics as a clear demonstration of his exemplary leadership qualities.
History will surely remember the great “Madiba” for his uncommon courage, doggedness and fighting spirit against gross injustice, and blatant discrimination which the former apartheid regime represented in South Africa. He will also be remembered by generations yet unborn for his large heartedness, and uncommon spirit of tolerance and forgiveness.
The African leaders in particular, and the world at large should therefore imbibe the great legacies left behind by this rare gem and colossus of a personality for a better and more peaceful society where all peoples of the world will be treated with justice, equity and fairness irrespective of their race, creed or religion in society.
The noble and exemplary life of Nelson Mandela should therefore serve as a great lesson to many sit-tight African leaders whose democratic credentials, seriously lack credibility and legitimacy.
The likes of Presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Yeweri Museveni of Uganda, Al-Bashir of Sudan, Paul Biya of Cameroon and a host of other African dictators and despots masquerading as democrats should have a re-think and honourably leave the stage when the ovation is still loud as exemplified by the late great “Madiba” who voluntarily left the stage as the first black president of multi-racial and democratic South Africa after serving only one term of five years in office.
Another important lesson to be learnt by the people of Nigeria is to jettison the negative and primordial spirit of ethnic cum religious bigotry in the politics and affairs of the country.
It is worthy of note however, that the irrepressible “Madiba” came from one of the minority tribes in South Africa – the xhosa tribe and yet as a foremost nationalist and freedom fighter he commanded the respect, loyalty and admiration of the entire South African people simply by virtue of his exemplary leadership qualities coupled with his great vision and steadfastness which enabled him to courageously resist the former racist regime with all its massive military arsenal readily deployed to intimidate and suppress the black freedom fighters.
Nelson Mandela was greatly revered by all South Africans who never bothered about his place of birth or other primordial considerations. Nigeria should therefore borrow a leaf from the South African experience by identifying a patriotic and selfless leader who would serve the overall interest of all Nigerians no matter his or her place of birth or state of origin.
The recent surprise visit to Nigeria by President Yeweri Museveni of Uganda on the occasion of the “Karibi-white” annual lectures was indeed unfortunate and a huge embarrassment to the nation. The visit which was totally uncalled for had cast serious aspersions on the image of Nigeria that often prides herself as a leading democratic nation within the African continent.
Such visits by an undemocratic and autocratic leader was capable of sending a wrong signal to the international community that Nigeria was indeed supporting and encouraging undemocratic and sit-tight or “life” presidents in Africa who in view of the unacceptable political development in their various countries deserved to be totally isolated socially, economically, and politically, so as to force them to relinquish power to the younger generation through democratic process.
In conclusion, the only concrete way the people of South Africa, nay the peoples of African decent should immortalize the name of the departed great leader is to continue to uphold those legacies of tolerance, forgiveness, reconciliation and peaceful co-existence among all the diverse racial groups that the great and indefatigable “Madiba” had left behind for posterity.
Adieu – The great “Madiba”
Adieu – The embodiment of humanity
Adieu – The titanic fighter for the oppressed and marginalized
Adieu – The epitome of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation