Zik Gbemre

Late Nelson Mandela

It was indeed, one of those indescribable sad moments of history when the news filtered in from every electronic and print media across the globe that Nelson Mandela (aka Madiba); the reversed South-African anti-apartheid icon who spent 27 years in prison, led his country to democracy and became its first black President, has died on Thursday, December 5, 2013 at his home, Johannesburg, at the age of 95.

Since the said development, the commentaries, condolence messages and tributes have not stopped flowing from every leaders across the globe. All the major world leaders, both past and present, have rendered their heart, expressing the magnitude of this great loss; not only to South-Africans and Africa, but also the world. All foreign major media, including CNN, Sky News, BBC etc, have practically switched off all of their daily numerous programs and news events just to focus on highlighting the exemplary life demonstrated by Nelson Mandela. Even the current storm and flood, said to be the worst since 1953, ravaging different parts of the UK, is no major news highlight being showcased by foreign Medias. Everybody and everything is either saying something good about the life led by Nelson Mandela, or they are simply x-raying Mandela’s biography as one that depicts selfless service to humanity.

Rarely in the history of man, do we see the entire world standing practically still to purse, reflect, recollect and strive to emulate the life of one man. All that we could think of is, if only we have such political leaders as Nelson Mandela in the different countries of Africa, particularly in Nigeria, the black continent would be a better place for all of us. This is why we believe that Nelson Mandela is a perfect role model that every past and present Nigerian Politician and Leader should emulate.

Nelson Mandela truly lived for his country and died for his country. As a public servant, he inspired people to believe that there is a higher purpose in life, other than what some of our political leaders are portraying public office to be today-a place to amass, misappropriate public funds and live in stupendous splendor. Mandela’s legacy has changed the world. His name will be remembered for ages to come just like Socrates and Plato. There is no amount of wealth acquired by anyone that can equal the life and legacy left by Mandela. Despite being the first black President of South-Africa that led his country to democracy, after many years of oppressive-white dominated apartheid regime, Mandela “willingly” stepped down as South-Africa’s President having served only one term of 5years in Office. This is something not common with most African political leaders, especially in Nigeria (known as the supposed giant of Africa), where the quest for ‘second tenure’ and even third tenure, has become the order of the day.

Despite being so well-connected, globally influential and highly reversed and respected by various global leaders, Nelson Mandela’s humility, selfless ambiance and genuine concern for humanity cannot be compared to many leaders of his stature. The world is celebrating the life and times of Nelson Mandela; our only prayer is that our Nigerian Political leaders will go beyond the commentaries and condolence messages to reflect and ponder on their individual lives and style of leadership, so as to emulate the high standard set by Mandela, and lead the Nigerian citizenry well.

At the moment, our political elites, public office holders, Senators/Members of Representatives and Politicians have been parading the Television and Radio station and print media to sympathize and comment about the “great loss” to South Africa people. We believe the peaceful exist of Mandela is never a loss to the South African people but a blessing to them and the generations yet to come. Mandela will forever be celebrated and remembered throughout the entire world. He lived for something, he fought for something and has rested; leaving a worthy legacy behind. He practically lost his entire life, career as a lawyer, money, family, and fame to struggle for the freedom, peace, equality, reconciliation and forgiveness amongst and for his people. This is practically the opposite of what most Nigerian past and present political leaders represent. Nigerian politicians and leaders are busy daily fighting for party and part dominance; killing for money and using every tricks they can muster to remain in power; struggling for fame and mismanaging and misappropriating public funds for their self-centered interests. Truly, our Nigerian politicians should be reminded that they will one die ‘unexpectedly’ without a trace, and generations yet unborn will never remember them “if they continue with their evil ways”.

For Mandela, he was only “remembered for good” and for positively changing the lives of not only his people, but also that of humanity as a whole. Nobody has made any comment about Mandela having misappropriated public funds or amassing wealth at any time of his life. In fact, a South-African CNN correspondent noted that “Mandela’s most valued material possession was his walking stick and a pen.” This again is something we cannot boldly say or confess about our Nigerian politicians.

In the words of South-African President, Jacob Zuma, who made the announcement to the world about Mandela’s death; “He is now resting. He is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son,” he continued. “Our people have lost a father,” A state funeral will be held for Mandela, and Zuma called for mourners to conduct themselves with “the dignity and respect” that Mandela personified. “Wherever we are in the country, wherever we are in the world… Let us reaffirm his vision of a society in which none is exploited, oppressed or dispossessed by another,” he said as tributes began pouring in from across the world.

Leaders including President Barack Obama of the United States of America (USA), United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron and even President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and other world leaders have condoled with South Africans over the death of Nelson Mandela. Reacting to Mandela’s demise, Obama described the South African leader as “a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universes towards justice.” Obama, who spoke some minutes after Mandela’s death was announced said Mandela’s life has inspired his own historic path to the White House.

“And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my life without the example that Nelson Mandela set. And so long I live, I will do what I can to learn from him. Though his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us. His Journey from a prisoner to a President embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better”, Obama said.

For UK Prime Minister David Cameroon, with the death of Mandela, a great light has gone out in the world. He said, “Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death- a true global hero. Across the country he loved, they will be mourning a man who was the embodiment of grace. Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life. I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following…wrongly imprisonment-setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all”.

Former USA President, Bill Clinton, expressed that, “ Today, the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings, and Hillary, Chelsea and I have lost a true friend”, Clinton said. “We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life.” Another former USA President, George W.Bush, described Mandela “as one of the great forces of freedom and equility of our time. He bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example. This good man will be missed, but his contributions will live on forever,” he said.

Jimmy Carter, the former USA President, said, “The people of South Africa and human rights advocates around the world have lost a great leader. South Africa’s archbishop emeritus, Desmond Tutu, lauded his compatriot and fellow Nobel Peace laureate as the man who taught a deeply divided nation how to come together.

For President Jonathan, he described Mandela’s death as the loss of one of history’s “greatest liberators.” He said, “Mandela will always be remembered and honoured by all mankind as one of its greatest liberators, a wise, courageous and compassionate leader, and an icon of true democracy. He further described the former South-African President, “as a source of inspiration to the oppressed peoples all over the world. Mandela’s death will create a huge vacuum that will be difficult to fill in our continent.” Jonathan said.

For us, let Mandela’s life, time and legacy left behind be a worthy example and stand as role model for Nigerian Politicians and Leaders to reflect on and emulate. If Mandela rested peacefully and the entire world came to a stand still, can Nigerians and the rest of the world stand still for even one day to mourn the death of any of our present and past leaders and politicians? This should be a food for thought for all of us. Let our leaders and politicians learn a great lesson from Nelson Mandela’s death, what you do in the past and present will judge how your future will be and what you will remembered for.

The crux of the matter is that the general attitude and disposition of Nigerian Politicians towards elections, governance, politics and leadership has to change if Nigeria’s democracy will thrive. Our Nigerian Politicians and leaders should learn to walk the path set by Nelson Mandela. Let the right things be done, we urge, as we equally say Rest In Peace Nelson Mandela; The Great Hero our time.

Zik Gbemre, National Coordinator.