By Kayode Ketefe
Today, Thursday, July 18, 2013, is the 95th birthday of one of the best if not actually the best political icon Africa has ever produced, Nelson Rolihlahha Mandela. The diminutive, charismatic, lawyer, activist politician, philosopher and moralist is certainly the most respected African alive and arguably the greatest black man of all time.
Born in Mvezo, a small village in the district of Umtata on July 18, 1918, and belonging to the Xhosa clan, Mandela early years marked the era when the evils of apartheid were at their sadistic worst. Subjugation, repression, not to mention exploitation of the black aborigines were the norms by the imperial white minority.
Convinced in the ideology that all men were born equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, Mandela, as a young man set himself a goal- he would devote the rest of his life to liberation of his people. It was the struggle for actualisation of this lofty dream that truncated the “normal” course of his life.
As a young man, Mandela was ruled by unquenchable hunger for social reforms and rugged temerity of the likes of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who employed law as an instrument to promote public interests. As an old man, Mandela was suffused by the vision, knowledge, insight and political sagacity of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. What a rare African he is indeed!
The dynamism of his leadership of the Umkonto we Sizwe, which was an armed wing of the African National Congress that mainly engaged in guerilla offensive, got him into trouble with the imperialists.
The then fiercely repressive apartheid government arrested and convicted him on contrived allegation of sabotage and other charges. An unfair hearing was held after which he was sentenced of life imprisonment. For a whopping 27 years that Mandela served in prison, majority of which he spent on Robben Island, his spirit was unbroken. Mandela was irrevocably committed to the vision of liberation of his people and not even the enervating four walls of the prison cell could render the vision blurred.
After his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela plunged into politics and the entire people rallied behind him as he eventually led African National Congress to a predictable landslide electoral victory that culminated in the country first ever multi-racial democracy.
Mandela was elected President in 1994. Rather than engage in any vindictive retaliations of his personal sufferings or the collective oppression and inhumanity suffered by his people, he magnanimously engaged in campaign for forgiveness and reconciliation. This gracious forbearance and humanity endeared him to people all over the globe. Today Mandela is the recipients of more than 250 awards worldwide including the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993.
His birthday has been recognised as “Mandela Day” by no less an organisation than the United Nations which has “canonized” the day as a commemorative global day for volunteer for good causes, thus, his nativity has been entrenched permanently into human history to serve as inspiration for others to engage in laudable selfless service into humanity.
Mandela’s life should be a lesson to political leaders in Africa. He is not a sit-tight politician, despite his popularity; he voluntarily relinquished power in 1999, having only ruled for five years. If any man has a somewhat justifiable excuse for self-perpetuation in office, who else could it be than a man who had spent 27 years of the best part of his life in prison for the cause of the people? But selfish agenda has no place in Mandela’s ideology; his vision transcends mundane considerations that inspire most of African leaders.
Mandela is not a thief; he has nothing in common with the rapacious kleptocrats prowling the political corridors of Africa. Madiba, as he is affectionately called, has no bank accounts in Switzerland, no magnificent residences in London, Washington and Canada-no skyscrapers in major capitals of the world built with stolen money a la majority of African politicians. He is simple, humble and selfless-virtues which are wanting in many others.
May Africa keep producing people like Nelson Mandela, more people like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Kwame Nkumah, Dr Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, Leopold Senghor, Thomas Sankara, all these were African prophets, who came with visions for liberating the dark continent and promoting her development.
May the mother continent stop having the likes of Idi Amin, Jean Bedel Bokassa, Houphet Boigny, Robert Mugabe, Samuel Doe, Sani Abacha, Mobutu Sese Seko, Hosni Mubarak and, Muamar Ghadafi.
They are all examples of bad leaders ranging from sit-tight dictators to bloodthirsty sadistic psychopaths.
Today, Madiba is very sick due to debilities of old age, but if he does not spend a single more second on earth, his life remains an everlasting paragon of excellence for Africans, nay humanity. Let the current African leaders take time to reflect on how their governance would measure if held up to Mandela’s standards.
A final riposte to Nigerian politicians-stop wearing empty agbada and babaringa all about with no tangible achievements to show for it in terms of moving the nation forward; stop neglecting the primary purpose of governance which is the welfare of the people; stop selfish aggrandisement and corrupt enrichment, stop stupid, empty vanity, emulate Mandela!
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