By Abdukareem Olasumbo AbdulThe announcement of passing away of Dr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on Thursday, December 5, 2013 at the ripe age of 95 did not come to many Nigerians as a surprise; having died many times on social media before his final passage on Thursday. His dwindling health and age were enough reasons to doubt his daily survival. As I glued to my television, switching from Aljazeera to CNN to BBC and e.tvA, I knew Africa would witness a biggest gathering soon. “Our nation has lost its greatest son, people have lost a father” South African President, Jacob Zuma addressed the press. “What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves”
It is not an understatement to say Nelson Mandela gained the world, anything contrary to that could be attributed to intellectual inadequacy. Though, his involvement in religious activities was sketchy,Madiba deserves a place in the centre of heaven. The story about him will continue to be written in present tense for many years because Madiba lives on. Chief Dele Momodu in his tribute said “Nelson Mandela was not a lecturer but his life was an open university” Nothing could be added on this, the oracle has spoken. Reading his prison experience book “Long Walk to Freedom” I realized the purpose of life is to have a life of purpose and one needs to go extra miles to be called a man.
Despite his rear appearance in the public, having battled health issues for many years, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalized; Madiba held a special place in the hearts of the nation and the world at large. Mandela was a conscience of Africa. That, to me, reinforces the argument that it is probably fair to say, though, may be flawed by my tribe, Mandela was a god. He surpassed the achievement that many look up to in gods like’Obatala, Sango, Ogun, Osun, Orunmila’ and their contemporaries to achieve.
His first address when he left the prison showed uniqueness of his endowments from God. “As I walked out the door towards the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind I’d still be in prison” Mandela wasnot only talk the talk, he worked the talk. Three days after his release from prison, he asked for his regards to be passed to Margaret Thatcher, an Apartheid ally. His chief warder ended up serving as his cook and batman.
The outpouring of mourning and homages from world leaders across the political spectrum would be a matter of discussions among the apostles of justice, fair play and equity in many years to come. Former South African President, F.W.de Klerk, his immediate predecessor, who was awarded the Noble Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993 described their first meeting “I had read, of course, everything I could read about him beforehand. I was well- briefed.” “I was impressed, however, by how tall he was. By the ramrod straight-fulness of his nature, and realized that this is a very special man. He had an aura around him. He’s truly a very dignified and a very admirable person”
From Europe to Asia, from Latin America to Australia to Africa, all the continents were bereaved. Flags were hung in half mast; the world honoured the giant hero. In England, there was a minute silence and applauds before the commencement of all the Premiership matches played in the weekend Mandela died. Even, when their own Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Ministerdied, there were jubilations and protests in some cities. One group carried a long sign reading “The Bitch is Dead” through London Square during a rally. Not only that, it was agreed by Anti-Thatcher groups a decade before her death that when the day eventually come, there would be a protest In Trafagar Square on the first Saturday after she had passed away. And they were true to their words. That was life after death.
Contrary to Thatcher’s comment that “ ANC is a terrorist group organisation, anyone thinking they will rule South Africa must be living in Cuckoo land “David Cameron, apparently to distance himself from her, on returning from South Africa in 2006, where he met Mandela for the first time, four years before his ascension into office as Prime Minister, wrote in the Observer “ The mistakes my party made in the past with respect to relation with ANC and sanction on South Africa make it all important to listen now”. In his lavish tribute, Cameron described Mandela as a “towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death, a true global hero” The presence of former U.K. Prime Ministers, Sir John Major, Mr. Tony Blair, Mr.Godon Brown, Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg and Opposition Leader, Ed Milibond at the huge memorial service in Johannesburg’s FBN Stadium was a testimony of global hero Cameron described him.
From America, they all jettisoned politics and business of governance to pay a world icon, Nelson Mandela a befitting last respect.President Barak Obama, his wife, Michell Obama flew in with former president, George W. Bush, his wife Laura in Air Force Plane from Washington. While former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter traveled separately. Their presence at his funeral further cemented the cordial relationship, which could be officially dated to 2008 when Mandela’s name was removed from terrorist list. (Former president, Ronald Reagan originally place the ANC on the list in 1980)
Nelson Mandela was global symbol of reconciliation. If the outpouring and attendance at his funeral is anything to go by, it is time for triumph of reason over prejudice. Syrian President, Bashar Al-Asshad, whose two and half years into blood-soaked rebellion against his rule also mourned Mandela’s death, calling his life an inspiration for freedom fighters and a lesson to tyrants. “His history of struggle has become an inspiration to all the vulnerable peoples (sic) of the world, in expectation that oppressors and aggressors will learn the lesson that in the end it is they who are the losers”A lesson to tyrants? This tribute was a sharp contradiction to what Mandela stood for. Assad needs to work the talk like Mandela. December 9, 2013 marked the 1000 of the Syrian conflict; humanity allowed it to reach that stage, but we can still change the tune of the music. This is the appropriate time for Arab countries and their allies in the west to sit up and stop the war in Israel and Palestine and settle the conflict in Syria. Nelson Mandela once said “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestine”. If you are writing a well-articulated and electrifying tribute for Mandela without tailoring your heart to its practical implementation, you are just beinghypocritical. All hands must be on deck to make sure freedom of Palestine completes after Mandela.
If Mandela could reconcile with his captors, why can’t Shia and Sunni reconcile. If Obama could shake hands with Raul Castro an unprecedented gesture between the leaders of two nations that have been at loggerheads for more than half century. If world leaders, present and past earlier mentioned above, and, especially theCanadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Cuban President, Raul Castro, Brazilian President, DilmaRoussellwhohardly leave their countries for international engagements could find their waysto Jonannesburg to pay last respect to Mandela, peace is possible in the Middle-East and all other war ravaging countries in the world. This is not too much sacrifice to uphold Mandela’s legacy as an advocate of peace. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs. We should not forget those in Guantanamo Bay Cell in America. Kenneth Bail is still held in North Korea while many women are languishing in Cairo cells.
Nelson Mandela, till he died on Thursday, December 5, 2013, he was never happy with Nigeria and this is called for a sober reflection amongst the ruling class. “You know I am not very happy with Nigeria. I have made that very clear on many occasions”. He told Dr Hakeem Baba Ahmed, former Nigerian Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He continued “Nigeria stood by us more than any nation, but you let yourselves down and Africa and the Black race very badly.” “The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect” Nigeria did not earn that respect when Mandela was alive, but Africa earned that respect without Nigeria when Mandeladied. What an irony. Mandela sent a message to our leaders but forgot that they were deaf and dumb. “Your leaders have no respect to their people. They believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people. They take people’s resources and turn it into personal wealth. There is a level of poverty in Nigeria that should not be unacceptable. I cannot understand why Nigerians are not more angry than they are.”Tributes from our Federal Executive Council and National Assembly were heart-warming, but hardly or never could they act towards what they expound about Mandela. Our politics of resentment, which grew wing at home also, flew to South Africa. When President Barak Obama (Democratic Party) and former president George W. Bush (Republican Party) flew into South Africa with their wives in the same aircraft, our own President, Goodluck Jonathan and his predecessor, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of the same PDP went separately. Their seats were far away apart
Mandela is life, life is Mandela. He was fulfilled and contented. You feel Mandela in all sphere of life. He was never a rich man; he had more than enough. Even, criminals honoured Mandela till he died. In Qunu, the home town of Mandela, its criminal rate was the lowest in South Africa. This was not achieved by policing, not by billions of budgetary allocation into security; by simple respect even criminals accorded Madiba. In Qunu, they sleep with their two eyes closed; it’s a taboo to steal in Qunu.
The world has lost an icon, the man of the people, a philosopher, a writer, a man of character, an apex of humanity, an embodiment of integrity, a hero of our century and the only gift and brand Africa bestowed the world. As you start your long journey into eternal freedom today, I send regards to my father, Alhaji OguntadeAbdulkareem,who first told me a bitter story about you in 1989 when I was adamant to contribute to South Africa/ Namibia Appeal Fund in high school.
This should not be seen as a farewell message I forgot to prepare that because you live with us forever
Good night Madiba.
Abdukareem Olasumbo Abdul is a Public Affairs Analyst. He works and lives in Lagos. He can be reached on kare[email protected]. You can follow him on twitter @kareemlahi01