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Thursday, March 29, 2018

/ by Mykebou
Anytime any day, Mandela remains my all time hero. Of course, I have local heroes such as Late Gani Fawahemi, late Dr. Bala Yusuf Usman and others.

What are the attributes in Nelson Mandela who has been described as Africa's gift to the world that is worth emulating in our beleaguered nation?

The man was totally committed to the struggles of his people than for himself. Here was a man that was qualified as a lawyer and had started earning much from his Law practice but felt that it was better to sacrifice his comfort for the nation. He not only sacrificed for his nation, but sacrificed even his family life. The first time he was detained, his first wife Evelyn left him with his child because she couldn't live a life of a freedom fighter which entailed detention, harassment and persecution. He was lucky with the second marriage as Winnie supported his activism, but at the expense of their happiness. Mandela made this profound statement to confirm how he sacrificed his family life for the nation. “My children eventually learnt to live with the fact that instead of being their father, i was father of the nation.”

He was able to live above nepotism and ethnic challenges- a disease very prevalent in African polity. He imbued in them the virtues of merit which should be watchword, rather than ethnic considerations. That despite him and Thomas Mbeki being from Xhosa ethnic stock, yet South Africans voted overwhelmingly for them as president and Vice President respectively. At the same time, he was conscious of the need to carry other ethnic groups in power equation strictly on merit. That was why despite the hue and cry on the suitability of Jacob Zuma as presidential candidate, he still backed him for the presidency because there was an agreement to hand over power to the Zulus and Zuma being part of the struggle from the beginning, he was the appropriate choice at that time. The solid arrangements imbued in the system for Power rotation made it possible for Cyril Ramaphosa, from small Venda ethnic group of 700000 (in a country of 55m) to become South African President.

If there is a virtue of Mandela that resonates all over the globe is his Jesus'
attributes- forgiveness and reconciliation. Here was a man whose people were oppressed, pauperized, persecuted, dehumanized and exploited by the most evil system ever put in place in the world- apartheid, yet he not only genuinely forgave their oppressors, but put a process of reconciliation.

One of the most adorable qualities of this man is pragmatism, bordering on realism. Pragmatism is the ability to assess theories and see their practical applications. Initially, Nelson Mandela believed in armed struggle. That it was the only way to dismantle apartheid. Based on that he trained as a guerrilla soldier in 1961 in Algiers. When he came, he established the armed wing of ANC known as “Unkhonto We sizwe”, meaning the spear of the nation, but within a month, him and his comrades were rounded up and imprisoned. When he came out of Prison, he reassessed the armed struggle and felt it was not working as it was the case in Zimbabwe so he changed by engaging in constructive, robust dialogue with the apartheid regime. In doing that, the radical wing of ANC called him all kinds of names, a sellout, an apologist, a traitor. Despite these accusations that was what earned them independence.

He possessed the rare quality of not being a power drunk as was the case with most African countries. He had the opportunity to stay in power for 10 as was allowed by South African constitution, but chose to spend only 5 years and left, in fact with his popularity, he could have chosen to amend the constitution for limitless tenure to enable him stay in power for life, but he didn't. He successfully resisted megalomania that comes with deification.

Corruption which is the bane of most African leaders was not his place of abode. Mandela stayed in power for 5 years without him or his family being associated with any financial scandals. He left an estate worth £2.5m and most of his little wealth were proceeds from his winning Noble prize, royalties from his publications.

What of principles? Mandela was principles personified. The apartheid regime wanted to free him from prisons, but on one condition: renounce violent means of struggle. He refused to compromise his principles and remained in jail and was eventually released without conditions. He preferred to die than to renounce his principles. On trial which attracted death, he refused to renounce the charges and capped his address with this profound principled statement. “ I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal I hope to live for and achieve. But if needs be, it's an ideal for which I'm prepared to die.”

I believe if we have these Mandela qualities in our leaders in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular, we would have been in the same class with China or at worse with India. But here we are more interested in accumulating primitive wealth, promoting nepotism and ethnicity and being Megalomaniac with power. Just imagine a Venda man, Ramsphosa in South Africa with population of .7m out of 55m becoming president. Will this happen in Nigeria if not for the accident of Goodluck Jonathan's presidency? The modest wealth of Mandela who presided over the largest economy in Africa and the incorruptibility of his government pales into insignificance when compared side by side with the locust years of IBB, the thievery of Abacha and the bazaar of Goodluck Jonathan's era.

It's therefore behoves on us to imbibe these Mandela virtues in our leadership for peace and progress to reign in our beleaguered country.

By Fenny Fwa
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