Aidoghie Paulinus and Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, has urged African leaders to imbibe the spirit of forgiveness, justice and fair play which the late South African former president, Nelson Mandela was known for.
The former governor of Abia State stated this in Abuja while delivering the Nelson Mandela Day Lecture during the 10th Nelson Mandela International Day celebration held at the University of Abuja.
Eulogising Mandela, Kalu recalled that he was an outstanding champion of human freedom and liberty, an anti-apartheid crusader who sacrificed the best years of his life to secure the emancipation of his people from the degradation and humiliation of inferiority status imposed on them by a wicked, hateful, abominable and lawless regime.
He added that Mandela was not just a revolutionary leader, his record of philanthropic commitment to not only South Africans, but to citizens of many other nations around the world was quite exceptional.
“He taught the world the meaning and essence of humility, forgiveness, acceptance, perseverance and tolerance not through precepts, but through an incredible force of personal example that probably has no parallel in human history.
“As a prisoner at Rhodes Island, Mandela brought to bear on his terrible and negative experience, exemplary and positive qualities of discipline, endurance, patience, hope, fortitude and remarkable stoicism.
“The Nobel Prize winner who became the first democratically-elected president of the Republic of South Africa at the age of 77, retired after only a single tenure in office in 1999, setting a challenging example to other depraved African leaders who turned their offices into imperial bastions of maladministration, oppression of their own people and corruption.
“Madiba’s quest for comprehensive emancipation that encompassed political, mental, economic and physical dimensions led him to embark on charitable engagements, raising stupendous sums of money for schools, hospitals, sporting activities for the benefit of the desperately- deprived black communities of South Africa.
“His hunger for the freedom of South Africa, somehow, became the hunger for the freedom of all, irrespective of their tribe, colour and religion. He took on a campaign that set the leadership bar for African leaders and Africa’s leadership.
“I am a beneficiary of Mandela’s mentorship. I would say that God specially created the great man to tutor and shape me into responsible, industrious and disciplined man with a commitment to the welfare of my people and to humanity in general,” Kalu said.
Kalu further said as a politician and businessman, he met Mandela on several occasions, confessing that he inspired him a lot.
“He introduced me to the leaders of the great African National Congress (ANC), with whom I have maintained a very robust relationship. Through him, I met President Thabo Mbeki, who is now a dear friend and a brother. I also met President Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe, former National Secretary of ANC who held sway for six months following the decision of the ruling party to ask President Mbeki to step aside.
“Of course, I met President Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa who is now tasked with the responsibility of leading the great vision that Mandela had for South Africa. Nothing can demonstrate the level of intimacy I enjoy with Mandela’s family than the warm treatment I get from the matriarch of the house, Gracia, each time I visit. She always ensures that I lack nothing and that I feel at home.
“The bridge Madiba built that connected me with South African political gladiators is still sustained till date. I am still a strong member of the ANC family, just as I am still an ally of former and incumbent president of the country. Only few months ago, I undertook a trip to South Africa and visited the three ex-presidents. I particularly spent a quality time with my friend, President Mbeki who was then giving cold hands to political activities in his party, ANC. I reminded him of the political philosophy of Madiba. And that did a lot of magic. That sentiment I expressed steered him out of his earlier disposition. He saw the need to join forces with ANC for the campaign. Of course, that decision played a big part in ANC triumphing at the poll,” Kalu stated.
Kalu added that the lesson he learnt from Mandela has helped him a great deal in his present sojourn in the Senate, particularly on the supremacy of the party.
“I make bold to say that I learnt at Mandela’s feet. During one of our meetings, he told me that he wanted Cyril to be his deputy, but the party leadership thought otherwise. One thing he told me that he did was that he respected the decision of the party because party is supreme. I imbibed that education and have lived by it in my political pursuits in Nigeria.
“It may be recalled that recently, I made an attempt to contest to become the Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate. I, however, withdrew from that contest as soon as the party’s decision was conveyed to me. I stood down because having learnt from Mandela the dictates of party supremacy, it would amount to a betrayal of my learning to go against what the party’s consensus.
“I also believe that as an evolving democracy, one with a history of military adventurism with the attendant destruction of political ethos and institutions, Nigeria will fare better if politicians, irrespective of their party affiliations, respect party supremacy. That way, we will be able to build a political culture that derives its powers from the party manifesto and programmes,” Kalu added.
Kalu also said as elected legislators begin to implement the Nigerian mandate from the 9th Senate, he pledged himself, his family and his constituents to be guided by those eternal principles that Mandela lived by and ultimately bequeathed on humanity.
“I make a pledge to work for the peace and progress of Nigeria. I pledge to work for the peaceful co-existence of all Nigerians irrespective of their tongue and colour. I make a pledge to work for the common good and greater unity of our country. After all, those are the tenets Mandela lived and died for. And they are the core values he taught everybody that had the fortune to encounter him,” Kalu declared.
Earlier, Kalu said Mandela’s phone call to ex-President Obasanjo on his third term ambition where he told the Ogun-State born former president in clear terms that his move was neither desirable for Nigeria nor Africa, proved strategic to the leadership question at that time.
Kalu added that Mandela was one of the greatest men to ever emerge on the African continent, adding that Mandela was a global giant who left positive footprints in the sand of time.
“I recall my personal interactions with him especially during our national struggle to force President Olusegun Obasanjo to drop his plan to amend the constitution of the Federal Republic and secure an extension of his tenure of office. Disturbed by the details, Mandela placed a call to President Obasanjo and told him in clear terms that whatever his plans were, it was neither desirable for Nigeria nor Africa. That intervention, proved strategic to the leadership question in Nigeria at the time leading to elections in 2007. As they say, the rest is history,” Kalu also said.
In his remarks, the South African acting High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Moroe, said Mandela’s name had become synonymous with the struggle for freedom and liberation in South Africa.
Moroe noted that the year 2019 marked the 10th year since the official launch of the Nelson Mandela International Day by the United Nations in New York.
Moroe further said that while alive, the late Mandela said that it was not the intention of the United Nations to declare the Nelson Mandela International Day as a holiday, but a day in which people are challenged to spend 67 minutes of their time doing good for humanity.
“Today is a very good example amongst others of our contribution to do good for humanity. We are challenged by the values and principles espoused by Nelson Mandela that each and every one of us can contribute goodness to humanity for 67 minutes,” Moroe said.