“A new world will be won not by those who stand at a distance with their arms folded, but by those who are in the arena, whose garments are torn by storms and whose bodies are maimed in the course of the contest.”
• From a letter to Winnie Mandela, written on Robben Island, June 23, 1969
As Africa and the entire global community begin the celebration of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela to climax on July 18, 2018, we must look north and south, east and west to find another Madiba because, if only a very small percentage of Africa can be like Madiba, the world and our continent would be a better place.
In my culture, we believe that a king or queen never dies, instead they go on a journey to the unknown and they will never get to their destination until a new replacement is found. We must keep reminding ourselves in searching for a replacement that Madiba was a selfless warrior who spent 67 years
of his 95 years on earth fighting for the emancipation of his people. In his words, “to go to prison because of your convictions, and be prepared to suffer for what you believe in, is something worthwhile. It is an achievement for a man to do his duty on earth irrespective of the consequences.”
He served his time, paid his dues came out of prison and, on April 2, 1990, he was elected Deputy President of the ANC (African National Congress). He served in this position for two years until 1992 when he was elected President of the ANC. In 1994, the ANC won 62 per cent of the votes in the election and Mandela as leader of the ANC was inaugurated on May 10, 1994, as South Africa’s first black President. He did all that with nothing in his pockets, very unlike what is experienced now when everyone feels they need billions to make a difference.
Mandela did not attempt to have the constitution amended to remove the two-term limit – a move that many might have supported wholeheartedly; instead he only had the intention of serving one term, which he did and left office on June 14, 1999, with nothing again. On June 1, 2004, Mandela announced that he was bowing out of public life to lead a quieter life, issuing the now famous statement: “Don’t call me, I’ll call You,” to those who would require his presence at their functions.
Described as an activist, a hero, a man of peace, Nelson Mandela was a distinguished humanist whose selfless fight for the emancipation of his people landed him in prison in 1962 for 27 years. Any ordinary man would come out of that ordeal with bitterness, anger and a taste for revenge but not Nelson Mandela; he walked out of prison with his shoulders high and a heart ready to forgive. In his own words, “I am working now with the same people who threw me into jail, persecuted my wife, hounded my children from one school to the other… and I am one of those who are saying, ‘Let us forget the past, and think of the present.’”
Nelson Mandela was the epitome of bravery, the embodiment of courage, a great man that will be missed severely by the country he fought for, friends, family and well-wishers. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
If there is anything Nigerians can take away from the life Nelson Mandela lived, it was in the way he focused on his mission to emancipate his people and didn’t stop until he successfully achieved that goal. There are many among us who have a coherent vision for Nigeria but are stifled by a lack of courage. Madiba was a man who started with virtually no one behind him and preached his gospel until he had a congregation of followers echoing his words wherever they could. Start where you are, and if your objectives are in the interest of the people, I have no doubt that you can have a movement as great as Mandela.
With his centenary fast approaching, we are reminded of the difference a man like Mandela made in the world and not just in his home country, South Africa. This difference or impact is something the world can do with in times like this. In celebrating and reminiscing on his legacy, we are challenged to intensify the search for another Madiba so that we can find him or her before another 100 years. We owe him that because of what he gave to us and so Madiba the King can arrive his destination safely.
He taught us forgiveness, he even forgave his prosecutors, he taught us humility, he taught us endurance, he taught us transparency and good governance, he taught us unity by unifying a nation of races from all over the world.
He left office with nothing but was never in want of anything. This unique, incorruptible man from Africa who was a gift to the world changed his nation for better and thus the world; we must be in a hurry to replace him before he is taken from us forever by the plethora of unremarkably corrupt leaders.
In keeping with Madiba’s humble way of doing things, there will be a low key ceremony to commemorate the centenary with music, dance, poetry and tree planting at the Mandela Garden of 95 trees in Asaba International Airport, Delta State.
The South African Embassy, representatives of Delta State Government, two secondary schools and myself will each plant a tree to bring the number of trees in the garden from 95 to 100 trees. The Nelson Mandela Garden of 95 Trees is a world-class nature resort, established in honour of Nelson Mandela, which offers both tourism and educational provisions to the general public. It is located within the Asaba International Airport in Delta State, Nigeria, and is designed in the shape of the map of Africa, using 95 trees to represent the 95 years of Nelson Mandela’s life on earth.
As we look forward to July 18 with excitement, I am reminded by this quote that, until a man is ready to die for what he believes in, he isn’t truly ready to stand for what he believes in. “I was prepared for the death penalty. To be truly prepared for something, one must actually expect it. One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen. We were all prepared, not because we were brave but because we were realistic.”