By: Sam Nda-Isaiah
The strong expressions of emotion, the statements from statesmen and virtually every head of state in the world within 24 hours of the announcement of his “departure” by President Jacob Zuma should really not surprise anyone. Nelson Mandela deserves every good thing that has been said about him since he died on Thursday.
If Mandela had not happened on South Africa, the story of the entire southern Africa would have taken a different trajectory. His speeches when he was still much younger and on the run from the evil apartheid leaders, and during the Rivonia trials, showed a leader even in those days. Those speeches would still have been great speeches today. At a time when the apartheid regime had disenfranchised and even de-civilised blacks, when it could have been in order for a black leader to call whites non-South Africans or even non-Africans, he declared as an ANC leader that he believed that South Africa was a multi-racial country. He also declared his belief in a democracy on the basis of one man, one vote. In other words, he was much more civilised than his white repressors. During the Rivonia trials, when the judgement could have been the death sentence, he gave a speech and a declaration which became the defining credo of not just the struggle for the soul of his country but of mankind itself. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” he said. “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realised. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” He also repeated this statement 27 years later in Cape Town after he was released from prison, showing that truth and the best ideas always stand the test of time. During the trial, he also declared that, “We are not anti-white, we are against white supremacy… We are against racialism no matter by whom it is professed.”
In spite of all these, the apartheid regime branded Mandela a very dangerous man and a terrorist. But Mandela never gave up. He was always a leader wherever he found himself. Even in prison, the warders said he was clearly the leader. He was the most optimistic of the lot in prison. He himself said that when he discovered that everything in prison was designed to dehumanise them, he made up his mind that his oppressors would never succeed. He refused to get dehumanised or lose hope because he needed the hope to continue to lead and to defeat the evil regime. Saki Macozoma, a much younger person who was in the Robben Island prison with him, said that Mandela continually beseeched them to continue to educate and prepare themselves for leadership because South Africa was going to need people like them eventually. Nelson Mandela prepared himself for leadership.
When the apartheid leaders eventually saw that their system was not sustainable, they opened up a channel of communication with him. That was after the entire world was mobilised against them. The first apartheid leader to allow contact with Mandela was President PW Botha. Even though the world remembers PW as a vile apartheid leader, apart from his successor President F. de Klerk, Botha was probably the most reformist apartheid leader. This only gives an indication of how evil the other apartheid leaders were. He was the first to allow inter-racial marriage in South Africa. Interracial marriage had been completely banned in the 1940s. He was also the one that lifted the constitutional prohibitions on multiracial political parties. He also relaxed the Group Areas Act which barred non-whites from living in certain areas. But he was nevertheless a mean human being. That was why he and his successor, President de Klerk, never saw eye to eye until he died.
When the talks with Mandela started while he was still in prison, President de Klerk said he noticed that Mandela was more distinguished than he had imagined. It was clear that, even in prison, Mandela had better strategic clarity than the white leaders. With time, Mandela was released and the process of healing began.
While Mandela was preaching peace to the blacks after his release, another charismatic black leader who was much younger, Chris Hani, was preaching a more radical message. Hani preferred the military solution and was also the head of the Communist Party. He had lots of followers among young blacks and, even though he was considered the second most popular black leader after Mandela himself, he posed a challenge to Mandela. In a sense, Chris Hani was to Mandela what Malcolm X was to Martin Luther King. Not long after Mandela was released, Chris Hani was assassinated by a far-right Polish immigrant. A white Afrikaner lady, Hani’s neighbour who watched the whole incident, alerted the police immediately and the assassin was promptly arrested. South Africa was tensed again and was on the verge of a violent eruption. Even though Mandela was not yet president, he addressed the nation in a very presidential manner that made all the difference at the time: “Tonight, I am reaching out to every single South African, black and white, from the very depths of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster. A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assassin. The cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shock waves throughout the country and the world… Now is the time for South Africans to stand together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for – the freedom of all of us.” Even the eventual statement from the president didn’t beat this one. Mandela was always a leader.
When he eventually won the election and became president, he made sure that he became the leader that he had always promised to be. During his inauguration ceremony, he made sure that his jailers sat side by side with his family as a sign of practical reconciliation. As he walked to the venue, he stopped to speak to a white police colonel whom he spotted standing at attention. He told the colonel that, as from that day, there shall be no “us and them”. As from today, he told him, “we have all become one South Africa”. Mandela’s white bodyguard who narrated this story said the colonel started shedding tears. Mandela also instructed all his new cabinet ministers never to sack anyone who had been loyal to the old apartheid regime. Mandela knew there can be no future without genuine forgiveness.
He was also a very fair leader. Alhaji Shehu Malami, Nigeria’s first ambassador to South Africa, remembers the day Mandela invited him to his office to send a message to General Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s head of state. That was when the issue of which African country should get the permanent Security Council seat when the issue came up to be discussed. There were then debates on whether it would be Nigeria or South Africa. South Africa was of course the continent’s biggest economy. Mandela told Malami to tell Abacha that South Africa was not competing with Nigeria in the quest. Nigeria was by far the most qualified to get it, according to Mandela. That was the quality of leadership of Mandela. Nigeria was helping to free several African countries including South Africa with its resources and was the largest black nation; why shouldn’t it be Nigeria? Mandela said.
Another leadership quality Mandela showed was serving only one term. If Mandela wanted to change the constitution of his country to serve as many terms as he wanted, he could have succeeded. Instead, after his second year in office, he practically started grooming a successor. That was leadership. That immediately set a standard for his country and, when his predecessor wanted to start playing tricks, he was quickly thrown out by the system Mandela had established. And when he left power, he did not interfere with the running of the country as we see with several African leaders like former president Obasanjo who left power but didn’t want to leave the scene.
Yes, Mandela taught the world to forgive but he also taught the world leadership. He gave us enduring leadership lessons. He was the greatest man of his generation and that is clearly obvious from the way the world is celebrating him today.
Today, Nigeria urgently needs a Mandela. We need a Mandela who will bring the whole bickering constituents of the nation together and not one who by his actions and petty private talks divides the very people he is leading. Nigeria needs a leader like Mandela who will be a leader to all. We need a leader who will harness the resources of this country to move it to a first-world nation, as we have all it takes to get there.
In announcing the passing on of Mandela, President Zuma said, “South Africa has lost its greatest son”. He was only half-correct. It was Africa that lost its greatest son. He was also the founding father that Africa would have loved to have. The world will remember him forever.
Nigeria To Be A Major Exporter Of Indian Hemp?
The chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Alhaji Ahmadu Giade, has raised the alarm that, I think, we should all take very seriously. He said Nigerian farmers are abandoning traditional crops and now prefer farming cannabis because it is much more profitable. He said last year more than 1,400 hectares of land was used to cultivate Indian hemp. Knowing Nigerians very well, I predict that if the federal government does not take a tough position on this issue, this may get to 10,000 hectares within a year. If the Jonathan government treats this matter with the levity with which it has treated every serious matter, it will be a serious disaster for Nigeria. This is one issue that the president needs to give a damn.
I will seriously advise a collaboration of the local, state and federal governments on this matter. And the time to start is today. Nigeria already has enough problems. This one should not be added to the bunch. We must never acquire the dubious reputation of being the largest cannabis producer in the world, which is what could happen if we do nothing.