As I lay resting on a well deserved holiday, I received a text message from a friend which read- ‘All is well that ends well...It’s all for the best though..Everybody dies but not everybody lives’. This message led me into deep reflection-‘everybody dies but not everybody lives’. As I continue ruminating on this message, it dawned on me that one may be living but already dead and that it is not only when a man dies that he can live in the hearts of people. I realized also that though people tend to say kind words about people only when they are dead, it is better for the dead to hear while alive what will be said about him. This is actually the situation with one great leader that Africans especially South Africans will not like to separate from; it is true of the best leader Africans ever (and I dare say will ever) have. Yes, one man who though in critical condition owing to lung infection, has and continues to live in the heart of people is Nelson Mandela. This became quite obvious with the way South Africans and indeed the world at large celebrated the man, the man who at ninety-five is still loved by the entire world, the man who stood up for truth, the man who preferred to suffer for the common good rather than selfishly enrich himself, the man who preferred to go to prison and gain freedom for his people rather than be silent and enjoy his freedom.
WHO IS NELSON MANDELA
The day July 18th will remain evergreen in the annals of history. It was and remains a day not just when a child was born but a day a child of history came into being. Madiba as he is popularly known was born ninety-five years ago. He grew up like any of the children of his time but unlike the children of his time, he pondered on the evils of his time and was determined not to sit contented with the events but to make a change; he made up his mind not to be awash with the maxim ‘if you cannot beat them you join them’ but to live by the notion that ‘if you cannot beat them, stand alone and make a difference’. Yes, Mandela was born on 18th July, yes Mandela was South Africa’s first democratically elected president, yes he came into power in a fully representative democratic election in 1994 but it must be made clear that the road to this feat took twenty years of anti-apartheid campaign. It was twenty years of speaking out, speaking out boldly against apartheid, twenty years of non-violent revolution, twenty years of imprisonment and indeed twenty years before the truth came to light.
A look at the meaning of Apartheid will help us appreciate greatly the sacrifice that Madiba made for his people and will indeed help us examine the apartheid plaguing contemporary African. Yes, as the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines it and as evident in what Madiba passed through, apartheid ‘is a political system in which members of different races had different political and social rights and lived, travelled, spent their free time apart from each other’. The apartheid that Mandela fought against was one in which the blacks were discriminated against. It was a South Africa in which the white ruled and disregarded the blacks. Blacks were treated as minorities and were seen more as slaves. But Mandela was able to fight for the unity of all, for oneness and for an indivisible South Africa. In one of the statements credited to him, he opined that ‘no one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite’. Mandela fought against apartheid with the weapon of love but it is unfortunate that contemporary Africa still battles with apartheid in different disguises. The contemporary apartheid ranges from political, economic, social, religious and educational apartheid. Using the Nigeria situation as a case study, we see political apartheid in the way and manner in which parties relate and even the way and manner in which factions within a particular party function (example of this is the crisis in Rivers State courtesy of titans within a political party). Economic apartheid is obvious in the gap between the rich and the poor and indeed the children of the rich and those of the poor. Educational apartheid is seen in the literate and the illiterate and the superiority with which the educated relate with the perceived illiterate and the inferiority that goes with the seemingly illiterate. Religious apartheid is evidently clear in Nigeria. Recently, a particular senator rather than argue from the point of reason preferred to hinge his argument on religion. All these and more are the apartheid which still face the contemporary African. What then is the way out?
STAND UP AND MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
As the entire world celebrated a man of substance, a man whose doggedness brought freedom and unity for his people, a man who lived, fought and stood up for truth, Africans are called upon to emulate him. We cannot continue to fold our hands, we cannot continue to complain, we must rise and fight for justice, equity and fairness. We must stand and fight for the emancipation of all. Yes, South Africans gathered at the Pretoria hospital where Mandela is receiving treatment on July 18 to celebrate his 95th birthday, yes, they do not want Mandela to die but Mandela will definitely at God’s own time die. What should not die is the legacy of Mandela- the legacy of love, the legacy of truth and most importantly, the legacy of standing up and making the difference for the good of all. No wonder in his honour, people were called upon to give 67minutes of charitable work in proportion to the 67 years of Madiba’s public service. As Nigerians, we have a lot to learn from this great man. Let us stop complaining but rather stand up and begin the change from ourselves. Make a difference today for the good of all and you will be the Mandela that Nigeria longs for. Let me end with this poem sent to me by a close friend Sir. Esenwa titled: CHANGE BEGINS WITH YOU
When I was young and free and my imagination
Had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world.
As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world
Would not change, so I shortened my sights
Somewhat and decided to change only my
But it too seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt.
I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me,
But alas, they would have none of it.
And now as I lie on my death bed,
I suddenly realize if only I had changed myself first,
Then by example, I would have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement,
I would then have been able to better my country
And who knows,
I may have even changed the world.
God bless Africa