FEATURE ARTICLE

Fr Pat Amobi ChukwumaTuesday, December 10, 2013
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THE LEGACY OF NELSON MADIBA MANDELA (1918 - 2013)

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he good that men do lives after them. The evil that men do also lives after them. When one dies, the legacy he or she leaves for posterity matters a lot. How did he or she touch the lives of people when he/she was physically alive? The dead body is buried but one's good or bad deeds live on. Some people write their history in gold while some write theirs in mud. Gold remains while mud vanishes. The Bible makes it clear that what one sows, that he would reap. It is true that all men are mortal, but legacy is immortal. Some people die and are gone forever. Some others die and live forever. In which class will you be found when the time comes?

Nelson Madiba Mandela has come and gone, but not gone forever. He is dead but he lives on. He was born in 1918. He was breastfed with full human milk. No wonder he was very humanitarian. Those who are fed with animal milk behave like animals. They are very "animalitarian." Mothers, take note! Nelson Mandela grew up a philanthropist. He had zero tolerance to injustice. He was called like Moses who delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Nelson saw the inhuman plight of his people in South Africa, whereby the White minority persecuted the Black majority. They did not go to the same school. It was a taboo for a white man and a black man to enter the same bus. Government was the sole prerogative of the White minority. The blacks were like brutes. It was even doubted in those days of Apartheid in South Africa if the blacks have souls. Hence they were massacred like fowls now and then. They were weeping with no one to console them. Who would go to the Apartheid Regime in those days and demand like Moses: "Let my people go?" Nelson Madiba Mandela courageously spoke. He took the risk to condemn injustice just as John the Baptist did. John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod and was later beheaded. Nelson Mandela was likewise imprisoned by the Apartheid Regime for twenty-seven years. He celebrated his Silver Jubilee as a prisoner and added two more years on top. But before he could be beheaded, God sent his Angels to free Mandela from the unjust imprisonment.

Nelson Madiba Mandela rose from Prison to President between 1994 and 1999. He ruled South Africans (Blacks and Whites) for one term only (five years), even though he had the constitutional right of going for a second tenure. He led by good examples. He sought the good of his people and he did not segregate between blacks and whites. For him, it was not a time to revenge the ill-treatment he got from the Apartheid Regime before and during his incarceration.

Mandela knew what leadership entails. He served and left. He need not die shamefully on the throne like most Africa leaders. Ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo was imprisoned by late General Sani Abacha on alleged phantom coup. He was unjustly sentenced to die in prison and was waiting for beheading any moment. Luckily for him, Abacha died mysteriously and suddenly. He was suspected of eating an 'apple' poisoned by his concubines in Aso Rock. The subsequent military regime of General Abdulsalami Abubarka freed Obasanjo who almost died in prison and was looking uglier than he was. Nigerians thought that Obasanjo would use the lessons he learnt from unjust imprisonment to right the wrong in the Nigerian polity. Power, they say, corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Hence, Obasanjo behaved like the rest of past Nigerian and African Leaders. He acted as if he has forgotten the God who saved him. No wonder he went back to school to study Theology. We are yet to be told the score he made at graduation.

Nelson Mandela led South Africans for only one tenure and surrendered powers to younger generation. On his part, Obasanjo ruled for two tenures as the Constitution guaranteed. Instead of leaving ceremoniously, he chose the path of ignominy by trying to amend the Constitution that would give him a third tenure. However he did not succeed. The Nigerians who are already fed up with his unjust leadership blocked his way. Consequently, he was forced to leave the seat of power in Aso Rock with regrets, when his Third Tenure machine broke down and was declared moribund.

His predecessors did the same. Ex-military president Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida wanted to perpetuate himself in power by his 'maradona' tactics. He was so much intoxicated with power that he solely cancelled the only free, fair and credible presidential election Nigeria has ever had. That election took place on the unforgettable June 12, 1993. It was in that 1993 exactly on September 5 that I was ordained a priest. Thank God my ordination was not cancelled despite my imperfections. God is still managing me in his vineyard. Back to land, Babangida was forced to step aside in that 1993. Before stepping aside, he set up an interim Government led by Mr Ernest Shonekan.

Before Ernest Shonekan could enter his room in Aso Rock, Sani Abacha removed him like a sleeveless shirt. Abacha ascended while Shonekan descended. His military junta made the Nigerian polity hotter than it was. Innocent Nigerians ran for safety. Bombs exploded here and there, claiming innocent lives. Human Right Organizations were abolished. All those who refused to worship Abacha's image were either killed, maimed or exiled. All Nigerians became sleepless day and night. The Church intervened but Abacha kept deaf ears. As a result, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria met and composed the powerful prayer for Nigeria in Distress. In no distant time, the prayer became efficacious. Heaven opened and Archangel Michael came down with his sharp sword and went to Aso Rock and struck the powers that be. Nigerians woke up the next day to hear that Abacha died mysteriously in his sleep. Instead of mourning, Nigerians (civilians and military) were rejoicing and making merriment. Even animals came out of the zoo and were jumping for joy. What an irony! Nelson Mandela just died. South Africans and the whole world are mourning an exemplary Leader, a philanthropist, a Freedom Fighter, a rare gem and a man of peace. When will the Nigerian messiah come?

African leaders as a whole have big lessons to learn from the great Nelson Mandela, the icon of Africa. But the problem of man is that he fails to learn from history. Most African leaders are 'sit-tight leaders.' Can you imagine why Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is still clinging to power for 31 years now? Paul Biya of Cameroon is celebrating his silver jubilee in power. Other sit-tight African leaders dead or alive are: Col Moummar Ghaddfi of Libya, 42 years; Mbasago of Equatorial Guinea, 32 years; Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, 25 years; Blaise Campore of Burkina Fasso, 24 years; Omar Bashir of Sudan, 21 years; Idrissu Deby of Chad, 21 years. Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire ruled from 1965 to 1997. He was forced into exile in Morocco where he died shamefully. His famous legacy was the looting of his country of billions of US dollars.

We as civil, military or religious leaders have a lot to learn from Nelson Mandela. We must imbibe his spirit of good leadership and sacrifice for the good of others. Consequently, the evil spirit of egocentrism must be banished from us. We need spiritual deliverance. As civil or religious leaders, let us leave the stage when the ovation is still high. Having served our usefulness, why are we still sticking to power to the detriment of the poor citizens or followers? Here in Nigeria, plans are being hatched to cause mayhem in 2015 Presidential Election, even when we are not certain of being alive by then, since man proposes while God disposes. Nigeria belongs to us all. No part of Nigeria has the sole prerogative of holding on to power. The president can come from any tribe of the entity called Nigeria. The 1914 Amalgamation by Lord Lugard was a selfish design. Now that a Constitutional Conference is being proposed, let it be sovereign. If not, it will be an effort in futility. All the tribes, religious bodies, groups that make up Nigeria should sit down in a round table to put things in order. If we decide to part ways, then let us part in peace and not in pieces. We must take our destiny into our hands. May the spirit of Nelson Madila Mandela be our guide.

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