Cyril C. NwokejiThursday, December 12, 2013




first read of the death of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on face book; later on I confirmed the same, on the news television. He was a man with extraordinary ability and talent. He was a man who threaded where others dreaded. A man who had almost supernatural vision of things to come. He was a man with a vision, on a mission, which God almighty, in his infinite mercy, gave him the good fortune to accomplish , in his life time: freedom for his people; and by implication, for all black people! He was awesome !

Before dabbling further into his legacy, let's not forget his background: he was born into privilege; son of a Chief, who was privileged to have gotten ,decent education; qualifying as a young lawyer and got the trappings of being a member of the Legal profession. His personal success, wasn't enough for him, he was moved by the sufferings of his people , and resolved to do something about it. In doing so, het took great personal risks. Having initially, opted for peaceful resistance to apartheid ; he changed his mind, and opted for arms struggle, with the Sharpville massacre of 1960 - when defenceless men, women and children, were gunned down in cold blood, for daring to peacefully, challenge apartheid. He was subsequently declared wanted ,as a terrorist, by the apartheid government. He had the opportunity to flee South Africa; was even presented with one, but he chose to stay and fight. At the "Rivonia " trial, at his sentencing, he openly ,declared in his famous speech that, the struggle, was his life and was prepared ,to pay the ultimate price for it .

His long years of incarceration, at the rather notorius "Robben Island," were to say the least very tortuos! He was purposely, left in a cell ,smaller than his giant frame for 18years; and consequently, had to sleep, in a crouched position ! He was forced to work in a quarry, where the reflections of the sun were dangerous to his eyes; and it took the apartheid authorities, three years, to agree to give him sunglasses; after his eyes had sufferd considerable damage! He was psychologically turtored, when his letters to his wife, were initially burnt, after he was fooled they had been deliverd to her. He was psychologically turtored, when the prison authorities, brought purported reports of his wife's flirtations with other men, while he was in prison. He was tempted with purported plans to escape "Robben Island," when the prison conditions, were unbearable .

Despite all these trials and tribulations, Nelson Mandela stood firmly, not wavering on his priciples; even when he was offered conditional release in 1988, after more than a quarter of a century, behind bars - he could be released, if he gave up political activities, among other conditions - he refused, stood his ground , on his principles; saying he was no less life loving than those who imprisoned him - the captains of apartheid - but wouldn't abandone his principles; and preferred to be released unconditionally !Which he eventually realised, in 1990.

I read an interview of his, in " Time magazine ," on his 90th birthday anniverssary ; he talked among other things, what he described as his 8 "principles of leadership: "

  1. A courageous leader, is not only one who overcomes fear, but inspires others, to overcome fear: he talked about his near-death experience, when he flew to Zulu land for the campaigns, for South Africa's presidency; how they ran into turbulence, while in air and how some of his party members who were onboard with him, panicked and came to him, trying to make sense of the problems in the air. He remained calm, assuring them, all would be well. On landing, the party members wonderd why he remained calm, during the problematic flight, he admitted to them, he was afraid up there, but calmed his emotions, so as to continue to provide good leadership, not withstanding their problems ;

  2. A leader should lead from the front, but should not forget his base; or else he be accused of selling out ;

  3. A leader should lead from behind, and give others the impression they are in front: He talked of the ' Kitchen cabinet,' of the ANC, at which he always spoke last, and some how made the others accept his points of view ;

  4. He advised that a good leader should be close to his enemies, and should participate in the favourite sport of the enemy: he talked about his decision, to play rugby, and how this was initially, not accepted, by his followers ;

  5. He advised that a good leader should be close to his friends, but even closer to his enemies: by so doing, your enemies cannot surprise you! ;

  6. He advised that impressions are very important, and one should not forget to smile ;

  7. He advised on the need to be flexible; saying that between the white and black colours of the colour spectrum, there were other colours. Meethinks, without Nelson Mandela's flexibilty - ability to compromise - he wouldn't have come out of prison alive; talkless of leading his people to freedom ! ;

  8. Finally, he said that quitting was leadership: a good leader should bow out, when the ovation was loudest; as he exemplified, when he gave up his right to a second presidential term !

From the foregoing, it's crystal clear, Nelson Mandela was a leader of leaders! A leader who, right from an early age, understood what leadership was all about: selfless service, visionary, sacrifice and humility. Nelson Mandela, was the quintessence, of the near-perfect leader .He would forever remain a shinning example, to other African leaders, who have a totally perversed view of leadership; who see leadership essentially from the point of view of personnal aggrandizement ; which often live their people, in unbriddled, poverty and penury, and results in others, having to flee their various countries, in search of the proverbial golden fleece, often in hostile countries, where they are often subjugated and reduced to second class citizens! While the so -called leaders continuosly swim in an ocean of ill-gotten wealth ,even to their umpteenth generation !

Nelson Mandela embraced the principles of forgiveness and reconciliation, despite the unimaginable sufferings he endured, in the hands of the apathied government. Notwhistanding his sad experiences with apartheid, he embraced the concept of one man, one vote, and peaceful coexistence, in a rainbow nation! He was indeed a man without cant. ADIEU! May the Good Lord give your soul eternal rest, AMEN! You were indeed a trojan! Thank God, for the gift of Nelson Mandela, to man kind !