I never thought of doing any post today having published one just yesterday. However, when I heard of the passing on of Former President and foremost freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, I had no option but to put up this post.
As I have always done when a great personality that have touched my life passes on, I want to use this post to pay my tribute and last respect to this iconic African who has shown that there is hope for the African continent. At a time when the continent is plagued by leaders who are selfish, myopic and vindictive, President Nelson Mandela stands tall like a colossus.
My early of knowledge of Mandela
My earliest knowledge of Nelson Mandela was in the early 80s when as young men, he stood out as our hero. Many of my friends then actually chose to be called “Mandela” instead of their real names. That was when the South African oppressive rule of apartheid was at its height and my country, Nigeria, was at the fore front of helping the black South Africans against the oppressive rule. Many of us then became “activists” in our own ways. We sang “freedom” songs in solidarity with the South Africans. And Mandela was the center of it all!
This “activism” and fight for “freedom” spirit was what gave birth to the genre of reggae music amongst us back then. Finding a platform to express our distaste for the oppressive apartheid rulers, we all became social crusaders, singing songs of freedom in solidarity with our South African brothers and sisters. Songs like,
Kill apartheid, you get to kill apartheid
Kill apartheid, you get to kill apartheid
Kill it; kill it; cos we tired of it!
As students, we organized groups where we studied black ideologies and literary works by black Africans and also made financial contributions towards the struggle in South Africa. Till this day, I can still feel the emotional connections one such work, “Nightfall in Soweto” a poem by Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali had on me then. Though I have never visited South Africa, I have always felt like a South African because of this emotional attachment.
Mandela indeed epitomizes not just the struggle against the oppressive rule of apartheid in South Africa but also the oppressive and ignoble rule of African leaders today.
Victory of Good over Evil!
When Mandela came out of prison in 1990, most of us felt it was indeed a victory of good over evil just as Bob Marley rightly put it in one of his songs, “War!” (Please, let’s sing along!)
“Until the philosophy which hold one race superior / And another / Inferior / Is finally / And permanently / Discredited / And abandoned / – Everywhere is war – / Me say war.
“That until there are no longer / First class and second class citizens of any nation / Until the colour of a man’s skin / Is of no more significance / than the colour of his eyes / – Me say war.
“That until the basic human rights / Are equally guaranteed to all, / Without regard to race / – Dis a war.
“That until that day / The dream of lasting peace, / World citizenship / Rule of international morality / Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, / But never attained / – Now everywhere is war – / War.
“And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes / that hold our brothers in Angola, / In Mozambique, / South Africa / Sub-human bondage / Have been toppled, / Utterly destroyed / – Well, everywhere is war – / Me say war.
“War in the east, / War in the west, / War up north, / War down south – / War – war – / Rumours of war. / And until that day, / The African continent / Will not know peace, / We Africans will fight – we find it necessary / – And we know we shall win / As we are confident / In the victory
“Of good over evil -/ Good over evil, yeah! / Good over evil – / Good over evil, yeah! / Good over evil – / Good over evil, yeah!”
Of course, Mandela’s life is victory of good over evil indeed. When he came of prison and became the very first Black President of South Africa, he who was victimized and brutalized by the Apartheid Whites turned around to be a rallying point for the whole country. Initiating a peace move, President Nelson Mandela worked hard to reconcile all South Africans and instead of paying back evil for evil he chose to pay the evil of the white oppressors with good!
Indeed, good must always triumph over evil!
Beyond that, to me, Mandela’s term as president was truly the “Daytime” that Mtshali prayed for in “Nightfall in Soweto” when he wrote:
Nightfall comes like
A dreaded disease
Seeping through the pores
Of a healthy body
And ravaging it beyond repair
A murderer’s hand,
Lurking in the shadows,
Clasping the dagger,
Strikes down the helpless victim.
I am the victim.
I am slaughtered
Every night in the streets.
I am cornered by the fear
Gnawing at my timid heart;
In my helplessness I languish.
Man has ceased to be man
Man has become beast
Man has become prey.
I am the prey;
I am the quarry to be run down
By the marauding beast
Let loose by cruel nightfall
From his cage of death.
Where is my refuge?
Where am I safe?
Not in my matchbox house
Where I barricade myself against nightfall.
I tremble at his crunching footsteps,
I quake at his deafening knock at the door.
“Open up!” he barks like a rabid dog
Thirsty for my blood.
You are my mortal enemy.
But why were you ever created?
Why can’t it be daytime?
Daytime forever more?
And how we pray today that this “daytime” will continue even with the demise of this great African!
Mandela’s – A Man Ahead of His Generation!
Nelson Mandela was born on 18 July 1918. Joining the ANC later in his life he became an activist who believed that Black Africans should be entirely independent in their struggle for political self-determination. He was jailed for his activism and political views and spent 27 years of his life in prison from where he came out to become the first Black President of South Africa.
Like I have earlier said, his mistreatment in the hands of the white apartheid rulers did not turn him into a monster instead he proved “daytime” has indeed dawned on the South African soil!
Unlike what is so prevalent across the African continent today where political leaders would rather choose to remain in power perpetually, Mandela surprised the whole world when he chose to do only one term of 5 years as President.
Indeed, Mandela was a man ahead of his generation.
For those of us who as young men, even when we did not FULLY understand the whole import of what we were doing then, joined in our little ways to fight the apartheid rule, we are indeed satisfied that we took that stand. Mandela never disappointed us. And so, as we pay our tribute to him today, our hearts are joyful that the Almighty God allowed such a man to walk on the sand of Africa. He will remain a motivation to us, a light and beacon of hope. And like the South African President Jacob Zuma rightly puts it, the South African nation has lost its greatest son; the South African people have lost a father.
But I’ll say, not only the South African nation but African as a whole has lost a Gem – a father, a friend, a fighter!