Last Wednesday, July 18th marked Nelson Mandela Day as declared by United Nations. It was launched in 2009, 18 July, with an unanimous decision by the UN General Assembly . Madiba is the only global citizen to be so honored with an annual International Day, in furtherance of his historic achievements in working towards conflict resolution, democracy, human rights, peace, and reconciliation. He died at 95 in December 2013. For 67 years Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity of his 95 years on earth —” as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa”. We are therefore enjoined to spend minimum of 67 minutes every year to do something positive in the service of humanity. In 2008, “retiring from retirement” (his words!) Mandela told those who listened that ;“It is in your hands to make of the world a better place,” . Almost a decade after he tasked humanity in positive service continuity and four years after his death, is the world a better place according to the vision of Nelson Mandela?
At times like this, what would be Mandela’s reactions to global developments from the alleged corrupt state capture by Zuma/Gupta family in South Africa, (his home country) to wholesale nation-capture manifesting in massive cash and properties seizure from public officials in Nigeria? What would be Mandela’s reaction to Donald Trump’s ascendancy in 2016 American controversial presidential elections? What about forgotten war of attrition in South Sudan? What would be Nelson Mandela’s thoughts on Nigeria an hitherto “frontline state” which tirelessly worked to liberate him and his country from the atrocities, sliding into insularity led by new bigoted leaders misguiding the youths into divisions and violence? In a speech to the International Women’s Forum, in 2003 which was also on the eve of the second Gulf war Mandela damned both George Bush and Tony Blair with historic withering attack unapologetically implying they were racists bent on destroying Iraq in return for its oil. Witness Mandela on George Bush; “..a president who has no foresight and cannot think properly … wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust”. Witness him on Tony Blair; “He is the foreign minister of the United States. He is no longer prime minister of Britain” accusing Mr Blair of abdicating his responsibility as prime minister to America. Given the ongoing America-Russian serial carpet bombings in Syria, at times like this endless criminal blood letting, what would be Madiba’s quotable words on the iconic image of a stunned and bloodied Syrian boy pulled from rubble in Aleppo? The Nelson Mandela Foundation dedicated this year’s Mandela Day to Action Against Poverty, “honouring Nelson Mandela’s leadership and devotion to fighting poverty and promoting social justice for all. Encouraging everyone to take action against poverty in a way that will bring about sustainable change”.
In May this year, two months before Nelson Mandela day , UK based OXFAM international released a report on Nigeria’s extreme inequalities in figures; “combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men – $29.9 billion – could end extreme poverty at a national level yet 5 million face hunger. More than 112 million people are living in poverty in Nigeria, yet the country’s richest man would have to spend $1 million a day for 42 years to exhaust his fortune”! Whence Mandela-like voice on this grim statistics which depicts private wealth side by side with common poverty, as distinct from common wealth? What then happened to our sensitivity after Nelson Mandela? In April this year, Donald Trump proudly announced the deployment of “mother of all bombs” (some nations do give births to bombs, not babies!) “the largest conventional bomb it has ever used in combat… striking a complex of tunnels and bunkers used by Isis militants in Achin district in Nangarhar province killing some hundreds. Only Pope Francis commendably and conscientiously damned the US for naming the US military’s largest non-nuclear explosive (reportedly weighing some 21,600lb (9,800kg), “the mother of all bombs”! The Pope reportedly said; “I was ashamed when I heard the name,” “A mother gives life and this one gives death, and we call this device a mother. What is going on?” he asked. Pope refreshingly sounded Mandela like but the global media almost by conspiracy had inundated us with more silly tweets from Doland Trump from Papal humanitarian rhetoric; what is going? This year, I had a singular privilege of spending my “Mandela Day 67 minutes” in Lagos. Many thanks to the wonderful Oluwafunso identical Twin brothers who had graciously invited me as a Guest Speaker to the 25th year Anniversary of Pan African Arts Festival (Panafest) Colloquium with the theme:”Leadership Failure In Africa. Is It A Culture?
Ironically the gathering full of youths in their 20s and 30s were not aware it was Mandela Day. Even their choice of theme; Leadership Failure In Africa. Is It A Culture? Says it all. We are in trouble, our youths are not aware of Nelson Mandela, Murtala Mohammed, Amical Cabral, Samora Michel, Micheal Imoudu , Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikwe, Kwame Nkrumah, Sam Nuyoma, Herbert Macaulay, Gambo Sawaba, Mallam Aminu Kano… Thanks to Mandela Day agonized for more than 67 minutes to show that leadership success is also part of African DNA. Who then will lead like Nelson Mandela at times like this?
Issa Aremu mni