Reading the News: Mandela’s Health,By Issa Aremu

Aremu2013Quite remarkable how the ever “critical but stable” condition of former South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela, Jacob Zuma has elicited such global outpour of solidarity, prayers and sympathy. In recent times, as he ages (he will be 95 on July 18th) once Madiba shows some signs of an ailment, the world seems to be on the edge. However since the great iconic first South Africa’s democratically elected president (following deafening collapse of the discredited SA’s apartheid order) was admitted to hospital on 8 June, the world has not been the same! The only breaking news worthy of attention seems to be Mandela’s recovery. Indeed some are concerned that the death of Mandela, the man who led a peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa, could “shake” the nation’s economy. Even the
celebrated Obama’s second African tour has been overshadowed by Mandela’s health. Mandela has been susceptible to respiratory problems since he reportedly contracted tuberculosis during his 27-year imprisonment. He has been hospitalized four times since last December. Interestingly, the condition of former South African leader Nelson Mandela was a star topic at the Town Hall style-meeting at University of Johannesburg in Soweto, happily not gay rights! Obama praised the ailing anti-apartheid icon in “emotional terms”. But he also confessed that Mandela’s personal courage and South Africa’s historic transition are a personal inspiration to him and to the world. When the history of his second visit to African continent is written, first it will be observed that he again ignored 165 million-Nigerians
for bad governance (his words! Secondly it would be noted thst Obama was almost on the trail of Mandela’s footsteps;met his family members; daughters and grand children and his wife Graca Machel, also visited Robben Island in South Africa on Sunday, (the prison where Mandela spent nearly 27 years for fighting to overturn the country’s apartheid regime). As a matter of fact, Mandela’s Get-Well cards can make a library! What then are the lessons for the state of Mandela’s recovery from the world begging for leadership at all levels? Who then leads like Mandela to command such significant multi-racial and inter faith global followership? Which leader in Africa in particular dares to end like Mandela?

Mandela’s deserved freedom after 27 years in prison proves that time is longer than the apartheid rope. Mandela is credited with scores of leadership virtues. They include courage, principle, sacrifice, forgiveness, love and reconciliation and non- vengeance among others. The way Mandela generously forgives and reconciles with his white racist tormentors shows that we can forgive and move on even if we do not forget.

Another singular leadership quality of Madiba, (the “old man”) is “making oneself dispensable”. In a continent reputed for sit-tight leaders (Egypt’s Mubarak, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, Libya’s Kaddafi, late Bongo of Gabon and President Museveni of Uganda) Mandela shows that it is not how long power is exercised but how it is creatively humanly used to uplift peoples and societies. His one term 5-year tenure (1994-1999) as the President of a non-racial, democratic Republic offers lessons in leadership for Federal Republic of Nigeria. Given the current crisis of leadership, Nigeria’s leaders must emulate Mandela’s model of representation and delegation and even resignation. In 1996, two years he assumed power, Nelson Mandela said that “I must step down when there are one or two people who admire me”. Nigeria’s leaders must accept the reality of exit once they assume power. The protagonists/antagonists of 2015 agenda must reflect on the Mandela’s spirit if they must be celebrated like Mandela.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo refused Mandela formula. Today he is permanently discredited as a sit-tight greedy/power mongering leader, while Mandela is credited with modesty in exercise of power.

Paradoxically Nigeria among other countries fought for the liberation of South Africa. Leadership lessons expectedly should rather flow from Nigeria not from South Africa. Two years before he left office in 1999, Nelson Mandela stopped chairing cabinet meetings. His then Vice President, Thabo Mbeki was reportedly in charge. He had a good rapport with Vice President Mbeki such that he was reported at different fora celebrating him (Mbeki) as a better administrator than himself. He indeed modestly attributed many great ideas he championed to his Vice President, Tambo Mbeki. Our leaders should learn the virtues of comradeship from Mandela. Governors in Nigeria who engage their deputies in wars of attrition are not acting in the spirit of Mandela.

His presidency was inaugurated in 1994. He took pride in the knowledge that ANC boasts of scores of leaders that can rule South Africa. Madiba related cordially even with his political rivals. During his historic presidency, Mandela even allowed his arch rival and die hard apologist of apartheid regime, Mr Mangosuthu Buthelezi as Acting President while he was on overseas trips that also involved his Vice President, Thabo Mbeki.

He is a living voice for Africa and the world. President George W Bush and Vice- President Dick Cheney of America criminally invaded Iraq in 2002. Nelson Mandela’s comment on the war was as resonant as the invaders’ bombs. According to Mandela, Bush administration’s advisers were like “dinosaurs” who did not want President Bush to “belong to the modern age” adding that US was a threat to world peace given its penchant for impunity and unilateralism. The eventual withdrawal of US troops from Iraq under Obama vindicates Mandela’s timely moral intervention. Africa is indebted to Mandela for his campaign for 2010 hosting right of FIFA soccer tournament on the continent.

Most elders are conservative and shy to talk about HIV/AIDS. Nelson Mandela was the first to openly disclose that he lost his son to HIV/AIDS and called for an open fight against the scourge. He combines old age with refreshingly new modern ideas. But all said, do Mandela’s enthusiasts (who are almost praying for the impossible; a Mandela immortality) ever read Nelson Mandela’s views on death? As far back as 1996 Nelson Mandela said; ” death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore , why I will sleep for eternity”. Madiba also once reported said “There will be life after Mandela”. Who then does not want Madiba to quit and to “sleep for eternity”?


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