Former African National Congress leader and first president of a non-racial, democratic South Africa, Nelson Mandela, with Libyan Leader of the Revolution Muammar Gaddafi. Libya is longtime supporter of Southern Africa., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Nigeria: Mandela And African Leaders
5 August 2011
Nigeria Daily Champion
RECENTLY, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first black President of South Africa and one of the world's most revered figures, turned 93 and as expected, the world celebrated the United Nations' (UN) declared Mandela Day, with the lessons of the life and times of the living legend, especially for present and future leaders of the African continent vividly presenting themselves.
Mandela Day actually began in 2009, following a UN resolution, which declared the icon's birthday as an international day devoted to public service.
The resolution was in recognition of Mandela's "values and dedication to the service of humanity in the fields of conflict resolution, race relation, promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the uplifting of poor and underdeveloped communities."
Also known as Madiba, Mandela has received more than 250 awards over four decades, including the 1993 Nobel Peace prize.
No doubt, he is, today, the most celebrated ex-president on the planet with a world-wide appeal. And the most significant aspect of the life and times of the globally acclaimed living legend is the lesson that life out of office is not a death sentence and does not necessarily lead to a diminished stature.
Indeed, the Mandela example has reinforced the fact that it is not how long but how well one serves his people that matters and has also confirmed the fact that rewards for quality service come to those who deserve them even long after office.
Over a decade after he left office, Mandela has continued to command the level of world attention that no leader in the history of mankind has ever commanded, for the simple reason that he devoted his life and energies towards advancing the ideals of democracy and a free society.
Though Mandela had often asked that his saintly status be toned down, the cult of personality first created by a committee of African National Congress (ANC) leaders during the early years of his imprisonment on Robben Island in the 1960s and 70s, gained its own unstoppable momentum long ago.
Till date, everyone from Prince Charles, Michael Jackson to Michelle Obama and her girls, as well as the Pope, have all worked to be photographed beside Mandela, who in 2001, led a powerful lobby to influence the world football body, FIFA, to award the 2010 World Cup to his country, the first time ever the tournament would be hosted in Africa.
Born on July 18, 1918, Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election.
Before his presidency, he was the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC. He was arrested in 1962, convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Spending many of his 27 years in prison on Robben Island, Mandela, following his release from prison on February 11, 1990, led his party in the negotiations that resulted in multi-racial democracy in 1994.
As president, he gave priority to reconciliation and the rebuilding of a nation that had since the 1930s, promoted the policy of apartheid which witnessed the brutal suppression of the rights and liberties of the black majority by the settler white minority.
His efforts won the admiration of even hard line countries such as the USA and Britain, so much that he is today described by the likes of US President Barack Obama as 'a beacon for the global community and for all who work for democracy, justice and reconciliation.'
Indeed, it is hard to sum up Mandela's achievements and contributions to his country's struggle for freedom, as well as for peace around the world. But as the world celebrated his life with songs and service on the occasion of his 93rd birthday, the most significant honour that can be done, especially by African leaders, to this icon would be a dedication to provision of better life for their people and the protection of the constitutions of their countries which Mandela called a 'sacred covenant.'
Perhaps, if Mandela had acted like power-drunk, sit tight African leaders like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, among other tyrants, bringing shame on the continent, he may have ended ingloriously like most of them and brought more hardship upon his people.
Instead, Mandela consciously worked for a transparent transition that set the stage for the political stability South Africa enjoys today.
The lesson for African leaders, both present and future, therefore, is that it is best to leave office when the ovation is loudest. They must also ensure transparent transition programmes which reinforce people's confidence in the sanctity and potency of the ballot box.
Leaders of the African Union (AU) must, to honour the icon, also insist on true democracy in all member states of the Union. They must insist that no military intervention in government stands and that there must be good governance, anchored on the observance of rule of law, provision of dividends of democracy and term limits for political office holders, with periodic elections that are free and fair.
The Peer Review Mechanism of the AU should be given teeth to enforce the tenets of democracy and good governance. Where this proves impossible and tyrannical leaders hold their people hostage, foreign intervention to rescue the people from such dictators that have nothing to offer but abject poverty, suffering, diseases and deaths, among others, should be welcomed.
We join the world in the continuing celebration of this icon of hope and wish him many more years ahead as a role model.