by Moses Adebayo Alao
Can a man imprisoned for 27 years become president and clamour for peace and reconciliation rather than paying back the ‘enemies’? Yes, indeed there can be no other Mandela, same way there can be no other Nnamdi Azikiwe or Sir Ahmadu Bello.
As I write this piece, I am sipping from a cup of juice; yes, I am not crying or mourning the exit of the great man of international acclaim and former president of South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. That would have been crying more than the bereaved. But of course, his death was indeed a great loss for South Africans, Africans and indeed the world, which have come to see and celebrate the nonagenarian as a symbol of peace.
Some call him the greatest man of the 20th Century, others say he is the most inspiring leader the world has ever seen while some said “a nigger is a nigger” but the indubitable fact is that he is Mandela and there can be no other man like him. Or can there be apartheid in South Africa again? Can another man be imprisoned for 27 years? Can a man imprisoned for 27 years become president and clamour for peace and reconciliation rather than paying back the ‘enemies’? Yes, indeed there can be no other Mandela, same way there can be no other Nnamdi Azikiwe or Sir Ahmadu Bello. Of course, it should be pointed out that there can be no other Obafemi Awolowo, though a certain Nigerian politician thinks he can recreate history or even overshadow the achievements of the late sage—a task which his avarice cannot allow him to achieve. So, if there can be no other Mandela, Awolowo, and some even say it would be difficult to have another Wole Soyinka or Chinua Achebe, what was Ayi Kwei Armah thinking when he wrote “The Beautyful Ones Are not Yet Born?”
Armah’s is one book which title always leave me flummoxed whenever I juxtapose the happenings in Nigeria with its title and I appear not to be alone on that voyage of bewilderment at the derailment of a country (someone ignorantly call it a nation) called Nigeria. In fact, renowned Professor of English, Niyi Osundare, had once said that Nigeria’s excellence was always described in the past tense, during his inaugural lecture at the University of Ibadan some years back. Was he wrong? I think not. You would hear people who went to universities in the 60s and 70s boast about how they had meal tickets and ate chicken on government’s bill and salivate, then you would snap out of that inglorious reverie knowing you can only manage beans and garri or go on empty stomachs of ASUU, NASU or SSANU manage to allow you stay in school. They would speak of how they got government scholarships to study abroad and you will remember how you had to drain resources to attend a church-owned private university or travel abroad (to Ghana and Benin Republic) to study because of strikes. They boast about how jobs were lined up for them before graduation and one will be forced to nurse the wounds of underemployment after years of waiting, despite having sounder grades than they did back then. And to worsen matters, they will tell you that you are the leaders of tomorrow at 35 and yet reminisce on how Yakubu Gowon ascended power as Head of State at a young age. Are the beautiful ones not dead and buried?
Back to Mandela. He was a fine politician, a friend of the masses and one of the few Africans who hated Oliver Twist; he is definitely ‘unNigerian’. To become a president and relinquish power after only one term when you can be there forever would be considered asinine in Nigeria and. someone should please not mention General Olusegun Obasanjo’s decision to hand over power in 1979, because the Ota farmer made a wrong mistake back then, which he unsuccessful tried to correct with the aborted third term agenda. Of course, a Muhammadu Buhari, after a stint as Head of State, is only trying to become our elected president because he is the only righteous politician who can reform Nigeria, as some gullible folks would have us believe. And Goodluck Jonathan, ‘the Mandela of Nigeria’ would certainly have none of the advice to follow the Mandela option by not contesting in 2015 (even though the advisers have no moral standing to offer such advice).
The problem with Nigeria is that it lacks good and credible leaders; politicians with such credentials died long time ago. Though the twitter crowd and opposition-friendly Nigerians rejoice at a prospect of a change to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership, a cursory look at the political landscape will reveal that there is no basis for such fantasy, as righteousness and probity have since died in one of the military coups. But as they say, a followership deserves the leadership it gets. Therefore, if our polity will become better and produce leaders who truly care about us, we must redefine our values. A Mandela struggled for the abolition of apartheid system not because he wanted to be president but because he wanted equality; he did not sit back as a follower and criticise (as youths now do on social media), he got involved and he was an apostle of violence (like some dogs and baboon must shed blood politicians from the North).
Already, the country has made countless mistakes with leadership, as the incompetent and the corrupt now call the shots while the elders either look the other way or give advice through public comments and letters (which a Mandela never did to Thabo Mbeki or Jacob Zuma). I believe that only a few Nigerian leaders, living or dead can quote Mandela’s saying that “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 the eternity.” In a way, Mandela, though not a Christian, appeared to paraphrase Numbers 23:10, “let me die the death of the righteous and let my end be like his,” a verse that current Nigerian politicians can never fathom
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.