…What Mandela Told Me

Posted: December 9, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,
By Prince Charles Dickson

Sometimes, I sit and look: sometimes I look and sit: and sometimes, I just look, I don’t sit…and some other times I don’t sit, I don’t look…I just stare at the distance spaces—not looking, not sitting, just staring—Segun Oruame

The man died, he was 95 years, there would be no Mandela, I offer my heartfelt sympathies to the people of South Africa in this moment of grief.

Beautiful words have been used, eulogies are countless, in the social, and conventional media even those that cannot spell his name “Rolihlahla” have had a word or more to say.

I consider myself privileged to be part of a generation that witnessed the passing away of a man that was loved by friends and foes in different measure, for different reasons.

I cannot recall, when a prostitute celebrated a man, in like manner a president, a mechanic, a footballer, or an activist, such is the love that the world had for this one man, from India to Canada, Abuja to Adelaide.

I will not be writing a tribute, nor will this be a eulogy, I am not fit, I am not South African, and wont cry more than the bereaved. Also many persons in the last few days and weeks to come would be drawing lessons that can be learned from this great man. So there would be no need to sound repetitive and hypocritical.

Here in Nigeria, I have read the briefs of the likes of Chris Ngige, Tinubu, Orji Theodore, Atiku, Jonathan, PDP chiefs, APC maids and mere mortals, whose several lifetimes may be difficult to replicate one man’s 95 magnificent years. I have also seen some comical comparisons, and all I can say is “what a life”

I read Obasanjo talk about what Mandela told him, “Certain that his task was completed, Mandela modestly refused to seek re-election after his first term in office as his presidency elapsed. I still recall his pragmatic words when he said to me ‘Olu, show me a [reasonable] place in the world where a man of 80 years is running the affairs of his country’.

“This, to me, reflects an unequaled sense of modesty for a man who spent 27 of the prime years of his life in prison for a just cause.”

After reflecting so hard on those lines, I share in my admonition in the next few paragraphs what Madiba told me, specifically what Tata said to me about Nigeria.

Mandela shortly before he passed on, asked me if it made sense to my leaders, the PDP, the opposition, traditional rulers, and clergy, opinion leaders and the so-called elder statesmen, that Nigerian children were at home for more than six months and what was more important was 2015, the next election and the best we off, is exchanging ‘mouthicufs” while a future was being negotiated away.

He told me that he could understand that as Journalists, sometimes we are tied by words for purposes of marketing and often break the rules—but really he did not understand what we meant by…for example ‘ASUU “vows” to continue strike ‘, what kind of vow is it?

Just as it makes no sense that government issues ultimatum for universities to resume, and then teachers defy presidency and shun classes…He asked me to sit and look, or look and sit, and tell him if it made sense.

He wondered why Nigerians were carefree, and easily manipulated, we talked about Adams Oshiomhole, I was surprised he knew the governor, and I told him, I am not a fan of the opposition as currently composed. He smiled and asked can we get saints from sinners, in local parlance they say it is the same market. Talking Adams, for those that watched the soap, “go and die”, the sequel,  “N2Million and the tea breakfast”, you would understand.

He asked me where did the governor get the N2million, and what was the reasoning behind the figure, and how about other widows, what is symbolic, why do we play politics with lives and reality. Does the governor run a charity?

I told him like a number of states in Nigeria, Edo is owing arrears of one thing or the other, apart from salaries, but state CEOs are giving away widows’ mite of N2Million and more to widows, spinsters, girlfriends, etc. It is no big deal, that’s how legends are created in our own world.

He asked me, when would we get leaders that love this nation, or as they say, if we get what we deserve, it implies Nigerians do not love their country. And I dare agree with the legend, we do not: that is why we were the first nation to declare a three days mourning, leading the way for Mandela, when indeed several spheres of our national lives is in mourning and we have refused to mourn.

Thinking about Tata, as his people fondly called him, I was moved by the testimonies of the ordinary lives he touched, those calls when they had a baby, or got married. The simplicity of a great man, and the greatness of an ordinary man, reconcile that with the many that are dead because of one government convoy, or leadership irresponsibility.

The man lived as a legend, died as one, he was still human, recall when he wanted 14year olds to vote, or when he was adamant about his successor, and many other wrong steps he took, but indeed he is living a South Africa with so many good memories, a world with so much to ponder on.

Who are the legends of the Nigerian cause, so many of them, just in case we need reminders—Legend of the pension thief, legend of highly paid legislators that do nothing, legend of strikes in education, health, aviation and more. Legend of Boko Haram, legends of ghosts, the list is endless.

In Nigeria, we are blessed with very virile minds, intellects, academicians, but we lack leadership with purpose and a humane heart, in the words of Leonardo da Vinci, there is so much shouting, there is no true knowledge—will Nigeria celebrate her own Mandela, I just stare at the distance spaces—not looking, not sitting, just staring—only time will tell.

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