By Tunde Odunlade
Whatever good name any living or no-longer-living being ever deserves, Nelson Madiba Mandela epitomizes. Without any sense of contradictions.
Nelson Mandela fondly referred to by his kinsmen as Madiba was an exemplary leader, a messiah. Albeit, Madiba was not God, since God is the only non-comparative entity; he however laid an example of what could almost be described as a “super human or a perfect being”
I would like to argue profoundly, circumstances that made Madiba what he became in life have since ceased to be and those rare opportunities may never repeat themselves again and even if they do, it could only take a Mandela to decipher those moments; be immediately convinced and have oneself buried in the strong belief; that, even if this would cost one’s life; it will worth dying for.
I ask you, what is it that is worth dying for today? When right in your very presence the subject you want to die for is monetarily trivialized and the same people you want to die for begin to call you the proverbial Yoruba ‘Vulture’ “abi, talo rangun nse” meaning who sent the vulture on senseless errand. That is number one.
Number two, Mandela wasn’t just a normal human being like you and me who see life as worth living for, if only it will hitherto mean more abundant life for me. Rather, life as worth dying for if it means abundant life for those who survive after the struggle, and if no one survives, suffice it as life in itself shouldn’t have been in existence in the first instance. People rarely reason as such. Naturally, there is a limit to human forbearance especially when it is afflicted with such pain that apartheid-South Africa which Nelson Mandela laid his life on the line for portended. Other fighters in the struggle may have applied some `calculated-diplomacy momentarily, which may have differentiated stubborn Mandela from them. Even Simon Peter did same to deny Jesus Christ our Lord three times.
Mandela’s actual given native name at birth means “trouble maker” It was his English teacher who later changed his name to Nelson
Number three, “moja mosa ni je akinkanju logun, ologun to mo ja ti o mosa ni bogun ibomiran lo”(a Yoruba philosophy) literally translates as, one who learns to fight and runs, lives to fight another day, but the one who only fights and fails to run becomes the victim. Such wasn’t the philosophy Mandela lived by. He fought doggedly even without a pen-knife and stood still for the next fighter to show up and continued to fight until no more fighters to fight with and now we all can be friends. Despite the shenanigans of the Afrikaners, he still generously used Rugby to reunite all colors in South Africa in the spirit of sportsmanship and a rainbow coalition. Look around you, who has such antecedent? None, but politics of tribal or racial sentiments and of course vengeance; which have perverted our world today. If you ever watched the movie “Invictus” Morgan Freeman the African American superstar dexterously played Nelson Madiba Mandela you would’ve been a lot wiser, that Madiba never saw color in human beings, he only saw people, period. He was a highly detribalized person.
Number four: no one dares poke his finger into the mouth of “world power” and go scot free. Non-racial Madiba spoke against every single act considered an aberration globally, undiplomatically; irrespective of whose ox is gored. I could recollect when he granted Ted Koppel of ABC News in New York an interview, the table turned as Ted himself was now found on the “hot seat” when fearless Mandela fielded questions in such a way that showcased his bravery and as a courageous man of immense standard. Ted asked him, what was he doing in Cuba after his release from prison knowing full well the non-cordial relationship between Cuba and the US and with all that America did to secure his freedom, he answered; no one can tell him who not to be friend of. To America, such is not taken lightly.
Mandela never minces words to speak with candor his views of Israeli/Palestinian’s and other related matters; being a Christian himself; he never took side. Mandela candidly bore his mind on every crucial world affairs to whoever it may concern without fear or favour. Madiba responded to every global matter in a non-partial way and without coloration, just so humanity could be a level playing field.
Number five: his twenty seven years imprisonment out of which eighteen solid years was spent in solitary confinement in Robben Island wasn’t likely to have been a picnic. But guess what? That monstrous gulag has now been transformed into a Museum of art in order toquickly heal off the wound it may have inflicted on whoever may have ever passed through that wickedly contrived historical prison. You see, Madiba did not believe you should recall the past with sorrow, for bitterness bears no fruit and even if it does at all, it will be bitter fruit. Mandela came out of all those experience still with a sound mind in a healthy body and became the first Black President of South Africa and even for just a short term. He says “In my country South Africa, you have to go to prison before you become President” what an incredible sense of humor. Others would have chosen to remain in power perpetually hiding under the pretense of their long years of struggle.
Number six: today, Madiba is celebrated at home with people all over the world bubbling in fan-fares; even countries round the world fly their flags half-mast. This is a high mark of respect for any human being. Be it Black, White, Hispanic or whatever color you are, it has never been seen, even when a Pope dies. Did he foresee or predicted that? Was that his vision behind the struggle? The simple answer is capital No! Has this lightly defied the principle of “beginning with the end in view? I will still say no, rather serving mankind selflessly with no reward in view, with the principle “all is well that ends well” nothing could be much sweeter. A Yoruba adage says “bo ba laya o se’ka, sugbon to ba ranti iku Gaa ko so tito” meaning; if you are hard-hearted be the wicked, but if you remember Gaa’s death (Bashorun Gaa a once upon a time wicked warlord) please be truthful. There is a lesson here for all of us, such that, your first step to eternity starts here on earth. An Ethic sustained, is an Epitaph secured. Leave behind a legacy that is indefatigable.
Lastly, I don’t want to appear I’m only praise singing this icon or only to make him non-comparable to others, those are not the intents of this discourse either. Rather to accentuate an angle of his life most people may forget to reflect upon and also to celebrate a departed souls whose Ogbonge (precious) effigy stands gidigba (unshakable) in the heart of all living soul whose lives he may have touched, regardless of where and who they are but will forever adore this very rare gem. Heaven now rejoices and celebrates as the one to reshape mankind from above has finally made it back come. Call Nelson Madiba Mandela any good name and you are justified. A savior of mankind, selfless activist, an educator, a human right advocate, the fearless lion of all times, a sports giant, a hero, former president, ex-prisoner of conscience, a super human, a compassionate leader, a liberator, an African extraordinaire, the illustrious son of South Africa and please feel free to add your own name unlimitlessly.
nOdunlade, an artist, writes from Ibadan.