The Chief Whip of the Senate, and former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has described the late Nelson Mandela as a bridge builder who has thought the world the meaning of humility, forgiveness, perseverance and tolerance.
He, however said it was disheartening that Africa is replete with leadership that is neither visionary nor forgiving, adding that leaders were gradually returning to the sort of lives that irked him (Mandela).
Presenting a paper at the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Nelson Mandela Day, organised by the South African High Commission in Abuja yesterday, Kalu said as a prisoner at Rhodes Island, Mandela, despite his terrible and negative experiences, showed exemplary and positive qualities of discipline, endurance, patience, hope, fortitude and remarkable stoicism.
He said: “The Nobel Prize winner, who became the first democratically elected President of the Republic of South Africa at the age of 77, retired after only a single tenure in office in 1999, setting a challenging example to other depraved African leaders who turned their offices into imperial bastions of maladministration, oppression of their own people and corruption.
“Madiba’s quest for comprehensive emancipation that encompassed political, mental, economic and physical dimensions led him to embark on charitable engagements, raising stupendous sums of money for schools, hospitals, sporting activities for the benefit of the desperately deprived black communities of South Africa.”
He said Mandela’s hunger for the freedom of South Africa, somehow, became the hunger for the freedom of all, irrespective of their tribe, colour and religion.
Kalu said: “When Mandela left prison and became a president, many expected him to use his official powers to enact revenge against those who set out to destroy his life and his family. He could have used the police or military to deal with those who saw him as an enemy because of his guts and imprisoned him. He could have used the secret police to eliminate them. It was within his powers to also go after their businesses and asphyxiate them economically. The world watched as he put out a raging fire and calmed the storm by publicly declaring his forgiveness for past misdeeds against him and against the South African people. Instead, he opted for peaceful co-existence.”
Kalu who went down memory lane on his personal interactions with Mandela, said he (Mandela) played a pivotal role in prevailing on former President Olusegun Obasanjo to jettison his proposed third term bid in 2007.
“I recall Mandela placed a call to Obasanjo and told him that whatever his plans were, it was neither desirable for Nigeria nor Africa. As the say, the rest is history.
“Africa needs more of his type. Unfortunately, however, Africa of the post-Mandela era does not seem to appreciate the meaning that he brought to life on the continent.
“Today, Africa is replete with leadership that is neither visionary nor forgiving. From one country to another we are seeing a return of the sort of leadership that irked Mandela. Mandela opted for only a single term in office. He voluntarily opted out of a second tenure. Out of office, he became more powerful and more significant as a global force than he was while in office. With that, he demonstrated that one does not necessarily need an endless term of office to positively impact on his society or to remain relevant,” Kalu said.