Friends and brethren. How many miles can one reasonably cover in 5 hours and 20 minutes? That is the time it took me to drive home from my office to my residential village (in Port Harcourt) after closing from work today. A distance of less than 12 kilometres! Welcome to Port Harcourt,, the once upon a Garden City of Nigeria. Who will bring back the glory? I don’t mean to panic you but who will “tell them for me”?
Thank You Madiba. You did very well.
He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.
“As one genuine bank bill is worth more than a thousand counterfeits, so is one man, with right on his side, worth more than a thousand in the wrong.”
~~~ Frederick Douglass
The guy did not claim to be the Messiah or John the Baptist, but indeed, he was a burning and shining light. Now we all, – friends, foes and frenemies turned friends – are basking and glorying in the light he did shone. Rightly, we must and ought to. My concern here is that, how many of us are willing to follow his examples and keep walking in the paths he blazed? Yes, he has blazed for us a trail hewn out of suffering, persecutions, unjust banishment from friends, family and loved ones. He lived a life embodied by selfless-sacrifice, love, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Rightly and deservedly so, the whole world is singing the praises of the late Nelson Mandela to the highest ends of the universe. But, (and a big “but”), how many of us are willing and ready to follow his exemplary life and practise his lofty ideals while the seemingly endless rivers of accolades from friends and those who formerly sworn enemies continue flowing?
Mandela is good …
Mandela is a hero ….
Mandela is a leader …..
Mandela has a good heart ….
Mandela liberated his people from the yoke of oppression. …
The question is this. “How many of us are willing to thread the paths he trod?” Both friends and former foes and frenemies glory and pour unending tributes on him now.
How many of those rulers (especially of our African kindred) who are scurrying to be the first to enter their names in the official condolences register will imbibe his example, preach and practise, unity, justice, peace and reconciliation to their own people in their home countries? Many of them will be jostling to occupy the front seats at the arena on the day of his burial. How many of them will come back to their immediate home domains with the goal of letting go the politics of greed, selfishness, divisiveness, tribalism, oppression, injustice, religious intolerance, etc, etc.
The grief and ululations along with the praise and adulations are going to linger on for a long time. But let his memory and the example he has laid down by a guiding light for the rest of us all.
Most of us will not be called to live the life he lived. It is not very likely that “the ordinary me or you” we will ever be required or called to shoulder the burden of the epic heroic struggle for which his ultimate triumph is our collective triumph today. But, we are called to be courageous. As Seth Godin puts it in his book, Icarus Deception, ” Courage doesn’t always involve physical heroism in the face of death. It doesn’t always require giant leaps worthy of celebration. Sometimes, courage is the willingness to speak the truth about what you see and to own what you say. In order for there to be courage, of course, there must be risk …….”
Change will come when we begin to believe and act upon the simple premise that ordinary people like you and I can make a difference and even achieve extraordinary things. But the change must start from within.
You can liberate yourself, yes, mentally from within. You can liberate your family. Even you can be a Mandela on the street and to the community where you are living. Whether you are black or white or of any color in between, whether you are from the North or South, East or West, justice, peace, unity, reconciliation and progress will come when we recognize our universal brotherhood. Our needs are not all the same, but, we do have common needs that are universally non-negotiable. Life, liberty, freedom of conscience, equal-opportunity … What is good for you is also good for me and what is good for your brother is equally good for my brother.
“Men do not love those who remind them of their sins unless they have a mind to repent.”
~~~ Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895)
Coming of age in the 70s and growing up through the 80s many of my age mates and older generations never dreamt that our generation will live to see the day when apartheid regime and racial segregation will crumble in South Africa. We watched in helplessness as the arms of the oppressors seemed to be unrelentingly waxing stronger and ever stronger. Even after his release from prison, it was as if the joy that engulfed the continent and all peace and freedom-loving people the world over was going to be a forlorn short-lived joy. The nation of South Africa seemed poised to descend into and a bloody civil-war in the face of the blood-letting, bomb-explosions and mayhem that ensued not long after Mandela’s release from prison.
Your patience, doggedness and your forgiving spirit of reconciliation was a guiding star that led the country through all those treacherous shoals. For this, we say thank you Madiba. Thank you Madiba, you did very well.