To many Nelson Mandela is a hero, the man who fought for freedom and humanity but for the most part of Mandela long walk to freedom, he was branded a Terrorist by most of the Western World.
In a few days, the world over will be celebrating the man fondly known as Madiba on Nelson Mandela International Day; a celebration that has taken place every year on the 18th of July since 2010 following an official declaration by United Nations in November 2009 to honour Mandela. As the day draws closer, it is a good time for world leaders, international organizations and communities to re-examine and redefine tags especially understanding the difference between being a Terrorist and a Freedom Fighter.
Here at Nelson Mandela Gardens in Asaba, a beautiful natural haven where I spend my time, we will celebrate the man whose virtues I admire come Sunday with some invited guests hosting children from less privileged backgrounds with a full day of fun activities. My love for Mandela spans many years and have sometimes caused me some trouble particularly during the time he was still seen as the villain of the white man’s story.
Some decades ago, I was almost denied a job opportunity in the United Kingdom after having been considered the best candidate for the position because the panel conducting the final interview was shown a photograph of me wearing a “Free Mandela” Tee-shirt. I recall that when the picture was shown to me during the interview and I was asked to explain, although I was taken aback and somewhat perplexed, I had fully thought that I was doing myself some good when I applauded the struggle, the emancipation and the uprightness of the then Prisoner Known as Madiba. I was excited because of what he meant to the average African, his virtue, his character and his dogged fearlessness in pursuing what he believed was fair, right and just.
Halfway through my animated explanation, I looked at the faces of the panellist and then found out that they were not in any way amused, unknown to me, I had been digging my grave even deeper and was about to lose a position I was very qualified for and looked forward to because I had participated in a free Mandela rally.
Some decades later, few of the panellists came to regret not giving me the position, very similar to the way Margaret Thatcher, the then British Prime Minister and his Excellency, Ronald Reagan, the then President of the United States regretted branding Nelson Mandela a terrorist. One of the panellists who fortunately became a good friend, supporter and colleague later told me how they came to have the picture, and sadly it was given to them by one of my fellow applicants, having known that I was best qualified and most likely to get the job was trying very hard to discredit me. He also told me that though I was obviously nervous in my explanation, it was still very easy to see my sincerity and truthfulness in explaining what the struggle, the emancipation of the people of Africa meant to me because by then Africans were looking for selfless leadership with Madiba being was the only example on the horizon at the time and even till now.
Unfortunately for the African Continent, even up till today, we are still searching for selfless leadership because of the way our best minds like Nelson Mandela end up being branded terrorists. In light of these revelations and the friendship that developed, I revealed to him that Madiba was not my only Hero and Mentor but that I also revered Che Guevara, an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist, who with Fidel Castro liberated Cuba and was well on his way to liberate other countries but was executed and thus silenced.
Coming to today and right now in history, as one who has spent some time in Israel, Gaza and Palestine visiting their holy places like the Temple Mount, Western Wall, Mosque of Omar, West Bank to mention just a few, I have from studies and research come to understand a lot more about the crisis than is being reported in some media which has so far branded Hamas, the main political party of the Palestine people a Terrorist organisation, whereas Hamas is fighting for the right to occupy land which they claim is theirs. The fights have persisted despite several peace talks coordinated by the Americans or sometimes the Middle Eastern governments mainly because even during the ongoing peace talks, settlements are still being built on the disputed lands by Israel.
A perfect analogy to explain this is in the case where two people have a cake to share and whilst the sharing formula is still being derived, one party is already eating out of the cake in very large chunks. This crisis would have been managed a long time ago but it has lingered so much that middle school students who protested feebly by throwing little rocks and stones at the Israeli soldiers building the settlements, later graduated to high school students who used catapults to throw bigger stones at much longer ranges and many decades later, they have become science undergraduates and graduates who now build rockets and bombs which are presently being projected at Israel.
They have been largely unsuccessful because they presently lack the knowledge and technology to adeptly guide these rockets so as to avoid Israel’s Dome security system however this will likely not be the case for long. This will only lead to unimaginable catastrophes on both sides.
The Madiba that we knew was the only African leader that spoke against the blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt. He also spoke against the building of walls around the occupied territory isolating Gaza from the rest of the Palestine territory. Not only did Madiba speak against all these, he went further to teach us.
- How not to stay in power forever.
- He taught us how not to rig an election or nullify one.
- He taught us how not to loot the treasury and embezzle funds.
- He taught us how to inspire the owners of the future, the younger generation.
- He taught us how to be our brother’s keeper in the true sense of it.
- He also taught us how to endure, make sacrifices and forgive those who have wronged us whether they are sorry or not.
I have always believed that if only 1% of the entire human population would emulate the Virtues of Madiba, the world would be a much better place. There goes why this year’s United Nations theme for the celebration is so apt “ONE HAND CAN FEED ANOTHER.”