Mandela - Man Of Humble Disposition And Captivating Humility
Mandela did not mince words on that memorable occasion when he gallantly, proudly said “You Nigerians are the leaders of Africa, but we, as your brothers And sisters, reserve the right to tell you off whenever you go wrong.”
From then on, he resumed his previous precious role as Ambassador at large. He opened opportunities for Nigeria to be heard. In fact there was such an earlier opportunity when, on the prompting of Mandela, General Sani Abacha sent a delegation consisting of Chief Tom Ikirni, The Foreign Minister, Ambassador. Ibrahim Gambari, late Minister Alhaji Kaloma Ali And myself to interact with southern African leaders who were then having their meeting in Pretoria.
Thabo Mbeki himself told me some time later that even in New Zealand President Mandela was advocating mature attitude towards Nigeria’s political problems as every country had its own peculiarities. He even stated publicly that from New Zealand he was planning to come directly to Nigeria for further consultation, with his leader General Semi Abacha. His reconciliatory posture
changed only after the hanging of the Ogonis And he failed to reach Sani Abacha on the telephone. He told Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, our Nigerian High Commissioner in London who was there attending the conference, to see if he could reach Sani Abacha for him And also requested to see Tom Ikimi. He lost his temper only after waiting endlessly for Torn Ikimi. Then he went on the attack on his beloved Nigeria.
There are so many practical examples of Mandela’s devotion to Nigeria: In 1998 General Abdulsalam paid official visit to South Africa. The South African members of Parliament were particularly opposed to General Abdelsalarn, a military men, addressing their democratically elected Parliament.
Mandela prevailed on them to give audience to whom he called his leader from Nigeria. The Non-Aligned Movement was to hold their Conference in Durban so soon after Abdelsalam’s return to Nigeria. He told me he was not enthusiastic to return to Durban but had delegated Nigeria’s number two, Mr. Okhai Okhibe to represent Nigeria.
Okhibe’s advance party had actually arrived in South Africa from Nigeria when President Mandela himself told me that he had prevailed on General Abdelsalam to return, as it was important for Abdelsalam to interact with the international community. He not only returned but Mandela made sure he took active part in the conference. He gave up his chairmanship of one of the Sessions for his leader, Abdelsalarn, from Nigeria. More importantly, in addition to sending a written note through me to General Semi Abacha, he confirmed to General Abdelsalam, on his official visit to Pretoria in 1998, that United Nation’s Security Council Seat belonged to Nigeria as South Africa would not compete with Nigeria.
Some years ago, Chief JK Randle, the well-known articulate Partner in one of Nigeria’s foremost indigenous Professional firms which provides audit & tax advisory services was chairman of Eko Hotel in Victoria, Island, Lagos. He instituted some public lectures under the name of ‘Gold Medal Public Affairs Series.’ He invited me to be the chairman of the lecture which took place at the Banquet Hall of the Hotel on 9 July 1986.
The topic of the lecture was “Nigeria’s Foreign Policy Options” And the speaker that afternoon was no person other than Professor Bolaji Akinyerni, the Honourable Minister of External Affairs. Among the notables present on that occasion was Ambassador Chief Ade Martins who, in his contribution, recalled the time when Nigeria had substantial clout in International Affairs.
Chief Ade Martins was at one time Nigeria’s High Commissioner in Daressalam before he later found himself Nigeria’s Ambassador in Washington. He remembered the very urgent request which was made for Mr. Oliver Tambo to call at the Embassy to see him. It will be recalled that Deressalam was for sometime the Headquarters of Liberation Measurements.
The purpose of the urgent request was for Oliver Tambo to inform Chief Ade Martins about the highly confidential information Tambo had received from South Africa that the apartheid regime had perfected a plan to kill Nelson Mandela in prison.
Ambassador Ade Martins lost no time in passing on the information to Nigeria’s Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Tafawa Balewa in turn contacted British Prime Minister, Harold Mamillan, with the request for the British Government to confront the apartheid authorities And to prevail on them not to kill Nelson Mandela.
During my tenure of service in South Africa I was able to verify this information from two of Mandela’s prison mates, the late South African Minister of defence, Mr. Madise And my very good friend, Terror Lekota at one time premier of Orange State, chairman of African National Congress And also Minister of Defence.
We are grateful to God for sparing Mandala’s life And for having preserved him. May he live longer in the service of humanity.
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