Sunday, July 20, 2008


Lagos, Nigeria - As the world celebrated the 90th birthday of South Afric a's freedom fighter and first post-apertheid President Nelson Mandela, the Nigerian media went to town this week, devoting editorials and opinion lead articles to the Madiba.The Guardian newspaper captioned its editorial "Nelson Mandela at 90"; the Daily Independent: in its editorial opinion, used the headline "Celebrating Nelson Madiba Mandela at 90" and Thisday newspaper's opinion "Celebrating Mandela at 90".The Punch newspaper published an opinion article on Mandela, written by Mike Woo ldridge, under the headline "Mandela, the sensitive leader at 90" while the Vanguard newspaper in another opinion article by Owei Lakemfa, headlined it "The moral authority called Mandela".According to the Guardian, "Nelson Rolihlahla ('troublemaker') Mandela was the son of a Xhosa-speaking Thembu chief, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa. He attended the University of Forte Hare in Alice, where he became involved in fervid political struggle against the racial discrimination practised in South Africa."The new South African Constitution, which Nelson Mandela signed into law in 1996, allows a maximum of two terms for a president. Mandela voluntarily elected to quit office in 1999, after a single term in office, very much unlike many other A frican leaders; nor does he belong to the category of African presidents who shift the goal-post (amending their constitutions to incorporate longer terms of office).The Guardian described "Nelson Mandela as a veritable man of the people, self-ab negating, humanistic and altruistic. Upon his release from prison in 1990, his people made to usher him into a palatial edifice. In his words, "There were many in the ANC who advised me to move to the home a few blocks away, in Diepkloof extension, that Winnie had built while I was in prison."It was a grand place by Soweto standards, but it was a house that held no meani ng or memories for me. Moreover, it was a house that, because of its size and expense, seemed somehow inappropriate for a leader of the people. I rejected that advice... I wanted to live not only among the people, but like them....""As Nelson Mandela, popularly called the "Madiba", celebrates his 90th birthday today, we join the rest of the world to proffer our bouquets to this pre-eminentAfrican son, this moral torchbearer of our world, and this quintessential great man. We congratulate him on his selfless achievements and longevity," the Guardian wrote.In the opinion of the Daily Independent, "It is worth mentioning that Mandela - just like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - was greatly influenced by the non-violent protest methods of India's Mahatma Gandhi. Like Gandhi, he believed in facing adversity with dignity."Be that as it may, he was pushed to renouncing the non-violent means of overturning apartheid by the buoying popularity of more radical groups like the Pan African Congress (PAC) as well as the frustrating lack of progress from peaceful measures. He consequently conceded that there was no effective alternative to an arm e d struggle, culminating in the formation of the MK.According to the tabloid, "Two actions go a long way to further highlight the moral fibre and large-heartedness of Mandela: He refused to support the cry for an ame change of the Parliament because Hendrik Verwoerd (the assassinated apartheid-era Premier after whom the complex was named) was the man that sent him to jail . He also refused to approve the destruction of Pieter Botha's statue (1st Executive President of apartheid South Africa)."At a time that very little positive news is emanating from Africa, it is exhila rating that the world would be celebrating the life and times of this global icon - Nelson Mandela: a 24-carat 20th Century gem from Africa to the rest of the world. Daily Independent wishes the Madiba a memorable 90th birthday anniversary.Thisday newspaper, in its opinion wrote "Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is indeed a living legend. He is 90 years old today. Weeks before his 90th birthday, the world could literally not wait to celebrate him. On June 27, 2008 a very well attended and colourful musical concert was held for him at Hyde Park, London."Although he now walks slowly with the support of a stick and aids, he still has much life in him. While calling on African leaders to learn a lesson or two from this worthy son of Africa, we wish Madiba many," the paper wrote.Wooldridge wrote in his opinion in The Punch "He (Mandela) dedicated his life to a political crusade and became South Africa’s first black president, but Nelson Mandela never lost the personal touch – as those who know him explain. Nelson Mandela’s release from jail after 27 years, in 1990, brought hope of sweeping polit i cal change after the turbulent days of apartheid.Lakemfa, in the Vanguard newspaper opinion also wrote that Mandela "is not even clothed in any religious garb. He is simply human and his life, like his first wife Evelyn Mase and second wife Winnie Madikizela attested, is like that of any other mortal with all its fallibles."Mandela’s towering figure, his transformations through life and embodiment of the struggles of the weak and colonised and their eventual triumph, makes him a very difficult personality to capture in a single write-up."I have therefore limited myself to a tiny aspect of his life; the moral authority he wields. Never in history has anybody of African descent wielded so much moral authority in the world as Nelson Mandela.According to Lakemfa, "Mandela was not born a legend, he acquired it. He used to say that “Nurture, rather than nature, is the primary moulder of personality”. To be able to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s ninetieth birthday, no matter how tangentially, is an historic honour."Lagos - 19/07/2008

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