YOU CAN'T KEEP A GOVERNMENT ON ITS TOES IF YOU'RE CRAWLING ON YOUR BELLY
12 mid day Nigerian time. July 18th is Nelson Mandela's birthday.
There's a saying in ibo land of south eastern Nigeria meant for dictators, oppressors and crass capitalists... If you insist on holding a man down on the floor you must needs be on the floor yourself to keep Him down.
Nelson Mandela - The Father Of Modern Africa, emerged as a youth leader of ANC in the 1940's under Anton Lembede the legendary ANC National Leader who saw potential in young Nelson, in his passion, his brilliance, sheer clarity of speech, immense charisma, contagious ideologies and a sort of adoring devotion to Anton. For wherever Lembede was found, young Nelson was bound to be lurking around. Such was the fierceness of his passion that the more senior Leader took him as a protege, fully convinced that there was something special behind that now famous Mandela Smile.
Nelson Mandela was profoundly influenced not only by Anton but also by Mohandas 'Mahatma' Ghandi, Mahatma by the way meaning 'Great Soul'. This influence of the Great Soul on young Nelson was in no small measure for Ghandi had lived in South Africa for a great part of his life. And though he maintained a thriving law practice, he lived such an ascetic, frugal, austere life. He sought to bring Morality into Politics and as such remains the Father of Non Violent engagement of Government, an ideology that abhors the loss of life in any struggle. He is therefore the mentor of all who like this writer, believe in mixing Ethics with Statesmanship, and insist that Love, Kindness, Patience and Long Suffering are Virtues that must be brought from religion to politics.
Nelson Mandela's willingness therefore to give up power was as profound as his ability to take up power. He was born a boxer and he fought all his life... He fought even death. He however had no idea the profound effect he was having on people around the world through his ideologies and through the choices he had made in his life. The Legend is told of how once walking on the streets of America, a woman had passed out on seeing the famous Mandela Smile, on seeing the man who had become a living myth. She had to be helped to her feet much to the annoyance of a visibly upset Nelson, who glanced at his daughter Zindzi and said in one of his most famous moments 'I see no reason why anyone should be so dramatic'. Really? The man was a legend even to himself.
Nelson Mandela's life brought out the best and the worst in people. It certainly brought out the worst in the Nationalist Party of white minority South Africa. It certainly brought out the worst in Margaret Thatcher, who called him a terrorist and never supported his release from prison choosing to support the Suppression Of Communism act that had him incarcerated on trumped up charges. Forgetting that by nature Africans are a communal people. We are not communists in the perverted Marxian sense of the word, we are Communal. Call us Neo Socialists if you like but Mandela brought out the best in us and he sure had an influence in the life of Barrack Hussein Obama - The Prince Of Modern Africa.
NELSON - The Freedom Fighter
Though Margaret Thatcher chose the irreverent word 'Terrorist' to describe Mandela, he was no terrorist. Though the Nationalists called Winnie Mandela a terrorist when her private army of supporters had lynched a boy to death presumably for leaking ANC secrets and for which reason she was tried, sentenced to 6 years in prison, a sentence later transmuted to house arrest even while Nelson was in jail, She maintained in an interview with Premium Times, that so much falsehood was peddled to rubbish the struggle. Though her daughter Zindzi Mandela was harassed and trailed for daring to read one of Nelson's famous letters from prison, the most famous one by far, the 'I SHALL RETURN' speech which she read to a packed full football field as a 25 year old lady, in which Mandela had said 'I value my freedom, but I value the freedom of my people more. I shall not negotiate for as long as my people are not free in their own land. For as long as I am not free I shall not be involved in any discussions. A prisoner doesn't negotiate'... Indeed though the Mandela name suffered all these attempts at tarnishing it, still it shone like Diamonds from Cape Town. His ethical and moral values made his politics shine.
It is these values for which he lived and for which he was willing to die, these values which he had gleaned from extensive study of the Bible just like Ghandi who had taught that though Hindu, he had found Jesus Sermon On The Mount which he dubbed the RESIST NOT EVIL speech, as the great call to Non Violence, a discovery Ghandi made at Law School in Britain. This same discovery was going to give moral impetus to Nelson's beliefs.
This discovery of a moral centre inspired him to describe as most unfortunate, activities of some activists that led to death and casualties in their tens and thousands. Any course of action that causes the death of even one person is condemnable - and that was Mandela's position. Even when a section of the ANC cared less whether people died or not, justifying their blood thirst by claiming the establishment called for it, Nelson would have none of this. He referred to such miscreants as unprincipled, overzealous and uncultured. He insisted that no aspect of the struggle must lead to death. Even though the government defines the nature of any struggle, our moral compass defines our response. This was the point of insertion, the point at which morality found its way into Nelsons political rhetoric, to the admiration of the world. His willingness to oppose his own comrades who lacked decency and who were devoid of any strand of moral fiber was as legendary as his near god like stature in the ANC which saw his censure boom like rebuke from Heaven.
The values which Mandela left for humanity as an enduring legacy can be crystallized into these warnings against dictatorships and crass capitalists:
1. Governments fare better when they exist to serve people and not the other way round
2. The principle of Majority rule and peace within the state go hand in hand.
3. Governments that stimulate development and equal opportunity for both the rich and poor alike will attract more foreign investments and will be generally more attractive to their peers
4. Governments in which leaders enrich themselves with impunity will soon have the people turn against them violently.
5. Governments in which you must bribe for a job, an accommodation or admission will suffer increased isolation from the world.
6. It is cheaper to fight corruption and injustice than to condone it.
Nelson taught us that in this struggle, followers must abide by the principle of Non-collaboration. We cannot make our wealth from Government and think we can fight that Government... When you fight corruption and injustice it can only fight back if corrupt and unjust fingers fed you. But if you have never tasted money from corruption, that Moral High Ground will fight injustice and win. That is the ideology of Non Collaboration. For you can't keep A Government on its toes while crawling on your belly seeking rent and patronage from the same Government.
Mandela And The Youth League
Before Mandela became an established figure in the ANC his major contribution was in being among the 100 men, mostly Fort Hare graduates like him, who formed the Youth League. This proved to be the move that established Him as a top contender for eventual National Presidency of the ANC, for the Youth League was the militant arm of the party and Mandela had a firm belief in the younger generation. It was this faith in men much younger than he that would later cause him to chose the now famous MANDELA OPTION of relinquishing power with all its glamour after only one term at a time when South Africans would have wanted him as president for life!
It was his belief in the ideals of youths that led him to support the first Mine Workers Strike in 1946. This event was of monumental proportions and we can only grasp the guts it cost when we imagine a strike of black workers against their white overlords.
To be continued