Why Nigeria Can’t Produce a Mandela – Jonathan

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan spoke Sunday of the virtues of a good politicians, saying intimidation and threats by some cannot make them great like the late Nelson Mandela.

He spoke while making a tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid and South African’s first black president, during the special inter-denominational memorial service held in his honour at the Aso Villa Chapel in the State House, Abuja.

Unlike Mandela, he pointed out, many politicians in Nigeria resort to intimidation, threats and show of force in their communication.

According to him, it would be difficult for a politician to be truly great than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

Said Jonathan: “In fact, if you listen to those of us who are politicians, from all political parties, the way we talk, some of us speak as if Nigeria is their personal bedrooms that they have control over.

“Read the papers, listen to the radio and television and the social media and see how politicians talk; we intimidate, we threaten, show force in our communication.

“This definitely, is not the virtue of great men. They are certainly the vices of tiny men.”

He went on: “Sometimes when I listen to politicians, the ones older than me, my contemporaries and some even the younger ones, I come to the painful conclusion that it would be probably easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a politician to be truly great.

“So, for today that we are celebrating the great son of Africa, Nelson Mandela, who by all standards has been accepted by the whole world, we should be concerned about the kind of comments people make about us.”

Stressing that the problem is not limited to Nigeria, Jonathan said: “But, I always look at the word ‘greatness’ with some kind of pessimism, because making a great name is not just enough because even at the political circle, we have so many great names that are dictators, ran a very repressive and oppressive government that sent a lot of people into repression.

“Some people became extremely notorious but they have made big names. So, to be truly great is key, and Nelson Mandela is one rare person.”

The President recalled that the late Mandela, who became the President of South Africa in 1994 at 76, refused to yield to pressure to go for a second term when he ended his first tenure in 1999 at 81.

He said: “Even though he was pressurised to continue to complete his two terms, he would have ended up may be at 86, but on his own, he said that ‘there are younger people; I have served my term, brought freedom to South Africa, get younger person to take over.

“If we were to compare Nelson Mandela to quite a number of leaders across our continent Africa, very few people, even at the age of 81, will still be there. So, Mandela was a rare character that those of us who are politicians need to learn from, so that we will imbibe some of his traits and quality and put them to use in our countries.”

Mandela had the spirit of forgiveness, the spirit of uniting people. The time he took over power, if he had behaved like some other leaders on our continent, probably, he would put on the battle globe and ready for vengeance.

That would have destroyed the economy of South Africa and probably that country wouldn’t have been the largest economy on the continent of Africa now; probably they would have been suffering just like those other African countries.”

Another unique thing about Mandela, Jonathan said, was his humility.

To him, it is very difficult and rare to see a President of a nation who is so humble just as he did not take credit alone for any achievement recorded by the ANC as a group.

The President said: “Even in one of his write-ups, he made this statement that: ‘do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again’. So many leaders do not believe that they do fall. Sometimes, we even play God because of the privileges we have. What can we learn from that?”

In his view, the late Mandela “will always be remembered and honoured by all human kinds as one of its greatest liberators, wise, courageous and compassionate leaders, an icon of true democracy, a selfless father, who placed people’s interest above his own self. He truly believed in his dream.”

Jonathan advised those leaders trying to make changes and reforms not to expect immediate praises they may be stoned or booed at the initially stage.

“You need to read the book by the former Singapore Prime Minister Luis Kyang Yew who said at the beginning when you think you will change the country, he was being stoned by the very people; they booed him because change is, indeed, difficult. It is not easy to change.

“We are talking about China now almost rivalling America. At a point, the people had to lock themselves up for so many years, now reorganised; such would not have been easy for the Chinese. So, for anybody that wants to make changes, don’t expect praises at the beginning. They will call you all types of names, but the end matters so much.”

On Why Nigeria is mourning Mandela, Jonathan said: “People will ask, why should Nigeria and indeed the Nigerian government devote such a time, three days of mourning, with flags flying at half mast, then the President asking religious bodies, mostly Christians and Muslims, to pray within this period. I believe this will continue to agitate their minds, but the others know that Nigeria played a key role in the anti-apartheid struggle.

“And, of course, Mandela became the symbol of anti apartheid struggle.”, he noted.

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