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Alas, Mandela the great man has passed
E. Ablorh-Odjidja

We are saddened at Ghanadot by the death of Nelson Mandela. But we are also glad that there was somebody like him who shared the same time on this earth with the rest of us.

Mandela died on December 05, 2013, at age 95. He will be remembered for his historic achievements for a long time to come.

To sum up the full level of Mandela’s legacy, his being and moral discernment, we cite this portion of President Obama’s tribute to him.
Obama said Mandela was “a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice…. He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages.”

There are few black leaders left in Africa’s history who deserve or can inspire such tribute.

But why should he be so loftily remembered?

For one, Mandela will be remembered because he made us proud. For another, he was a very humane leader - a man of the people who possessed a character very rare. He fought for our dignity just like Nkrumah did.

Nkrumah is remembered for Africa unity, his stand against neo-colonialism and the threat that his ideas pose for those who still want to dominate Africa.

Mandela will be remembered essentially for his moral rectitude in bringing apartheid to its knees and for the concept of peaceful “reconciliation” among warring parties that he brought to the world.

The world must shudder to think of what would have happened had South Africa not had a Mandela after the apartheid regime.

But then again part of the unspoken gratitude, mostly from white South Africans and the west, has a cynical edge: a relief from an expected retribution that never happened. A reprieve gained because the chaos that was thought could happen, after the cruelties of the apartheid regime, did not under the benevolent administration of Mandela.

After the table turned on apartheid in 1994, the sum effect was that a minority white South African tyrant found itself free, safe and prosperous under a majority black egalitarian rule.

Hence this universal acceptance of Mandela.

This universal acceptance of Mandela is fitting for the long haul. Allow us to be skeptical of the long-term prospect of the legacy of this great man were it to be left solely in the hands of Africa.

Mandela became the first black president of South Africa in 1994, after his release from prison in 1993. Though he had started as a revolutionary, fighting hard against the Apartheid regime, he pursued a moderate political path as president and became an instant morale force and a voice for the rest of the world.

Mandela’s arrival at the top was not without apprehension. F. W. de Klerk, the previous president, had an uneasy edge in his voice as he handed over the office after the electoral victory in 1993.

"Mandela will soon assume the highest office in the land with all the awesome responsibility which it bears. He will have to exercise this great responsibility in a balanced manner, which will assure South Africans from all our communities that he has all their interests at heart. I am confident that this will be his intention."

After decades of intolerance and blatant racism, the majority whites had reason to fear. But today, thanks to Mandela, they are politically secure.

Both Mandela and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for the peaceful transition. Certainly, a worthy reward for cooperation, but suffice it to say that it was Mandela’s aura that boosted de Klerk’s chances for the award.

“"Mandela has walked a long road, and now stands at the top of the hill. A traveller would sit and admire the view. But the man of destiny knows that beyond this hill lies another and another. The journey is never complete. As he contemplates the next hill, I hold out my hand to Mr Mandela – in friendship and in co-operation,” de Klerk would declare in his speech welcoming Mandela to the South African presidency.

After stepping down, De Klerk would serve immediately as a vice-president of South Africa, along with Tabo Mbeki who became president after Mandela left office in 1999.

Mandela served in office for one term only. Some would attribute the one term departure to troubles within the ANC organization of which he was the leader. They forget a more important demand for great leadership; the chance to set the right precedence.

Elsewhere in Africa, Mandela contemporary presidents were clinging to the offices of their nations as if it were a birthright. But like George Washington who served as US president for two terms only, Mandela was more interested in establishing a tradition of term limit for the South African presidency.

In the face of all the bad examples from many parts of Africa, history would tell if Mandela’s paradigm as a short-term president would be successful in South Africa.

But for his own heritage as a world leader, Mandela has already set the best paradigm. The Telegraph of UK described him as “a principled man of stature and strength.”

South Africa has lost its greatest son. The world has lost a morale leader of the 21st century. It would be sad if the memory of Mandela were used for any other purpose.

E. Ablorh-Odjidja, publisher, www.ghanadot.com, Washington, DC, December 06, 2013

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